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"The First Meeting of the Indians and the Europeans," #46 Swapping Stories
Bel Abbey, Elton, Louisiana


The Indian don't have nothing [alcoholic] to drink, don't have none, no drink. But he don't wear no clothes, he wears a towel. That's when he used to lay in here, for the first time he comes around here somewhere. After that he got a dancing place and camping place. That's why he stays in there all the time, in this area. It's a good place to stay.

But the white people want to come see what he's doing in there. The white people come along in there and every time he start, try and come meet the Indians. And the Indians got afraid of the white people. Well, you see, they start walking, come toward them and they all run and hide. They hide all the time. Run away from them. They hide all the time. The white people can't get friends with the Indians. The white people want to be friends, talk to him, want to ask him a few questions. Want to get along with him. But the Indians run and hide all the time, all the time.

After a while, the white people think about it, how to get to him and talk to him. After a while the white people find a barrel of whiskey. Try and trap him. "Let's trap him." "How we going to trap him?" "Let's take a barrel of whiskey and let's put it in the hunting ground." That's where they dance and play, right there." "All right, let's do that." And they bring a barrel, a keg, I don't know how big. They bring it over here to the place and set it up. They set it up and put a little cup in it. After that they come back and they left, went back.

All the Indians come out to see what's in there. When they come back, they look around, they open it up. They open it up and smell it, say, "Hmmm, that's strong. Smells strong."

One orphan boy was with the bunch. But the leader said, "Don't drink it. It might be some kind of poison. We going to get killed. Everyone going to be killed. Going to kill us everyone."

Orphan boy said, "I'm by myself. I don't have no daddy, no mama, I don't have no kinfolk. It don't matter if I die. If I drink, I die."

"No, we need you. We need you to stay with us."

But he keep begging all the time, he want to drink so bad. But they don't let him drink. He begging so much, they said, "All right. Go ahead and drink and tell us what happen to you. What it do to you."

They open it up, get the little cup in there. Start drinking. After a while, make him feel good. Put another cup in. Feeling good, talking, moving around, jump up and down. Dancing and all, too. So happy. After a while, get him another cup, gets dead drunk. Fall down drunk.

Leader said, "Now, tell you what's going to happen. He's going to die. Good thing we don't drink it because I think he's going to die." They all gather around where he laying down; they all get scared and watch him, what he do. He's laying down asleep. Sleeping all the time. Four hours. If he dies they going to bury him. But don't drink that. Then he starts moving. "Looks like he's going to get up." After a while he get up and sit down on the ground. "What it do to you? What happen to you?" they said.

"Oh, that thing make me feel good, go to sleep," he said. "Medicine to sleep with. I sleep well. I don't know. It make me sleep good." Everyone gets his cup and start drinking, drinking, drinking. They all got drunk. They finish it up. They all lying down on the ground. And the white people stopped in there and said, "Everyone laying down on the ground."

They picked up two of them, bring them over there, put them in jail or some kind of a cage, put them in there. They woke up. They were caught, in a different place. Different man, white people talking. They don't understand what they talking about because they don't speak English. After a while, white people be friend to us. Said, "Okay we got some extra clothes, we going to let you have it." We put the trousers on, pants. Put the shirt on, put some shoes on. After that, give them a hat to wear. "Yeah, it looks good. Now, go tell the others over there. Tell them to come back over here and get some clothes."

So they all come back to the camp over there and tell him, "Go over there if you want this kind of clothes." Everyone back over there and wear the clothes now.

Now I warned you, we'd wear the good clothes. Take the diapers off and wear the good clothes. Shirt and all that stuff. Now we use that kind. If it don't be for that we'd have not clothes. We can't hardly go to no festival, like that without the clothes on! That's what I thought about. I think that's it, you know. That's what they say.


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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