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Courtship And Marriage Customs

We thought you might be interested in knowing a little of the older customs of CHATA people concerning courtship and marriage.Things are a lot different today, and it would be nice if we could bring some of these older ways back again.But you decide for yourself...The following is from "The Social and Ceremonial Life of the Choctaw Indians" by John R. Swanton, page 130 under Claiborne's description...

"Bah na-tubbe, an intelligent fellow, in the course of his examination, stated that it was usual for the woman, especially widows, to give 'the first banter', viz: the first advances. This is usually done at night, in the dance, by squeezing the hand or treading gently on the foot of the favored warrior. Perhaps this may be rather a necessity than a freedom; because if a man should take these liberties with a squaw [that's the word the book used...sorry] she would immediately resent it by attacking him with a stick, and every squaw present would assist her. Witness had seen twenty squaws thus beating a too ardent lover. These 'banters' are often given by old women, invariably to very young men. Old women usually select a lazy fellow, who takes her for her house and ponies. Witness had, when only eighteen, been taken by a woman of fifty, but he soon left her for a very young girl. When the 'banter' is mutually agreeable the parties quietly slip out of the crowd, and when they reappear are considered man and wife.

Courtship and marriage, however, are sometimes more formal. A young warrior who is in love applies to the maternal uncle - never to father or mother - and they agree on the price, which is paid to the uncle. On a certain day, the groom and his relatives appear at an appointed place, dressed in their best, where they loiter till noon. The bride then leaves the lodge of her parents, and the friends of both sides gather about her. She watches an opportunity and flies to the adjacent woods, her attendants hovering around to cover her retreat. She is pursued by the female relatives of the groom. If she is anxious for the match, it is not difficult to overtake her. But if she dislikes it, she runs until she falls exhausted, and sometimes escapes, and wanders away to a remote village, where she is adopted and cannot be reclaimed. If the fugitive is overtaken, she is brought back among the groomsman's friends, but he has disappeared. She sits down, and the friends on both sides throw some little presents in her lap. Each female relative ties some ribbons or some beads in her hair, and then the provisions brought by friends are divided among the company to be taken to their respective homes. The bride is then conducted to a little lodge adjoining her parents, and late at night her lover finds his way to her arms. In the morning they have disappeared, and the fawn of the woods must be sought in the camp of her husband.

The marriage endures only during the affection or inclination of the parties, and either may dissolve it at pleasure.This, of course, very often occurs, in which case the children follow the mother; the father has no control over them whatever."


Here Claiborne goes on to talk about polygamy...

"This was tolerated by the Choctaws, but not universal. When a man had two wives and died, each wife claimed to be the head of a separate family. They always occupied separate cabins, and generally ten or more miles apart. No instance came before us where a man had two wives in the same house, or even in the same yard or enclosure, unless they were sisters, and then they sometimes lived in the same yard, but in different houses."

"An amusing instance came before the commissioners, I-og-la (Imokla or Yukla?) presented her claim. The witness, Hi-a-ka (Haiaka) deposed that at the time of the treaty claimant was one of the wives of Tusk-a Ma-ha (Tashka imataha), who had immigrated west. He had many wives. He made the circuit among them regularly, and thus passed his time. He neither hunted nor worked. He had ten wives, scattered round the country, fifteen or twenty miles apart, and he had his regular stands, going from one to the other, being well fed, and a favorite with all of them. He was a fellow of medium height, about five feet seven, well built, very muscular and active, lazy and fond of eating and drinking. He provided his own clothing, nothing more. he made his home at the house of Ho-pia-ske-tena (Hopaii iskitini), (Little Leader), at the old town of Yocka-no-chick-ama (perhaps Yakne achukma, see p.75). Two years before the treaty he married claimant, but only visited her about two days in every month; her house was one of the stands on his circuit; he never worked for her or contributed to her support; it was his custom to spend some time with every woman when he first took her, but the novelty soon wore off, and he went his usual round. Claimant had a house before she married this man; he finished it for her; he had several wives before he met her, and took several afterwards. He threw none of them away. Witness never heard any complaint on the part of his wives of neglect on his part. But when he immigrated, he left them all."


The next description of a wedding ceremony is from Halbert:

"When a young Choctaw, of Kemper or Neshoba County, sees a maiden who pleases his fancy, he watches his opportunity intil he finds her alone. He then approaches within a few yards of her and gently casts a pebble towards her, so that it may fall at her feet. He may have to do this two or three times before he attracts the maiden's attention. If this pebble throwing is agreable, she soon makes it manifest; if otherwise, a scornful look and a decided "ekwah" indicate that his suit is in vain. Sometimes instead of throwing pebbles, the suitor enters the woman's cabin and lays his hat or handkerchief on her bed. This action is interpreted as a desire on his part that she should be the sharer of his couch. If the man's suit is acceptable the woman permits the hat to remain; but if she is unwilling to become his bride, it is removed instantly. The rejected suitor, in either method employed, knows that it is useless to press his suit and beats as graceful a retreat as possible.

When a marriage is agreed upon, the lovers appoint a time and place for the ceremony. On the marriage day, the friends and relatives of the prospective couple meet at their respective houses or villages, and thence march toward each other. When they arrive near the marriage ground - generally an intermediate space between the two villages - they halt within about a hundred yards of each other. The brothers of the woman then go across to the opposite party and bring forward the man and seat him upon a blanket spread upon the marriage ground. The man's sisters then do likewise by going over and bringing forward the woman and seating her by the side of the man. Sometimes, to furnish a little merriment for the occasion, the woman is expected to break loose and run. Of course she is pursued, captured and brough back. All parties now assemble around the expectant couple. A bag of bread is brought forward by the woman's relatives and deposited near her. IN like manner the man's relatives bring forward a bag of meat and deposit it near him. These bags of provisions are lingering symbols of the primitive days when the man was the hunter to provide the household with game, and the woman was to raise corn for the bread and hominy. The man's friends and relatives now begin to throw presents upon the head and shoulders of the woman. These presents are of any kind that the donors choose to give, as articles of clothing, trinkets, ribbons, etc. as soon as thrown, they are quicly snatched off by the woman's realtives and distributed among themselves. During all this time the couple sit very quietly and demurely, not a word spoken by either. When all the presents have been thrown and distributed, the couple, now man and wife, arise, the provisions from the bags are spread, and, just as in civilized life, the ceremony is rounded off with a festival. The festival over, the company disperse, and the gallant groom conducts his bride to his home, where they enter upon the toils and responsibilites of the future."

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