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Chickasaw and Choctaw Tales: An Annotated Bibliography by Heather Lassley
When choosing a culture to focus on for this project, only two really stuck out for me. I am of Choctaw and Chickasaw heritage, and although I claim the heritage, I do not necessarily know the stories and the complete history. Little did I know that the Choctaw and Chickasaw cultures were so interwoven. As I read these tales, I realized what I will be giving my son as I repeat them. The books that I have found to share, not only have wonderful tales, but they each also give a history to the tribes and an insight into my heritage.

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Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship and Freedom

Tingle, Tim. Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship & Freedom. Illus. by Jeanne Rorex Bridge. El Paso: Cinco Putos Press, 2006. 40p. $17.95 (978-0-938317-77-7)
This book is not a folktale; it is historical fiction.

In Mississippi, there is a river called Bok Chitto. On one side lives a Choctaw tribe, and on the other side are plantations that are worked by slaves. If a slave crosses the river, they are free. In Crossing Bok Chitto, we follow a young Choctaw girl, Martha Tom, out to pick blackberries for her mom. When she can not find any, she defies what her mother has taught her not to do and crosses the Bok Chitto in search of blackberries. While over on the other side of the river, she befriends a family of slaves who are having their Sunday morning services in a clearing. Being lost, Martha Tom is helped back home by Little Mo. This starts a long lasting friendship that ends up saving Little Mo's family.

Tim Tingle has woven together accounts of the Choctaws helping slaves to freedom in Mississippi beautifully. The author first heard this tale as a song. On a trip to Mississippi, tribal elder, Archie Mingo, pointed out a house that was close to the river, Bok Chitto, and talked about the relationship between the slaves and the tribe. This is where the story of Martha Tom and Little Mo came to life. At the end of the book, the author has two notes; one on the Choctaw nations today (Oklahoma and Mississippi) and a note on Choctaw storytelling. The authenticity of the story is there in the note on storytelling where he describes who told him the story and the experiences he had while in Mississippi.

Crossing Bok Chitto was awarded the Texas Bluebonnet Master Award List of 2008-2009. According to Multicultural Review, "[It] is an awesome story of survival, generosity, courage, kindness, and love...". By bringing together the story with Jeanne Rorex Bridge’s illustrations, Crossing Bok Chitto is a proud story of the relationships between the Choctaw Indians and the slaves of Mississippi. Although the characters are fictional, Tim Tingle has beautifully woven tribal traditions and tales with the fictional characters.


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The Wonderful Sky Boat

Curry, Jane Louise. The Wonderful Sky Boat and Other Native American Tales of the Southeast. Illus. by James Watts. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2001. 142p. $17.00 (978-0-689835-95-7)

The Wonderful Sky Boat and Other Native American Tales of the Southeast is a collection of folktales, myths and legends from many different tribes that were in that area. The Caddo, Cherokee, Creek, Seminole, and Choctaw were just a few of the tribes whose tales where told in this collection. There were no Chickasaw tales in this specific book, although on the map in the introduction the tribe is listed among the tribes represented.

The two tales that came from the Choctaw Nation are "The Coming of the Corn" and "How the Biters and Stingers Got Their Poison." "The Coming of the Corn" begins with a crown carrying a single grain of corn in his beak. As the crow came into a village he looked over the people, but he did share his corn with anyone until he saw a young boy. He dropped the corn into the boy’s hand, and then the boy planted it between two houses. As the seed grew no one else would take care of it. Only the boy watched over the corn stalk as it grew. Two ears of corn grew upon the stalk. The boy let both ears dry out, and then he turned one into maize flour, and saved the other for planting the next season.

In "How the Biters and Stingers Got Their Poison" a poisonous vine grew in the shallow area of the bayou. Every time people touched the vine, poison would enter them and make them very sick, sometimes killing them. The vine had a kind heart and was tired of pain he was causing others. So he decided to share his poison. He asked all the sour-hearted and bad-tempered beings to join him for a meeting. After discussing it with them, he gave his poison to the snakes."

I was a little disappointed at the lack of detail in the stories that were in The Wonderful Sky Boat. At the end of the collection, the author has a section that describes each tribe that had stories represented in the book. In the next section, she describes where she got the stories from. At the very end of the book she validates the authenticity of the stories by giving the bibliographic information of many of the stories that she retold.

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Walking the Choctaw Road

Tingle, Time. Walking the Choctaw Road. El Paso: Cinco Puntos Press, 2003. 142p. $16.95 (978-0-938317-74-6)

With Walking the Choctaw Road, I was not able to find a review in which I could read the full text. Because Tim Tingle has proven himself to be "the" writer for Choctaw tales, it is evident that he has done is again. At the very beginning of the book he describes why he wrote the book and where he got the stories. He described being disheartened by the lack of Choctaw stories put down on paper. I have to say I agree with him. Through the introduction, he talks about many of the important tribe members in the Oklahoma and Mississippi tribes that he spoke with. He had to earn their trust over a period of time because he is a half-blood.

The story that really got to me was "Trail of Tears". It was about a boy, his older brother, mother, and father. In 1830, a treaty was signed sending all Choctaws to Indian Territory. Originally the tribe was supposed to move in the spring of 1831, but people started burning their homes. So the Choctaw tribe started walking, okla nowa, people walking. During this trip, the mother dies and the spirit visits the youngest son. As the trip continues, the boy gets sick, but makes it to the new land. One day he wakes to find he too is just a spirit and his father sees him and tells him to look forward not back. (This story is one that has been handed down through Tim Tingle's family starting with the older brother of the narrator.

In Walking the Choctaw Road, the author wanted to answer the question, "What is a Choctaw?". When choosing stories to put in here, this is the question that he asked himself. Arranged in chronological order to help to readers visual the setting, the book starts with "Crossing Bok Chitto" which Tim Tingle turned into its own picture book in 2006. Included at the beginning of each story is a paragraph describing the time period in which the story takes place. There are also photographs from the time period the story takes place or a location that is important to the story. Each story is very descriptive and there is an obvious history behind each one.


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Baby Rattlesnake

Ata, Te. Baby Rattlesnake. Adapted by Lynn Moroney. Illus. by Veg Reisberg. San Francisco: Children's Book Press, 1989. 32p. $16.95 (978-0-892390-49-6)

Baby Rattlesnake is a Chickasaw tale about a sad baby rattlesnake who cried all day because he did not have a rattle. He was told he was too young to have a rattle yet, but he still cried day and night because he wanted one. Because he was disturbing all of the Rattlesnake People, the called a council meeting and decided to give him a rattle early. Once Baby Rattlesnake got the rattle he started using it to scare people. After a few scares, he got bored and decided to go and scare the chief's daughter. Everyone warned him not to, but he did not listen and when he scared her she stepped on his rattle and it broke.

Baby Rattlesnake is a beloved Chickasaw tale that was told by Te Ata, a famous Chickasaw storyteller. The author, Lynn Moroney, was not given permission by Te Ata to retell the story of Baby Rattlesnake until Te Ata happen to see her tell her own stories at a conference. Once the illustrator, Veg Reisberg, heard the story, she could not wait to create the pictures. By using cut paper and gouache paints, she was able to create vibrant pictures that will not only grab a child's attention but also enhance the story.

I was only able to find one full review on Baby Rattlesnake. Based on the information given by the author and from the information I was able to gather from the Chickasaw Nation website, Te Ata was considered "the storyteller" for the Chickasaw tribe and traveled around the nation to share the tales of her tribe. Reading this story aloud to my son, I realized how much the pictures stuck out. This would be a great book to read in an elementary classroom.


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When Turtle Grew Feathers

Tingle, Tim. When Turtle Grew Feathers. Illus. by Stacey Schuett. Atlanta: August House Littlefolk, 2007. 32p. $16.95 (978-087483-777-3)

In this Choctaw variation of "The Turtle and the Hare", we are introduced to a turtle, a rabbit, AND a turkey. The turkey and the turtle have become friends, and turtle has allowed the turkey to "try on" his shell to see what it is like. When Turkey has the shell on, Rabbit is coming by so he hides with Turtle. Rabbit challenges Turtle to a race not realizing that it is Turkey. As the race starts, Turkey comes out of the shell is flies around the lake, beating Rabbit before he has even had a chance to start. At the end of the story it is stated that the lesson to the story is, "You don't have to be the biggest, or the fastest, or the best. But it is sure nice to be friends with those that are!" (Tingle 32).

Tim Tingle is a renowned Choctaw story teller who is known for his tales. The illustrator, Stacee Schuett, used acrylic paints to make the stories really come to life on the page. At the end of the book, a source page tells the reader that the information was gathered through two oral interviews, and a book called Myths of the Louisiana Choctaws by David Bushnell. This authentic source was printed by the Bureau of America Ethnology in 1901.

Yet again, I was only able to find one review for this Native American Tale. Not much was said on the cultural authenticity, but with the reputation that Tim Tingle has made for himself and the sources that are at the back of the book, there is little doubt about the background of the story. This book would be great to pair with a more traditional version of "The Tortise and the Hare" and have the student compare and contrast the two.

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Spirits Dark and Light: Supernatural Tales from the Five Civilized Tribes

Tingle, Tim. Spirits Dark and Light: Supernatural Tales from the Five Civilized Tribes. Little Rock: August House Publishers, Inc., 2006. 192p. $15.95 (97-87483-778-0)

In Spirits Dark and Light, the Five Civilized Tribes, Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole, are represented by tales of the great beyond. In the book, there are five stories for each tribe. Each tribe believes that spirits come back in different forms; from owls to rabbits to deer to eagles. Since I struggled to find tales from the Chickasaw Nation, I am going to focus on them for this review.

In "The Jealous Witch", everything is going well in Bertha's life. She is well known for her cooking, especially her fried chicken. A run of bad luck has her suspicious, and she realizes there is a jealous witch who has focused her attention on killing her chickens. She is able to get rid of the witch and she flies off in the form of an owl. After dealing with the witch, she realizes that now she is the enemy of the chickens because she is killing them for dinner.

After reading four books by Tim Tingle, I have really begun hearing his voice. School Library Journal said, "The authenticity of the storyteller's voice makes this collection distinctive and a wonderful choice for reading aloud or savoring by a campfire." I completely agree with this. His voice is unique and his passion is evident. He is a man who enjoys researching his cultural and sharing it with others.


Book Review Sources:

TWU Databases: Wilson Web - Book Review Digest Plus


Works Consulted

Bush, Margaret A. The Wonderful Sky Boat (Book Review). The Horn Book 77:5 (Sept/Oct 2001): 601. Article Citation. Web. 1 July 2010.
Markson, Teri. "Spirits Dark and Light (Book Review)". School Library Journal 53:1 (Jan 2007): 140. Article Citation. Web. 1 July 2010.
Myers, Harold. "When Turtle Grew Feathers (Book Review)". School Library Journal 53:5 (May 2007): 125. Article Citation. Web. 1 July 2010.
Polese, Carolyn. "Baby Rattlesnake (Book Review)". School Library Journal 36 (April 1990): 86. Article Citation. Web. 1 July 2010.
Slapin, Beverly. "Crossing Bok Chitto (Book Review)". MultiCultural Review 15:3 (Fall 2006): 94-5. Article Citation. Web. 21 June 2010.
Willey, Justine B. "Crossing Bok Chitto (Book Review)". Mississippi Libraries 72:2 (Summer 2008): 45. Article Citation. Web. 1 July 2010.