Ancient Choctaw Courtship

When the young Choctaw beau went the first time to see his Fair One, after having resolved upon matrimony, he tested his own standing in the estimation of his anticipated bride by indifferently walking into the room where she is seated with the rest of the family, and, during the general conversation, he sought and soon found an opportunity to shoot, slyly and unobserved, a little stick or small pebble at her. She soon ascertained the source whence they came, and fully comprehended the signification of those little messengers of love. If approved, she returned them as slyly and silently as they came. If not, she suddenly sprang from her seat, “turned a frowning face of disapproval upon him and silently left the room. That ended the matter, though not a word had been spoken between them. But when the little tell-tales skipped back to him from her fingers, followed by a pair of black eyes peeping out from under their Long silken eyelashes, he joy fully comprehended the import and, in. a few minutes, arose and, as he started toward the door, he repeated his informal Ea li’ (I go), upon which a response of assent was given by the father or mother in the equally informal ‘Omih‘ (very well).

He returned in two or three days, however, with a few presents for the parents, and to secure their approval. Which being obtained, a day was appointed for the marriage a feast prepared and friends invited. When all had assembled, the groom was placed in one room and the bride in another and the doors closed. A distance of two or three hundred yards was then measured off, and at the farther end a little pole, neat and straight was set up. Then, at a given signal, the door of the bride s room was thrown open, and at once she spring’s out and starts for the pole with the lightness and swiftness of an antelope. As soon as she has gotten a few rods the start, enough for her to keep him from overtaking her if she was so inclined, the door of his room was thrown open, and away he runs with seemingly super human speed, much to the amusement of the spectators. Often, as if to try the sincerity of his affection, she did not let him overtake her until within a few feet of the pole; and sometimes, when she had changed her *mind in regard to marrying him, she did not let him overtake her, which was public acknowledgement of the tact, and the groom made the race but to be grievously disappointed but such a result seldom happened. As soon as he caught her, after an ex change of a word or two, he gently led her back by the hand, and were met about half way by the lady friends of the bride, who took her from the hands of the groom yielding to their demands with seeming reluctance, and led her back into the yard to a place in front of the house previously prepared for her, and seated her upon a blanket spread upon the ground. A circle of women immediately formed around her each holding in their hands the various kinds of presents hey intended to bestow upon her as a bridal gift. Then one after another in short intervals began to cast her presents on the head of the seated bride, at which moment first-class grab-game was introduced. For the moment a present fell upon her waiting head it was snatched there from by some one of the party a dozen or more making a grab for it at the same instant regardless of the suffering bride, who was often pulled hither and thither by the snatchers eager fingers be coming entangled in her long, black ringlets. When the presents had all been thus disposed of, the bride not receiving a single article, the twain were pronounced one man and wife; then the feast was served, after which all returned to their respective homes with merry and happy hearts.”

As the land was free to all, the happy groom, a few days after his nuptials, erected with the assistance of his friends, a neat little cabin in some picturesque grove by the side of some bubbling spring or on the banks of some rippling brook. A small iron kettle in which to boil their venison, and a wooden bowl in which to put it when cooked, were sufficient culinary utensils for the young housekeepers. They needed no mahogany tables or carved chairs, for, they sat, as the Orientals, upon the ground. The bowl with its contents was placed in the center of the cabin and the husband and wife sat around it, and with the wooden or horn spoon, helped themselves one after the other. If they had guests the same rule of etiquette was observed each one being free to make a dip with the spoon into the contents of the bowl, thence to the mouth, in regular turn.

Ta-ful-a, (Tomfuller), was their favorite and hence standing dish, and is to this day. It consists of corn, pounded in a wooden mortar with a wooden pestle to take off the husks, then thoroughly boiled; sometimes peas or beans are mixed and cooked with it, then it is called Tafula tabi ibu-lhto. Then again, hickory or walnut kernels or meats are mixed and cooked with it; it is then called Tafula oksak nip-ibulhto; if walnut kernels, then it is called Tafula ok-sak-hahe (walnut) nipi ibulhto.

They used a very pleasant beverage of acidulated fo-i (honey) and o-ka, (water); also they made a very palatable jelly from the pounded roots of the China brier, strained through baskets, and mixing the dried farina with honey. They pounded hickory and walnuts together, and having passed them through boiling water, and then through strainers of fine basket work, it produced an inspissated liquor, the color and consistency of cream, and richer and of finer flavor.


Cushman, Horatio Bardwell. History Of The Choctaw, Chickasaw and Natchez Indians. Greenville, Texas: Headlight Printing House. 1899

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