Topic: Legends

Thornton’s Translation of the Migration Legend of the Creek People

In 2015, after many years of searching, Richard Thornton found the impossible, the original Migration Legend of the Creek People. Gatschet in his famed manuscript which greatly covered this legend stated emphatically “The chances of rediscovering the original English translation of the Migration Legend of the Creek People are therefore almost as slim as recovering the lost books of Livy’s History.” That original English translation still remains lost as Gatschet predicted. But why settle for the English translation when you can find the original? The following is Thornton’s transcription from the original velum of the Migration Legend. Thornton indicates in our introduction that when “the original document, written by Thomas Christie, was finally discovered in 2015, the translation of the German text was found to be not so accurate or complete as Gatschet had presumed. Although the texts of the two documents follow the same general pattern, there were changes made in some of the passages that completely changed the meanings of certain phrases and sentences. Also, some sentences were presented in reverse order.”

Here we present, Richard Thornton’s modern translation:

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Gatschet’s Translation of the Migration Legend of the Creek People

In 1884, Albert Samuel Gatschet published a translation of the Creek Migration Legend in his infamous “A Migration Legend of the Creek Indians.” The Creek and Hitchiti text that came with the same manuscript were then translated from Gatschet’s translation back into Hitchiti and Creek, his translation did not emanate from those. Where then did he get his translation from? A translation from the English had been preserved in a German book of the period, and the style of this piece showed it to be an “authentic and comparatively accurate rendering of the original”. The German book referred to is a collection of pamphlets treating of colonial affairs, and published from 1735 to 1741; its first volume bears the title: Ausfuehrliche Nachricht von den Saltzburg-ischen Emigranten, die sick in America niedergelassen haben. Worin, etc. etc., Herausgegeben von Samuel Urlsperger, Halle, MDCCXXXV, The legend occupies pp. 869 to 876 of this first volume, and forms chapter six of the “Journal” of von Reck, the title of which is as follows: Herrn Philipp Georg Friederichs von Reck Diarium von Seiner Reise nach Georgien im Jahr 1735. F. von Reck was the commissary of those German-Protestant emigrants whom religious persecution had expelled from Salzburg, in Styria, their native city.

So what follows is an English translation from the German translation of the presumed English translation of the original “Migration Legend of the Creek People.”

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Choctaw Tradition of the Flood

The tradition, as related by wise men of the Choctaw Nation, about the flood, is as follows: A long continued night came upon the land, which created no small degree of fear and uneasiness among the people. Their fears were increased at seeing the terrible buffaloes, and the fleet deer making their appearance, and after them the bears and panthers, wolves, and others approaching their habitations; suspicious at first of their intentions, they thought of placing themselves beyond the reach of the more dangerous animals, but instead of exhibiting any disposition of ferocity, they seemed rather to claim protection at their hands. This presented an opportunity of having a jubilee of feasting, and they therefore indulged themselves to the fullest bent of their propensity and inclinations by an indiscriminate massacre of the animals. Having thus feasted for some time, they at last saw daylight appearing. But what surprised them much, was, they saw it coming from the north. They were at a loss what to think of it. They, however, supposed that the sun must have missed his path, and was coming up from another direction, which caused the unusual long night, or perhaps he had purposely changed his course, to rise hereafter in the north instead of the east. While such conjectures were making, some fast runners arrived as messengers coming from the direction of the sup posed...

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Choctaw Beliefs About the Sun and Moon

To the unlettered and untutored mind of man through out the world, all things are endowed with individuality and life; from which arose, no doubt, the great number of mystic conceptions, regarding the sun, moon, stars, clouds, winds and storms, as being animate bodies, possessing life as all animate creatures. The traditions of some of the North American Indian tribes are said to state, that the sun was once caught in a snare by a great hunter, and was set free by the moles, but at the loss of their eyes from its intense light, and have ever since been blind. Perhaps the primitive fathers of those tribes possessed some knowledge of Joshua’s command to the orb of day. Brinton states in his “Myths of the New World,” page 55, which the legend of the Peruvian Incas, in regard to the sun, is “He is like a tethered beast that makes a daily round under the eye of a master.” Many of the North American Indian tribes believed, in regard to the eclipse of “the sun and moon, that some animal, wolf, dog, etc., was devouring the sun, and made every effort to drive him away. Some whipped their own dogs during an eclipse because a “Big dog” was eating the sun or moon, and believed the “Big dog” might be induced to postpone his meal by the howls...

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The Story of Hohtak Lahba and his Choctaw Mother

Their laws (for they had laws,) though exceptional in some respects to the White Race, nevertheless, were good, and quite consistent with the nations of a primitive age. But like all others of their race, their severest law was that of blood revenge. Whosoever sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed was a statute rigidly enforced among all North American Indians. It was acknowledged among all, not only to be the right, but also the imperative duty of the nearest relative on the male side of the slain, to kill the slayer wherever and whenever a favorable opportunity was presented. Under many existing circumstances the law might, perhaps, have been just and salutary; but unfortunately it went too far, as any male member of the murderer s family, though innocent and even ignorant of the crime, might become the victim of the avenger of blood, if the guilty had fled; but such seldom occurred, as the murderer rarely ever made any effort whatever to escape, but passively submitted to his fate. Still, this law, revolting as it may appear to many, exercised a good influence among the Choctaws, as it had a salutary effect in restraining them in the heat of passion, by rendering them cautious in their disputes and quarrels, lest blood should be shed; knowing the absolute certainty of murder being avenged sooner or...

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Choctaw War Against the Osage and other Legends

There were many traditions among all North American Indians, many of which bordered on the poetical and from which I will select one or two more, which shall suffice as examples of a few of the peculiarities of this peculiar yet interesting people. Thus says the tradition of “Ohoyo Osh Chisba,” (The Unknown Woman.) In the days of many moons ago, two Choctaw hunters were encamped for the night in the swamps of the bend of the Alabama River. But the scene was not without its romance. Dark, wild, and unlovely as a swamp is generally imagined to be, yet to the musing heart and contemplative spirit, it had its aspects of beauty, if not of brightness, which rose up before the mind as objects of serene delight, i speak from long personal experience. Its mysterious appearance; its little lakes and islands of repose: its silent and solemn solitudes; its green cane-breaks and lofty trees, all combined to present a picture of strange but harmonious combination to which a lover of nature in all its diversified phases could not be wholly insensible. The two hunters having been unsuccessful in the chase on that and the preceding day, found themselves without anything- on that night with which to satisfy the craving’s of hunger except a black hawk which they had shot with an arrow. Sad reflections filled their hearts as...

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Adventures Of Coyote

In the beginning of the world there were many, many people, and the people held councils to decide how things should be. There was one man, named Coyote, who always had something to say on every subject. At one council this question came up: “How and what kind of rain should be in the world?” One of the men said that it should rain in the form of lead balls, which would be very dangerous, and so when the rain came the people would have to stay at home. Then Coyote arose from his seat and said: “If it should rain nothing but lead it would be very dangerous for my people, because they do not stay at home very much, and as for myself, I might be carrying a big deer to my family to eat when the rain begins to fall and I would certainly be killed. I say, let it rain in drops of water. Then we can be caught out in the rain and get very wet, but we will soon be dry again, and the wetting will be good for us.” The people accepted Coyote’s suggestion, and so it is that it rains in the form of water. When the council was all over and the people went to their homes, Coyote made up his mind to go out and visit some of his...

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Legend of the Separation of the Comanche and Ute Tribes

The large spring referred to by Dr. James, Sage, Fremont, Ruxton, and the other writers whom I have quoted, is the one now enclosed and used by the bottling works at Manitou. Ruxton says the two springs were intimately connected with the separation of the Comanche and the Snake, or Ute tribes, and he gives the following legend concerning the beginning of the trouble: Many hundreds of winters ago, when the cottonwoods on the Big River were no higher than an arrow, and the red men, who hunted the buffalo on the plains, all spoke the same language, and the pipe of peace breathed its social cloud of kinnikinnik whenever two parties of hunters met on the boundless plains – when, with hunting grounds and game of every kind in the greatest abundance, no nation dug up the hatchet with another because one of its hunters followed the game into their bounds, but, on the contrary, loaded for him his back with choice and fattest meat, and ever proffered the soothing pipe before the stranger, with well-filled belly, left the village, it happened that two hunters of different nations met one day on a small rivulet, where both had repaired to quench their thirst. A little stream of water, rising from a spring on a rock within a few feet of the bank, trickled over it and fell splashing...

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Tale of Why Hawks Have Thin Legs

Chicken-Hawk was a poor hunter and never succeeded in bringing his family more than a little mouse or some game that he had begged from another hunter. One time he met Eagle and asked him if he would not help him kill an antelope that he had seen not very far away. Hawk pretended that he had killed many such big game before, and acted as if he were being kind to Eagle in asking him to help him. Eagle said he would if he could have half of the meat. Hawk said that he could, and so they agreed to go hunting for the antelope the next morning. Hawk went on home, and when he arrived he told his family that he had shot an antelope through the head, but that he could not kill him, and so he had run him into a place for the night, and that he would return in the morning and kill him. Hawk arose the next morning and went to the place where he was to meet Eagle. They started on the hunt and hunted half a day. They found the antelope in the mountain. Eagle killed it, and then Hawk came down and they divided the meat. Eagle took his meat and went away. Hawk took his meat and went straight home to show it to his family, for he...

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Tale of Why Dogs Have Long Tongues

A long time ago, when the animals were like people, dogs were noted for telling everything that they knew. In those days there were not so many dogs as now, but the best families always had a few hounds to take with them on the hunt. A man, Running-Water, who was a great hunter, wanted a dog to help him hunt, but he would not have one, because he hated to have some one always tattling on him and telling everything that he did. One time he saw four little pups and he decided to take one of them and try to teach him not to talk so much. He took the pup home, and every day, when he played with him, he would talk to him and try to teach him not to be a tattler like other dogs. The pup grew and was soon big enough to be taught to hunt. Running-Water began to take him out to hunt rabbits and small game. Every time the man killed any game the dog would sneak home and tell; then he would return to Running-Water in a circuitous way and come up to him from behind, as though he had been hunting all the time. Running-Water knew that the dog was trying to deceive him, and he whipped and scolded him. After each whipping he would stop running off...

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Tale of The Young Men And The Cannibals

Ten boys lived with their grandmother. One day the oldest went out to hunt and did not return. The grandmother worried about him, and so the next day one of his brothers went to look for him. He did not return, and so the next brother went out to look for his brothers. He did not return and another went, and so on until the ninth boy went out, leaving his little brother at home with his grandmother. They waited long, but none of the brothers returned and no news came of them. They worried and grieved and became sadder each day, until at last the youngest boy declared that he was going to look for his brothers. His grandmother begged him not to go and leave her alone, for she felt that the same evil fate would befall him that had come to his brothers; but the boy was determined and prepared to go. He went out and prayed for help and put an eagle feather in his hair just before starting, thinking that it might have some hidden power. The boy traveled far, and after a time he saw a tipi. He approached the tipi, and as he went near he heard some one laugh and say: “Another one is coming. Cook some corn and we will soon have the meat.” The boy understood the meaning of...

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Tale of The Woman Who Turned Into A Snake

A long time ago there lived a man and his wife and a dog. At that time the animals talked like human beings, and so the dog talked to the man and woman. Every day the man went out to hunt, and as soon as he was gone his wife always went away and never returned until evening, just before her husband came. He did not know that she left home in his absence until one time his dog said: “I believe you ought to know that your wife goes away and stays all the time that you are gone.” The man told his dog to follow her the next time she went away. Early the next morning the man started out hunting and the woman left home as usual. The dog followed her, but stayed a good distance behind, so that she did not know that he had followed her. She went to the large timber and stopped at one of the large trees and stood there looking up, and then after she had stood there for some time she whistled once, and then again and again. The third time she whistled the dog saw something moving out from a large hole in the tree, and finally the dog saw that it was a big snake. The snake came down to the ground and went straight to the...

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Tale of The Turtle Who Carried The People Away

One time the people broke camp and were traveling about looking for a village site. They traveled far until they came near the big water, and there they saw what they thought was a large rock. They decided to make their village near the rock, so they could use it as a dancing place. They had several dances on the rock, but not all of the people were there. One time, after they had been at the village for some time, they sent the crier to announce a big dance. All the people came and danced on the smooth, flat rock. While they were dancing they noticed that the rock began to move. They watched it and soon saw a big head and legs appear from under it. Then they knew that they were not on a rock at all, but on a big turtle. They tried to get off, but found their feet stuck tight. They cried and called for help, but the turtle carried them down into the water and drowned...

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