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"A Chitimacha Flood Story," #191 Swapping Stories
Nicholas L. Stouff, Jr., Jeanerette, Louisiana

We have a flood story that says when this flood came, that Noah was building this ark for, we built a big clay pot. And we're riding out the flood in the clay pot. Here comes two rattlesnakes who say, "We want to ride out the flood in the pot." Say, "We're about to drown out here."

And Chitimacha and rattlesnake argued back and forth like two little children all day long, "No" and "Yes" and "No" and "Yes."

It gets around to about dark, rattlesnakes say, "Look, we've gotta get in that pot. We're about to drown here." Say, "We'll make a peace pact with you. We promise if you let us ride out the flood, we'll never bite Chitimacha again."

So rattlesnake became the totem of the Chitimacha people.

When the Indian boy went through his rituals to become a man, he tatooed a rattlesnake on his chest to show that he was Chitimacha.


Notes to the Teacher: A1010. Deluge. Stories of a flood that covered the earth in the distant past, destroying much of humanity, are found throughout the world (Dundes 1988b; Pessoa 1948). A1029.3. Escape from deluge in pot or jar, a motif that is often recorded in South America; B2. Animal Totem. This Chitimacha tale of the friendship between humans and snakes stands in stark contrast with Clifford Blake's "Snake in a Wagon Rut" (#206) and other African-American and European-American tales that explain the origin of antagonism between snakes and people. Orso and Plaisance (1974) print a variant of this tale and provide some cultural background on the Chitimacha.

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