Onáfapi

This may just be the question of the season: What is the Choctaw name for the first moon cycle of Autumn?

Our assumption is that in the past, hopáki ohchásh, the Choctaw followed a lunar or lunisolar calendar. The most compelling evidence being the 13 common names for the moons or months of that ancient calendar. And this is exactly the point at which the confusion begins. Let’s start with the names of these months, and the most accessible documentation of them:

Swanton’s Source Material for the Social and Ceremonial Life of the Choctaw Indians, also known as the Bureau of American Ethnology (BAE), Bulletin 103.

Swanton cites two sources in this bulletin, from whom he elicited these Choctaw names for 13 lunar months: Chafo chito, hash koi̱chush, hash koichito, hash mahali, hash watonlak, tek i̱hashi, hash bihi, hash bissa, hash kaf, hash takkon, hash hoponi, chafiskono, & luak mosholi (pg. 45).

Another direct transcription of this list can be found In BAE, Bulletin 46, also known as Byington’s A Dictionary of the Choctaw Language (pg. 146).

Before attempting an analysis of these lunar months, let’s be prudent and address the initial question. If we consider the current Choctaw names of months as they have been aligned with the modern Gregorian calendar, and acknowledge that the Mississippi and Oklahoma Choctaw Nations follow this current alignment, then October is called Hohchafo Iskitíni. Again, the confusion, finding that this name is not very clearly stated in the above list, nor does it lead to a clearer alignment of the 13 Choctaw lunar months with the actual lunar cycles.

All that can be said to finish today, is there are other sources who named Choctaw months in the same era as the two bulletins presented above, so that’s where we will head from here.

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