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Choctaw Tales

Choctaw Tales

Collected and Annotated by TOM MOULD
Copyright Date: 2004
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  • Book Info
    Choctaw Tales
    Book Description:

    Including stories from the 1700s to today,Choctaw Talesshowcases the mythic, the legendary and supernatural, the prophecies and histories, the animal fables and jokes that make up the rich and lively Choctaw storytelling tradition. The stories display intelligence, artistry, and creativity as Choctaw narrators, past and present, express and struggle with beliefs, values, humor, and life experiences. Photographs of the storytellers complement the text. For sixteen tales, the Choctaw-language version appears in addition to the English translation.

    Many of these stories, passed down through generations, address the Choctaw sense of isolation and tension as storytellers confront eternal, historical, and personal questions about the world and its inhabitants.Choctaw Tales, the first book to collect these stories, creates a comprehensive gathering of oral traditions from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.

    Each story brings to life the complex and colorful world of the Choctaw tribe and its legend and lore. The shukha anumpa include tall tales, jokes, and stories of rabbit and turtle and bear. The stories of the elders are populated by spirits that bring warnings and messages to the people. As a whole, these tales provide a spectrum of legend and a glimpse of a vibrant, thriving legacy.

    eISBN: 978-1-61703-091-8
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xviii)
    Phillip Martin

    Choctaw Talesis a book that needed to be written. For centuries, the Choctaw people in Mississippi have retold the age-old stories, keeping alive the history and legends and traditions that have shaped who we are as a tribe and what we value. Like the Tribal elders before them, today’s storytellers continue this tradition, telling the old stories and creating new ones to fit a changing world. Part of that changing world is a world of television, computers, the internet, cell phones, airplanes, and books. These modern conveniences are also part of Choctaw life, just like the oral tales still...

    (pp. xix-xxiv)
    (pp. xxv-2)

    Stop by, he said. We had set no day, no time for arrival. Just stop by and we’ll talk, Hulon Willis had told me. “I’m not a storyteller,” he said, “but I can tell you a story.”

    It is the spring, 1996, and stories are what I have come to Mississippi to hear. So when he told me to stop by, I accepted the invitation. We’ll talk about stories, he said. I’ll try to remember some of them for you. Stop by.

    That’s just what I was doing. Perhaps he would be home, perhaps not. If so, perhaps we would...

    (pp. 3-37)

    Ahojeobe was the son of Heleema and was part of the Choctaw community living in Bayou Lacomb, Louisiana. It remains unclear whether this group was once part of the Acolapissa tribe that shared a language with the Choctaw, but by the time Adrien Rouquette arrived in 1845, the community considered themselves fully Choctaw.

    Just after 1900 when Ahojeobe was a young boy, his father, Emil John Sr., left for Oklahoma as part of the removal process, taking one son, Jewell (Joel) with him. His

    mother, Heleema, refused to go and kept her other son, Emil Jr., with her. (As was...

    (pp. 38-60)

    One of the perennial dilemmas of story collections such as this is how to organize the various stories. Shifts in theoretical approaches to folklore have led to shifts in how stories are arranged and presented. One of the greatest shifts in the field has been a move from folklore as thing to folklore as process. Stories, for example, do not get handed down like heirloom jewelry but rather are created anew in each telling. Different storytellers and audiences, with different goals and contexts, result in different stories. It is the process of storytelling more than a static notion of the...

    (pp. 61-93)

    The Choctaw have often been described as unique in that they have two distinct stories of their origin. According to the migration story, the Choctaw originally lived in the West and migrated to Mississippi by divine providence. In the emergence story, the Choctaw (and often the other native tribes of the southeast) were created and led out of a mound in Mississippi by divine providence. The first focuses on how the Choctaw came to live in Mississippi, the second how the Choctaw were created as men.¹ Despite the difference in focus, outside scholars and Choctaws alike have noted the contradiction...

    (pp. 94-147)

    Tales of the supernatural beings that roam the Mississippi woodlands are common throughout Mississippi’s varied cultures and communities, regardless of ethnicity or economic class. Undecipherable creatures are glimpsed in the woods, unexplainable events occur again and again. For the Choctaw, such creatures and events are unusual but not unexpected. Rather than relegate them to superstition, supernatural beings are integrally situated within Choctaw belief systems about power, medicine, and human nature.

    There is an internal logic to these accounts of the supernatural. Melford Farve called them hunting stories, suggesting both the context of their telling as well as their content. For...

    (pp. 148-158)

    Before the advent of a written language, history was confined to oral narrative and was embodied in stories as diverse as sacred myth, legend, and personal reminiscences. Stories of all these kinds exist today and all continue to build the record of the past for the Choctaw. Nonetheless, there are differences among these narratives. Creation stories and myths tell of people who existed long ago. While names may be included, dates are neither known nor meaningful. More recent events, however, are rooted in time and can be discussed as history. Pushmataha is well known by all. Portraits argue for his...

    (pp. 159-175)

    Prophecy is a natural extension of history. Historical narratives tell a story of the past; prophecy tells a story about the future. If history is a story of the past, told in the present, intended for the future,¹ then prophecy is a story of the future, told in the past, and intended for the present. All of these prophecies depend upon attribution to the past; the establishment of authority and belief demand it. And their utility is bound less to the future than to the present when life decisions can be usefully made. After all, one of the primary and...

    (pp. 176-191)

    People tell jokes and tall stories for a laugh, and they are rarely disappointed. Gathered under carports, in living rooms, at lunch tables, and in office corridors, men and women joke with one another, trading stories back and forth to the delight of both the small group that watches outside the fray, as well as the storytellers themselves. Many of the stories depend on specific knowledge of those present and can be described as good old-fashioned ribbing. Stories are exaggerated to the point of outrageousness. They are theshukha anumpa—literally “hog talk” but more accurately translated as “hogwash”—that...

    (pp. 192-226)

    In these stories, animals match wits against animals—Turkey vs. Terrapin, Bear vs. Rabbit, Hummingbird vs. Crane. Egos clash, bravado is mocked. The physically strong are inevitably defeated by the smaller, wilier animals. Cleverness is rewarded, pride punished. The winners in these contests often enjoy a laugh as their reward; the losers fare far worse, losing not merely their dignity but often their food, the fur on their tails, or even their lives. Death is common and not particularly tragic, for the animal will surely return the next time these tales are told.

    If laughter is the reward for the...

    (pp. 227-245)

    Hopahki fihna kash hattak at atoba ammona kat Nanih Waiya yǫ atobat akochchat tok oki. Mashkoki yosh tikba Nanih Waiya akochchah mat, Nanih Waiya yakni banayya yǫ ilayǫhofkah mat, shilat tahah mat, hashi akochchaka ilhkolit tok oki. Atok osh, Itombi Ikbi ola hǫ afohah mat, hakchoma shonkah mat, lowak bohlit tok oki.

    Mih man, Chilakki yosh atoklant Nanih Waiya akochchat tok oki. Mih mat, yakni banayya yą ilayǫhofkah mat, shiulat tahah jmat, akni at atiyat tok ą iyakkayat ilhkolit tok oki. Mashkoki at afohat hakchoma ashonka cha iyat tok ǫ lowak at ittonlat tok ǫ, kowi at lowat tok ǫ,...

    (pp. 246-268)
  16. NOTES
    (pp. 269-277)
    (pp. 278-284)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 285-290)