Manataka American Indian Council




Choctaw Legends I



In the beginning, Choctaw people were hungry. "We have nothing to feed our little ones and our old people are starving. They can no longer chase the deer."

Then one day , birds came from the south. They flew over the place where the Choctaws were camped. Something the birds carried in their claws and beaks were truly remarkable. They dropped this thing into the Choctaw fields.

Soon a beautiful and mysterious plant began to grow. Because of the long stalks, the green coating and the the silken covering, the Wise men knew it was corn.

A gift of the Spirit, brought on the wings of the birds. Before long, the Choctaws had new life. They were no longer hungry, their journey was over and they could live in the place where the Choctaw Spirits had brought them.

Submitted by Wolf Walker.
From Blue Panther Keeper of Stories.

Origin of Corn

The origin of corn is connected with a myth called by Cushman the story of 0hoyo 0sh Chisba (or 0hoyo osh chisba), "The Unknown Woman." With Cushman's usual emotional setting this runs as follows:

In the days of many moons ago, two Choctaw hunters were encamped for the night in the swamps of the bend of the Alabama river.... The two hunters, having been unsuccessful in the chase of that and the preceding day, found themselves on that night with nothing with which to satisfy the cravings of  hunger except a black hawk which they had shot with an arrow. Sad reflections filled their hearts as they thought of their sad disappointments and of their suffering families at home. While the gloomy future spread over  them its dark pall of despondency, all serving to render them unhappy indeed.

They cooked the hawk and sat down to partake of their poor and scanty supper, when their attention was drawn from their gloomy forebodings by the low but distinct tones, strange yet soft and plaintive as the melancholy notes of the dove, but produced by what they were unable to even conjecture.  At different intervals it broke the deep silence of the early night with its seemingly muffled notes of woe; and as the nearly full orbed moon slowly ascended the eastern sky the strange sounds became more frequent and distinct.

With eyes dilated and fluttering heart they looked up and down the river to learn whence the sounds proceeded, but no object except the sandy shores glittering in the moonlight greeted their eyes, while the dark waters of the river seemed alone to give response in murmuring tones to the strange notes that continued to float upon the night air from a direction they could not definitely locate; but happening to look behind them in the direction opposite the moon they saw a woman of wonderful beauty standing upon a mound a few rods distant.

Like an illuminated shadow, she had suddenly appeared out of the moon-lighted forest. She was loosely clad in snow-white raiment, and bore in the folds of her drapery a wreath of fragrant flowers. She beckoned them to approach, while she seemed surrounded by a halo of light that gave to her a supernatural appearance. Their imagination now influenced them to believe her to be the Great Spirit of their nation, and that the flowers she bore were representatives of loved ones who had passed from earth to bloom in the Spirit Land.

The mystery was solved. At once they approached (the spot) where she stood, and offered their assistance in any way they could be of service to her. She replied she was very hungry, whereupon one of them ran and brought the roasted hawk and handed it to her. She accepted it with grateful thanks; but, after eating a small portion of it, she handed the remainder back to them replying that she would remember their kindness when she returned to her home in the happy hunting grounds of her father, who was Shilup Chitoh Osh - The Great Spirit of the Choctaws. She then told them that when the next mid-summer moon should come they must meet her at the mound upon which she was then standing.

She then bade them an affectionate adieu, and was at once borne away upon a gentle breeze and, mysteriously as she came, so she disappeared. The two hunters returned to their camp for the night and early next morning sought their homes, but kept the strange incident to themselves, a profound secret.

When the designated time rolled around the mid-summer full moon found the two hunters at the foot of the mound but Ohoyo Chishba Osh was nowhere to be seen. Then remembering she told them they must come to the very spot where she was then standing, they at once ascended the mound and found it covered with a strange plant, which yielded an excellent food, which was ever afterwards cultivated by the Choctaws, and named by them Tunchi (corn).

Source Material for the Social and Ceremonial Life of the Choctaw Indians,
John R. Swanton
Submitted by Blue Panther Keeper of Stories

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