Location: St. Tammany Parish LA

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 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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Okwa Naholo

The Okwa naholo (“White People of the Water”) dwell in deep pools in rivers and bayous. There is said to be such a place in the Abita River; the pool is clear and cold and it is easy to see far down into the depths, but the surrounding water of the river is dark and muddy. Many of the Okwa naholo live in this pool, which is known to all the Choctaw. 1Heleema (Louisa), one of the women living at Bayou Lacomb, claims that when a child, some forty years ago, she had an experience with the Okwa naholo. She related it with the greatest sincerity. One summer day, when she was seven or eight years of age, she was swimming in the Ahita with many other Choctaw children. She was a short distance away from the others when suddenly she felt the Okwa naholo drawing her down. The water seemed to rise about her and she was struggling and endeavoring to free herself when some of her friends, realizing her danger and the cause of it, went to her assistance and, seizing her by the hair, drew her to the shore. Never again did the children go swimming near the pool where this incident occurred. As their name signifies, the Okwa naholo resemble white people more than they do Choctaw; their skin is rather light in color, resembling...

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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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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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