Kwanoka’sha1 is the name of a little spirit—a man, but no larger than a child two or three years of age. His home is in a cave under large rocks, in a rough, broken part of the country.
Now, when a child is two or three or even four years old, it is often sick, and then runs away from its home and goes among the trees. When the little one is well out of sight of home Kwanoka’sha, who is on the watch, seizes it and leads it away to his dwelling place. In many instances they have to travel a considerable distance through the country. When Kwanoka’sha and the child enter the spirit’s home they are met by three other spirits, all very old, with white hair. Approaching the child the first offers it a knife; the second a bunch of herbs, all poisonous; the third a bunch of herbs yielding good medicine. Now, if the child accepts the knife he is certain to become a bad man, and may even kill his friends. If he takes the bunch of poisonous herbs he will never be able to cure or otherwise help others; but if he waits and accepts the good herbs, then he is destined to become a great doctor and an important and influential man of his tribe, and to have the confidence of all his people. In this event Kwanoka’sha and the three old spirits tell him how to make use of the herbs the secrets of making medicines of the roots and leaves and of curing and treating various fevers and pains.
This legend, as related to the writer by Abojcobe (Emil John), is given by the Choctaw as explaining why some men do good and help others, while many are ignorant and harm those whom they should assist. The existence of a “spirit” such as Kwanoka’sha was evidently believed firmly by all, as it is by the few now living at Bayou Lacosnb. The child remains with the spirits three days, after which he returns to his home, but does not tell where he has been or what he has seen and heard. Not until the child has become a man will he make use of the knowledge gained from the spirits; but never will he reveal to others how it was acquired. The Choctaw say that few children wait to accept the offering of the good herbs from the third spirit, and hence there are comparatively few great doctors and other men of influence among them. ↩