WATCH: For the Choctaw Nation, the eclipse is a squirrel’s tale

From PBS NewsHour.

The Choctaw Nation has been preparing for the thousands of visitors expected to flock to the area for the total solar eclipse on April 8.

The path of totality will cross southeastern Oklahoma, plunging a large swath of the Choctaw Nation in darkness for four minutes and 28 seconds.

Ahead of the celestial event, the tribe also unearthed a squirrely tale of its own history.

Dawn Standridge, a cultural research associate for the Choctaw Nation, was fascinated to learn that her tribe had its own explanation for solar eclipses that dates back to one Trail of Tears survivor’s account. Choctaw people shared the tale of Fvni Lusa, a mischievous and hungry black squirrel that tried to eat the sun.

According to the tale, the Choctaw people would make noise by banging pots and pans, and yell at Fvni Lusa to scare him away. Preventing the sun from being devoured meant their crops and plants could grow.

“I didn’t even know we had a story about the eclipse,” said Standridge, who’s helping organize events for the eclipse. “I was excited and glad that we were able to use that story in our programming for this event. It’s going to be interesting to see [people] take part and be able to share that with them.”

As the Choctaw Nation sits in the path of totality for the eclipse, experts estimate upwards of 100,000 people are expected to visit Oklahoma to witness the celestial event. Standridge said for viewing parties at the Choctaw Cultural Center and the Wheelock Historical Site, people from across the United States, including New York, Florida and California, have booked reservations for the events.

Organizers for the Choctaw Nation plan to retell the story of Fvni Lusa on the day of the eclipse, encouraging people in attendance to bring pots and pans to scare the critter away.

“It’s exciting for us to be able to have all these individuals who come in from everywhere to learn about Choctaw history in the midst of this eclipse,” she said.

It’s also a chance to share how the Choctaw people arrived from Mississippi and Alabama during the Trail of Tears, “what they had to endure and what we were able to accomplish when we got here,” she added.

Adam Kemp, Timothy McPhillips, Dan Cooney and Joshua Barajas produced and edited this post. Animations courtesy of Lost Cloud Animation Studio.

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