Long ago, perhaps in the days when Chickasaws still resided in the land
of the setting sun.....
Legend of the Flood
Long ago, perhaps in the days when Chickasaws still resided in the land
of the setting sun, their Great Spirit, Ababinili sent rain. Soon water
covered all the earth. Some Chickasaws made rafts to save themselves.
Then, creatures like large white beavers cut the thongs that bound the
All drowned except one family and a pair of each of all the
animals. When the rain stopped and the flood began receding, a raven
appeared with part of an ear of corn. The Great Spirit told the
Chickasaws to plant it. The Great Spirit also told them that eventually
the earth would be destroyed by fire, its ruin presaged by a rain of
flood and oil.
The Chickasaws are not the only North American Indian Tribe who has a
legend of the Flood. Almost every other ancient people, from the Chinese
to the Mayans and Incas, had their own version of destruction of the
world by water.
As trackers and hunters the Chickasaws had no superiors.
They were celebrated for their personal bravery and
indomitable spirit and had almost endless endurance. There
were no Chickasaw orphans. If the mother or father died,
or the father was slain in battle, the child was immediately
placed with a near relative able to care for him and was
thereby adopted into the new family and no differences
were shown in the children.
The Chickasaw lived in several villages of small, one-room log cabins. Each village was
headed by a chief. The people supported themselves by farming, fishing, hunting, and
trading with neighboring tribes.
The Chickasaw were fierce warriors. They helped Britain fight France and Spain for
control of what is now the Southeastern United States. They also supported the
British in the Revolutionary War (1775-1783). In the Civil War (1861-1865), the tribe
fought for the Confederacy.
The Big White Dog and the Sacred Pole
This Chickasaw legend of the beginning goes
In a time long since past, there lived
somewhere in the west a tribe of Indians
constantly warred upon by a powerful enemy.
because of the neverending attacks, the
people of this tribe enjoyed little of the peace
and comfort for which they so deeply yearned.
In time, the families who lived nearest the
enemy and who, over the years, had borne the
brunt of the enemy assaults, became so weary
and heavy-hearted that they appealed to their
wise prophets to find a solution to the problem.
The men of wisdom held a special
consultation. They sat around the council fire
and deliberated for many hours, and, most
important, they sought guidance from
Ubabeneli, the Creator of all things, who sat
above the clouds and directed the destiny of all.
At last, the prophets concluded their
deliberations. They summoned their fellow
tribesmen and told them of the decision they
The people, said the wise men, would seek a
new home where they could find peace and
happiness. Their guide to the new land would
be a kohta falaya (long pole). This kohta
falaya, though, was no ordinary pole. It was
something extra special, for it had been made
sacred by Ubabeneli.
At the end of each day's journey, the prophets
explained, the sacred pole would be stuck into
the ground so that it stood perfectly straight.
Each morning the pole would be carefully
examined, and in whatever direction it was
leaning, that would be the direction of travel.
That procedure was to be repeated untill the
kohta falaya leaned no more. And when that
happened, the people would know it was a
divine sign from Ubabeneli that their journey
was over and their new home had been
Then the prophets told them the people would
be split into two groups to make traveling safer
and easier and that the brave young chief
called Chickasaw would lead one party and his
equally brave brother Choctaw, also a chief,
would lead the other.
The people listened intently. They liked what
they heard. The words of optimism which fell
from the tongues of the wise men lifted their
spirits immeasurably; and when the talks
ended, the elated people started dancing and
singing, and they continued to rejoice untill the
early hours of morning.
During the next fwe days, the families busied
themselves packing their meager belongings
and making other necessary preparations for
the journey. At last, the eve of departure
That evening the prophets stuck the kohta
falaya into the ground and then retired for the
night; the next morning, at the break of day,
the long pole was closely inspected and found
to be leaning towards the east.
So with Chief Chickasaw at the head of one of
the parties and Chief Choctaw heading the
other, the two-headed colony bade farewell to
the remainder of the tribe and set out in the
direction of the rising sun.
It was a sight to behold, this great Indian
caravan: old men and old women, boys and
girls, young braves and maidens, husbands
and their wives some with newborn babies,
others with babies yet unborn all moving
along on foot with their few worldly
possessions and each knowing with certainty
that somewhere a new homeland awaited
them and by-and-by the sacred long pole
would lead them to it.
Far in front of this procession of red people
ranged a large white dog. He darted to the
right, then to the left; he was everywhere,
always on the alert. The people loved the big
creature very dearly. He was their faithful
guard and scout, and it was his duty to sound
the alarm should enemies be encountered.
Travel was slow and laborious. Every evening
found migrating Indians only a short distance
from where they had commenced that day's
journey; even so, each day's walk took the
people farther and farther from their old
homeland until in time they found themselves
passing through the homelands of other red
people, red people who eyed them with
suspicion and considered them intruders.
Some times the weary travelers were allowed
to pass unmolested through these foreign
domains, but more often than not they were set
upon by the jealous guardians of their
ancestral lands and forced to fight their way
Sickness was a constant companion of
marchers, and the tribal doctors stayed busy
digging into their medicine bags. But when
sinti, the snake; struck any of them, the big
white dog was quickly summoned and had
only to lick the wound to make the victim well
Yet, even with the extraordinary healing
powers of the medicine men and the beloved
white dog, the ugly hand of death reached
down into the double- headed colony of red
people and took away loved ones at will.
Days turned into weeks, weeks into months,
and months into years. And then one day, just
as the sun was setting, the two parties of
Indians came upon a scene beyond their
imagination. It was a great river, the likes of
which they had never seen before, and the
unexpected sight overwhelmed them.
For a long time the astonished people stood on
the riverbank and stared in awe at the mighty
watercourse. They called the giant river misha
sipokoni (beyond all age); today, that great
river is known far and wide as the Mississippi.
That night the families sat around their
campfires and talked joyfully to one another.
Many of the people believed the promised land
had been reached and felt certain the sacred
long pole would confirm their belief at
But at sunup the next day, the homeless
people saw that the kohta falaya still leaned
towards the east, and they knew that "home"
was somewhere on the other side of the wide,
wide river before them.
The tribesmen hurriedly set about constructing
rafts, and soon the crossing was underway.
Almost immediately a serious mishap occurred
which left the Indians very sad. The raft carring
their beloved white dog came to pieces in the
middle of the river, and though the people
were quickly rescued, the big dog, which
managed to climb onto a piece of broken
timber, could not be reached. The people
could only watch helplessly as he was swept
downstream and out of sight. That was the last
the Indians ever saw of their faithful guard and
Many days were required to ferry all the
people and their belongings to the opposite
side, but, in time, the difficult crossing was
The families rested by the river several days,
then packed up and continued their eastward
march. Some weeks later they camped at a
certain place, which later became known as
Nanih Waya, in what is now Wiston County,
Mississippi. At daylight the following morning,
the first people found the kohta falaya
wobbling around crazily, leaning first in one
direction and then another.
The migrants became somewhat excited and
uneasy, too for they had never seen the
sacred long pole behave in such a strange
manner. At last the kohta falaya grew very still
and stood perfectly straight.
At this point, the two brothers Chief Chickasaw
and Chief Choctaw, as well as some of the
prophets, was quite satisfied that the perfectly
erect pole was the divine sign from Ubabeneli
that their new home had been reached; Chief
Chickasaw on the other hand, was not at all
pleased with the way the sacred pole had
wobbled around, and he felt certain the
promised land lay farther toward the rising
Discussions on the matter were held by the two
chiefs and the prophets, but at the end of
several hours, opinions remained unchanged.
Seeing that talking was getting them no place,
Chief Chickasaw pulled the sacred long pole
from the ground and commanded all those
who believed the promise land lay farther to
the east to pick up their packs and follow him.
That was the beginning of the Chickasaw and
Choctaw Indian Nations. From that day on
Chief Chickasaw's followers, who were
relatively few compared to the great number
who remained in camp, were referred to as
Chickasaws, and those who stayed with Chief
Choctaw were called Choctaws.
After leading the Chickasawa farther eastwards
to various parts of what are now states of
Alabama and Georgia, the kohta falaya
reversed its direction and guided the people
westward to a place in the vicinity of the
present-day towns of Pontotoc and Tupelo,
Mississippi; and there, less than a hundred
miles north of where the Choctaws had settled,
the sacred long pole stood straight as an
arrow. The chickasaw people then knew with
certainty that at last they had found their new
homeland and that their long journey was at
By Reverend Jess J. Humes as told to Robert
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