A path into the Lifeways of the Choctaw...
Take a journey through the Chahta Immi Ihinoshi and experience the language, the look, and the lessons of the Choctaw people set in the early history of the Choctaw. Chahta Immi Ihinoshi is a hands-on cultural exhibit area for children to experience the traditions of the Choctaw people. Demonostrations of tribal culture are displayed by Choctaw artisans and story tellers for visitors. In addition to the activities, the look and feel of Chahta Immi Ihinoshi will also give travelers of this unique path a step back into the Choctaw Past.
Cultural Demonstrations for Groups:
pony bead making, miniature drum making, Shokka Annopa-story telling, pottery making, and rabbit stick throw, medallion making, headband making, & coloring station.
One of the oldest traditional instruments that the Choctaw still use is the drum, which today is used primarily at stickball games. The drum which is now used by the Choctaw is modeled after the military drums used by British and American troops in the late eighteen/nineteenth centuries, and the design has changes very little.
The body of the drum is wood or sometimes metal. The wood used for this usually is sourwood, black gum or tupelo gum. These trees are often hollow by the time they reach a suitable size for drums. When a likely tree is found, a section of approximately the size of the finished drum is cut from the trunk. The interior of the drum blank is cut to the desired size first, using chisels. Then the outside of the drum body is shaped using chisels and a draw-knife. When the desired thickness for the wall of the drum body is reached (less than ½ inch), the drum body is set aside to allow the wood to dry. Often at this stage the drum body will warp out of shape and will have to be discarded. If it survives the drying process, then the rims, head and rope laces are put on the new drum.
The rims of the drum are made of strips of hickory which are bent into a hoop which will just fit around the drum body. A raw deer hide whose edges are wrapped around a second hickory hoop which is held tight by the rim of the drum forms the head of the drum. The rope laced around the sides of the drum is threaded through holes along the rim and is used to keep the head of the drum tight for playing.
The final touch in making a drum is to attach the snares which are formed using small pieces of lead attached to a string which is fitted along the bottom of the drum. This gives the Choctaw drum its distinctive sound. A steady beat of the drum is heard through the hills announcing a time to assemble for the Choctaw people. Dancers may be gathering, stickball teams competing for community pride or someone may be getting married. The community knows the beat of the drum as the heart of the Choctaw people.
Story telling is one of the favorites of the Choctaws. An elder of the clan always told stories around an open fire late in the evening after a long day. Most of the stories that are told are what is called "Shokka annopa", or folktale. Some stories were told to teach one a valuable lesson. Today most stories are told with animals characters.
Rabbit Stick Throw:
Rabbit Stick (Iti ishnipa) was an important weapon for early Choctaw hunters. Carved from a hickory limb, rabbit sticks are usually about 18 inches long. Most of the stick is carved into a handle so that it may be easily held and thrown. About 5 or 6 inches of the stick are left in its natural state, forming sort of a wooden hammer. Hunters threw these sticks to kill small game, usually rabbits.
A beadwork set for women often consists of a belt, medallion, collar necklaces, earrings, ribbon lapel pins, and a handkerchief lapel pin. Designs and colors are the artist's preference.
Collar necklaces are worn with traditional clothing by both women and men. They use silver bugle beads and seed beads for simple collar necklace making. Some may use different collar necklace with colored bugle beads. They also, use beaded sash, beaded round comb, beaded belt, etc.
Choctaw Women have created swamp cane baskets for hundreds of years. Once traded for corn meal or other staples, they are now prized collectors as decorative pieces. New shapes and patterns have appeared as commercial dyes made a variety of colors available, but the skill and precision of the women who practice this exacting craft remain constant.
The children will learn to count Numbers and name the Colors in the Choctaw Language. The participants will sing the numbers and colors songs. The children will also be able to color hand-out sheets of cultural pictures.
Historically, the game of stickball (kapocha) was one of the most important community activities. Often described as the Grandfather of American sports, it provided Choctaw of the past with a common meeting ground on which to peacefully settle disputes with a ball game instead of war. Pair of hickory sticks is about 3 or 4 feet long, with one end shaved flat and bent into an oblong loop or racquet. After the cup is bent it is tied in place with leather strips. Then continued use of the leather strips to form a web-like pocket, which will hold the ball.
Stickball is still played today during the Choctaw Indian Fair. It is a uniquely Choctaw sport and a symbol of tribal identity. The stickball (towa) is handmade with cloth or duck tape tightly wrapped around a small stone or piece of wood. Once the desired size is reached then the maker weaves leather strips over it. Today, stickball has borrowed the quarter systems from basketball and football, among the few rules that exist today is players should not touch the ball with their hands. Points are scored when a player hits the opposing team's goalpost with the ball.
Head Band Making:
Head Band (Bita) wearing came into existence in the 1960's. Participants wore the head band when playing stickball to keep the sweats off their face. Very few wear it today. Stickball players have their own team colors. Locals will know which team, a player is on just by looking at the colors of their head band.
Native Americans used pottery (ampatoba) in a variety of ways nearly every day for ceremonials during rituals, burials, for storage, household usage, and for decorative purposes. The symbols and designs were of community identity or animals that the Choctaws highly honored and it also provided an important avenue for artistic expression. Schools teach modern ways of pottery making but only the traditional elders can teach the traditional ways.