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The Girl And The Devil

A young Choctaw girl was walking alone one day in the outskirts of the village when she suddenly met a young man whom she had never seen before. Soon he spoke to the girl and asked her to accompany him to his home. At first she refused, but at last he succeeded in persuading her to go with him. They passed through dense woods and over hills, and at last entered the yard that surrounded his house. Here various birds and animals were tied to the trees. As they were hungry, food was brought them, and then, and not until then, did the man assume his true character, and the girl saw the Devil before her. Then she became frightened and endeavored to escape, but before she could do so she was seized and locked in a small cave. A large frog hopped from a hole in the far corner of the cave, and going to the girl, said: “Do you know what that noise is?” “No,”replied the girl, “what is it?” The frog told her the Devil and his men were sharpening their knives to kill her. At this she became more frightened than before, but the frog quieted her by saying: “Now, if you will listen and do just as I say you will escape. I will open this door and there­upon you must run swiftly out and down the wide road. Soon you will reach a road on the left, but do not take it; keep to the broad road. Then you will come to the junction of three roads, and you must take the middle...

Skate’ne

Late one afternoon several children were playing near their house when suddenly they saw a woman approaching. She was very old and stooping, and her hair was white. The children were greatly frightened and ran into the house, but soon returned to the old woman, who said to them: “Children, do not be afraid of me, for nothing will harm you. I am your great-great-great-grandmother, and neither you nor your mother has ever seen me. Now, go to the house and tell her that I have come.” The children did so. Then they took a deer skin and spread it on the ground for the old woman and carried her food and drink. She then asked the children when their father went to sleep and in which part of the house he lay, and the children told her all. That night, after all had gone to sleep, the old woman entered the house and cut off the man’s head, which she put into a basket she carried for that purpose; there she covered the man’s body with his blanket and quietly left the house. The next morning the man’s wife was surprised to find him asleep (as she supposed), since it was his custom to go hunting before sunrise. So she spoke to him, and as he did not answer she pulled off his blanket. When she saw that his head was missing she became greatly alarmed. After cutting off the man’s head Skate’ne, the old woman, immediately left the house and started down the road. Soon she met a large bear, who said to her, “What have you...

Tashka and Walo

Tashka and Walo were brothers who lived long ago. Every morning they saw the sun rise above the horizon, pass high overhead, and late in the day die in the west. When the boys were about four years old they conceived the idea of following the sun and seeing where he died. So the next day, when he was overhead, they started to follow him; but that night, when he died, they were still in their own country, where they knew the hills and the rivers. Then they slept, and in the morning when the sun was again overhead they once more set off to follow him. And thus they continued for many years to wend their way after the sun in his course through the heavens. Long, long afterward, when the two boys had become men, they reached a great expanse of water, and the only land they could see was the shore on which they were standing. Late that day, when Sun died, they saw him sink into the water; then they also passed over the water and entered Sun’s home with him. All about them they saw women—the stars are women and the moon is Sun’s wife. Then Moon asked the brothers how they had found their way so far from their home. They told her how for many, many years, ever since they were mere boys, they had followed Sun in his daily journey. Then Sun told his wife to boil water. Into this he put the boys and rubbed them; this treatment caused them to turn red and their skin to come off. Sun...

Choctaw Medicine

The Choctaw treat boils and ulcers with applications of salve made of pine pitch mixed with grease or tallow. This salve is applied also to wounds caused by splinters and thorns. Severe or deep cuts are filled with sugar and bandaged tightly. Various remedies are employed for snake bites: Smoke from strong tobacco is blown into the wound. The bitten limb is inserted into a hole in the ground dug for the purpose, which is then filled with earth and water. The limb is allowed to remain thus, in thoroughly saturated earth, for several hours. A quantity of the leaves and bark of the Carolina poplar (Populus angulata) is boiled in water; the vessel is then covered and the steam is caused to pass over the wound. The Choctaw believe in sweating as a cure for certain diseases, but have no recollection of ever having seen a primitive sweat house. They merely wrap themselves in several blankets and drink a quan­tity of hot liquid. These Indians seem to be very susceptible to cold and to changes of temperature. As a remedy for severe pains in the stomach or rheumatic pains these Choctaw believe in the efficacy of a strong counter irritant. Their treatment consists in pressing into the flesh above the seat of the pain a piece of cotton or similar substance, about the size of a small pea, which is burned in that position. It is said that many of the older Choctaw bore numerous scars as a result of the frequent use of this treatment. For broken bones in the arms or legs splints and bandages are...

Crimes and Punishment Among the Choctaw

Until a very few years ago no Choctaw could be brought legally before a court in Louisiana to answer for any crime, even murder, provided such crime was perpetrated against another member of the tribe. Murder was the one great crime recognized by the Choctaw, and the life of the murderer was invariably claimed by the friends or rela­tives of the victim. It is Said that murderers seldom attempted to escape, holding it a duty to their families to receive the punishment of death. To attempt to escape was regarded as a cowardly act, which reflected on every member of the family. If, however ,a mur­derer did succeed in escaping, another member of the family usually was required to die in his stead. The following account of a native execution, the last to occur according to tribal custom, was related by the two women at Bayou Lacomb. This event occurred some thirty years ago at a place not far from Abita Springs: One night two men who were really friends, not enemies, were dancing and drinking with many others, when they suddenly began quarreling and fighting; finally one was killed by the other. The following day, after the murderer had recovered from the effects of the whiskey, he realized what he had done, and knowing he would have to die he went to the relatives of the murdered man and told them he was ready to meet his doom, but asked that he be allowed to remain with them about two weeks longer, as he did not want to miss a dance to be held within that time. To...

Place Names In St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana

As before shown, certain names still in use were known and applied to the streams at the time of the earliest French exploration of the region. Therefore it is not unreasonable to suppose that many, if not all, of the names now employed by the Choctaw to designate the rivers and bayous were used in precolonial days. The names are given here as they appear on the maps of the United States General Laud Office, together with the English trans­lations. Abita The name of a spring, and also of a river which is one of the principal tributaries of the Chefuncte river. The meaning of this word is not known to the Choctaw. They say that an old man who called himself Abeta’ came from far away and made his home near the spring. But this happened many years ago, and no Indian now living ever saw him. They insist that abita is not a Choctaw word. The name at once suggests the Abixka of the Upper Creeks, and may have been derived from that source. The man who took up his abode near the spring may have been a Creek. Bayou Castine The Creoles claim the name was derived from Castagne, the name of an early French settler. But the Choctaw say it was taken from their name of the bayou, Caste (“fleas”), so named on account of the large number of fleas found there. Now, as the name has been shown to have been in use when the French first entered the region, we should accept the Choctaw explanation as probably correct. Chinchuba Creek Given the same...

Choctaw Houses

The primitive habitations of the Choctaw who lived on the north shore of Pontchartrain are described as having been of two types, circular and rectangular. The frames were formed of small saplings; the tops and sides were constructed of palmetto thatch.1 According to the present inhabitants, many of the circular houses were large, affording shelter for many persons. Only one door was made, this in most cases facing the south. A fire was kindled on the ground within the lodge, the smoke passing out through an opening made for the purpose at the top near the center. The later form of habitation is shown in the following image. It will be seen that the sides, formed of thin planks, are arranged in the same way as the palmetto thatch of former days.FootnotesA house of this kind is pictured in plate 3, from a photograph taken near Mandeville, St. Tammany parish, about 1879, which was secured by the late Dr. A. S. Gatschet. The palmetto house is said to have been in use within the last ten...

Bayou Lacomb Choctaw Creation Myth

Creation Myth1 . Many generations ago Aba, the good spirit above, created many men, all Choctaw, who spoke the language of the Choctaw, and understood one another. These came from the bosom of the earth, being formed of yellow clay, and no men had ever lived before them. One day all came together and, looking upward, wondered what the clouds and the blue expanse above might be. They continued to wonder and talk among themselves and at last determined to endeavor to reach the sky. So they brought many rocks and began building a mound that was to have touched the heavens. That night, however, the wind blew strong from above and the rocks fell from the mound. The second morning they again began work on the mound, but as the men slept that night the rocks were again scattered by the winds. Once more on the third morning, the builders set to their task. But once more, as the men lay near the mound that night, wrapped in slumber, the winds came with so great force that the rocks were hurled down on them. The men were not killed, but when daylight came and they made their way from beneath the rocks and began to speak to one another, all were astounded as well as alarmed they spoke various languages and could not understand one another. Some continued thenceforward to speak the original tongue, the language of the Choctaw, and from these sprung the Choctaw tribe. The others, who could not understand this language, began to fight among themselves. Finally they separated. The Choctaw remained the original people;...

Choctaw Food and Preparation

Unfortunately, comparatively few of the articles of food used by the primitive Choctaw are known to the members of the tribe of whom this paper treats. They are able to give, however, the names of a few plants that are even now used. Ahe (Smilax laurifolia) The hard bulbous roots are pounded fine, a small amount of water is added if necessary, and the paste is made into small cakes, which are fried in grease. The Choctaw say that formerly bear’s grease was always used for this purpose. Ahe is spoken of as having been one of their favorite foods. Ahelo’sa (Phaseolus diversifolius) The roots are first thoroughly boiled, then mashed, and served as food. Nuse (acorns of the Quercus aquatica) These acorns were pounded in a wooden mortar until fine. The meal was then put into an openwork basket and water was poured through several times. It was then boiled or used as cornmeal. Okesok (nuts of the Juglans squamosa) The nuts were cracked and the meat was removed. When a sufficient quantity had been obtained, the meat was pounded and made into a paste, which was beaten up in a small quantity of boiling water. The mixture was then eaten as a broth or soup. Kombo ashish The leaves of Laurus sassafras are gathered during the autumn, usually about the middle of October, after they have turned red. They are thoroughly dried in the sun and air, without the use of artificial heat. They are then pounded in a wooden mortar until reduced to a very fine powder, which is sifted to remove all hard particles. The...
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