Choctaw Tradition of the Flood

The tradition, as related by wise men of the Choctaw Nation, about the flood, is as follows:

A long continued night came upon the land, which created no small degree of fear and uneasiness among the people. Their fears were increased at seeing the terrible buffaloes, and the fleet deer making their appearance, and after them the bears and panthers, wolves, and others approaching their habitations; suspicious at first of their intentions, they thought of placing themselves beyond the reach of the more dangerous animals, but instead of exhibiting any disposition of ferocity, they seemed rather to claim protection at their hands. This presented an opportunity of having a jubilee of feasting, and they therefore indulged themselves to the fullest bent of their propensity and inclinations by an indiscriminate massacre of the animals. Having thus feasted for some time, they at last saw daylight appearing. But what surprised them much, was, they saw it coming from the north. They were at a loss what to think of it. They, however, supposed that the sun must have missed his path, and was coming up from another direction, which caused the unusual long night, or perhaps he had purposely changed his course, to rise hereafter in the north instead of the east. While such conjectures were making, some fast runners arrived as messengers coming from the direction of the sup posed day light, and announced to them that the light which they saw was not the day light, but that it was a flood slowly approaching, drowning and destroying everything. Upon this report the people fled to the mountains, and began to construct rafts of sassafras wood, binding them together with vines, believing this expedient would save them from a watery grave. But alas, delusive hope fed the bears were swimming around in countless numbers, being very fond of vine twigs gnawed them through, thereby setting loose the materials of the raft, and bringing the people under dark waters. Their cries, wailing and agony, were unheard and unseen. But there was one man who prepared and launched a strong peni or boat, into which he placed his family and provisions and thus floated upon the deep waters. For days the Penikbi (boat builder) strained his eyes looking all around for the purpose of discovering the existence of some animal life, and a place at which to anchor his vessel.

“Nothing met his sight save the cheerlees waste of waters. The hawks, eagles and other birds of the same class, had all, when they found that the tops of the mountains could not render them a lighting place from the flood, flown to the sky and clung on to it with their talons, and remained until the flood abated, when they returned to their old haunts and resumed their natural propensities and habits. An indication of the disappearing- of the flood thus manifested itself. A crow made its appearance and so much delighted to see the boat, which it flew around and around it. The Penikbi, overjoyed beyond measure, addressed the sable bird, wishing to elicit some information from it as to whereabouts, and whether or not the flood was subsiding any, but it heeded him not, seeming to be determined to consult its own safety before that of any One else; but scarcely had the crow winged away from the peni before a dove was described flying towards it, and on reaching it, the Penikbi with joy perceived a leaf in its bill. It flew several times around but did not alight; after doing so took its course slowly flying toward the west, but seemingly anxious that Penikbi would steer in the direction it flew, which he did faithfully following the course. In this way many a weary mile was traveled, before seeing a place to land. At length a mountain became visible, and never did a benighted mariner hail the sight of land as Penikbi did, when its summit became visible. When he had safely landed, the dove flew away to return no more. Though this diluvia story is in some respects absurd, still, the intelligible portions of it coincide with those evidences which are embalmed in the convictions and understanding of the Christian world, in the authenticity of the inspired Word. It is strange that the Choctaws should have been in possession of those particulars long before the white man spread before them the pages of life.”

Ancient Choctaw tradition affirms that a drought followed by a famine in corn, peas, beans, etc., prevailed throughout their country far back in the days of their forefathers, which continued over three years; that all the tributaries of the Tanapoh Ikbi (Gun Maker), now known as the Tombigbee River, together with all the lakes and ponds, were completely dried up; that the river ceased to run, the water standing only in holes here and there, that all the larger game left the country, going west; that the buffalo, then inhabiting their country, never returned. Does this tradition point back to those remote ages in which the Prophet of God and king Ahab figured? This traditional drought of the Choctaws continued over three years, that of the Prophet three and a half years. Did it extend to the western continent, or did the tradition refer back prior to their ancestors migration from the eastern to the western continent, the Tanapoh Ikbi and the buffalo being additions of a future generation?

Choctaw, Legends,

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

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