Bishinik March 1996
One Version of the Choctaw origin myth
The late Gideon Lincecum wrote a version of the Choctaw origin myth in the 1800’s. It is hard to say how much of the writing is embellished from his own imagination, and how much was told to him by oral historians of the tribe at that time. Watch upcoming months as the story continues… The elaborate version begins as follows:
The chief halted the advance body of Choctaws on a little river to wait until scouts could he sent forward to explore the region of country round about; and to give time for the aged and feeble and those who were overloaded to come up. Many of the families were loaded with so many of the bones of their deceased relatives that they could carry nothing else, and they got along very slowly. At this state of their long journey there were a greater number of skeletons being packed along by the people than there were of the living. The smallest families were heaviest loaded; and such were their adoration and affection for these dry bones that before they could consent to leave them on the way, they would, having more bones that they could pack at one load, carry forward a part of them half a day’s journey, and returning for the remainder, bring them up the next day. By this double traveling over the route, they were soon left a great distance in the rear. They would have preferred to die and rot with these bones in the wilderness, sooner than leave them behind.
The minko looked upon the notions of the people in regard to the extraordinary and overwhelming burthen of bones as a great evil; and he cast in his mind for some plausible excuse to rid the people of a burthen that was as useless as it was oppressive to them.
And now the scouts had returned and the reports they made of quite an extensive excursion were very favorable and encouraging. They stated that everywhere, and in all directions, they found game of all sorts, fish and fowl and fruits in abundance; tall trees and running brooks; altogether they looked upon it as the most desirable and plentiful region they had found during their pilgrimage. They also stated, that the most convenient place they had found, for a winter encampment, lay in a southeasterly direction at the junction of three large creeks, which coming together at the same point, formed an immense lowland, and a considerable river. In the fork of the first and the middle creeks lay an extensive range of dry, good lands, covered with tall trees of various kinds, grapes, nuts, and acorns; and rivulets (bok ushi) of running water. For the multitude, it was distant eight or ten days’ travel and the route would be less and less difficult to that place.
At the rising of the sun on the ensuing morning, the leader’s pole was observed to be inclining to the southeast, and the people were moving off quite early. The rights were becoming cooler, and they desired to have time to prepare shelter before the winter rains should commence. The chief, with the Isht Ahullo. who carried the sacred pole, went in front, and being good walkers, they traveled rapidly until they came to the place which had been designated. Great numbers of the stronger and more athletic people came up the same day.
Early on the next morning the chief went to observe the leader’s pole, which at the moment of sunrise, danced and punched itself deeper into the ground; and after some time settled in a perpendicular position, without having nodded or bowed in any direction. Seeing which the chief said, “It is well. We have arrived at our winter encampment.” He gave instructions to the tool carriers to lay off the encampment for the iksas and mark on posts their appropriate symbols. He ordered them to allow sufficient space to the iksas, having particular regard to the watering places.
It was several days before the people had all reached the encampment. Those who were packing the double loads of bones came in several days later, and they complained of being greatly fatigued. They mourned and said, “The bad spirit has killed our kindred; to pack their bones any further will kill us, and we shall have no name amongst the iksas of this great nation. Oh! when will this long journey come to an end?”
There were plenty of pine and cypress trees and palmetto; and in a short time the people had constructed sufficient tents to shelter themselves from rain. Their hunters with but little labor supplied the camps with plenty of bear meat; and the women and children collected quantities of acorns and oksak kapko, and kapun (large hickory nuts and scaly barks). It was an extremely plentiful land, and the whole people were rejoicing at the prospects for a pleasant and bountiful winter. Their camps being completed, the chief gave instructions, to have sufficient ground prepared to plant what seed corn might be found in the camps. Search was made by Isi Maleli (Running Deer) for the corn. He found a few ears only; they had been preserved by the very old people, who had no teeth. The corn they found was two years old, and they were very much afraid that it was dead. The minko suggested to Isi Maleli, that as the tool carriers had implements with which to break the ground, it would be best to detail a sufficient number of them to prepare the ground to grow it. So the minko called out twenty of the tool carriers for the purpose, and appointed the wise Isi Maleli, to direct them, and to select the soil for growing the corn properly and to preserve it when it matured.
One end or side of the encampment lay along the elevated ground – bordering the low lands on the west side of the middle creek. Just above the uppermost camps, and overhanging the creek, was a steep little hill with a hole in one side. As it leaned towards the creek, the people called it the leaning hill (nunih waya). From this little hill the encampment took its name, Nunih Waya (Nanih Waiya), by which name it is known to this day.
The whole people were healthy at Nunih Waya. Full of life and cheerfulness, they danced and played a great deal. Their scouts had made wide excursions around the encampment, and finding no signs of the enemy in any direction, they consoled themselves with the idea, that they had traveled beyond his reach. The scouts and hunters, on returning into camps, from their exploring expeditions, were often heard to say, “The plentiful, fruitful land of tall trees and running waters, spoken of by our great and wise chiefs, who saw it in a vision of the night, is found. We have found the land of plenty, and our great journey is at an end.”
They passed through their first winter at Nunih Waya quite pleasantly. Spring opened finely. Their few ears of corn came up well and grew off wonderfully. The creeks were full of fish and the mornings rang with the turkeys and singing birds. The woods everywhere were full of buffalo, bear, deer and elks; everything that could be wished for was there, and easily procured, All were filled with gladness.
And when the time for the green corn dance was near the hunters brought into the camps wonderful quantities of fat meat, and they celebrated this dance five days. They did not eat of their corn, but that it might be properly called the green corn dance, they erected a pine pole in the center of the dance ground, and upon this they suspended a single ear of green corn.
When they had finished this, their forty-third green corn dance in the wilderness, the people began to be concerned as to the probabilities of their having to journey further. Many of them declared that if the sacred pole should indicate a removal, it would be impossible for them to go farther, on account of the great number of bones that had accumulated on their long journey. They could not carry the bones, neither could they think of leaving them behind.
The chief had for some time been considering the great inconvenience the marvelous amount of bones had become to the nation. He knew very well, the feelings of the people on the subject, and how difficult it would be to get them to consent to abandon the useless encumbrance. He could see very plainly, that should they have to go further, a portion of the people, under their present impressions in regard to the dry bones, would be most certainly left behind. On hearing the murmuring suggestions of so many of the people, every day, about the bones of their deceased relatives, and the sacred duty incumbent on the living to preserve and take care of them, he was convinced that the subject must he approached with caution. Yet the oppressive, progress-checking nature of the burdens was such that they must be disposed of in some way.
He called a council of the leaders of the iksas, and in a very prudent and cautious manner, consulted them in behalf of the suffering people, inquiring of them at the same time, if it was possible to invent any means that would aid them in the transportation of their enormous packs of useless dry bones. It was a subject they had not before thought of and they required a day or two to make up their minds.
Time was granted to them, and in the meantime the minko convened with many of the people (to consult).
The origin of the Choctaw people told in this ancient myth…
The late Gideon Lincecum wrote a version of the Choctaw origin myth in the 1800’s. Although it is not known how much of the writing is from his own imagination and how much was actually told to him by oral historians of the tribe at that time, it is a very interesting myth. Watch upcoming months as the story continues. The first part by Lincecum appeared last month in the March 1996 BISHINIK.
The Council met again, and there was some discussion, but nothing conclusive. They were loath to speak of the bones of their deceased friends and relatives. They had packed their bones a great way, and for years; but there had been no conversation, no consultation, on the subject. There were among the young people, many who were carrying heavy packs of bones, who had never heard, and who really did not know whose bones they were carrying. They bad grown up with the bones on their backs, and had packed them faithfully, but never having heard the name of their original owners, they could tell nothing, nor did they know anything about them. That the spirits hovered about their bones to see that they were respectfully cared for, and that they would be offended and punished with bad luck, sickness, or even death for indignities, or neglect of their bones, everyone knew. It was a great indignity to the spirits to repeat the names they were known by during their mundane existence. The greater part of the living who were then in the camp, had been born and reared in the wilderness, and were still packing the bones of those who had lived long before and of whom they knew nothing. Yet they worried along with heavy loads of these dry bones on their journey, in good faith and in a full belief of its necessity as a sacred duty. The leaders of the iksas, who were not in council, were carrying heavy loads of bones themselves which they could not consent to part with; and they esteemed it a subject of too much delicacy to be caviled about in a council. They did not wish to say anything further about it, anyway.
One of the Isht ahullos, who was an old man, and who had long been a secret teacher among the women and children, on the nature and wants of the spirit world and the causes that made it necessary to pack the bones of the dead, arose from his seat and said: “Some people can make very light talk about the bones of our deceased friends and relatives. Those sacred relics of our loved ones, who have passed away from our sight are to be irreverently stigmatized by the name of “oppressive burden”, “useless encumbrance”, and the like. Awful! And it was our chief who could dare to apply the uncivil epithet to the precious and far-fetched treasures. From all these things, I am forced, unwillingly, to infer that the next thing the chief has to propose for your consideration will he for you to cast away this “oppressive burthen.” Shameful! (Hofahya). This thing must not be. This people must not cast away the precious remains of the fathers and mothers of this nation. They are charged by the spirits, who are hovering thick around us now, to take care of them; and carry them whithersoever the nation moves. And this we must not, we dare not fail to do. Were we to cast away the bones of our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, for the wild dogs to gnaw in the wilderness, our hunters could kill no more meat: hunger and disease would follow; then confusion and death would come and the wild dogs would become fat on the unscaffolded carcasses of this unfeeling nation of forgetful people. The vengeance of the offended spirits would be poured out upon this foolish nation.”
The council before which the Isht ahullo made this appeal to the religious sentiment of the tribe was only an assembly of the leaders of the iksas. The people were not present, and did not hear it. The chief, however, was fully apprised of the secret action of these bad men; and to counteract their dark and mischievous influence on the minds of the people, he dismissed the Isht ahullos, and leaders of the iksas, with a severe reprimand, telling them plainly that he had no further business for them to attend to. Then turning to the Isht ahullo, and at the same time pointing at him with an arrow, (he) said: “When you again get in council with the lazy, bad hearted men to which you belong, tell them that the time has come when you must be cautious how you meddle with the affairs of this nation. Hear my words.”
The minko, returning to his tent, sent for Long Arrow, to whom he communicated his designs as to the disposition of the dry bones; after which he directed him to send the tool carriers to the iksas, and instruct them to summon every man, woman and child, except the leaders of the clans and the conjurers of all grades. The minko said: “Tell the people to assemble at the dance ground early in the day, tomorrow. I wish to consult them on important national business. Let the people, except those I have named, all know it before they sleep.”
In accordance with the notice sent by the chief the entire tribe, male and female, old and young, except the yushpakammi and the leaders, came. These were not found in the great assembly. But the healthy, clean washed, bright, cheerful people were all present, and seated at the time the minko came to his place on the council ground.
The minko looked around on the multitude, and very calmly speaking, addressed them as follows: “It is to you my brothers, my sisters, my countrymen, that I wish to declare my thoughts this day. I look around upon the bright, cheerful countenances of the multitude and I feel assured that you will hear my words; and that you will hearken to my counsels. You are a great people, a wonderful people, a people of strength, of unparalleled courage and untiring, patient industry. Your goodness of heart that caused you to work and hunt, far beyond the needs of your families, to gain a surplus, to feed a lazy, gluttonous set of hangers on, whose aim it is to misdirect you, whose counsels are all false, and whose greatest desire is confusion and discord amongst this peaceful, happy people. I know the meaning of my words. I speak them boldly and intentionally. I do not catch you in a corner, one at a time, and secretly communicate to you messages, from the spirit land; packing you with enormous and insupportable burdens, to gratify wicked and discontented spirits, who are, as you are told, hovering about the camps, threatening mischief. But I call you all in general council and standing up in this bright sunlight, with every eye upon me, and declare in language that cannot be mistaken, words of wisdom and truth. I bring no message from the spirit land. I declare to you the needs and interests of the living. I have no visions of the night; no communications from the discontented spirits, who it is said are hovering around our camps, threatening disaster and death to the living, out of spite for having been rejected from the good hunting ground, to tell you of; but openly, in this bright day, I communicate to you, in deepest solicitude, the long cherished thoughts of a live man, which, when fully carried out, cannot fail to establish peace, harmony, concord and much gladness to this great live nation. I speak not to the dead; for they cannot hear my words. I speak not to please or benefit the dead; there is nought I can do or say, that can by any possibility reach their condition. I speak to the living for the advancement and well being of this great, vigorous, live multitude. Hear my words.”
“From new motions and indications made by the sacred pole, which I have never witnessed before, I am led to conclude that our forty-three year’s journey in an unknown country has come to its termination, And to avoid hindering and annoying the whole people with what I had on my mind to be considered, I called yesterday (pilashash) a council of the leaders of the iksas, and all the conjurers, for the purpose of examining and deciding on the most prudent course to pursue, in case it should be finally ascertained, that the leader’s pole had settled permanently.”
“They all came, and after hearing my propositions, they put on wise faces, talked a great deal of the unhappy spirits of our dead friends, of their wants and desires, and of the great dangers that would befall the people, if they failed to obey the unreasonable demands made by the spirits, through the lazy Isht ahullos, conjurers and dreamers, who, according to their own words, are the only men through which the spirits can make manifest to the nation their burdensome and hurtful desires. Finding that they had nothing to say, nor did they even surmise anything on the subject of the affairs and interests of the living, I dismissed them as ignorant of, and enemies to the rights of the people, and, therefore, improper agents for the transaction of their business. They were dismissed on account of their secret, malicious designs on the people, and their inefficiency in the councils of the nation. I immediately sent out runners to convene the people in general council today. You are all here, except the secret mongers, and the leaders of the clans, whose mouths and tongues have been tied up by the Isht ahullo and yushpakammi. The nation is present to hear my words; in them there is no secret or hidden meaning. You will all hear them, and let everyone, who is a man, open his mouth this clear day, and openly and fearlessly pour out his full and undisguised feelings on the topics which will be presented.”
“From signs which I have just named, I conclude, and I find it the prevailing impression of this multitude of self-sustaining people, that our long journey of privations and dangers in the pathless wilderness has ended. We are now in the land of tall trees and running waters, of fruit, game of many kinds and fish and fowl, which was spoken of by our good chief, who is missing, in the far off country towards the setting sun. His words have come to pass. Our journey is at an end, and we shall grow to he a nation of happy people in this fruitful land. Let us now, like a sensible people, put the nation in a suitable condition of the free enjoyment of the inexhaustible bounties that have been so lavishly spread in this vast country for the use and benefit of the multitude. let us lay aside all useless encumbrance, that we may freely circulate, with our families in this widely extended land, with no burden to pack, but such as are necessary to sustain life and comfort to our wives and little ones. Let us call this place; this, Nunih Waya (sic) encampment, our home; and it shall be so that when a man, at his hunting camp, in the distant forests, shall be asked for his home place, his answer will be, “Nunih Waya.” And to establish Nunih Waya more especially as our permanent home, the place to which when are far away, our thoughts may return with feelings of delight and respectful pleasure, I propose that we shall by general consent and mutual good feelings select an eligible location within the limits of the encampment and there, in the most respectful manner, bring together and pile up in beautiful and tasteful style a vast amount of bones we have packed so far and with which many of the people have been so grievously oppressed. Let each set of bones remain in its sack, and after the sacks are closely and neatly piled up, let them be thickly covered with cypress bark. After this, to appease and satisfy the spirits of our deceased relatives, our blood kin, let all persons, old and young, great and small, manifest their respect for the dead, by their energy and industry in carrying dirt to cover them up, and let the work of carrying and piling earth upon them be continued until every heart is satisfied. These bones, as we all know, are of the same iksa, the same kindred. They were all the same flesh and blood; and for us to pile their bones all in the same heap and securely cover them up will be more pleasing to the spirits, than it will be to let them remain amongst the people, to be scattered over the plains, when the sacks wear out in the hands of another generation who will know but little and care less about them.”
Information from “Choctaw Social and Ceremonial Life.”
Choctaw Origin Myth
This is part 3 in the continuing series of the origin myth of the Choctaws, as recounted by the late Gideon Lincecum.
“You have heard my talk. I have delivered to you the true sentiments of my heart. When it comes to my time to depart for the spirit land, I shall be proud to know that my bones had been respectfully deposited in the great mound with those of my kindred. What says the nation?”
Some little time elapsed; and there was no move among them. The multitude seemed to reflect. At length, a good looking man of about sixty winters, arose in a dignified manner, from his seat, and gravely said:
“It was in my boyhood, and on the little river where we had the great fish feast, that my much respected father died. His family remained and mourned a whole moon, and when the cry-poles were pulled down, and the feast and dance had ended, my mother having a young child to carry, it fell to my lot, being the next largest member of the family, to pack on the long journey, the bones of my father. I have carefully carried them over hardships and difficulties, from that little rocky river to the present encampment. Such has been my love and respect for these sacred relics, that I was ready at any time to have sacrificed my life sooner than l would have left them, or given them up to another. I am now growing old; and with my declining years come new thoughts. Not long hence, I too must die. I ask myself, who in the coming generations will remember and respect the bones of my father? Will they not be forgotten and scattered to bleach and moulder on the carelessly trodden plain? I have sought with a heart full of anxious sorrow, for a decent and satisfactory resting place, in which to deposit the bones of my long lost father. I could think of none. And I dare assert, that there are thousands in hearing of my voice, at this very moment, whose faithful hearts have asked the same embarrassing questions. I am happy in the acknowledgment, and I trust with much confidence, that the whole people will view this important matter in the same satisfactory light. The wise propositions of our worthy chief have answered perplexing questions and have fully relieved the unsettled workings of many anxious hearts.”
“It is true, as our wise chief has already suggested, that we can now witness the wonderful and never before heard of sight of a live nation packing on their backs an entire dead nation, our dead outnumbering the living. It is a pleasure to me, now that my eyes have been opened by the chief’s proposition to the propriety of placing these relics of the dead nation to themselves, that we have power and time to do as he suggests, and most reverently to secure them from being tumbled among our greasy packs, and from the occasional dropping of the precious bones, through the holes in the worn out sacks to be lost forever. Let us, in accordance with the wise and reasonable proposition of our minko, fetch all the sacred relics to one place; pile them up in a comely heap; and construct a mound of earth upon them, that shall protect them from all harm forever.”
And the people rose up and with one voice, said, “It is well; we are content.”
The minko stood up again and said that in that great multitude there might be some whose feelings in regard to the disposition of the bones of their dead friends would not permit them to pile them with the dead nation. Then they all shouted aloud, “It is good, it is satisfactory.”
Men were then appointed to select an appropriate place for the mound to be erected on, and to direct the work while in progress. They selected a level piece of sandy land, not far from the middle creek; laid it off in an oblong square and raised the foundation by piling up earth which they dug up some distance to the north of the foundation. It was raised and made level as high as a man’s head and beat down very hard. It was then floored with cypress bark before the work of placing the sacks of bones commenced, The people gladly brought forward and deposited their bones until there were none left. The bones, of themselves, had built up an immense mound. They brought the cypress bark, which was neatly placed on, till the bone sacks were all closely covered in, as dry as a tent. While the tool carriers were working with the bark, women and children and all the men, except the hunters, carried earth continually, until the bark was all covered from sight, constituting a mound half as high as the tallest forest tree. The minko kindled the council fire, and calling an assembly of the people, told them that the work on the great monumental grave had been prosecuted with skill and wonderful industry. He said that the respect which they had already manifested for the deceased relatives was very great; that not withstanding the bones were already deeply and securely covered up, the work was not yet completed. Yet it was sufficiently so to allow them to suspend operations for a season. Winter was drawing near; the acorns and nuts were beginning to fall and were wasting. The people must now scatter into the forests and collect the rich autumnal fruits which were showering down from every tree. That done, the people must return to the encampment; and as the tool carriers had produced seed corn enough for all to have a little field each family must prepare ground for that purpose. Then, after the corn was grown and the new corn feast and dance celebrated and over, the nation could again prosecute the work on the mound, and so on, from year to year, until the top of the great grave of the dead nation should be as high as the tallest forest tree. And it should be made level on the top as much as sixty steps (habli) in length, and thirty steps in width, all beat down hard, and planted thick with acorns, nuts and pine seeds. “Remember my words,” said the chief, “and finish the work accordingly, Now go and prepare for winter.”
To be continued in upcoming issues of BISHINIK.
The origin myth of the Choctaw people …
An origin myth of the Choctaw, as told by late historian Gideon Lincecum … Due to the length of the story, it is being published in sections in several issues ….
And the people gladly dispersed into the distant forests. Fruit was found in great quantities and was collected and brought into camp in very large amounts – acorns, hickory nuts, and most and best of all, the otupi (chestnuts), all of which was secured from the worms by the process of drying them by smoke and incasing them in small quantities in airtight mud cells, in the same manner that the mud daubers (lukchuk chanuskik) preserve their spiders. Their hunters were very successful; and at midwinter, when all the clans had returned to their camps, they found themselves rich in their supplies of so many things that were good for food, they concluded that as the best way of expressing their unfeigned gratitude (yokoke ahni) to the great sun they would celebrate a grand, glad feast, and joyous dance, before they commenced the work of clearing and breaking ground for their cornfields. So they cleaned out the dance ground, and planted the pole with the golden sun in the center of it. The people collected and, with much joy and gladness of heart, feasted and danced five days.
The amount of ground necessary to plant what corn they had was small, and was soon planted. Then having nothing else to be working at, a thoughtful old man, pointing to the great unfinished mound (yokni chishinto) said, “the weather is cool and pleasant, and the grave of your dead kindred is only half as high as a tall tree.” Taking the timely suggestion of the man, thousands went to work, carrying dirt to the great mound. Afterwards, it became an honorable thing to carry and deposit earth on the mound at any time they were not engaged at work in their domestic vocations.
The winter over, spring with the green foliage and singing birds and the grand flourish of gobbling turkeys came slowly on. Corn was planted and the companies of hunters went forth. The camps were healthy. Those who were planting soon finished it, and engaged actively forthwith in throwing earth upon the already huge mound. Their corn flourished well, producing enough, after preserving portions of their fields for seed, to supply a full feast for the green corn dance.
At the Nunih Waya encampment, everything went well and there were no complaints. Their hunters made wide excursions, acquainting themselves with the geography of the country to the extent of many days’ journey around. But, as yet, they had discovered no signs of the enemy, or of any other people.
In this happy condition of health and plenty-for they had enlarged their fields and were harvesting abundant crops of corn – years rolled round; the work on the mound was regularly prosecuted; and at the eighth green corn dance celebrated at Nunih Waya, the committee who had been appointed at the commencement, reported to the assembled multitude that the work was completed and the mound planted with the seeds of the forest trees in accordance with the plan and direction of the minko, at the beginning of the work.
The minko then instructed the good old Lopina, who had carried it so many years, to take the golden sun to the top of the great mound and plant it in the center of the level top.
When the people beheld the golden emblem of the sun glittering on the top of the great work which, by the united labor of their own hands, had just been accomplished, they were filled with joy and much gladness. And in their songs at the feast, which was then going on, they would sing: “Behold the wonderful work of our hands; and let us be glad. Look upon the great mound; its top is above the trees, and its black shadow lies on the ground, a bowshot. It is surmounted by the golden emblem of the sun; its glitter (tohpakali) dazzles the eyes of the multitude. It inhumes the bones of fathers and relatives; they died on our sojourn in the wilderness. They died in a far off wild country; they rest at Nunih Waya. Our journey lasted many winters; it ends at Nunih Waya.”
The feast and the dance, as was the custom. continued five days. After this, in place of the long east. the minko directed that, as a mark of respect due to the fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters, for whom they had with so much labor prepared such a beautiful and wonderfully high monumental grave, each iksa should come to the mound and, setting up an ornamental pole for each clan, hold a solemn cry a whole moon. Then, to appease the restless spirits of the deceased nation and satisfy all the men and women with what they had done with the sacred relics of their dead, the Choctaws held a grand and joyous national dance and feast of two days. And returning to their tents, they remembered their grief no more. All the people said that their great chief was full of wisdom; that his heart was with the people; and that his counsels had led them in the clean and white paths of safety and peace. Each of the iksas selected very tall pine poles, which they peeled and made white and ornamental with festoons of evergreens and flowers, Then in most solemn form, they performed the cry three times every day, during one whole moon. Then at the great national pole pulling, they celebrated a grand feast and dance of two days. The rejoicing of the nation was very great and they returned to their camps with glad hearts, remembering their sorrows no more….
Origin Myth of the Choctaws … why the mound builders ?
The Origin Myth of the Choctaw People. Due to the length of this piece, it is being published in portions over the months … this is taken from the text of the late historian Gideon Lincecum. the legend was recounted to him by oral historians of the tribe who had passed along the myth from generation to generation.
… Afterward, when a death occurred. and the bones had been properly cleansed, they were deposited in a great cavity which had been constructed for that purpose, as the work of the mound was progressing. It was the national sepulchral vault; and thither the bones of all the people that died at Nunih Waya were carried and neatly stowed away in dressed leather sacks.
Thus arose the custom of burying the dead in the great monumental sepulchre. And when a member of a hunting party of more than two men or a family died, too far out in the forest to pack home the bones, which could not be cleaned in the woods for the bone pickers never went hunting – it was deemed sufficient to appease the wandering spirit to place all his hunting implements close to the dead body, just as death had left it. In such cases it was not lawful to touch the dead, and they were covered with a mound of earth thirty steps in circumference and as high as a man’s head. If death occurred at the camp of an individual family in the far off hunt, the survivors would, during the cry moon, carry, in cane baskets and (on) the blade bones of the buffalo, a sufficient amount of earth to construct a mound of the above dimensions. if there should be but two men at a camp or a lone man and his wife, and one should die, the survivor had to carry the dead body home. Life for life, was the law; and every life had to be accounted for in a satisfactory manner. It would not answer for a man to return home and report that his hunting companion or his wife had been lost or drowned, devoured by wild beasts or died of a natural death. He must show the body. There are occasionally found among the great number of tumuli scattered over the land, mounds of larger dimensions than ordinary ones. These mounds were constructed by females. Upon the death in camp of a man who had an affectionate wife, his mourning tekchi (wife), regardless of the customary time to cry, would throw down her hair and with all her strength and that of her children would carry earth, and build upon the mound as long as they could find food of any kind that would sustain life. They would then return to camp, worn out skeletons.
Now, my white friend, I have explained to you the origin, and who it was that built the great number of mounds that are found scattered over this wide land. The circular, conic mounds are all graves, and mark the spot where the persons, for whom they were built, breathed their last breath. There being no bone pickers at the hunting camps to handle the dead, the body was never touched, or moved from the death posture. Just as it lay, or sat, as the case might be, it was covered up, first with either stones, pebbles, or sand and finished off with earth. In this way the custom of mound graves originated from the great mound grave, Nunih Waya, and it prevailed with the Choctaw people until the white man came with his destructive, sense-killing “firewater”, and made the people all drunk.