Location: St. Tammany Parish LA

Choctaw Baskets

The Choctaw are excellent basket makers, although their work at the present time is greatly inferior to that of a generation ago. The best baskets are made of narrow strips of cane, Arundinaria macro­sperma (Choctaw, uske), though now, at Bayou Lacomb, they are using the stems of palmetto, Serrenoa serrulata (Choctaw, tala), as cane is no longer found nearby, and to obtain it a journey has to be made to Pearl river, some fifteen or twenty miles away. Discover your family's story. Enter a grandparent's name to get started. choose a state: Any AL AK AZ AR CA CO CT DE DC FL GA HI ID IL IN IA KS KY LA ME MD MA MI MN MS MO MT NE NV NH NJ NM NY NC ND OH OK OR PA RI SC SD TN TX UT VT VA WA WV WI WY INTL Start Now The baskets now made, with few exceptions, are very crude and rather poorly formed. Brilliant aniline dyes are used in the place of the more subdued native colors. Large numbers of small baskets provided with handles are made and exchanged in the stores of the nearby towns for various goods; these are purchased by strangers and taken away as examples of native art. Kishe’ (pack basket). The bottom is rectangular; the top flares on two sides. Extreme height, 21 inches. Made entirely...

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Choctaw Dyes

The only colors utilized by the Choctaw before they obtained aniline dyes were yellow, red, and black. These, together with the natural cane, gave them four colors to combine in their work. The old Cherokee basket now in the British Museum, known to have been obtained in Carolina in 1721, displays the same colors— yellow, red, and a very dark brown, or black. It is evident that these were the only colors used by the Southern Indians in their basket work. The Choctaw method of making the dye and coloring the material is simple. Yellow – To make a yellow dye they gather a quantity of roots of the Rumex crispus L. (yellow dock), which when dry are reduced to small pieces by pounding in a wooden mortar. The dye is then extracted by boiling in water. The material to be dyed is placed in the infusion and allowed to boil until the desired color is obtained. Red – Equal parts of the bark of the Quercus texana (red oak) and the Nyssa aquatica L. (black gum) are burned to a fine ash. Water is then added to the ashes, forming a thick paste. The material previously dyed yellow, as above described, is then placed in a vessel and the ash paste poured over it. After a few hours the strong alkali turns the yellow to a deep red....

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Choctaw Dress and Personal Decoration

Cords Narrow strips of the bark of the cypress tree (cupressus disticha; Choctaw, shamgo’lo) serve as cords, which are employed for various purposes. Spanish moss was never used to make ropes. Hair Men wore their hair long enough to enable them to make two braids, one on each side of the head. In front the hair was cut straight across, above the eyebrows. Women allowed their hair to grow very long. Their ancient method of wearing it is shown in the photograph of the old woman, Heleema (Louisa). Metal Ornaments, as pins, earrings, etc., were formerly made by ham­mering...

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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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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. 1A 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 years. According to the present inhabitants, many of the circular houses were large,...

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Bayou Lacomb Choctaw Creation Myth

Creation Myth 1Version related by Pisatuntema (Emma) at Bayou Lacomb, April 15, 1909. . 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...

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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...

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Kwanoka’Sha

Kwanoka’sha 1This 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. 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...

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Choctaw Marriage Ceremony

The marriage ceremony as performed until a few years ago, at a time when there were many Choctaw living in the region, was thus described by the women at Bayou Lacomb. When a man decided he wanted to marry a certain girl he confided in his mother, or if she was not living, in his nearest female relative. It was then necessary for her to talk with the mother or the nearest living relative of the girl, and if the two women agreed, they in turn visited the chiefs or heads of the two ogla, or families, to get their consent to the union. As a man was not allowed to marry a girl who belonged to his ogla, often the women were obliged to make a long journey before seeing the two chiefs, whose villages were frequently a considerable distance apart. After all necessary arrangements had been made, a day was fixed for the ceremony. Many of the man’s friends and relatives accom­panied him to the girl’s village, where they seem to have had what may be termed “headquarters” of their own. As the time for the ceremony drew near, the woman with her friends was seen some distance away. The man and his party approached and he endeav­ored to catch the girl. Then ensued much sham fighting and wrestling between the two parties, and the girl ran...

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Kashehotapalo


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Kashehotapalo 1This myth was told by Ahojeobe at Bayou Lacomb in March, 1909, and he assured the writer that only a few days before one of the boys, while hunting in a swamp not far from the bayou, had been frightened by Kashehotapalo, whom he saw distinctly, and that he immediately ran home and related his experience. The great similarity between the subject of this myth and the Faun of Latin mythology at first glance would lead one to suspect that the conception had been acquired by the Choctaw after their contact with Europeans. But such does not appear to have been its origin with the tribe. So firmly convinced are they that such a spirit exists that it is probable the tradition has been handed down through many generations. is neither man nor beast. His head is small and his face shriveled and evil to look upon; his body is that of a man. His legs and feet are those of a deer, the former being covered with hair and the latter having cloven hoofs. He lives in low, swampy places, away from the habitations of men. When hunters go near his abiding place, he quietly slips up behind them and calls loudly, then turns and runs swiftly away. He never attempts to harm the hunters, but delights in frightening them. The sound uttered by Kashehotapalo resembles the...

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