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Indian Pioneer Papers - Index

Indian Pioneer History Project for Oklahoma
Date: September 23, 1937
Name: Ellen P. Nelson
Post Office: Antlers, Oklahoma
Residence Address:
Date of Birth: September 9, 1877
Place of Birth: Rattan, Oklahoma
Father: Nicholas Pickens
Information on Father: born Rattan, Oklahoma
Mother: Pauline Pickens
Information on Mother: born Rattan, Oklahoma
Field Worker: Johnson H. Hampton

I was born on September 9, 1877, near what is now known as Rattan, but at that time it was called Sulphur Spring. At this place the Choctaws had a church. It was a Methodist church and it was called the Sulphur Spring Methodist Church. This church has been long done away with and is out of existence. This also is the place the Choctaws held their County Court. It was called the Sulphur Spring, Cedar County, Court House. This church and the court house were built out of logs; the church was seated with split logs and the county court house was also seated with a long split log that reached from one corner of the house to the other. The court house was done away with when this country went into Statehood or some prior to that time, when the Federal Government took over the Choctaw Government and the laws of the Choctaw Nation were abolished.

My father's name was Nicholas PICKENS and my mother's name was Pauline Pickens. They both were raised in this country - they did not come from Mississippi, and my father was not in the Civil War or at least I never heard him say anything about the War. I don't remember anything about my grandfather nor my grandmother.

We moved from Rattan, going across the Little River. The Choctaws called it Black River, but the white people called it Little River. Where we moved to was a wild country; just a few Indians lived over in that country; it was mostly mountains there. Our nearest neighborhood was about ten miles across the mountains.

When we moved we put in a little farm of about ten acres in the bottom, but we lived on the hills. We made lots of corn on our little farm, that is about all we needed. We had cattle, hogs and ponies out on the range. The cattle and hogs went wild in the mountains; of course the ponies were already wild when they took them over there, but the cattle were not wild when we took them over there; however, it did not take them long to go wild.

It was a good country, but it sure was hard to get out and in. We would have to walk up the mountains and lead our ponies up. It was nearly impossible for wagons to get over the mountains, but they did get over it some way. Lots of time we had to push the wagon in order to get up on top. By doing this we helped the ponies.

Talk bout the Indian Agency. I never did hear of one. They might have had one somewhere but I don't think that the Choctaws knew anything about it. The first time I heard of the Indian Agency was sometime in 1898, when the Dawes Commissioners came down to enroll the Choctaws. I heard some of the Choctaws say that they were the Indian Agents that were going to enroll the Choctaws so they could get their land in severalty. So after a few years we then had to go to Atoka and file on our land; from where we lived it took us several weeks to make the trip in wagons for it was fifty miles east of Antlers, then it was about forty miles to Atoka after we got here. We had a hard time getting over there to file on our land; after then is when we found out that we had an Agency at Muskogee. I remember the first payment that the Choctaws got. It was about 1893 when the officials of the Choctaw Government paid the Choctaws--they got about $103.00 per head. After that it was several years before they got any more payments; they got several payments after that. The last payment that they got I think was about $10.00; they have never gotten any more.

This country at that time was full of wild game where we lived. There were lots of deer and turkeys and fish in the river. There were some bears in the mountains and lots of wolves, panthers, wild cats and other wild game. The men would go out from the house and kill a deer or a turkey at any time they went out, and some of the boys killed a few bears there on the mountains. It was pretty hard to raise hogs there on account of the bears, wolves and cats, as well as panthers. They would come up to the house and catch little pigs that we kept in the lot to keep wild animals from getting them.

My mother had two spinning wheels. She used them to spin cotton on them. She would make threads on them, then she would knit them together and make socks and mittens for us and for other people. We had no cotton ourselves but someone in the neighborhood would raise some cotton for their own use. She would get cotton from the neighbors, make socks and mittens for them to pay for what cotton she needed for herself. She would dye them with roots, herbs and barks of trees. She would boil them together and then she would let it cool. then she would dye the socks and mittens. They would be stripped, black, red and white.

Our trading point at that time was at Paris, Texas. Several of the Indians would get together, set a date when they would go together, and when the time came they all got their wagons and pulled out for Paris. The wagons were pulled by oxen. Some of them would have two yoke and some one yoke. At that time they used oxen for their work and to pull their wagons. It would take them about three weeks to make the trip there and back. They would bring flour, sugar and coffee, but we did not eat flour bread much, only on Sundays, and sugar, we had that, too, on Sundays. This sugar was a brown sugar. I never saw white sugar until I was grown. We had to be saving with our flour, sugar and coffee. During the week days we used parch corn for our coffee and it was a good substitute.

We had corn that we beat for our meal and hominy. It was hard work to make meal out of corn by beating it, but that was the only thing we could do to have something to eat. We always had plenty of meat. We could get out and kill deer and the like, but the only thing we could do was to beat this corn and make meal and we kept a little lard on hand to fry our meat with. That was the way all the Indians did that I know of; to keep from starving to death they had to do this. There were no stores in the country for them to buy flour and other things that they had to have. After the railroad went through this part of the country, most of them did their trading at Antlers and at Tuskahoma.

The Choctaw Council House was at Tuskahoma. I was there about twice I think when the Choctaw Council was in session. I had heard of the Council house and I wanted to see it so I went with my husband who was going to attend the Council. The Choctaw District Court was located at Alikehi; it was called Alikehi District Court House. I went there with my husband one time. He was called as a juryman, and when he went I went with him. That was the only time I attended the court. We stayed there about two weeks before the court was over.

I have attended Choctaw camp meetings. We had a church house near where we lived and we used to go there and then we would go over the mountains to another meeting. The church that was in our neighborhood was a Methodist church. It was called Cloudy Methodist Church; the Choctaws called it Hoshonti Boke Hitchita. It has long been out of existence. They had their cries at this church, some times at the grave of the deceased, but most of the time at the church. When an Indian died it would be from six to twelve months before they would have their cry. They would announce that they were going to have the memorial on a certain Sunday at the church; they then would all come out and at eleven o'clock the preacher would preach the memorial. They would go to the grave if it was near and all gather around the grave and cry. If the grave was too far, they then would have the cry in the church house.

I went to school at a neighborhood school for about three terms. I then went to New Hope Female Academy. This school was in Skullyville County and run by the Choctaw Government at that time. I stayed there for about three terms and came home. I am a full blood Indian and can speak but very little English; can write and read a little in English; can read and write in my own language pretty well.

I am a six clan Indian and all of my people are full blood Choctaws. We have lived here with our tribe all of our lives. I am about the only one living now of my family. They have all died and are buried in this country. I am now living in Antlers.

Transcribed and submitted by Brenda Choate <bcchoate@yahoo.com > December 2000.