Choctaw is a well-known Native American tribe. It is considered to be one of the five civilized tribes because it was quick to adopt many of American customs and technological advancements. Choctaws belong to the Muskogean linguistic group. Originally, Choctaws did not practice the Christianity religion. Instead they had their own religion with principles similar to the Mayans and Incas.
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The root of the Choctaw religion is based around the sun and worshiping it. Members of the ancient tribe considered the sun to be a god, most often called Hashtahli. The moon was thought to be his wife. The tribe referred to her as Hashi Ninak Anya, and believed the stars at night were the children of the sun and the moon. Fire is extremely important in the Choctaw religion because it is considered to be a secondary representation of the sun and its heat. Four is a significant number to the religion because there are four seasons and four cardinal directions, as well as four key elements. The tribe has always acknowledged the presence of evil in the world, but they did not consider it to be from a single source, such as the devil in Christianity. Instead, there were said to be several different entities of evil and mischief, such as Impashilup, who was capable of consuming a person’s soul if they allowed him into their thoughts as well as many others who could be found anywhere from the river to the woods. When a Choctaw dies, it is believed that their spirit goes to “the Happy Land” similar to heaven in Christian beliefs.
Ancient Choctaws are believed to have descended from the continent LeMuria, which is believed to have been washed away by the Pacific Ocean. It is said the tribe emerged from the ocean to be dried by their deity, the sun, and then moved east before settling in what is now the state of Mississippi. It is believed the tribe is possibly related to the Aztecs and Mayans, as well as the Incas and that their religious beliefs stemmed from those of these ancient cultures.
There are basically two main groups within the Choctaw tribe. The first is simply referred to as “the tribe” and can mainly be found in Mississippi. The other group is called “the nation” and presides in the state of Oklahoma. Both sects of the tribe share the same religious background because both originally are from the same area.
The Choctaw religion deems women as the givers of life because they bear children and are responsible for growing the vegetables. Therefore it is somewhat of a matriarchy in that when a man marries a woman, he becomes a member of her family and lives with them from that point on. He is never considered an actual member of the family because he continues to be a member of his own mother’s family. Still, he stays with the family and works with them. Men are considered to be takers of life because they hunt and kill the food the tribe eats.
The religious beliefs of the Choctaw tribe have evolved over time. Today most members of the tribe practice at least some version of Christianity. This is most likely due to the tribe's integration into European American culture. Still, there are some who continue to practice the ancient Choctaw religious beliefs.