EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the 11th in a continuing series of special
Bishinik features designed to correlate and delineate ancient legends
concerning the origins, the prehistory and cultural practices of
the people who called themselves Okla
who would later be called by the white man, Choctaw.
Apparently, after the long sojourn in the caverns underneath
Nanih Waiya and Okla's successful war against the original Nahullo,
the light skinned giants from the north, the people enjoyed many
years of peace and prosperity Yet from that period comes numerous
tales which have been passed down through the generations of story
tellers that should be repeated in a series of this type.
One such story is the tale of the Shakchi.
Any person conversant with the Choctaw language today knows
that the word "Shakchi" means crayfish or crawdad. But, according
to legend, this was not always true. The original Sakchi was a people.
They were not tall and fair like Okla. Instead, they were short,
squattily built, with long arms and with hair upon their faces and
bodies. Okla did not know where Shakchi lived. But, Shakchi would
come from beneath the mud and sand in the river during the hours
of darkness and would kidnap and steal away young Okla maidens,
who would never again be seen. When observed and pursued, Shakchi
would race to the river, dig himself down into the sand and mud
and disappear, sometimes pulling along with him a screaming, protesting
Finally, a group of young Choctaw men decided that they must
stop Shakchi from the raids on the Oklan villages and save the maidens
being stolen away by this enemy. The group decided that it would
split its forces, with one group near the river watching for Shakchi,
and the other group poised to give pursuit if the crawfish men appeared.
When he appeared, the group near the water would prevent Shakchi
from getting back to the river and the other group would chase him
down and force him to reveal what was happening to the fair damsels
spirited away in the night raids.
After several nights of watching, a lone Shakchi appeared and
began to creep toward the villages. As he neared the village, the
pursuit group jumped from cover and started toward him. The Shakchi,
seeing the trap, tried to race back to the river only to find his
way cut off so that he could not get back into the sand and the
mud. Turning, Shakchi fled away across the land, with the whooping
Okla youths in hot pursuit. But after hours of running, Shakchi
had lost all of the Oklan pursuers with one exception. Still racing
after the crawfish man was a young man called Iyichali (literally
"fast foot"), who was said by his friends to have the speed of Issi,
the deer, and the stamina of Nita, the bear. After still many more
hours of running, Shakehi had circled about, and the pursuing Iyichali
observed the crawfish man entering a cave in the foot of a hill.
Iyichali raced back to his village, gathered his companions and
taking weapons and torches they made their way to the cave and entered
to seek out their enemies. Many paces inside the cave, the Okla
hunters came to a large room noting that homes had been carved out
in the walls around the room and that each home was occupied by
a Shakchi family.
One strong-looking Shakchi, who appeared to be the leader, came
forward and with him came one of the Okla maidens, who had disappeared
two years before, carrying in her arms a small baby. "Greetings
Oklans, you have found us out", the Shakchi said in a guttural,
but understandable language. "Please hear me before you decide our
fate. There are only a few of my people left, only those you see
here. Once we were a plentiful people, but there came a terrible
disease, which took the lives of many of us. Then came the Nahullo,
those terrible big, fair-skinned, horned demons from the north and
they killed many more of our people. Some of us fled before them
for many days and many miles, finally taking refuge in these caves.
However, all that was left of our people were as many as you can
count on the fingers of your hand and the toes of your feet. And,
all of us were warriors ... there was not a woman among us. We discovered
an opening in the riverbed not too far from your villages. We knew
it was wrong, but we needed wives. So, one of us would raid your
villages at night and carry away a maiden. When she was brought
back to our cave, she was wooed by all of the warriors who did not
have a wife, and she was allowed to pick which of us she desired
as a husband. As our sons and daughters grew, there were still more
males than females, so we continued the practice. Of all the people
we have seen, the women of Okla are the most beautiful on the whole
of the earth," the Shakchi concluded.
Incensed by the story, Iyichali raised his axe to smash the
enemy leader. But, immediately, the beautiful Okla woman bearing
her babe in her arms stepped forward and spoke. "This Shakchi is
my husband. I was not forced to marry him, but he won my love through
wooing me with his kindness and his courtesy. He has made a good
husband and has always provided food, clothing and shelter for me
and for his child. I love him dearly. Can he not be spared?", she
cried. The Okla warriors studied the Shakchi village and soon learned
that the maidens who had been stolen away were happily married to
the remnant warriors of the Shakchi clan.
"You will remove from this cave and return with us to the golden
land of Okla", Shakchi was told, "You will build homes in our villages,
dwell among our people and never again steal from Okla." And, indeed
they did. After a time, the Shakchi, though he was shorter and more
stockily built than the Okla, began to pluck the extra hairs from
his face and body and became ashamed that he had ever been Shakchi..
Thus, the Shakchi became a part of the people of Okla. Yet for centuries
thereafter, one of the worst insults that could be thrown teasingly
or in anger was for one Choctaw to call another "Shakchi."
History, Life and Culture
These articles were taken from various sources and are individually
referenced if known. Many are from articles in the Choctaw Nation
newspaper called the Bishinik or from its predecessor Hello Choctaw.
Much of their info was taken in part from older texts and books;
many that were long out of print. I gathered this information for
my children and grandchildren so that they may appreciate the Choctaw
part of their heritage. I hope that others may also benefit from
reading about their ancestors and begin to see the Choctaw Nations
part in the history of America.