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The Okwa naholo (“White People of the Water”) dwell in deep pools in rivers and bayous. There is said to be such a place in the Abita River; the pool is clear and cold and it is easy to see far down into the depths, but the surrounding water of the river is dark and muddy. Many of the Okwa naholo live in this pool, which is known to all the Choctaw.1
As their name signifies, the Okwa naholo resemble white people more than they do Choctaw; their skin is rather light in color, resembling the skin of a trout.
When the Choctaw swim in the Abita near the pool, the Okwa naholo attempt to seize them and to draw them down into the pool to their homes, where they live and become Okwa naholo. After the third day their skin begins to change and soon resembles the skin of a trout. They learn to live, eat, and swim in the same way as fish.
Whenever the friends of a person who has become one of the Okwa naholo gather on the river bank near the pool and sing, he often rises to the surface and talks with them, sometimes even joining in the singing. But after living in the pool three days the newly made Okwa naholo can not leave it for any length of time; if they should go out of the water they would die after the manner of fish, for they can not live in the air.
Heleema (Louisa), one of the women living at Bayou Lacomb, claims that when a child, some forty years ago, she had an experience with the Okwa naholo. She related it with the greatest sincerity. One summer day, when she was seven or eight years of age, she was swimming in the Ahita with many other Choctaw children. She was a short distance away from the others when suddenly she felt the Okwa naholo drawing her down. The water seemed to rise about her and she was struggling and endeavoring to free herself when some of her friends, realizing her danger and the cause of it, went to her assistance and, seizing her by the hair, drew her to the shore. Never again did the children go swimming near the pool where this incident occurred. ↩
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