Native American Legends
How Poison came into the World
A Choctaw Legend
A very long time ago, when the world was new, there was a certain
plant that grew in the shallow waters of the bayous. It grew in
the place where the Choctaw people went to bathe or swim. This plant
was a vine, and was very poisonous. Whenever the people touched
this vine, they would get very sick and would die.
This vine liked the Choctaw people, though, and it felt sorry for
them. It didn't want to cause them so much pain and sorrow. But,
it couldn't show itself to them, because it grew beneath the surface,
of the bayou. So, it decided to give away it's poison. It called
all of the chiefs of the small people of the swamps---the wasps,
bees and snakes. It told them that it wanted to give away it's poison.
These small chiefs held a council about the vine's offer. They
had no poison and were often stepped on, by the others. They agreed
to share the poison.
Bee spoke first. "I will take a small part of your poison,"
he said. "I will only use it to defend my hive. I will warn
people away before I poison them, and even if I shall have to use
my poison, it will kill me to do so, therefore, I will use it very
Wasp spoke next. "I will take a small part of your poison,
also," he said. "Then I will be able to protect my nest.
But, I will warn people by buzzing close to them before I poison
them. I will keep my poison in my tail."
Water Moccasin spoke. "I will take some of your poison. I
will use it only if people step on me. I will hold it in my mouth
and when I open my mouth people will see how white it is and they
will know to stay away from me."
Rattlesnake spoke last. "I will take a good bit of your poison,"
he said. I will take all that is left. I will hold it in my mouth,
too. And, before I strike someone, I will use my tail to warn them.
Intesha, Intesha, Intesha, Intesha. That is the sound that I will
make to let them know that they are too close."
So, it was done. The vine gave up it's poison to the bees, wasps,
water moccasins and the rattlesnakes. Now the shallow waters of
the bayous were safe for the Choctaw people. Where once that vine
had poison, now it had small flowers. From then on, only those who
were foolish and did not listen to the warnings of the small ones,
who took the vine's poisons, were hurt.
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