Mortuary Practices and Afterlife of the Choctaw Essays

Mortuary Practices and Afterlife of the Choctaw Essays

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The Choctaws thrived in the fertile sandy, red-clay soil, rolling hills, and dense forests, located in the Central Hills of the east-central region of Mississippi. The estimated population after early European contact was between 15,000 and 20,000 and was the second largest group of Native Americans in the Southeast (Blitz 1988:127).
The Choctaws in the Southeast were a matrilineal society. Traditionally, women preformed tasks related to domestic life. Among these responsibilities were creating pottery and utensils, food preparation, and planting and harvesting crops. The majority of their diet consisted of agricultural products such as corn, pumpkins, squash, and beans. Women would also accompany men on hunting excursions in order to provide food preparation. After the hunt, women were responsible for transporting the slain animal back to the village for processing of skins, bone, and meat (Carson 1995:495-6). The greatest responsibilities of the Choctaw men were hunting and warfare. During the fall and winter months, their primary food source was deer. Their accomplishments on hunting adventures directly reflected upon their social status and importance within the tribe (Carson 1995:197).
Although the Choctaw shared much of their culture with many of the other tribes in the Southeast, “in the disposition of their dead, the ancient Choctaws practiced a strange method different from any other Nation of people, perhaps, that ever existed” (Swanton1931:176).
When a Choctaw tribal member became terminally ill, it was common practice for the medicine man to inform the family of impending death (Swanton 1931:170). The women cleansed the body, applied paint, daubed the face, and dressed him in his finest clothes. He was the...


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...ld winds always blew. Every spirit encountered was an enemy with no safe place to take refuge. Food was scarce, due to unfertile soil, lack of game, and hunger was constant. The bad hunting grounds are perpetually lonely, with only the joyous sounds from the other side of the mountains. The doomed spirits constantly struggled to climb the treacherous mountains, but to no avail. They were eternally destined to an afterlife of desolation (Campbell 1959:149-52).
The Choctaws possessed unique ceremonies in regards to their deceased as well as a vivid explanation into their afterlife. Through many accounts, the knowledge and customs of the Southeast tribe of the Choctaw will not be forgotten. Although these customs may not be practiced, the extensive documentation gives an extraordinary glimpse into the lives of the natives of the southeast United States.

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