A long time ago in ancient time, while the Choctaw Indians were living in Mississippi, the Choctaw legends say that certain supernatural beings or spirits lived near them. These spirits, or “Little People,” were known as Kowi Anukasha or “Forest Dwellers.” They were about two or three feet tall. These pygmy beings lived deep in the thick forest, their homes were in caves hidden under large rocks.
When a boy child is two, three, or even four years old, he will often wander off into the woods, playing or chasing a small animal. When the little one is well out of sight from his home, “Kwanokasha”, who is always on watch, seizes the boy and takes him away to his cave, his dwelling place. Many times his cave is far away and Kwanokasha and the little boy must travel a very long way, climbing many hills and crossing many streams. When they finally reach the cave Kwanokasha takes him inside where he is met by three other spirits, all very old with long white hair. The first one offers the boy a knife; the second one offers him, a bunch of poisonous herbs; the third offers a bunch of herbs yielding good medicine.
If the child accepts the knife, he is certain to become a bad man and may even kill his friends. If he accepts the poisonous herbs he will never be able to cure or help his people. But, if he accepts the good herbs, he is destined to become a great doctor and an important and influential man of his tribe and win the confidence of all his people.
When he accepts the good herbs the three old spirits will tell him the secrets of making medicines from herbs, roots and barks of certain trees, and of treating and curing various fevers, pains and other sickness. That is the reason the “‘Little People” take the boy child to their home in the wilderness, in order to train Indian doctors, transmitting to them their special curative powers and to train them in the manufacture of their medicines. The child will remain with the spirits for three days after which he is returned. He does not tell where he has been or what he has seen or heard. Not until he becomes a man will he make use of the knowledge gained from the spirits, and never will he reveal to others how it was acquired. It is said among the Choctaws that few children wait to accept the offering of the good herbs from the third spirit, and that is why there are so few great doctors and other men of influence among the Choctaws.
It is also said the “Little People” are never seen by the common Choctaws. The Choctaw prophets and herb doctors, however, claim the power of seeing them and of holding communication with them. During the darkest nights in all kinds of weather you can see a strange light wandering around in the woods. This light is the Indian doctor and his little helper looking for that special herb to treat and cure a very sick tribesman.
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