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Native American Legends

Bishinik, The Little Chahta News Bird

A Choctaw Legend

According to Choctaw legend, when the "returning waters" (that is the Choctaw term for the Great Flood) came, two birds, Bishinik (a small, speckled yellow billed, scissortail species of Woodpecker), and Folichik (the scissortail fly catcher), were the only two birds to escape drowning by flying as high as they could and perching upside-down upon the sky. As it was, the waters came so high that the birds' tails hung down where the dashing waters caused their tail feathers to separate, thus making them split, or scissortail.

Because of their bravery, the two birds were blessed by God, and because Bishinik was grateful for this blessing, God decreed that Bishinik would always be a special friend to his people, the Choctaw. To the Choctaw, Bishinik was the friendliest of birds, was accorded special treatment, and became known as "the little Chahta news bird".

Bishinik would live around Choctaw homes and let them know whenever someone was approaching. The friendly little woodpecker was also believed to accompany hunting parties or war parties when they went into the field. Bishinik would warn the warriors of the approach of an enemy, or would indicate to them when game was near and in which direction they should travel to find this game. Should an enemy force approach an encampment of Choctaw Warriors during the hours of darkness, Bishinik would warn them by tapping out messages on trees about the camp. Bishinik is honored to this day, as the tribal newspaper bears his name!

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