The Ever-faithful Lily Wanda

WHAT’S PLAYING: Duffy “Syrup and Honey”

Once upon a time, the Choctaw held a Green Corn Festival to show love and gratitude to the Great Spirit who had given them so much. The Queen of the festival was Lily Wanda, the most beautiful maiden in the village.

When time came for the Chief to speak, he stepped forward and the people fell silent.

“My people,” he said, “The Great Spirit has been good to us. Green Corn Goddess has watched over our corn. Rain God watered it and Father Sun warmed it. We give them thanks. I have long wondered where Father Sun sleeps. Someone must journey to find the answer. This traveler will face great danger and hardships. He may never return. But, if he can find the place, he will be great among men.”

sunset-big-orange-sun-setting-over-ocean

After the Chief had spoken, the silence was unbroken but for the wind that sighed through the trees.

Finally, a brave young man named Oklawana stepped forward. “My Chief,” he said, “I will go and find where Father Sun sleeps.”

Lily Wanda cried out in distress. “No, no, do not go, Oklawana!” she said, pushing through the crowd to stand before her lover. “You will never return!”

Oklawana turned to Lily Wanda. “I must go. Our chief wishes it. I will return with great honor and claim you for my bride.” He took her hand. “I leave my wampum belt with you. It tells the story of our people’s councils. Guard it well until I return.” Then he made four bundles of sticks for the four seasons of the year. “Count these for me as the seasons pass.”

Unable to speak, Lily Wanda nodded and took the belt and sticks. The next sunrise, she watched her sweetheart start his long journey.

Young-Native-American-Girl

Every day, Lily Wanda prayed to the Great Spirit to send Oklawana back. She counted the bundle of sticks as the seasons passed. In the evenings, she sat in her doorway watching for his return. In time, she went up on the mountain and built signal smokes to guide her lover home.

Seasons passed and Lily Wanda grew old. She still counted the sticks and guarded the belt. She watched and prayed. One day as she prayed at the mound of Nanih Waiya, a stranger came to her.

“I saw the signal smoke and came to you,” he said. “Lily Wanda, do you remember me? I am Oklawana who went in search of the sleeping place of Father Sun. I have come back to you.”

“That is not true,” she replied. “Oklawana has been dead for many years. You are some other.”

“Is this the belt he gave you?” he asked, pointing to her waist.

“Yes, I have kept it for him but he does not return.”

“I gave you the belt. Don’t you remember me?”

“No, you are Halvah, the story-teller. Let me be.” With these words, Lily Wanda died of a broken heart.

Oklawana caught her as she fell. He carried her body to the village and found that no one knew him.

nanihWaiya

“I followed Father Sun day after day, season after season,” Oklawana said wearily. “Finally, I saw him sink into a great blue lake, and I could not follow him. I have wandered many years trying to find my people, but you do not know me. My Lily Wanda did not know me. Now she is dead.”

Then he sank to the earth in despair and died of grief.

The people buried him and his faithful Lily Wanda together.

Stories from my Grandfather – The Migration Legend

WHAT’S PLAYING: David Guetta feat. Sia “Titanium

In ancient times, the ancestors of the Choctaws and Chickasaws lived in a land far to the west under the rule of two brothers, Chahta and Chikasa.

There were many Choctaws and Chickasaws in those days. Their territory became overcrowded, making it difficult for the people to find food. A great prophet had a vision of a land far to east with fertile soil and abundant game where the people could live in peace and plenty. And so, the entire population resolved to make the journey eastward in search of that happy land.

The people split into two groups, marching a day’s journey apart. The prophet led them, bearing a sacred pole. Every night, he would plant this stick in the earth in front of the camp. And each morning, when the people rose, the pole would be leaning in the direction they were to travel that day.

They continued this way for several moons. One night, the people led by Chahta set up camp on the west bank of the Nanih Waiya Creek by the mound, while those led by his brother, Chikasa crossed the creek and camped on the eastern side. That night, a great rain fell, flooding the Creek and rendering it impassable for several days.

The next morning the pole was still standing erect, indicating that the people had at last found their new home.

After the waters had subsided, Chahta sent messengers across the creek to bid his brother’s party to return, as the oracular pole had proclaimed that the long sought-for land was found. Chikasa’s party, however had proceeded on their journey, and the rain had washed away all traces of them so that the messengers could not follow.

This is how the Choctaws and the Chickasaws became two distinct, though kindred nations.

Stories from My Grandfather – The Great Flood (Part 1)

WHAT’S PLAYING: Lady GagaYoü and I

Long ago, the Choctaw became so corrupt that they displeased Achafa Chito—the Great Spirit. He sent storms and earthquakes to warn them, but the people would resume their wicked ways as soon as the storms and tremors ceased. Finally, Achafa Chito sent forth a great prophet who went from iksa to iksa—village to village—warning the Choctaw that all would be destroyed if they did not return to the path of light, but none believed his words.

Only Oklatibishi—He Who Holds Himself Apart from People—heard and heeded the words of the great prophet. (In other versions, his name is Oklatabashih, which means “Mourner for the People.”) Oklatibishi had withdrawn from other men and built a small house high up on a mountainside, from where he could observe the evil of mankind.

Achafa Chito called the spirit of Oklatibishi into the mid-world between life and death and instructed him, saying, “You must fell the eight largest sassafras trees to be found upon your mountain, trim them and make a great raft. Upon this raft, you will construct a house. You will stock your house with enough corn, nuts and dried meat to feed you and those you take with you for three times as many days as you have fingers and toes. With you, you will take three doves: two gray and one white. You must complete this task before Hashi—the Sun—shows His face on a count of ten times the number of fingers upon your hand. On that morning, you must have your doves in cages, your stores and yourself in your house aboard your raft.”

As soon as his spirit re-entered his body, Oklatibishi began his labors as instructed by the Great Spirit. One day, a group of hunters chanced upon him and asked him what he was doing.

When he told them, they called him a crazy old man and laughed because he was building such a large raft so far from the river, saying, “How will you ever get it to the water?”

But even as Oklatibishi labored and the long summer days shortened into autumn, a change came upon the land. The skies grew cloudy, so that the people saw neither the sun by day nor the moon and stars by night.

Finally, all light and warmth withdrew from the earth. The Choctaw had to carry torches to light their way. They went to magic men, healers, spirit talkers and conjurers, but none could tell why the Sun had chosen to hide His face.

The Choctaw became despondent, sleeping in darkness only to awaken to more darkness. Some even began to chant their death songs. Food that had been stored away against the coming of the winter grew moldy and unfit to eat, and the wild animals of the forest gathered around the fires, even entering the towns and villages, seeming to have lost all fear of men.

(Continued in Part 2 tomorrow!)

Stories from my Grandfather — Origins

WHAT’S PLAYING: Black Eyed Peas “Union”

In the beginning, the first men were created in Nanih Waiya. And there they were made. And there they came forth.

The Muscogees came out first and sunned themselves on Nanih Waiya’s earthen rampart. When they were dry, they traveled to the east where they rested. As they were smoking tobacco, they dropped some fire.

Next, the Cherokees came out of Nanih Waiya and sunned themselves on the earthen rampart. When they were dry, they followed the trail of the elder tribe. And at the place where the Muscogees had stopped to smoke tobacco, there was fire and the woods were burnt. The Cherokees could not find the Muscogees’ trail, and so turned aside and went north. And there, in the north, they settled and made a people.

The Chickasaws came out third and sunned themselves on the earthen rampart. When they were dry, they followed the Cherokees’ trail. And when they got to where the Cherokee had settled and made a people, they settled and made a people close to the Cherokee.

Last of all, came the Choctaws out of Nanih Waiya and sunned themselves on the earthen rampart. When they were dry, they did not go anywhere, but settled down in this very land and it is the Choctaws’ home.

And here we will stay until we are no more.

 

Choctaw Word of the Day:  Halito  (Hello)

Did You Know?  There are no Choctaw words that begin with the letters “R” or “D”