Marriage Customs 3

The Indian Love Call

The ancient manner of Choctaw courtship was without embarrassment to the bashful, timid beau who decided upon matrimony. The procedure did not require the fashions of modern days to make the venture a successful affair.
The young man’s first act was to select from the beauties of his tribe the one he wished to marry.This done he kept his decision in deep silence to himself, not even disclosing to the fair one his desire to make her his bride.
Then he had to test his standing in her estimation. According to the custom of his day, he painted his cheeks as the latest fashion decreed, donned his best suit, and with fluttering heart sought the home of his prospect to visit, not only with the girl but with the rest of the family as well. He waited for an opportunity during the general run of conversation when he would be unobserved. When this moment came, he flipped a small bean or pebble, which he carried for that purpose, toward the girl of his choice. She observed the source from which it came and understood the meaning of the little messenger of love. If she approved, she would slyly return the messenger in the same manner in which it came. If she did not approve, she would suddenly rise from her seat and frowning disapproval, would leave the room.

But when a pair of black eyes peeked out from their dark lashes and the tell-tale bean skipped back from her fingers, the youth comprehended the import. Without further acknowledgement he arose in a few minutes and started toward the door. As he left the room, he repeated the formal “eyali”, meaning “I go.” To this assent was given by the father or mother in the same formal term “omig” meaning “very well.”

On the arrival of the wedding day, a feast was provided; friends were invited; and every item of arrangements were taken care of. the groom was placed in one room, and the bride in another, and the doors closed. A distance of two hundred yards was measured off; and at the farther end a little pole, neat and clean was set up.

At a given signal, the door of the bride’s room was thrown open, and she sprang out and started for the pole with the fleetness of a fawn. She had to have a few rods head start in order to keep her prospective bridegroom from overtaking her if she happened to be so inclined. His door was then thrown open, and he ran with almost superhuman speed. The bride might not let him overtake her until she was only a few feet from the pole. And if she changed her mind about marrying him, she might not let him catch her at all. This however seldom happened.

As soon as the groom caught his bride, he gently took her hand and led her back to the house as they exchanged a few words. They were met about halfway by the friends of the bride, who took her back into the yard and seated her upon a blanket spread upon the ground. A circle of women formed around her, each friend holding in her hands the various trinkets she intended to bestow upon the bride. One after another they tossed their gifts at the head of the seated bride and as they did so, a first-class grab bag was introduced. As each present fell upon her head, it was snatched by someone in the circle, perhaps a dozen grabbing at once. The suffering bride was pulled hither and thither as the eager fingers of the grabbers became entangled in her long black hair. When the presents were disposed of (the bridegroom not receiving a single article), the couple were pronounced man and wife.