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"Thátkak ilá:ci:fó:kok (The First Meeting of the Indians and the Europeans)," #45 Swapping Stories
Bel Abbey, Elton, Louisiana


Geoffrey Kimball, a linguist at Tulane Unversity, recorded, transcribed, and translated this story told by Bel Abbey in February 1982. After fourteen years of research, Kimball published the first Koasati/Coushatta grammar in 1991. In order to emphasize that the original story was told in Koasati, the Koasati version of the prologue and Scene 1 is included. Reading the translation from Koasati helps convey a sense of how Bel Abbey thought.



The First Meeting of the Indians and the Europeans (English Translation)


The Indians once were dwelling,
here in this land they dwelt.
When the white people arrived,
after the white people came,
they existed, so it is said,
and they knew that the Indians might run and hide from them.

But, to change the subject for a moment, the Indians were dwelling,
the Indians dwelt here, and they hunted for game,
and lived by killing and eating various sorts of things.


Scene 1: The Meeting and Flight

Wherever the white people were going about on our side of the ocean when
    they arrived,

It seems to also have been the first meeting.
On first arriving, they also came to trade with them.

When the white people arrived,
when within a boat they arrived over the water,
the Indians dwelling there, on seeing them, ran from them, so it is said.
When they ran from them,
after they ran from them, they did not meet them.
"Whatever could it be? Why must they run off?" the white people said, so it
    is reported.

And then, they kept on fleeing from them so,
sometimes they all ran from them, at other time they all hid from them.
The Indians were afraid of them, because they had never seen such people
    as those.

It is said that they were afraid of them.
They kept on fleeing from them.


Scene 2: The Dilemma of the Europeans

Then the white people said,
"How can we get to know them before we speak to them?"
as they all ran hiding from them.
If they looked into their dwelling,
(those they had were somewhat sunken in the earth),
they who were the openers of their houses,
that those others dwelt in,
if the white people looked into the Indians' own dwellings;
people's own dwelling were looked into,
but contrary to expectation, there were no Indians of any kind,
they had gone out and run and hid from them and disappeared.
And then, "How ever would it be possible for us to meet and speak with them?"
they kept on thinking.
It was impossible; the white people did not know how they might do it.


Scene 3: The Leaving of the Whiskey

They [the white people] went around with liquor, they carried whiskey with them.
They brought over one keg and went and laid it down for them, so it is said.
When they laid it down for them, as for the drinking glass, if it were not such,
it was more or less like a coffee cup, but I don't know.
How many they laid down or them I don't know,
but having laid them down for them, they returned [to their ship], so it is said.


Scene 4: The Return and Debate of the Indians

And then, the Indians who had gone off,
these Indians returned and came arriving,
and when they saw it, the Indians kept on returning.
There were many Indians there.
Having returned and arrived back, they who said it [the keg] lying with it [the liquor],
upon seeing the one keg lying there,
when they saw it, they said, "What is it?
No! Do ye not approach it!
Whatever it is will hurt you!
Whatever it is will kill ye!" they said,
forbidding the rest, so it is reported.
But then, contrary to expectation, they kept on turning and looking at it,
turning and looking at it,
and they kept on so--so it is said, they kept on so;
thereupon [one said], "What is it?"
"I do not know, but it is lying there with it [the liquor] just like that," said another.
Thereupon, when one person said, "Let me test it by drinking!"
"No! Do not drink it! It is bad by nature!"
"As it is a bad thing, upon your drinking it, you will die," the other said.


Scene 5: The Intervention of the Orphan

Thereupon, "I shall be the one!
I shall be the one!" said the orphaned man who was passing by, so it is reported.
Being without living relatives,
he was completely and utterly alone.
He used to live by joining up with people;
his relatives were no more.
It is an orphan that he lived.
"Well, I will be the one!"
When he said, "I might just drink it,"
"Nay!" said another. "Do not drink it!"
As it is something bad by nature, you will die!"
When he said this, the orphan man would not quit begging to try drinking it, so it is said.
"But all the same, let it be drunk,
because my relatives no longer exist,
no one at all can feel sorry about anything.
Nothing will sadden anyone.
Because I have been habitually alone,
no one sorrows for me.
It will be a good thing if I err in drinking it.
I want to know and tell you how it is," he said.

The leader said, "Nay!
Please do not drink even a little bit.
You as well deserve to live."
When he forbade him, the other did not listen, and just did not quit pleading.
"All right, drink it then," he said, and the other left off [begging].
"Take a drink of it that you might tell us how it is," he said.


Scene 6: The Results of Drinking

Thereupon, having left off with him,
the orphan man filled up a container and drank, so it is said.
He drank, and continued to drink,
and now, when he was completely dizzy, it is said that he was insensible.
He was in a state of insensibility, as it is reported.
Thereupon, when he was completely dizzy,
now also, he made noise
and what he said was unintelligible,
but he went on, so it is said.
Now also they said, "Drinking does so to us!"
"Listen! That is completely and utterly what will happen to ye!"
Now you see it," they said.
It is said that he was in a state of insensibility.
He drank, went on drinking, and became drunk.
Thereupon, they watched him as he drank, got drunk, fell down, and lay down on the ground;
they all were really keeping on watching him.
"He is almost dead.
He will die,
he is dying on us;
such is the case, he is going to die," they said.
On watching him, they kept on waiting for it, so it is said.
Thereupon, they kept on watching him in the same way;
he was lying on the ground, so it is said.
He really lay there;
I do not know how long he lay there before he regained consciousness,
but he just lay there, and he awoke;
he just lay there, woke up, and moved.
"Look! Lo! He is about to awaken!"
He was continuing to rub himself as he was awakening
Thereupon, as he was awakening, it is said that they asked him,
"How is it?
What is it like?
How was it for you?
How are you?" they said.
Then, this one here, contrary to expectation said, "It was a very good soporific.
It was an extremely good soporific.
This being so, drink ye it!
If we were to drink it,
it would be a very good soporific.
I liked it very, very much;
it was an extremely good sleep," he said.


Scene 7: The Drinking Bout

Thereupon, the remainder of them,
thinking it to be the truth,
some drank
and others drank;
each lay about on the ground
drinking, as it is reported.

Thereupon, as they were doing so,
as the Indians were doing so,
the Indians were lying on the ground,
they did so and lay on the ground.


Scene 8: The Return of the Europeans and Capture of the Indians

The aforementioned white people, upon arriving,
came and caught some of them, about two in number.
They caught them, returned with them and
getting over there to the boat put them into it.
After they regained consciousness,
when the other spoke to them,
they tried to run away,
but because they could tell that they were on the water, they were unable to do so.
Their having given up [trying to escape],
now they spoke to them and taught them.
They spoke to them, and dressed them in things such as clothing;
they would have dressed them completely.
The rest also would tell them nothing more than,
"Belt on the clothing and so forth that we made and gave you."
Having spoken to each other, all the white people went along accompanying the Indians.
They gave them things such as clothing and made friends with them with it [clothing].
as liquor was with them, and having met them with it,
[the Indians] were now habitual drinkers.


Notes to the Teacher: A1427. Acquisition of spiritous liquor. A Texas Coushatta tale on the first meeting of the Indians and the Europeans is found in Martin (1966, 46-47); the Texas version also concerns the introduction of alcohol but differs substantially from Bel's account (CL). Bel's story features an Orphan, a stock character in Koasati narrative. Kimball (1989, 49-50) discusses the sources of this fascination with the Orphan. By being free of kinship ties, an orphan is free to do things that others are not allowed to do, such as drinking an unknown substance. At the moment in the story when the Orphan reports that the liquor is good for inducing sleep, the Koasati audience laughs heartily. Near the end of the narrative, Bel mentions that the Spanish spoke to the Koasati "and dressed them in things such as clothing." This detail seems to be a well preserved memory of the first contact between these groups, for clothing was indeed among the first gifts given by the Spanish to the Koasati (Kimball 1987, 166-67) (GK).

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