Walking the Choctaw Road

Stories from Red People Memory

By: Tim Tingle
“Oklahoma” comes from the Choctaw word “Okla Homma,” meaning “Red People.” In this, his first collection of stories, acclaimed storyteller and folklorist Tim Tingle tells the stories of his people, the Choctaw People, the Okla Homma.


OK Reads Choctaw Road Discussion guide Crossing Bok Chitto Teaching Guide

Read an excerpt from the introduction as well as the story "Trail of Tears" here.

"Oklahoma" comes from the Choctaw word "Okla Homma," meaning "Red People." In this, his first collection of stories, acclaimed storyteller and folklorist Tim Tingle tells the stories of his people, the Choctaw People, the Okla Homma. For years Tim has collected the stories of the old folks, weaving those tales into his own stories, mixing traditional lore with stories from everyday life. Thus, Walking the Choctaw Road has a mixture of contemporary stories of Choctaw people living their lives right now, historical accounts passed down from generation to generation, and stories arising from beliefs and myths.

In one of the eleven stories, Tim tells how audiences are always wanting to hear stories about the Indian Wars, so he tells about his own Indian War, which he calls "Archie's War," the 20-year war between his father and him which ended in hard-won respect and love for them both. In another he lets a five-year-old boy tell us a magical, tragic tale about "The Trail of Tears" when the U.S. government forcibly removed the Choctaw people from their homeland to Oklahoma. And in another a Choctaw preacher tells about his grandmother, a healing woman, who has a beyond-death relationship with her protector dog, Shob.

Stories in Walking the Choctaw Road include:
  • Crossing Bok Chitto
  • The Beating of Wings
  • Trail of Tears
  • Bones on the Brazos
  • Caleb
  • The Choctaw Way
  • Brothers
  • Lizbeth and the Madstone
  • Tony Byars
  • Archie's War
  • Saltypie
  • We Are a People of Miracles
Joseph Bruchac, storyteller and author:
"For a good many years now, Tim Tingle has been one of my favorite American storytellers. Invariably, his narratives honor the Choctaw traditions of his ancestors. Yet they are told with such poetic clarity that any good listener, whether Indian or not, will feel invited into that world, a place of memory and song, courage, magical reality, and the extraordinary lives of everyday folks. Delivered in Tim's quiet, down-home Indian voice, they're the sort of lesson stories that stick to you like a burr. The good news for readers is that these written versions of Tim's tales lose none of the gentle intensity of his memorable oral tellings. Walking the Choctaw Road, like one of those old Choctaw chants that kept the people's feet going along the long journey, will stay with you and lend you some of its strength. Cross the river with these stories: they'll give you safe passage."

Teachers: Walking the Choctaw Road is perfect for the classroom as a supplemental resource and here's a teacher's guide to help. This guide was created by the Oklahoma Reads Oklahoma folks after Walking the Choctaw Road won the Oklahoma Reads Oklahoma Statewide Literary Book Contest for 2005!

Awards and Accomodations

Oklahoma Book Award
Notable Book for a Global Society
Alaska Reads! Book of the Year, 2005
2003 Best Anthology from Storytelling World Magazine

8 reviews for Walking the Choctaw Road

  1. Booklist

    A true talespinner celebrates his heritage with 11 absorbing yarns drawn, recombined and retold from oral sources. Tales of shape-shifters and healing magic share space with stories about tragedy and miracles along the Trail of Tears and about prejudice, friendship, and incidents that illuminate traditional Choctaw values and cultural practices. In “Trial of Tears,” a child carries his mother’s bones on his journey of forced migration; in “The Choctaw Way,” a killer teaches an orphan a moral lesson by willingly paying the price for his crime. Sophisticated narrative devices and some subtle character nuances give these stories a literary cast, but the author’s evocative language, expert pacing, and absorbing subject matter will rivet readers and listeners both. In a long introduction, Tingle pays tribute to his sources and discusses motifs and historical events central to the Choctaw people.

  2. Kirkus Reviews

    A superb storyteller, Tingle has collected Choctaw tales from his great-grandfather’s account of the Trail of Tears to his own tale of a summer with his father. That summer the two—with contrasting ideas and thoughts—worked side-by-side and came to respect one another. The battle, Tingle says, went on for 20 more years until during the last ten when they became best friends. But the most gripping tale is Tingle’s account of his own youth and the day he realized his grandmother was blind, and the day years later when the family all gathered as his grandmother underwent one of the first eye-transplant surgeries.

    Poetic language and a compelling but quiet voice honor the Native American traditions for both the native and the non-native reader.

  3. The Midwest Book Review

    Written by acclaimed Choctaw storyteller Tim Tingle, Walking the Choctaw Road is a delightfully presented, inherently entertaining and thoughtfully informative collection of original tales drawn from personal, mythical, and oral accounts. Written in a down-to-earth, highly accessible style, Walking the Choctaw Road is a joy to read, embracing tribal traditions with wry humor, enhanced with liberal highlights of both energy and excitement.

    Walking the Choctaw Road is an enthusiastically recommended contribution to personal reading lists and Native American Studies collections.

  4. Publishers Weekly

    In WALKING THE CHOCTAW ROAD: STORIES FROM RED PEOPLE MEMORY, storyteller Tim Tingle shares what it means to be Choctaw through 11 moving tales. His subjects range from the “Trail of Tears” to “Tony Byars,” one man’s account of finding friendship amidst enormous sorrow during his seven-year confinement in an Indian boarding school.

  5. VOYA

    In many folklore collections, readers rely on the plots of the various tales to draw them in, for the skill of the author is in the collecting, not the telling, Fortunately, Tingle is as skilled a storyteller as a collector. His compilation of Choctaw folklore is a pleasure to read, from introduction to final tale. His writing pulls readers into each tale, whether the theme is more personal essay or true legend with a captivating plot. The chapters range from family legends of the Trail of Tears to supernatural tales suitable for any campfire and from animal legends to a story of Tingle’s own Choctaw grandmother. Arranged in roughly chronological order, the tales are a folklorist’s history of the Choctaw over the past two and a half centuries. It is also the author’s personal folklore collection as an example of how one can look at one’s cultural history and personal history to find stories worth remembering and retelling.

    This volume is a fine addition to any library’s folklore, storytelling, multicultural history, or literature collection.

  6. San Antonio Express-News

    Now, there are storytellers and there are storytellers. Tingle is at the top of his order; with the likes of Joseph Bruchac and Gail Ross, Indians whose intuitive grasp of the deep relationship between stories and the land and cultural survival makes their tellings into semi-mystical events. Bruchac and Ross have both published numerous books, and now Tingle has joined them in the pursuit of a printed equivalent to those moments of sheer oral magic that only the best storytellers can achieve.

    Tingle’s “Walking the Choctaw Road” brings together a dozen stories that range from mythic tales of shamanistic sorcery in the depths of the forests and swamps of the Mississippi bottoms to historical memories of escaped slaves and the Trail of Tears to stories from the author’s own childhood.

    There is a luminosity of spirit to all of them. As Tingle puts it in his introduction, “Throughout the body of Choctaw stories, whether they are traditional or contemporary, the quality of heart is of supreme importance. Truthfulness and generosity are valued far above bravery and even cunning.” That is the substance of these tales.

    The style, in print, is a modified version of Tingle’s own oral delivery, learned from numerous elders, and which contains all the tricks of the storyteller’s trade. He can be counted on, at just the right moment, to produce a drum or a cedar flute, or a chant, a stream of musical words in the language of his people, words that sound as much like the deep woods as wind in the trees. Even his silence is telling: he a master of the pregnant pause.

    But more than anything else, the style of the telling is captured by the judicious use of repeated phrases that function not so much like the refrain of a song as like echoes of oft-repeated wise sayings: “Then one day trouble came. It always does, in stories or in life, trouble comes.” Or when one needs to be invisible: “Move not too fast, not too slow, eyes to the ground, away you go!”

  7. Multicultural Children’s Literature

    “Chata hapia hoke!” or “We are proud to be Choctaw!” is the feeling that pervades this lively collection of 11 Choctaw tales. Tim Tingle, a well-known Choctaw storyteller, has selected a variety of stories that reflect Choctaw history and folklore. Two of the tales are family stories about Tingle’s father and grandmother. An enlightening introduction gives some background on Choctaw history and culture and explains how he collected the stories from other Choctaw storytellers in Mississippi, Alabama, and Oklahoma. The tales are arranged chronologically from an 1800 story of Choctaws helping runaway slaves, to a more recent story about Tingle’s grandmother. Every tale begins with a brief introduction, and many old, black-and-white photos are included throughout the book. Some of the tales are scary. Some are humorous. Some deal with the oppression and injustice of European Americans toward the Choctaw; but all reflect the triumph and survival of the Choctaw people. This book would be very useful as a resource for history, cultural studies, folklore and storytelling, and might inspire others to collect oral history and family stories. A glossary, bibliography and Choctaw songs are included.

  8. Plum Creek Almanac

    Tim Tingle, well-known public speaker, because interested in Choctaw history and its legends. He acquired this naturally because he is of Choctaw descent. The introductory chapter gives the reader an insight as to how he was able to gather this record. The book is divided into periods of time beginning in Mississippi in 1800 up to the present time. It is well-written, and the reader is given the impression that the teller of legends is speaking rather than the author’s interpretation.

    The legends are intertwined with knowledge of the natural forces surrounding the Choctaw lives and the Christian teachings of the early missionaries. Historically, the Choctaws were agrarian people who lived peacefully with their neighbors; yet the stories speak of tragedy and violence in many instances but with an impression of hope and promise for a better future.

    Love and respect for the family, the elders, pride of heritage and a strict code of honesty are dominant themes throughout the book. Mr. Tingle’s writing impressed me. Students and adults alike should read this book. It certainly commands a place in every school library.

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