The Choctaw people are a Native American tribe indigenous to the southeastern region of the United States, primarily in Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana. The Choctaw are part of the larger Muskogean language family, which also includes other tribes such as the Chickasaw and Creek. This article will delve into the beliefs, mythology, and rituals of the Choctaw people, with an emphasis on deities, their personalities and stories, as well as unique aspects of their cultural beliefs.


The Choctaw people have a pantheon of gods and spirits that play an integral role in their religious beliefs and practices. The deities are closely connected to nature, reflecting the importance of the natural world in Choctaw life. The following are some of the primary deities in Choctaw mythology:

  • Hashtahli (or Ababinili): The Creator or Supreme Being in Choctaw mythology, Hashtahli is responsible for the creation of the earth, the sky, and all living creatures. He is often depicted as a sun god, a symbol of life and vitality.

  • Nanapesa: Known as the Breath-Maker, Nanapesa is the spirit responsible for giving life to humans and animals. He is also associated with the concept of the soul and the spiritual essence of living beings.

  • Nalusa Falaya: The 'Long Black Being' or 'Shadow Being' is a malevolent spirit associated with darkness and negative energy. Nalusa Falaya is known to cause misfortune, sickness, and even death to those who encounter it.

  • Ishkitini: The Horned Serpent is a powerful underwater deity that is associated with storms, floods, and other natural disasters. It is a respected and feared being in Choctaw mythology, often seen as a force to be appeased or avoided.

  • Kashehotapalo: This deity is a trickster figure in Choctaw mythology, often depicted as a rabbit or a raccoon. Kashehotapalo is known for causing mischief, playing tricks, and teaching valuable lessons to humans through his clever and cunning ways.

Heroes and Mythological Creatures

In addition to deities, Choctaw mythology is filled with heroes and mythological creatures that embody important cultural values and lessons. Some of the most notable figures include:

  • Tashka Usdi: Known as 'Little Warrior,' Tashka Usdi is a legendary hero who fought against evil spirits and defended his people from harm. He is remembered as a symbol of bravery, strength, and resilience.

  • Nunih Waya: Nunih Waya is a sacred mound in Mississippi, believed to be the birthplace of the Choctaw people. It is considered a living being in Choctaw mythology, as it embodies the connection between the Choctaw and their ancestral lands.

  • Sint Holo: The Choctaw Thunderbird is a powerful and respected mythological creature that is said to protect the tribe from harm. It is associated with the element of air and is believed to bring storms and rain to replenish the earth.

The Biskinik

The Biskinik, also known as the "little gossip" or "news bird," holds a special place in Choctaw mythology and culture. This bird, often identified with the American blue jay, is renowned in Choctaw folklore for its role as a messenger and a bearer of news.

In Choctaw tradition, the Biskinik is considered a significant communicator between the spiritual and earthly realms. Here are some key aspects of its role and symbolism:

Messenger of the Great Spirit: The Biskinik is often seen as a messenger of the Great Spirit or the higher powers. It was believed to bring news and warnings to the people, helping them to stay informed about events that could affect their lives.

Symbol of Good Communication: The bird’s association with delivering news made it a symbol of good communication within the tribe. The Biskinik reminded the Choctaw of the importance of clear, effective communication and staying informed.

Bearer of Warnings: In some stories, the Biskinik was known to bring warnings or omens about upcoming events or dangers. Its appearance could be interpreted as a sign to be cautious or to prepare for a significant event.

Connection with the Morning Star: There are beliefs linking the Biskinik with the morning star. The bird's morning calls were said to be a greeting to the morning star, symbolizing the start of a new day and the bringing of light or enlightenment.

Cultural Icon: In modern times, the Biskinik has become a cultural icon for the Choctaw people. The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma's official newspaper is named "Biskinik," in homage to the bird's role as a news bringer.

Representation in Art and Symbolism: The image of the Biskinik appears in various forms of Choctaw art and symbolism. It represents not only the historical and cultural importance of the bird but also the values of alertness, communication, and community well-being.

Unique Beliefs

The Choctaw people have several unique beliefs that set them apart from other Native American tribes:

  • The concept of two souls: The Choctaw believe that every living being has two souls – one that is immortal and another that dies with the body. The immortal soul, known as shilombish, can travel between the worlds of the living and the dead, while the mortal soul, known as shilup, perishes with the body.

  • The Green Corn Ceremony: This annual ritual, also known as the Busk, is an essential aspect of Choctaw culture, celebrating the harvest of corn and the renewal of life. The ceremony involves feasting, dancing, and purifying rituals, as well as the renewal of tribal laws and the settling of disputes among community members. It is a time for thanksgiving, spiritual cleansing, and strengthening of social bonds.

  • The ball game: The Choctaw ball game, known as Kapucha Toli, is more than just a sport. It is a ritualistic event with spiritual significance, often played to resolve conflicts, predict the future, or seek divine intervention for issues such as famine or disease. The game involves two teams attempting to score points by striking a small, leather ball with long, curved sticks.

  • The Stickball Dance: In conjunction with the ball game, the Choctaw people perform the Stickball Dance or the "Toho," which serves as a pre-game ritual to invoke the support of the spirits and seek victory for their team. This dance is characterized by rhythmic movements and songs, with participants using ceremonial sticks adorned with feathers and beads.