Origin Stories

This Choctaw man is dressed in native garb with feathered headdress -1924
Photo One: This Choctaw man is dressed in native garb with feathered headdress -1924

The Choctaw are great story tellers and through many generations have passed down two stories the explain their personal origin:

Story One:

This story says that the Choctaw first lived somewhere in what is now the Western United States and then they migrated to present-day Mississippi. Although this story does specifically tell why the Choctaw left the west, some versions of the story suggest that their first homeland had become overpopulated or the Choctaw wished to escape the constant warfare with neighboring tribes.

The following story was told by D.L. Birchfield
originally published in ELF: Eclectic Literary Forum, Tonawanda, NY

In the oldest memory of The People, there was a time when The People did not have a home. They wandered here and there until their numbers became many. Everywhere they went they carried the bones of their dead. It was a great burden, but The People would not abandon the bones.
One day, two of The People were out hunting when they saw a glow of light on a hill in the distance. They hurried to it but found nothing. They camped nearby, and the next morning the light appeared again. It was a woman, who said, “I am very hungry.” The two hunters did not have much food, but they gave her what they had. She ate a little of it, and then she said, “Come here tomorrow and I will give you something.”
The next day the two hunters returned. Where the woman had been standing they found a beautiful plant. It was corn. They took it to The People. The People learned to grow the corn, but they had to camp for a long time before it was ready to eat. Before long, some of The People began to complain when it was time to move.
Two brothers, Chahtah and Chickasah, who were leaders of The People, heard the complaints and consulted with a hopaii about what to do. The hopaii erected a pole. He said,”In the morning, if the pole is leaning in any direction, we must follow it to find a home.” The next morning the pole was leaning toward the rising sun. Chahtah and Chickasah gathered The People together. They started on a great journey. Each night the hopaii planted the pole, and each morning the pole was found leaning toward the rising sun. The journey lasted a long time. It was a hard journey and many died. After a while The People found it necessary to go forward only one half day, carrying the bones of the dead, and then returning for the rest of the bones.
They came to a great river. It was so mighty that it had to be beyond age, so they named it Misha Sipokni. They built rafts and spent many days crossing the river. Not long after crossing Misha Sipokni, they came to a beautiful stream and followed it to its source. It was time to plant the corn, so they camped for a long time. The land was abundant in game and berries and many useful plants. The corn produced a big crop. When it came time to move, the hopaii planted the pole. But the next morning the pole was found standing straight. The People rejoiced when the hopaii announced they had found their home.
The People built a great mound, and when they saw that it was leaning, they laughed and named it Nanih Waiya. They said this mound will be our mother and we will spread from here to make our homes.
Chickasah led the first ones out to make their homes. One evening he was smoking some tobacco and dropped some fire. When Chahtah went out to see where Chickasah had gone, he found that the fire had destroyed the trail, and he could not find him. Many years later the ones who had followed Chickasah were found again, but they had been gone so long that their speech had changed slightly. They now call themselves Chickasaws, and the ones who had followed Chahtah now called themselves Choctaws, and they became two separate nations, always living near each other.

Story Two:

Through much research I could not find a truly reliable source telling the second origin story of the Choctaw Nation. So I have chosen to use two versions of the same story that I found most informational.

This old story was told to Henry Halbert by Isaac Pistonatubee, a Mississippi Choctaw around 1870. Halbert took the story down word for word in Choctaw and then translated it. It explains the origin of the Southern Nations

A long time ago, people were created at the mound called Nanih Waiya. First to come out of the mound were the Muscogees. They sunned themselves on the earthen rampart, and when they got dry they traveled to the east. By the Tombigbee River they rested. While smoking tobacco they dropped some fire.
The Cherokee came next out of Nanih Waiya. They also sunned themselves on the earthen rampart, and when they got dry they followed the trail of the other tribe. At the place where the Muscogees had stopped and rested, and where they had smoked tobacco, a fire had burned the woods. The Cherokees could not find the Muscogee’s trail. So they trekked to the north where they settled and made a homeland.
The Chickasaws came third out of Nanih Waiya. They sunned themselves on the earthen rampart. When they got dry they followed the Cherokees’ trail and settled close to the Cherokees.
The Choctaw came forth and last out of Nanih Waiya. They sunned themselves on the earthen rampart, and when they got dry they did not go anywhere but settled down on the spot. And this land is the Choctaw’s home.

The Choctaw Indians of North America by Jesse O. McKee

“The Choctaws’ second story of their origin states that they were created in the center of Naniah Waiya by a great spirit and then they crawled to the surface of the earth through a hole in the ground or cave. In another version of this creating story, the Creek, Cherokee, and Chickasaw Indians came out of the mound before the Choctaws finally emerged. The other groups migrated to neighboring areas, but when the Choctaws surfaced, they dried themselves in the sun, looked around, and chose to settle on the land surrounding Nanih Waiya.” (McKee, p.2)
Image Citations:
Photo One: http://www.knowla.org/entry/1409/&view=image-gallery