Location: St. Tammany Parish LA

History of the Bayou Lacomb Choctaws

Unfortunately very little is known of the history of the people of whom this paper treats. The earliest writers, as well as the oldest maps of the region, designate the Ncolapissa as the tribe occupying the region now included within the limits of St. Tammany parish, at the time of the discovery and settlement of lower Louisiana by the French. The Acolapissa were so closely connected with the Choctaw proper that it is not possible now to distinguish between them. They spoke the same language, probably with only slight local variations. Their manners and customs, in all probability, were similar to a great extent. One of the earliest definite references to the region is contained in the Relation of Pénicauta 1Margry, Découvertes, v, 459, Paris, 1883. , a touching on a period when there was a general movement among the Southern tribes. It is stated thus: At this same time [1705] the Colapissas, who dwelt on a little river called Talcateha, four leagues distant from the shore of Lake Pontchartrain, went to live on its banks at the place named Castembayouque. The river “Talcatcha “is the present Pearl river, and, as will be seen, the distance of the “Colapissas” village up the river from Lake Pontchartrain is the same as that of the present Choctaw settlement. The Choctaw name of their own settlement is Hatcha, a name applied also...

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Louisiana Choctaw Mounds

Several mounds are found within the Bayou Lacomb area. The largest of these is situated about 200 yards north of the right bank of Chinchuba creek, and about 1½ miles in a direct line north of Lake Pontchartrain. The mound has an elevation of between 4 and 5 feet; it is circular in form and has an average diame­ter of approximately 90 feet. A trench was run from near the center of the mound, extending northeast 47 feet and continuing beyond the edge of the artificial work. This was evidently a domiciliary mound. Two fire beds were discovered. The...

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Choctaw Artifacts

Comparatively few articles are now made by the Choctaw, much of their ancient art having been forgotten. At the present time they purchase the necessary tools and implements at the stores, and other objects are no longer used. The list which follows is believed to include all things of native origin now made by the Choctaw at Bayou Lacomb (1900): Wood Artifacts Mortars and pestles Scrapers, two forms of, used in preparing skins Drum Ball club Blowgun and darts Canoes Leather Artifacts Straps for carrying baskets. Narrow strips used on the ball clubs. Untanned skins used for the heads of drums. Long strips of tanned deer skin used as lashes for whips by the drivers of ox teams employed in the lumber industry. Stone Artifacts Arrowheads Chisels Jewelry Knifes Pieces of chert or jasper are sometimes used with a steel to “strike fire.” Pottery Pipes Horn Spoons Baskets Pack Basket Elbow Shaped Basket Pointed Basket Cords Ropes...

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Choctaw Tanning Method

The hair having been removed, the skin is placed in a mortar, or in a hole cut a log (see image below) which serves the purpose. Eggs and cornmeal mixed with a little water are then poured over the skin, which is thoroughly beaten with a long wooden pestle. The skin is then taken from the mortar and wrung rather dry; a number of small holes are cut around the edge and through these cords are passed, which serve to hold the skin stretched between two upright posts, as shown in plate 12, a. While in this position it...

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Why ‘Possum Has A Large Mouth

It had been a dry season and there was very little food for Deer, consequently he had become thin and rather weak. One day Deer met ‘Possum and exclaimed: “Why! ‘Possum, how very fat you are. How do you keep so fat when I can not find enough to eat?” And ‘Possum answered, “I live on persimmons, and as they are unusually large this year, I have all I want to eat.” “But how do you get persim­mons, which grow so high above the ground?” “That is very easily done,” replied ‘Possum. “I go to the top of a high hill and, running swiftly down, strike a persim­mon tree so hard with my head that all the ripe persimmons fall to the ground. Then I sit there and eat and eat until I can not hold more.” “Indeed, that is easily done,” answered Deer; “now watch me.” So ‘Possum waited near the tree while Deer went to the top of a near-by hill. And when Deer reached the top of the hill, he turned and then ran quickly down, striking the tree with so great force that he was killed and all his bones were broken. When ‘Possum saw what Deer had done, he laughed so hard that he stretched his mouth; which remains large even to this...

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The Hunter Who Became A Deer

One night a hunter killed a doe and soon afterward fell asleep near the carcass. The next morning, just at sunrise, the hunter was surprised and startled to see the doe raise her head and to hear her speak, asking him to go with her to her home. At first he was so surprised that he did not know what to reply, so the doe again asked him whether he would go. Then the hunter said that he would go with her, although he had no idea where she would lead him. So they started and the doe led the hunter through forests and over high mountains, until at last they reached a large hole under a rock, which they entered. Here the hunter was led before the King of all the deer, an immense buck, with huge antlers and a large black spot on his back. Soon the hunter became drowsy and finally he fell asleep. Now all around the cave were piles of deer’s feet, antlers, and skins. While the hunter was asleep the deer endeav­ored to fit to his hands and feet deer’s feet which they selected for the purpose. After several unsuccessful attempts the fourth set proved to be just the right size and were fastened firmly on the hunter’s hands and feet. Then a skin was found that covered him properly, and finally antlers...

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The Hunter and the Alligator

One winter there were many hunters living in a village, all of whom, with one excep­tion, had killed a great many deer. But one had met with very poor luck, and although always contrived to escape unharmed. He had been away from his village three days, and during that time had seen many deer, but had not been able to kill a single one. On the third day, when the sun was overhead, the hunter saw a huge alligator resting on a dry, sandy spot. This alligator had been without water for many days, and was dry and shriveled and so weak that he could scarcely speak. He was able, however, to ask the hunter where water could be had. The hunter replied, “In that forest, only a short journey hence, is a clear, deep pool of cold water.” “But I can not travel alone; I am too weak to go so far. Come nearer that we may talk and plan. I can not harm you; have no fear,” said the alligator. At last the hunter went nearer and listened to the alligator, who said: “I know you are a hunter, but all the deer escape from you. Now, carry me to the water and I will then make you a great hunter and tell you how to kill many, many deer.” The hunter hesitated, as he feared the...

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A man away from his village on a hunting trip had killed many deer and bears. One night he made a large fire of oak and soon was sleeping soundly, but before long he was aroused by the cry of an owl, and, looking up, he saw a huge owl standing over the fire. Then the hunter thought to himself, “What am I to do?” Thereupon the owl said to him, “So you wonder what you are to do,” and repeated every thought the hunter had. The owl was really Hoklonote’she, a bad spirit that can read men’s thoughts, and readily assumes the forms of various birds and animals. After the owl had stood there some time, repeating whatever thoughts were in the hunter’s mind, the latter suddenly jumped up and vigorously stirred the fire, causing the oak logs to send up a myriad of sparks that fell on the feathers of the owl and burned them. So badly frightened was Hoklonote’she that he flew away in haste, and never again troubled the...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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,...

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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...

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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...

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