Native American Legends
Choctaw Corn Legend
A Choctaw Legend
The origin of corn is connected with a myth called by Cushman the
story of Ohoyo Osh Chisba "The Unknown Woman." With Cushman's
usual emotional setting this runs as follows:
In the days of many moons ago, two Choctaw hunters were encamped
for the night in the swamps of the bend of the Alabama river....
The two hunters, having been unsuccessful in the chase of that and
the preceding day, found themselves on that night with nothing with
which to satisfy the cravings of hunger except a black hawk which
they had shot with an arrow.
Sad reflections filled their hearts as they thought of their sad
disappointments and of their suffering families at home. While the
gloomy future spread over them its dark pall of despondency, all
serving to render them unhappy indeed.
They cooked the hawk and sat down to partake of their poor and
scanty supper, when their attention was drawn from their gloomy
foreboding's by the low but distinct tones, strange yet soft and
plaintive as the melancholy notes of the dove, but produced by what
they were unable to even conjecture.
At different intervals it broke the deep silence of the early night
with its seemingly muffled notes of woe; and as the nearly full
moon slowly ascended the eastern sky the strange sounds became more
frequent and distinct.
With eyes dilated and fluttering heart they looked up and down
the river to learn whence the sounds proceeded, but no object except
the sandy shores glittering in the moonlight greeted their eyes,
while the dark waters of the river seemed alone to give response
in murmuring tones to the strange notes that continued to float
upon the night air from a direction they could not definitely locate;
but happening to look behind them in the direction opposite the
moon they saw a woman of wonderful beauty standing upon a mound
a few rods distant.
Like an illuminated shadow, she had suddenly appeared out of the
moon- lighted forest. She was loosely clad in snow-white raiment,
and bore in the folds of her drapery a wreath of fragrant flowers.
She beckoned them to approach, while she seemed surrounded by a
halo of light that gave to her a supernatural appearance.
Their imagination now influenced them to believe her to be the
Great Spirit of their nation, and that the flowers she bore were
representatives of loved ones who had passed from earth to bloom
in the Spirit Land ...
The mystery was solved. At once they approached (the spot) where
she stood, and offered their assistance in any way they could be
of service to her. She replied she was very hungry, whereupon one
of them ran and brought the roasted hawk and handed it to her.
She accepted it with grateful thanks; but, after eating a small
portion of it, she handed the remainder back to them replying that
she would remember their kindness when she returned to her home
in the happy hunting grounds of her father, who was Shilup Chitoh
Osh - The Great Spirit of the Choctaws. She then told them that
when the next mid-summer moon should come they must meet her at
the mound upon which she was then standing.
She then bade them an affectionate adieu, and was at once borne
away upon a gentle breeze and, mysteriously as she came, so she
disappeared. The two hunters returned to their camp for the night
and early next morning sought their homes, but kept the strange
incident to themselves, a profound secret.
When the designated time rolled around the mid-summer full moon
found the two hunters at the foot of the mound but Ohoyo Chishba
Osh was nowhere to be seen. Then remembering she told them they
must come to the very spot where she was then standing, they at
once ascended the mound and found it covered with a strange plant,
which yielded an excellent food, which was ever afterwards cultivated
by the Choctaws, and named by them Tunchi (corn).
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