The Choctaw were a sect of the large Muskogean Native American tribe that lived in what is now southern Mississippi. Today, their descendants are centered in Oklahoma, where they were forced to relocate in 1830. Often distinguished by tattoos that covered their bodies, the Choctaw were a people who revered certain symbols and elements in nature. These symbols were highly regarded by Choctaw Indians before European settlement in the 16th century, and they have continued to play a part in the tribe's culture through the years.

Bald Eagle

Bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) in flight, Alaska, USA

The bald eagle was a symbol of peace among Choctaw Native Americans, and these birds were revered as carriers of spiritual messages between humans and the gods. The Choctaw believed that bald eagles had direct contact with the upper world of the sun, and feathers from this sacred bird were central aspects of many religious, medicinal and other ceremonial customs of the tribe. Eagle feathers were sometimes woven into clothing items and hair to strengthen the bond between the wearer and Great Spirit.

Sun

sun

The sun was a symbol of happiness, growth and power to the Choctaw, and its rays were seen as an infinite source of the life-giving force that the sun provided. The sun was regarded as a god by the Choctaw, seen as the provider of life or death, and it was the central symbol of the tribe's religious beliefs. The Choctaw regarded the sun as an object that "enlightens and enlivens" all living things, as well as a symbol of honesty and the ability to enhance every aspect of life.

Diamond

diamond

The geometric shape of a diamond is derived from the distinct markings of the western diamondback rattlesnake in traditional Choctaw Indian culture. Rattlesnakes were an important part of Choctaw life, serving as a source of food and medicine -- as well as a potential danger, worthy of respect. Diamonds or half-diamond patterns and designs were often woven into the trim of ceremonial dresses worn by women and tribe elders as a simple tribute to an animal that was so important to their way of life.

Circle & Cross

pink highlighter

A circle with two crossed lines is a symbol that represents "kebutsha," the oldest game in the history of the Choctaw culture. "Kebutsha" is a stickball game that has been played by the Choctaw for hundreds of years, and an old custom was for players to hang their sticks in the shape of an X in their home in between games. The meaning behind this Choctaw symbol is the hope of players to cross paths with opponents again and again on friendly grounds to play "kebutsha."