Published on August 21, 2014 by Amy
According to D. L. Birchfield author of “Choctaw,” the Choctaw people did not celebrate their culture or holidays with flashy “ceremonies, religious or otherwise.” They kept a low public profile in most cases. Choctaw celebrations were more closely associated with social activities rather than the religious focus of many other nations. Their death ceremonies, however, were considered the most important of the Choctaw ceremonies.
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The Choctaw had a great respect for their dead. Whether on the move or settled, they preserved the bones of the dead and stored them for the burial ceremonies. Between the harvest and the first frost, both the Choctaw chief and their spiritual leader set aside two weeks every fall for this. The “Festival of Mourning” included a funeral feast prepared in honor of the departed ones as well as dancing. Their bones would then be taken to the burial mound and placed inside. Food, clothing, weapons, and a dog for companionship would be placed with the departed in order to ensure a safe arrival and well provided journey to the “happy land.”
There are differing versions with regard to Choctaw wedding ceremonies. One is provided by “Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma,” and it explains that the prospective groom would simply offer the parents something of value for their daughter. If the offerings were accepted, the groom would simply lead his bride away and they would be considered married. The other is provided by Choctaw and author Mike Boucher. On the day the betrothed Choctaw were to be married, the couple would be placed in separate rooms in a house. A race course would be established, and the finish line would be placed quite a distance from the dwelling. The bride would be released from the house and start running. After giving the bride a head start, the groom would be released and chase after her. The bride who was still willing to get married would allow the groom to catch her. The bride and groom would then be led to the house, and the bride’s friends would lead her to a blanket where she would be presented with gifts. Feasting and dancing would then occur, and without any further actions, the bride and groom were considered married.
For hundreds of years, the Choctaw people, have celebrated their crops and harvests. As the name implies, this ceremony was to celebrate and give thanks for the ripening of the first corn. According to the University of Cumbria’s division of religion and philosophy, it was also a time for “self-purification.” The ceremony included feasting, and was followed by a fasting period in which problems that had arisen, including crimes, were discussed and resolved. The ceremony would end with a fire ritual in which all fires were extinguished and a new one was lit to represent the starting of a new year. The Choctaw Indian Fair of current times traces its roots back to these ceremonies.
The Choctaw Indian Fair of current times traces its roots back to these ceremonies. While the festival has always been an opportunity for the Choctaw to pay homage to their culture and history, however, it now also gives the Choctaw an opportunity to share these things with the many visitors to their reservation. The largest celebration, however, is the annual Labor Day celebration which includes various activities including carnival rides, gospel singing, and a State of the Nation address by the Choctaw nation chief.