Topic: Native American Myths

Discerning Facts and Myths About Track Rock Gap

In general, Loubser treated Cherokee legends as possible facts, while not discussing Creek Indian traditions whatsoever. Loubser first described two interpretations of the stone ruins that were provided to him by the staff of the Eastern Band of Cherokee’s Cultural Heritage Preservation Office.  Both interpreted the stone ruins as being burials. One version of this Cherokee legend is that the piles of stone at Track Rock Gap are the graves of great Cherokee warriors. There may be Cherokee burials at Track Rock Gap.  However, no stone burial cairns are associated with any known Cherokee village sites in North Carolina or eastern Tennessee.  There are many stone cairn cemeteries in the Georgia Piedmont. They are either located in territory occupied by the Creek Indians until the land was ceded to Georgia, or areas that the Cherokees only briefly occupied from the 1780s to the early 1830s.  Archaeologists have been able to date only a few of these cairns.  Radiocarbon dates ranged between the Late Archaic to the Middle Woodland Periods (1600 BC – 750 AD.) Another version provided by the EBC Cultural Heritage Preservation Office was that the stone ruins were the burials of thousands of Creek warriors, who were killed when the Cherokees conquered Georgia. The Cherokees did not conquer Georgia. In 1754, they suffered a catastrophic defeat by an army sent by the Creek town of Koweta, at...

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Choctaw Beliefs Concerning Eclipses

Eclipse of the sun, ashe okleleqa (“sun dark or dirty”). The Choctaw say that since the sun works every day he becomes dirty and smoked from the great fire within. It is necessary therefore for him to rest and clean himself, after doing which he shines the brighter. During the eclipse he is removing the accumulated dirt. A similar explanation applies to the dark of the moon, their term being: nînaahukwa oklelega, koshsholeje, or moon dark or dirty,...

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Choctaw Beliefs Concerning Thunder and Lightning

Thunder and lightning are to the Choctaw two great birds Thun­der (Heloha), the female; Lightning (Mcda’tha),the male. When they hear a great noise in the clouds, Heloha is laying an egg, “just like a bird,” in the cloud, which is her nest. When a tree is shattered the result is said to have been caused by Mala’tha, the male, he being the stronger; but when a tree is only slightly damaged, the effect is attributed to Heloha, the weaker. Great trouble or even war was supposed to follow the sight of a...

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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