Location: St. Tammany Parish LA

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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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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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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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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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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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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