Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Choctaw Way

Challenged by a dear friend to define the Choctaw way, from an earlier post's comment, here which I put up on my Half-birthday, 07-11 last week.

[keep in mind, this is from my personal observance of the rich, familial Chacta traditon, our Ookoha way of life]

The Choctaw Way

Primarily, my people are a very spiritual people; a constant awareness of our Holy Father God is present in all we do, in all we say, in all we believe. This comes from ancient, handed-down stories about the creation of the red peoples. It is handed down in ancestry, that all mankind was created by an all-Wise Father, who used mud from a deep well and spring to create man and woman.

We, His Children are reminded to remember, that being so blessed and so lucky to be children of the Most High, we must treat all of creation as our beloved family members; the doves, deer, mockingbirds, crows, cattle, fish, trees, minerals-- All of this, are our fellow creation. That as members of the same family, we could communicate, we could warn and be warned, we can touch and be touched by, all the family members which, whom we chose to recognize.
[this is why I love my mockingbirds so much, why Amos was my brother and not my pet, why I thank catfish I catch, eat, for their gift to my body]

The Choctaw Way of family is measured in one word: Close - Knit. LOL
To our elders, to anyone older than ourselves, we nod our heads in a single, downward motion out of respect and reverence, upon every greeting/meeting.
To our youths, our children, those younger than ourselves, we nod our heads in a single, upward motion, essentially saying "Hail!" on every greeting/meeting. That's what the greeting, "Halito" means essentially: Hail.

The Choctaw Way of friendship is highly prized. For Choctaw feel that friends of true value are special gifts from the Creator, our Father God. And yet, a Choctaw will at first be skeptical, be wary, even distant upon first cordial meeting. The Deceiver is always at work, always looking to draw us off into a deep water over our heads, and so we are careful. But once a person's intentions are accepted, that friendship is golden, prized greater than anything else. One Choctaw, when greeting another, a stranger, may first speak in our language, testing the other person.
That's why it is recommended to learn the language; and use it when you have a flat tire late at night 'round here.
Thus, the combination of family and friends, acknowledged to be given us by our Father, are our greatest joys.
From this combination, the acceptance or the denial of same, is everything else in Choctaw life derived.
It is the custom in a Choctaw home, that when a relative or a friend comes knocking on the door, the second thing we ask of them is, would you like something to eat? "... hey, I've got some buttermilk cornbread, you like some?", or "I just killed a deer, and I don't have room in the freezer for 25# of this venison. Take some this home with yeh ta eat."
The proper gift to give also, when coming to a Choctaw home for a long visit.
Eating together is like prayer, in that the sharing of one's bounty with another, is a smile on Father's face.

Everyone I know has a garden, for reaping the seasonal rewards/blessings of Father and Earth. Corn is a daily staple: Corn flakes, cornbread, corn itself, corn breading, fried corn, baked corn, hominy, corn shrimp, creamed corn pie, corn sherbet. Not really those last three, but nearly; they all sound good....
I think that this is also custom among Choctaws, intimately, but not universally: Having a good joke for conversation handy, to go along with your genial and kind sense of humor, and balance. In this sense here at the Local Malcontent bloggie, I always try to combine criticism of Democrats, illegal immigrants, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for example... whoever, with a wry joke or cutesy photograph. That's why I've won the Stinkyfeet Award twice, at my former casino.

In this way you see, the door is never fully closed to perceived enemies, and a smile between adversaries is invaluable.
But do not be deceived-- the Choctaw are always ready to fight for liberty, freedom and their sense of right.

Speaking of language, it is at least this Choctaw's belief that some words, widely deemed vulgar and offensive, like ****, ****, *****-*****-***!, are not as vulgar as those which are intended to hurt another personally, like Kike, Faggot, Nigger, Blanketass or Wetback.
Those obscenities, unlike the seven words which cannot be said on TV, are infinitely worse, because they are said to hurt someone. And are offensive coming out the same mouth with which you kiss your mother or spouse.

God is displeased more by those, than by the F-bomb, the S-word, SoBee, whatever.
While unconfirmed in any Choctaw Official Guide (LOL), I see that there is one overriding, driving force in a Choctaw's business dealings: Service. Service over Profit, and most certainly over personal gain.

We'd rather sit on the ground, than see any friend not sit in the honored lawn chair. Inside, too.
In these ways, perhaps, we both acknowledge our lineage to our Father God, His Children, His creation, while also ensuring that our friends know that they are indeed friends, in the truest sense of that word.


Abouna said...

The "Choctaw Way" is so similar to how the Vietnamese, Cambodian and Laotian people interact with each other and with outsiders who show them respect.

In the English language, to call someone "old man" is considered an insult, but when my sons called me "ong" in Vietnamese, I felt honored because in English, "ong", roughly translated means "old man", but in Vietnamese it has two meanings, "revered one" (an elder) and "uncle", which is also a title of respect that younger people and children will use when addressing an older man.

The old ways are so much better then what we have today.

Jungle Mom said...

You know I loved this post!!!! I often am amazed at how tribal peoples are very similar wherever they may be. I suppose it goes back to the close knit family.

My dear dad is much like you!He taught us to respect our elders and care for the younger. I was taught to always give my seat to anyone entering the room. We often slept on the floor so guests could have our beds.

The corn bread and buttermilk made me decide to make a 'pone ' today! Yummo!

Anyway, I just loved this post!!!

The Localmalcontent said...

Well, thank yeh both. And you're both right, though I didn't exactly state that, expecting it to be as natural sentiment; but the respect we show our elders, to the stories they will tell of older times, to the pow-wows, to the time it takes to greet every one of the older folk at church each Sunday/Wednesday.

Anonymous said...

I too loved this post! I agree with abouna that the "old ways" are so much better. I too was taught to respect my elders, and still love listening to the old stories. There is great wisdom in them. When a person has lived a lifetime, made their mistakes and learned from them, why do so many of the younger generation deem them to be boring or unimportant? When I was a young teenager, I would visit with my 90 year old neighbor. The stories she told me were wonderful! And I learned a lot about my small town and its history from her. She was a special gift.

Thank you so much for sharing! Learning the ways of other cultures has always held great interest for me. Differences fade with the sharing of cultures.

Brother John
Lansdowne, Pennsylvania USA