Did you know November is Native American Heritage Month? The W. S. Hoole Special Collections Library houses some really interesting collections pertaining to the Choctaw Indians living in Mississippi and Louisiana at the turn of the twentieth century.
The Choctaw bands whose distinct languages and cultures are chronicled in these books are among those which chose to remain in the south after the 1930 Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, rather than go west to Oklahoma.
Here’s a page from Vocabulaire Choctaw (lac Pontchartrain) Louisiane, a hand written French/Choctaw dictionary from 1885.
The book’s author, Adrien Roquette, was a New Orleans native, poet, and Catholic priest who ministered to the native peoples living around Lake Pontchartrain.
(Apparently, he never did discover the Choctaw word for urine. I guess that would’ve been a pretty awkward thing to ask about!)
A bit later, in 1902, R. D. Spratt compiled his Notes on Choctaw Indians, a book about their history, legends, and language.
These pages, for instance, explain his understanding of their music and dancing:
On this page, we gain some insight into the Choctaw names for things.
On the next page, Spratt reports that they named a certain small lizard hvshtvp yuloli, which literally meant “it goes under dead leaves.”
Want to learn more? Check out the National Museum of the American Indian, which has its own digital collections on native peoples from the Arctic all the way down to the tip of South America!