The Biloxi and Pascagoulas

The French in making their voyages of discovery along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico in 1712, under the command of Iberville, anchored one evening near an island (now known as Ship Island) which they discovered to be intersected with lagoons and inhabited by a strange and peculiar animal seemingly to hold the medium between the fox and cat, and they give it the name Cat Island, by which it is still known; thence they passed over the main land, where they discovered a tribe of Indians called Biloxi, among whom they afterwards located a town and gave it the name Biloxi now the oldest town in the State of Mississippi. This tribe of Indians proved to be a clan of the Choctaws, and the name Biloxi, a corruption of the Choctaw word Ba-luh-chi, signifying hickory bark. Thence going eastward they discovered another tribe which they called the Pascagoula’s, which also proved to be a clan of the Choctaws, and the name Pascagoula, a corruption of the two Choctaw words Puska (bread) and Okla (people), i. e: Bread People, or people having bread; but which has been erroneously interpreted to mean “Bread Eaters.” A remnant of the Ba-luh-chis still exist among the Choctaws, while the Puskaoklas have been long lost by uniting with other Choctaw clans. There was an ancient tradition among the Puskaoklas, which stated that, in the years long past, a small tribe of Indians of a lighter complexion than themselves, and also different in manners and customs, inhabited the country near the mouth of the Pascagoula river whose ancestors, according to the tradition, originally emerged from the sea, where they were born; that they were a kind, peaceful and inoffensive people, spending their time in public festivals and amusements of various kinds; that they had a temple in which they worshiped the figure of a Sea God; every night when the moon was passing from its crescent to the full, they gathered around the figure playing upon instruments and singing and dancing, thus rendering homage to the Sea God. That shortly after the destruction of Mobilla (now Mobile, Alabama,) in 1541, by De Soto, there suddenly appeared among the Sea God worshippers a white man with a long, gray beard, flowing garments and bearing a large cross in his right hand; that he took from his bosom a book, and, after kissing it again and again, he began to explain to them what was contained in it; that they listened attentively and were fast being converted to its teaching s when a fearful catastrophe put an end to all. One night, when the full moon was at its zenith, there came a sudden rising of the waters of the river, which rolled in mighty waves along its channel; on the crest of the foaming water at a woman, with magnetic eyes, singing in a tone of voice that fascinated all; that the white man, followed by the entire tribe, rushed to the bank of the stream in wild amazement, when the siren at once, modulated her voice to still more fascinating tones, chanting a mystic song with the oft repeated chorus, “Come to me, come to me, children of the sea! Neither book nor cross, from your queen, shall win ye;” Soon, an Indian leaped into the still raging waters, followed by the remainder in rapid succession, all disappearing as they touched the water, when a loud and exultant laugh was heard, and then the waters returned to their usual level and quiet leaving no trace of their former fury; the white man was left alone, and soon died of grief and loneliness.

De Soto, Iberville,

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

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