Lots to see and do in the Choctaw Nation during the eclipse

Hvshi kvnia takla ka Chahta Okla anukaka ya nana pisa anonti akaniohma hinla kvt lawa

Published April 1, 2024

By Chief Gary Batton

Audio in Choctaw Language

A total solar eclipse (some refer to it as the “Great North American Eclipse”) will cross the Choctaw Nation on April 8, 2024, bringing many out-of-state viewers to the reservation to see this special, celestial event.

The Oklahoma Department of Safety is expecting a flood of cars to the state’s highways before and after the event so plan accordingly. For instance, the 2017 eclipse created one of the largest traffic jams in U.S. history on the eclipse’s path.

Idabel and Broken Bow are in the direct path of the eclipse and as a result are expected to have thousands of visitors. State officials estimate more than 100,000 people will visit the Idabel and Broken Bow area due to the towns’ being in eclipse totality for more than 4 minutes during the afternoon of April 8. Towns within the Choctaw Nation and along the eclipse path have been preparing for this day. The towns have been coordinating with local and state law enforcement and with the Choctaw Nation Office of Emergency Management team and have a plan in place to handle the extra people that will be in the area to witness this unusual event.

We have created a Solar Eclipse 2024 Activities webpage that gives tips for safe travel, viewing and all the activities planned that day within the reservation.

Science has shown what causes an eclipse. It is the perfect time that the Moon moves between the Earth and the sun to block the sun’s rays from portions of the Earth. Some parts of the eclipse’s path will see partial darkness while others will achieve total darkness.

Our Choctaw ancestors experienced an eclipse in a much different way. When an eclipse occurred, legend has it that our ancestors believed hungry, large black squirrels would emerge and eat the sun to quell their hunger pains. The tribe would yell, throw sticks and rocks, shoot arrows, and throw spears toward the darkened sun to scare away the hungry squirrels. Every tribal member was counted on to do their part to frighten away the squirrels and save the sun from being devoured.

When the sun eventually came out of eclipse, the tribe would rejoice in a job well done at saving the sun from the hungry squirrels. Don’t be surprised if you visit the Choctaw Nation and see a few tribal members re-enacting these “eclipse traditions” by yelling and throwing sticks at the eclipse as some tribal members enjoy reliving our past by carrying on traditions, even those connecting to something as rare as an eclipse.

The last time Oklahoma was in the direct path of the eclipse was more than 100 years ago. So, you can see why the eclipse is such a big deal here in Southeastern Oklahoma. The Choctaw Nation is expecting to welcome people from outside the state as well as visitors from other parts of the state who will come here and witness the eclipse and learn about the Choctaw Nation’s culture. We welcome everyone to our reservation to witness this once in a lifetime spectacle for Oklahoma and enjoy all that the Choctaw Nation has to offer.

I urge you to be prepared for the trip. Bring lots of food and water, gas up your car every chance you get along your journey and make sure your vehicle is ready in the event of an eclipse-caused traffic jam along the way. And if you’re driving in the daytime darkness during the moments of the eclipse, don’t forget to turn on your lights as you navigate the roads during this unique timeframe.

We can’t wait to see you enjoy the eclipse at many of our great locations throughout the reservation. After the eclipse, see what the Choctaw Nation has to offer and immerse yourself in the tribe’s culture. You will be glad that you did – learning new information about our self-empowered tribe, our sovereignty and the history and culture of our people is always time well spent.

Yakoke and God Bless!