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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Beware The Black Squirrel

Mississippi had a rich Native American culture before the 1800s. The Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, and other agreements between the Native American tribes of Mississippi and the government, served to change all of that:

When the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was signed, there were over 19,000 Choctaws in Mississippi. From 1831 to 1833, approximately 13,000 Choctaws were removed to the west. More followed over the years. Those who chose to stay in Mississippi are the ancestors of today's Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. -Choctaw Indians in the 21st Century
Whilst skimming Mississippi, As a Province, Territory, and State (the book was first published in 1880; words like "whilst" are used a lot!), I ran across a few Choctaw nuggets which were too fascinating to let escape.

    Black squirrel, sun eater
  • The Choctaw believed that an eclipse was caused by black squirrels attacking and eating the sun. If the black squirrels were not driven away, the Choctaw thought that they would eat the entire sun. During an eclipse, the tribe would emit a loud clamor, with some even shooting at the sun. This would last until the squirrels had been frightened away or the eclipse ended (Claiborne 524). There can't have been too many eclipses, though, because the squirrel population in Mississippi seems to be thriving to this day.
  • The Choctaw language is at once foreign and familiar to Mississippians. For example, Sha-ko-loke-o-kah-hick-ki-a-bogue means cypress standing in the water creek (Claiborne 525). Really, that isn't much different than Shuqualak (hog's wallow) or Bogue Chitto (big creek)! (Brieger)
  • The Choctaw had an interesting take on capital punishment. A murderer was expected to turn himself in at an appointed time and place to be put to death by one of their family members. He could, however, ask for a short stay of execution in order to attend previous engagements. Once the time was up, the only honorable thing to do was turn oneself in with no shirking. On rare occasions, an older family member would stand in for a youthful murderer (Claiborne 488).
  • Tom-ful-la was a favorite dish made of corn soaked in lye and then boiled. It was seasoned with bear oil, deer tallow, and nuts (Claiborne 501). That actually sounds pretty good! (Bear oil and deer tallow taste like butter, right?)
If you would like to know more about the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, try their website, or stop by the Mississippi Library Commission and check out a book!
Breiger, James F. Hometown Mississippi. Historical and Genealogical Association of Mississippi, 1980. Print.
Claiborne, J.F.H. Mississippi as a Province, Territory, and State. Spartanburg, SC: The Reprint Company, Publishers, 1978. Print.

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