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Thornton’s Translation of the Migration Legend of the Creek People

In 2015, after many years of searching, Richard Thornton found the impossible, the original Migration Legend of the Creek People. Gatschet in his famed manuscript which greatly covered this legend stated emphatically “The chances of rediscovering the original English translation of the Migration Legend of the Creek People are therefore almost as slim as recovering the lost books of Livy’s History.” That original English translation still remains lost as Gatschet predicted. But why settle for the English translation when you can find the original? The following is Thornton’s transcription from the original velum of the Migration Legend. Thornton indicates in our introduction that when “the original document, written by Thomas Christie, was finally discovered in 2015, the translation of the German text was found to be not so accurate or complete as Gatschet had presumed. Although the texts of the two documents follow the same general pattern, there were changes made in some of the passages that completely changed the meanings of certain phrases and sentences. Also, some sentences were presented in reverse order.”

Here we present, Richard Thornton’s modern translation:

Gatschet’s Translation of the Migration Legend of the Creek People

In 1884, Albert Samuel Gatschet published a translation of the Creek Migration Legend in his infamous “A Migration Legend of the Creek Indians.” The Creek and Hitchiti text that came with the same manuscript were then translated from Gatschet’s translation back into Hitchiti and Creek, his translation did not emanate from those. Where then did he get his translation from? A translation from the English had been preserved in a German book of the period, and the style of this piece showed it to be an “authentic and comparatively accurate rendering of the original”. The German book referred to is a collection of pamphlets treating of colonial affairs, and published from 1735 to 1741; its first volume bears the title: Ausfuehrliche Nachricht von den Saltzburg-ischen Emigranten, die sick in America niedergelassen haben. Worin, etc. etc., Herausgegeben von Samuel Urlsperger, Halle, MDCCXXXV, The legend occupies pp. 869 to 876 of this first volume, and forms chapter six of the “Journal” of von Reck, the title of which is as follows: Herrn Philipp Georg Friederichs von Reck Diarium von Seiner Reise nach Georgien im Jahr 1735. F. von Reck was the commissary of those German-Protestant emigrants whom religious persecution had expelled from Salzburg, in Styria, their native city.

So what follows is an English translation from the German translation of the presumed English translation of the original “Migration Legend of the Creek People.”

Choctaw Tradition of the Flood

The tradition, as related by wise men of the Choctaw Nation, about the flood, is as follows: A long continued night came upon the land, which created no small degree of fear and uneasiness among the people. Their fears were increased at seeing the terrible buffaloes, and the fleet deer making their appearance, and after them the bears and panthers, wolves, and others approaching their habitations; suspicious at first of their intentions, they thought of placing themselves beyond the reach of the more dangerous animals, but instead of exhibiting any disposition of ferocity, they seemed rather to claim protection at their hands. This presented an opportunity of having a jubilee of feasting, and they therefore indulged themselves to the fullest bent of their propensity and inclinations by an indiscriminate massacre of the animals. Having thus feasted for some time, they at last saw daylight appearing. But what surprised them much, was, they saw it coming from the north. They were at a loss what to think of it. They, however, supposed that the sun must have missed his path, and was coming up from another direction, which caused the unusual long night, or perhaps he had purposely changed his course, to rise hereafter in the north instead of the east. While such conjectures were making, some fast runners arrived as messengers coming from the direction of the sup posed day light, and announced to them that the light which they saw was not the day light, but that it was a flood slowly approaching, drowning and destroying everything. Upon this report the people fled to the mountains, and began...

Choctaw Beliefs About the Sun and Moon

To the unlettered and untutored mind of man through out the world, all things are endowed with individuality and life; from which arose, no doubt, the great number of mystic conceptions, regarding the sun, moon, stars, clouds, winds and storms, as being animate bodies, possessing life as all animate creatures. The traditions of some of the North American Indian tribes are said to state, that the sun was once caught in a snare by a great hunter, and was set free by the moles, but at the loss of their eyes from its intense light, and have ever since been blind. Perhaps the primitive fathers of those tribes possessed some knowledge of Joshua’s command to the orb of day. Brinton states in his “Myths of the New World,” page 55, which the legend of the Peruvian Incas, in regard to the sun, is “He is like a tethered beast that makes a daily round under the eye of a master.” Many of the North American Indian tribes believed, in regard to the eclipse of “the sun and moon, that some animal, wolf, dog, etc., was devouring the sun, and made every effort to drive him away. Some whipped their own dogs during an eclipse because a “Big dog” was eating the sun or moon, and believed the “Big dog” might be induced to postpone his meal by the howls of their whipped curs. The ancient Choctaws believed an eclipse was caused by a little black squirrel, which had resolved to devour the sun, and which could only be saved from the little gormandizer by frightening him away by a...

The Story of Hohtak Lahba and his Choctaw Mother

Their laws (for they had laws,) though exceptional in some respects to the White Race, nevertheless, were good, and quite consistent with the nations of a primitive age. But like all others of their race, their severest law was that of blood revenge. Whosoever sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed was a statute rigidly enforced among all North American Indians. It was acknowledged among all, not only to be the right, but also the imperative duty of the nearest relative on the male side of the slain, to kill the slayer wherever and whenever a favorable opportunity was presented. Under many existing circumstances the law might, perhaps, have been just and salutary; but unfortunately it went too far, as any male member of the murderer s family, though innocent and even ignorant of the crime, might become the victim of the avenger of blood, if the guilty had fled; but such seldom occurred, as the murderer rarely ever made any effort whatever to escape, but passively submitted to his fate. Still, this law, revolting as it may appear to many, exercised a good influence among the Choctaws, as it had a salutary effect in restraining them in the heat of passion, by rendering them cautious in their disputes and quarrels, lest blood should be shed; knowing the absolute certainty of murder being avenged sooner or later upon the murderer himself, or some one of his nearest male relatives; hence man, or family, would with impunity commit or permit, if they could avoid or prevent it, an act that would be sure to be avenged, no...

Choctaw War Against the Osage and other Legends

There were many traditions among all North American Indians, many of which bordered on the poetical and from which I will select one or two more, which shall suffice as examples of a few of the peculiarities of this peculiar yet interesting people. Thus says the tradition of “Ohoyo Osh Chisba,” (The Unknown Woman.) In the days of many moons ago, two Choctaw hunters were encamped for the night in the swamps of the bend of the Alabama River. But the scene was not without its romance. Dark, wild, and unlovely as a swamp is generally imagined to be, yet to the musing heart and contemplative spirit, it had its aspects of beauty, if not of brightness, which rose up before the mind as objects of serene delight, i speak from long personal experience. Its mysterious appearance; its little lakes and islands of repose: its silent and solemn solitudes; its green cane-breaks and lofty trees, all combined to present a picture of strange but harmonious combination to which a lover of nature in all its diversified phases could not be wholly insensible. The two hunters having been unsuccessful in the chase on that and the preceding day, found themselves without anything- on that night with which to satisfy the craving’s of hunger except a black hawk which they had shot with an arrow. Sad reflections filled their hearts as they thought of their sad disappointments and of their suffering families at home, while the gloomy future spread over them its dark pall of despondency, all serving to render them unhappy indeed. They cooked the hawk and sat down to...

Adventures Of Coyote

In the beginning of the world there were many, many people, and the people held councils to decide how things should be. There was one man, named Coyote, who always had something to say on every subject. At one council this question came up: “How and what kind of rain should be in the world?” One of the men said that it should rain in the form of lead balls, which would be very dangerous, and so when the rain came the people would have to stay at home. Then Coyote arose from his seat and said: “If it should rain nothing but lead it would be very dangerous for my people, because they do not stay at home very much, and as for myself, I might be carrying a big deer to my family to eat when the rain begins to fall and I would certainly be killed. I say, let it rain in drops of water. Then we can be caught out in the rain and get very wet, but we will soon be dry again, and the wetting will be good for us.” The people accepted Coyote’s suggestion, and so it is that it rains in the form of water. When the council was all over and the people went to their homes, Coyote made up his mind to go out and visit some of his friends. He traveled until he came to the mountains. He saw smoke coming up among the mountains, as though some one was making up a big fire, and he thought he would go up and see who was living there....

Legend of the Separation of the Comanche and Ute Tribes

The large spring referred to by Dr. James, Sage, Fremont, Ruxton, and the other writers whom I have quoted, is the one now enclosed and used by the bottling works at Manitou. Ruxton says the two springs were intimately connected with the separation of the Comanche and the Snake, or Ute tribes, and he gives the following legend concerning the beginning of the trouble: Many hundreds of winters ago, when the cottonwoods on the Big River were no higher than an arrow, and the red men, who hunted the buffalo on the plains, all spoke the same language, and the pipe of peace breathed its social cloud of kinnikinnik whenever two parties of hunters met on the boundless plains – when, with hunting grounds and game of every kind in the greatest abundance, no nation dug up the hatchet with another because one of its hunters followed the game into their bounds, but, on the contrary, loaded for him his back with choice and fattest meat, and ever proffered the soothing pipe before the stranger, with well-filled belly, left the village, it happened that two hunters of different nations met one day on a small rivulet, where both had repaired to quench their thirst. A little stream of water, rising from a spring on a rock within a few feet of the bank, trickled over it and fell splashing into the river. To this the hunters repaired; and while one sought the spring itself, where the water, cold and clear, reflected on its surface the image of the surrounding scenery, the other, tired by his exertions in the chase,...

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