Choctaw Homes & Women
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They lived in houses made of logs, but very comfortable; not more rude or uncouth, however, than many of the whites even of the present day. Their houses consisted generally of two rooms, both of which were used for every domestic purpose cooking, eating, living and sleeping; nor was their furniture disproportionate with that of the dwelling for the sitting room, a stool or two; for the kitchen, a pot or kettle, two or three tin cups, a large and commodious wooden bowl, and a horn spoon, constituted about the ultimatum t’was all they needed, all they wanted, and with it they were perfectly contented and supremely happy.
Tafula; (pro. Tarm-ful-ah,” hominy; corrupted to Tom-fuller), is made of pounded corn boiled, using lye for fermentation, and tafula tobi ibulhtoh (boiled corn mixed with beans) were, and are to the present day, favorite dishes among the Choctaws; nor need it be thought strange, as they are dishes Worthy the palate of the most fastidious. The tafula, their favorite and indispensable dish was put into a large bowl, around which all gathered, and each in turn using the horn spoon to replenish his waiting mouth with the coveted luxury. But little pains were taken in the preparation of their food, which was as rude, though clean and nice, as the means of preparing it. Having no tables or dishes, except the wooden bowl, nor knives and forks, they squatted around the pot of boiled meat and bowl of tafula, and each used his or her fingers in extracting the contents of the pot, and conveying it to the mouth, and the horn spoon by turns in doing obeisance to the tafula all in perfect harmony and jollity.
They use another preparation for food called Botah Kapussa, (cold flour) which was made of parched corn pounded very fine; an ounce of which mixed with a little water would in a few minutes become as thick as soup cooked by a fire. Two or three ounces of this were sufficient to sustain a man for a day. In their war expeditions it was an indispensable adjunct the sine qua non to the warrior s bill of fare, as they could not shoot game with the rifle when upon the war-path in their enemy’s territories for fear of giving notice of their presence. Bunaha was another food much used in the long ago. It was made, of pounded meal mixed with boiled beans to which is added a little lye, then made into dough wrapped in cornhusks and boiled. Oksak (hickory nut), atapah (broken in) is still another; this was made of pounded meal mixed with the meat of the hickory nut instead of boiled beans, and cooked as bunaha. I have eaten the three kinds, and found them very palatable.
They were great lovers of tobacco; yet never chewed it, but confined its use exclusively to the pipe, in which they smoked the weed mixed with the dried leaf of the aromatic sumac, which imparted to the smoke a delightful flavor, agreeable even to the most fastidious nose. But they now have learned to chew, which I ascertained by actual observation, when riding over their country visiting them during the year 1884 to 1890. Frequently I have ridden several miles with different Choctaws, with whom I accidental!} fell in company, and to whom } offered a chew of tobacco, which was frequently accepted; and I noticed they chewed it with as much apparent delight and gusto, as their white brothers, proving themselves worthy rivals in the accomplished art. However, I could state that the habit is not as universal, by great odds, as among the white.
All the drudgery work about the house and the hunting camp was done by the wife assisted by her children; and as the wife of the Choctaw warrior and hunter was regarded as the slave of her husband, so likewise may equally be regarded the unfortunate wives of many of the boasted civilized white men of this 19th century.
With the Choctaw wife, as with all Indians, parturition was matter that gave no uneasiness whatever; nor did it interfere with her domestic affairs, but for a few hours. Unlike her civilized sister, she neither required nor desired, nor accepted any assistance whatever. I have known them to give birth to a child during the night, and the next morning would find them at the cow-pen attending to the affairs of the dairy. To have a man physician, on such occasions, was as abhorrent to her sense of modesty and revolting to her feelings, as it was wholly unnecessary. And the old custom is still adhered to by the present Choctaw wife and mother. After a child was born, after undergoing the usual necessary preliminaries, it was placed in a curiously constructed receptacle called Ullosi afohka, (infant receptacle) where, it spent principally the first year of its life, only when taken out for the purpose of washing and dressing. This curiously made little cradle (for such it may truly be called) was often highly ornamented with all the pharaphernalia that a mother s love and care could suggest or obtain. The little fellow’s face, which was always exposed to view, was carefully protected by a piece of wood bent a few inches above and over it. Contented as Diogenes in his tub, the babe would remain in its little prison for hours without a whimper; part of the time asleep, and part of the time awake looking around in its innocence with calm and tranquil resignation. According to her convenience, the mother suspended her thus cradled child on her back, when walking, or the saddle when riding; or stood it up against a neighboring tree, if a pleasant day, that it might enjoy the fresh and pure air, and exhilarating sunshine; or suspend it to the projecting limb of a tree there to be rocked to sleep and pleasant dreams by the forest breeze. As soon as it was old enough to begin to crawl, it bade an informal adieu to its former prison, but to be found perched upon its mother’s back, where it seemed well contented in all its journeys long or short. It was truly astonishing with what apparent ease the Choctaw mother carried her child upon her back. The child was placed high up between the shoulders of the mother, and over it was thrown a large blanket, which was drawn tightly at the front of the mother s neck, forming a fold behind; in this the child was placed and safely carried, with seemingly little inconvenience to either mother or child. When the little chap had grown to such proportions as to be no longer easily thus transported, he was fastened to the saddle upon the back of a docile pony, which follower the company at pleasure; though here and there stopping momentarily to bite the tempting grass that grew along the pathway, then briskly trotting up until it had again reached its proper place in rank and file, indifferent to the jolting experienced by the youthful rider tied upon its back, who, however, seemed to regard it with stoical indifference. When arrived at the age of four or five years, he was considered as having passed through his fourth and last chrysalis stage, and was then untied from the saddle and bid ride for himself; and soon did the young horseman prove himself a true scion of the parent tree, as a fearless and skillful rider.
Though the Allosi afohka has long since passed away with other ancient customs, still the Choctaw mother carries her child upon her back as she of a century ago, and loves it with the same fond and strong love; and though she did not, nor does not, express it by any outward manifestations, yet her love was and is real, perfect and constant; nor was she ever known to trust her babe to a hired nurse. The love for their children and untiring devotion to their homes and families, and their profound regard for the aged, were in deed beautiful and touching traits in the characteristics of the Choctaw women. In fact, the great respect and uniform kindness paid by the Indians everywhere, and under all circumstance, to the aged of their people, might justly bring the blush of shame upon the face of many of the young twigs of the professed enlightened white race. The Choctaw women of years ago were a merry, light-hearted race, and their constant laugh and incessant prattle formed a strange contrast to the sad taciturnity of the present day. The easily conjectured cause precludes the necessity of being mentioned here.