The Origin of Tobacco

A man had lost his horses and was looking for them. A woman was also hunting for horses. They, the man and the woman, met and talked to each other. They sat talking together under a hickory tree which cast a good shade. The woman said, “I am hunting for some horses that have been hidden away.” The man said, “I am also hunting for horses.” As they sat talking something occurred to the man and he spoke to his companion as follows, “I am hunting about for horses; you too are hunting about for horses. Let us be friends, and lie here together, after which we will start on.” The woman considered the matter and said, “All right.” Both lay down, and when they got up the man went on his way and the woman went on hers. Next summer the man was looking for horses again and happened to pass near the place where he and the woman had talked. The man thought, “I will go by that place just to look at it.” When he got there he saw that a weed had grown up right where they had lain, but he did not know what it was. He stood looking at it for a while and then started off. He traveled on and told the old men about it. He said, “I saw something like this and this growing,” and one answered, “Examine it to see whether it is good. When it is ripe we will find out what it is.” Afterwards the man started off to look at it. He saw that it had grown still bigger. He dug close about it to soften the soil and it grew still better. He took care of it and saw the leaves grow larger. When it blossomed the flowers were pretty, and he saw that they were big. When they ripened the seeds were very small. He took the seeds from the hull, gathered leaves, and took them to the old men. They looked at these but did not know what the plant was. After they had looked at them in vain for some time they gave it up. Then one of them pulverized the leaves and put them into a cob pipe, lighted it and smoked it. The aroma was grateful. All of the old men said, “The leaves of the thing are good,” and they named it. They called it hitci (which means both “see” and “tobacco”), they say. Therefore woman and man together created tobacco.


A Hitchiti Legend

John R. Swanton, 1929


The Water People

thewaterpeopleA boy carrying his bow and arrows was walking about near the water, when two women standing close to the shore said, “Follow us.”

Then he leaned his bow up against a tree and followed them, and presently those women said, “We are going down into the water. Go down in with us.”

So saying, they started on, and just as they had said, they presently went down into the water, that boy with them.

When all got in, the bottom was as if there were no water there, and before they had gone far they came to where there were some old water people.

Those old men said, “There is a chair. Sit down.”

The chair they thus indicated to him was a very big water turtle.

“They spoke to me,” the youth related “and I sat down and they said ‘Do you want to lie down? There is a bed. You must lie down. The tree-tyer [i. e., tie-snake] there is the bed,’ they said to me.”

Presently they said, “You can go hunting if you want to.”

“I cannot go hunting because I have no gun.”

But the old men said, “Go about hunting, and when you fall down somewhere come back.”

After they had said this to me I set out, and while I was walking around, there was a rumbling noise and I fell down. I lay there for a while, and then came to my senses and returned to them.

When I got back the old men said, ‘”What did you kill?”

“I killed nothing” I answered, “but I fell down and was unconscious. After I had lain there for a while I came back, but I did not kill anything.”

“Let us go and look at the place where you fell,” said those old men.

Immediately we started, and when we got there, a very big thing of some sort was lying there dead.

“It is just as we said,” said they, and they brought it back, Then they ate. After I had been there for a while those old men said, ‘If you want to go, you may,” and I said, “I will go.”

“You take him back,” they said to someone, and just as I thought, “They are going to take me along” I lost consciousness.

Next I came to my senses standing close to the water, exactly where I had been when they took me off.

“My bow is standing up against a tree,” I thought, and when I got to the place, there it was just as I had thought, and I took it and started off. When I got to the place where my people lived, they were there.

Then they said, “The one who has been lost for such a long time is back.”

“The old men compounded medicine for me and after a while I got well,” said the boy. They used to tell it so.