USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘taunt’

Choctaw Freedman Anti-California Song

Informant: When my grandma moved from the reservation in Oklahoma—the one where, like, you know, they were forced to go after the Trail of Tears and stuff—to California, people were mean to her and her family. And the other Choctaw Freeman. So they’d sing this little song, like:

“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven,

all the Okies go to heaven.

When we get up there;

we’ll sing: hell, hell,

you’re gonna go to hell,

all the Californians are gonna go to hell!”

The informant is a student at the University of Southern California. She is from an “eccentric” family. Her grandmother is Choctaw Freedman (formerly enslaved African Americans who joined the Native American Choctaws in Oklahoma) and has passed on many of her traditions and beliefs to the informant.

This song, the informant told me, is something her grandmother and other Choctaw Freedmen preformed together when they came to California and faced prejudice. The song is colored with equal parts resentment for Californians and pride in the Choctaw Freedmen identity.

Folk speech

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”


My informant who is currently a first-year college student first heard this proverb in his elementary school in Downey, CA from his teacher in third grade.  There had been a problem with certain kids being targets for bullies in class.  The teacher decided to address this issue to the class.  She told everyone to remember that even though physical pain cannot be helped, you can always choose how to take words from others.  The only way words have power is when the person allows them to hurt him or her.

This proverb is not usually used on adults but mostly on children.  I do not think this proverb can apply to adults as well because the circumstances are different.  When children taunt, the taunting consists of silly rhymes, sticking out the tongue and such whereas when adults exchange harsh words with each other, those words are personal and have the ability to hit someone at a vulnerable spot.  Parents and teachers teach young children about not allowing words to hurt them because many children tend to pick on others not for any legitimate reasons of dislike but from mere prejudice.  I believe this proverb can apply very well to children but not to adults.