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Koasati Traditional Narratives

Translated by Geoffrey D. Kimball, With the assistance of Bel Abbey, Martha John, and Sam Thompson

Publication Year: 2010

Koasati Traditional Narratives is the first published collection of oral literature of the Koasati Indians, who at the time of first contact with the West lived in the upper Tennessee River valley but now predominantly reside in western Louisiana. The works were gathered from several narrators between 1910 and 1992 by John R. Swanton, Mary R. Haas, Geoffrey D. Kimball, and others, and are presented in the original Koasati verse and in English translation. The narratives are at turns serious, humorous, frightening, ironic, fantastic, and satiric, and serve both as a window to the mythohistoric past of the Koasatis and as a guide to their present. Encounters with Europeans, African slaves, and other Indian groups enabled Koasati narrators to engage their adaptive genius, and many of their tales derive from, among others, the Tunicas, the fables of La Fontaine, and the Book of Genesis. Part 1 includes mythological narratives, including Trickster rabbit stories, origin tales, monster stories, animal tales, medicine origin tales, and Christian tales. Part 2 features semihistorical narratives, including encounter stories and war stories, among others. Multiple renditions of some narratives are included, for traditional narratives were not set texts that were memorized but rather set plot elements through which narrators could display their verbal skills.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. v-vii


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pp. ix

The Narrators

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pp. xi-xv

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pp. xvii-xxii

This volume contains a collection of Koasati traditional narratives gathered between 1910 and 1992. The Koasati speak a language of the Muskogean family most closely related to Alabama and more distantly related to Mikasuki, Creek, Choctaw, and Chickasaw–all of which are still spoken. ...

Part One: Mythological Narratives

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1. Rabbit Stories

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pp. 3-46

Rabbit is the trickster-hero of Koasati literature, as he is in all of the literatures of the Indians of the Southeast. He is a self-centered, overweeningly proud troublemaker, always playing tricks, and acting against the common good. However, his character is so identified with traditional...

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2. Origin Tales

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pp. 47-93

Origin tales comprise a large group of Koasati traditional narratives. Their principal purpose is to explain how some feature of the natural universe came into being. This explanatory purpose can be DIRECT, that is, the entire thrust of the tale, or OBLIQUE, that is, an appendage to the tale. ...

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3. Monster Stories

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pp. 95-123

Monster stories form a genre of traditional narrative that is rarely, if ever, told at present. The psychological need for monster stories seems to have arisen from the need to deal with the uncertainty of life, especially in the traditional economy, where men and women would go off in...

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4. Animal Tales

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pp. 125-172

This category of Koasati narrative is a catch-all for stories that do not fit into the other categories of narrative. However, they are united by the fact that the principal characters are anthropomorphized animals, that is, animals with the power of speech and with human attitudes...

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5. Medicine Origin Tales

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pp. 173-178

From a genre that must have once had many tales, only one has been preserved intact to the present. The purpose of these tales was to illuminate the origin of the various medicinal herbs and plants and to explain how human beings came to use them. These tales seem not to have...

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6. Christian Tales

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pp. 179-191

Despite extended contact between Europeans and Americans from the sixteenth century onwards, Christianity was not introduced to the Koasati until the 1890s. At that time, they were visited by a peripatetic and charismatic Congregational preacher named Paul Leeds, who...

Part Two: Semihistorical Narratives

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7. Encounter Stories

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pp. 195-227

For the members of an American Indian group, their first encounter with Europeans was of earth-shaking importance, since their history and way of life would have been utterly changed, and their relations with the Europeans would have had an impact on their eventual survival or destruction. ...

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8. War Stories

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pp. 229-248

War stories form a subcategory of semihistorical narratives. The Koasati have not been seriously involved in armed conflict as a people since the 1830s. Although war stories were passed on from generation to generation, as time passed, these stories became less and less...

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9. Other Semihistorical Stories

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pp. 249-267

his collection of narratives is of tales that most probably occurred at some time in the past, but whose historical basis is uncertain. They do not fall into any major category. In fact, The Boy and the Pygmy Rattlesnake and How a Man Lost His Breechcloth to a Bull could be considered as...

Appendix 1: Linguistically Analyzed Texts

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pp. 271-294

Appendix 2: Transcriptions of Swanton's Text

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pp. 295-300


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pp. 301-303

E-ISBN-13: 9780803230408
E-ISBN-10: 0803230400
Print-ISBN-13: 9780803227293
Print-ISBN-10: 0803227299

Page Count: 328
Illustrations: 5 photos
Publication Year: 2010