An interview with
Age 68 years.
A Choctaw Indian Baptist Minister for the Choctaws.
Post office: Snow, Oklahoma
Investigator Field Worker's name: Pete W. Cole
Date of Interview: December 13, 1937
Transcribed & Submitted by Teresa Young
THE TRADITION OF THE CHOCTAWS CONCERNING THE
“OKA FALAMA” (RETURNED WATERS ---- THE FLOOD)
The traditions of the Choctaw concerning the Oka Falama (Returned waters --
the Flood) is as follows:
In ancient time after many generations of mankind had lived and passed from
the stage of being, the race became so corrupt and wicked, brother fighting
against brother and wars deluging the earth with human blood and carnage.
The Great Spirit became greatly displeased and finally determined to destroy
the human race; therefore sent a great prophet to them who proclaimed from
tribe to tribe, and from village to village, the fearful tidings that the
human race was soon to be destroyed. None believed his words and lived on in
their wickedness as if they did not care, and the seasons came again and
went. Then came the autumn of the year, followed by many succeeding cloudy
days and nights, during which the sun by day and the moon and stars by night
were concealed from the earth; then succeeded a total darkness, and the sun
seemed to have been blotted out; while darkness and silence with a cold
atmosphere took possession of earth. Mankind wearied and perplexed, but not
repenting or reforming, slept but to awake in darkness; then the mutterings
of distant thunder began to be heard, gradually becoming incessant until it
reverberated in all parts of the sky and seemed to echo back even from the
deep center of the earth. Then fear and consternation seized upon every
heart and all believed the sun would never return.
The Magi of the Choctaws spoke despondently in reply to the many
interrogations of the alarmed people, and sang their death songs which were
but faintly heard in the mingled confusion that arose amid the gloom of the
night that seemed would have no returning morn. The people went from place
to place with torch light; the food that they had stored away became moldy
and not fit for use; the wild animals of the forest gathered around the
fires as though tame and even entered towns and villages, seeming to have
lost all fear of man, when all at once a fearful crash of thunder, louder
than ever before, seemed to shake the earth, and light was seen glimmering
far away to the North.
Then the wailing cry was heard coming from all directions. Oka Falama, The
Returning Waters. Stretching from horizon, it came pouring its massive
waters forward. In a short time the earth was entirely overwhelmed by the
mighty rush of waters which swept away the human race and all animals,
leaving the earth a desolate waste. Of all mankind only one was saved, and
that one was the mysterious prophet who had been sent by the Great Spirit to
warn the human race of their near approaching doom. This prophet saved
himself by making a raft of sassafras logs by the direction of the Great
Spirit, upon which he floated upon the great waters that covered the earth,
as various kinds of fish swam around him, and twined among the branches of
the submerged trees, while upon the face of waters he looked upon the dead
bodies of men and beasts as they across and fell upon the heaving billows.
After many weeks floating he knew not where, a large black bird came to the
raft, flying in circles above his head. He called to it for assistance, but
it only replied in loud croaking tones then flew away and was seen no more.
A few days after a bird of bluish color, with red eyes and beak came and
hovered over the raft, to which the prophet asked if there was a dry spot of
land anywhere to be seen. The strange bird flew around for a few moments and
flew away in the direction of that part of the sky where the sun seemed to
be sinking into the rolling waves of waters. All at once a strong wind
sprang up and blew the raft in that direction. At night the moon and the
stars shone and the next morning the sun made its appearance and the
prophet, looking around, saw an island in the distance toward which the raft
was drifting. The next morning when he landed, he found it covered with all
kinds of animals, excepting the mammoth which had been destroyed. There were
birds, fowls of every kind in vast numbers on that island. He found a black
bird identical with the one which had visited him upon the waters and then
left him to his fate; and as he regarded it a cruel bird he named it
Fulashto (Raven), a bird of ill omen to the ancient.
He also discovered the bluish bird which had caused the wind to blow his
raft on the island and because of this act of kindness and its beauty, he
called it “Puchi Yushuba” (Lost Pigeon.) It is also noted that the cooing of
Pigeon or dove was adopted when during the flood the water was rising above
the top of highest trees and mountains, that there was no place where one
can reach to be safe, and how the wicked people in distress crying and
hollering for help swimming in the water begging and pleading for help that
the cooing of pigeons is an imitation of cries that were heard in their
perils during the flood. But after many days the waters passed away, and is
the course of time Puchi Yushuba became a beautiful woman whom the prophet
married and by them the world was peopled again.
There is another story of their traditional flood (Oka Falama) as told by
the old aged Indians as follows. Long ages ago, the people whom the Great
Spirit had created became so unruly and very wicked what the Great Spirit
decided to do away with them, except one Oklatabashi (Mourning People) and
his family who were the only ones of the people who lived right. The Spirit
told Oklatabashi to build a great boat and make preparation for the safety
of his family and take with him into the boat a male and a female of all
living on the earth, birds, and all living creatures. He went out into the
woods to bring all the birds, but was not able to catch a pair of biskinik
(sapsucker), fittukhak (yellow hammer) and bak bak (red headed wood pecker).
These birds were so quick in dodging and hopping around from one side of the
trees to the other that it was impossible for him to catch them. He gave up
the chase and returned back to the boat when the rain began and continued
for several days and nights when all living creatures that lived on the land
During the several moons the great boat drifted around in the water until
one day Oklatabashi sent out a dove but it came back which was a sign that
there was no dry land in sight. Sometime later another dove was sent out and
it returned with a twig in her beak. Oklatabashi rewarded her for her
discovery by mingling a little salt in her food. After there was a dry land
the inmates of the boat went out and repealed another earth.
The dove took the liking of salt during the stay in the boat so that finding
salt lick which then abounded in many places, to which the deer and cattle
frequently resorted, she would every day after eating make a trip to the
salt lick to eat the salt to aid her in digestion of her food. The offspring
became accustomed to the eating of salt that the grandmother took great
delight in feeding to her offspring. One day after some grass seed she
forgot to eat a little salt as usual. For this neglect she was punished by
the Great Spirit that is the hereafter she was forbidden the use of the
salt. When she returned home the children began to coo for salt but the
grandmother had been forbidden the use of salt that they had to coo in vain.
From that day to the present the offspring of dove everywhere are still
cooing for salt. This is the tradition of the Choctaws of the origin of
cooing of doves.
The fate of the three birds who eluded capture by Oklatabashi; they flew so
high in the air as the Oklafalama advanced, and as the water rose higher and
higher, they also flew higher and higher until finally the rising water
began to recede. While these three birds, sitting on the sky their tails
projecting downward, were continually drenched by the dashing waters and
this caused the end of their tail feathers to become forked and notched and
thus it is the fate of the shape of the tails of biskinik, fittukhak and bak
The skill that these birds possessed in escaping from Oklatabashi before the
flood delighted the Great Spirit that he appointed them to forever be the
guardian birds of the red men. Since their commission by the Great Spirit
these birds, especially the biskinik, have often made their appearance in
their villages on the eve of a ball play and when everyone of the three
twittered in happy tones, that was a sign of good luck. In war time one of
these birds always appeared in the camp of the party as a sign of
approaching danger, by its chirping and flitting from tree to tree around
This is not a fiction or fable but he actual tradition of the ancient
Choctaws as related by the missionaries in about the year 1818. The flood as
written is about the flood of the Bible.
(Note: This manuscript remains as written by Pete W. Cole, Investigator, who
carefully follows the Indian expression of knowledge and of ideas held by
the one interviewed.)
Transcribed & Submitted by Teresa Young
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