Location: St. Tammany Parish LA

Hoklonote’she

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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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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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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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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Skate’ne

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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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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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 Dances and Music

The following are various forms of dances described by the Choctaw members of Bayou Lacomb. 1. Nanena hitkla (Man dance) All lock arms and form a ring; all sing and the ring revolves rapidly. No one remains in the ring. 2. Shatene hitkla (Tick dance) The dancers lock arms and form in straight lines. First they move forward two or three steps, then backward, but they gradually advance. When they take the forward step they stamp with the right foot, as if crushing ticks on the ground, at the same time looking down, supposedly at the doomed insects. During...

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Choctaw Medicinal Plants and Treatment

The Choctaw make use of a large variety of plants in the treatment of various ailments and exhibit a wide knowledge of the flora of the region. The plants enumerated in the following list were all collected in the vicinity of Bayou Lacomb between January 1 and April 15. It is highly probable that a larger number could be obtained later in the year. Beshu’kchenokle (Smilax tamnoides). The stems are boiled and the extract is taken as a general tonic. Chilo’pîmtobét (Erythrina herbacea), spirit beans – The leaves are boiled in water. The liquid is strained off and again boiled. The extract is taken as a general tonic. Chînchuba (Aseyrum crux andreae), alligator – The leaves are boiled in water and the liquid is used to bathe sore eyes. The root is boiled and the extract is employed as a remedy for colic. Klotchowachokama (Obolaria virginica). – The roots are boiled in water and the liquid is used to bathe cuts, or this decoction is mixed with the scum that rises to the surface when the root of Liquidambar styraciftua is boiled in water. This decoction is highly esteemed as a dressing for severe cuts and bruises. Ête hesha kaklahashe (Populus angulata), ‘tree leaf noisy.” – The stems, bark, and leaves are boiled together and the steam is allowed to pass over wounds caused by bites of snakes. Hataks...

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Witchcraft Among the Choctaws of Bayou Lacomb

Witchcraft (ItoUckunda) was practiced by many persons, both men and women. It was never definitely known whether a person pos­sessed the power to bewitch or when one was making use of it. Old people of both sexes, however, were most often suspected of possess­ing this power. The manner of exerting this evil influence against others was believed to be after this fashion: Those having proper knowledge could remove at night their viscera, thus reducing their weight to so great an extent that they could fly through the air to the individual they wished to harm. Accompanying them always were several spirits, otherwise resembling men, but no larger than a man’s thumb. On reaching the person against whom the spell was to be directed the witch would stop and point toward him, whereupon one of the little spirits would go noiselessly and touch him, afterward rema7ining and doing a great deal of mischief about the place. The spirit was able to pass with ease through cracks, and thus to reach places not accessible to a larger being. After directing the little spirit, which was left to continue its work, the wizard would fly back to his village or house and again assume his natural condition. Such is the belief of the Choctaw even at the present day. It is said by these Indians that no herbs were ever added to...

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Bayou Lacomb Choctaw Myths and Legends

All the myths and legends recorded on the following pages 1Related to the writer by two women, Pisatuntema (Emma) and Heleema (Louisa), and a man John, at Bayou Lacomb are evidently of purely native conception, showing no trace of Euro­pean influence. According to their own statements the greater part of the folklore of the Choctaw is preserved in the form of songs, of which they have (so they say) a great many, adapted to various occasions. Creation Myth Kwanoka’Sha Kashehotapalo Okwa Naholo Why ‘Possum Has A Large Mouth The Hunter Who Became A Deer The Hunter And The Alligator Hoklonote’she The Girl And The Devil Skate’ne Tashka and Walo Choctaw Dream Interpretations The Choctaw bold that it is possible for the “spirit” to leave the body even during life, and by that belief explain dreams thus: At night when a person is resting and all is quiet the “spirit” steals away from the body and wanders about the country, seeing many people and things, which are known to the individual when be awakes. If, during its wanderings, the spirit meets large animals of any sort, the person will surely suffer misfortune before many days have passed. Footnotes:   [ + ] 1. ↩ Related to the writer by two women, Pisatuntema (Emma) and Heleema (Louisa), and a man John, at Bayou...

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The Choctaw of Bayou Lacomb

This collection depicts the specific culture and history of the Choctaw tribe residing within Bayou Lacomb, Louisiana. Included are the geography, history, society, language, ethnology, and myths, legends and religion of the Choctaws who resided within the area of Bayou Lacomb. By the people of the tribe, or, more correctly, that portion of the tribe now under consideration, they themselves are called the Chata’ogla or the Chata’ people or family. According to them, the first word can not be translated as it is merely a proper name.

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Transportation of the Louisiana Choctaw

Dugouts were employed on the creeks and bayous, but evidently only to a small extent. The Creoles make dugouts at the present time which they use on the streams of St. Tammany parish. These are hollowed from single pieces of black gum; most of them measure from 8 to 12 feet in length. Many of the roads now used probably follow the courses of Indian trails. A road leading from just west of Chinchuba to Lake Pont­chartrain is known as the “Indian road;” this passes within a few feet of the Chinchuba Creek mound, and evidently follows the trail that led from the settlement about the mound to the shore of Lake...

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Choctaw Games

The Choctaw appear to have had rather few games of chance. Among those described to the writer is one that closely resembles the moccasin game of the Algonquian and other widely separated tribes in America. This is said to have been played by the “old people” and is probably one of the oldest Choctaw games. It was described thus: Lake’lomi Twelve men were required in playing this game. They knelt or sat on the ground in two rows, or sides,” facing each other, six players in each row. Seven hats were placed on the ground in a line between the two rows of players. The player who was to start the game and who was always at one end of his row held in one hand a small stone or shot. With his other hand he raised all the hats in order, placing under one of these the stone or shot; during the entire performance he sang a particular song. After the stone or shot had been placed, the player sitting opposite him guessed under which hat it lay. If he did not succeed in three guesses, the leader removed the object and again hid it under either the same or another hat. Then the second player on the opposite side had three guesses. If a player guessed under which hat the object was hidden, he in turn became...

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Hunting and Fishing Among the Bayou Lacomb Choctaws

The primitive blowgun was used until recently in hunting squirrels, rabbits, and various birds. Only one specimen was found at Bayou Lacomb; this was said to have been made some ten years ago. The man Toshkachîto (Joe Silestine) is shown holding the blowgun in position for shooting in the image below. The blowgun (kaklu’mpa) is about 7 feet in length; it is made of a single piece of cane (Arundinaria macrosperma; Choctaw, uske),formed into a tube by perforation of the joints, which was given a smooth bore of uniform diameter through­out. The darts (shurma’nte) are made of either small, slender canes or pieces of hard yellow pine, sharpened at one end; they are from 15 to 18 inches in length. The lower end is wrapped for a distance of 4 or 5 inches with a narrow band of cloth having a frayed edge, or a piece of soft tanned skin is used. The effect of this band is to expand and fill the bore of the gun, a result that could not possibly be secured by the use of feathers, as in the case of ordinary arrows. Bows and arrows were formerly used, but for many generations the Choctaw have been in possession of firearms obtained from the French, the Spanish, and later from the Americans. Curiously enough the people at Bayou Lacomb do not care for fish or...

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