Much of what we do at the Stagecoach involves American Indians. While our specialty is Native American Jewelry and handcrafted turquoise jewelry, we also carry American Indian artifacts such as dream catchers, bows and arrows, and turtle rattles. Because of our deep love for the Indian arts, I want to share a Native American story about the solar eclipse. This story comes from the Choctaw tribe which originated in Oklahoma.
There was, of course, a time when the Native Americans did not know that a solar eclipse was the moon passing in front of the sun. They also did not have the warning and preparation that we have today. To the Native Americans, it would just be another day, same as the last, until the solar eclipse began. It’s easy to see how this experience could be incredibly frightening for people who didn’t know what was happening. Despite not fully understanding a solar eclipse, the Native Americans would come up with their own legends behind it.
In the Choctaw Nation, people associated the darkness of an eclipse with a mischievous black squirrel. As the dark ring emerged in the sky, they believed a black squirrel was trying to eat the sun, their source of heat and illumination. Naturally, this deeply frightened the Choctaw people. However, because squirrels are easily startled by loud noises, the Native Americans would try to scare it away. The women would scream at the top of their lungs, wave their arms, and ring loud bells. The children would bang on pots and pans, trying to make as much noise as possible. The more stoic men would stand at attention and fire their rifles in the sky toward the ever advancing black squirrel. As you can imagine, with all of this commotion the animals would be frightened as well. Dogs would bark, horses would stir, and all means of calamity would ensue. With the slow progression of the eclipse, the Native Americans might continue this uproar for a few hours, in some cases. Eventually, the eclipse would subside and the Choctaw people would celebrate having scarred the hungry black squirrel away.
We all know today that the Native Americans didn’t actually scare away a large black squirrel in the sky, but with all of the commotion, I imagine they did scare about every other squirrel nearby. On August 21st, while you’re watching the solar eclipse, take a moment to think about how the Native American people must have felt watching the hungry squirrel trying to devour the sun.
While enjoying the solar eclipse make sure to be safe. Always use a pair of certified viewing glasses to look at the sun. If you weren't able to get a pair of solar glasses you can still enjoy the atmosphere of the eclipse without looking directly at the sun. Also, if you happen to be in Kearney, make sure to stop by and check out our assortment of Nebraska solar eclipse souvenirs and memorabilia. This is an event that most of us will never see again so you'll want to find something to remember it by.