The Legend of Cotaco
Many, many moons ago, one village of the Creek Tribe was located near the present site of Cotaco (Alabama). Another village was located on the high ground near the great river (Tennessee), where the village of Talucah now stands.
The sub-chief of the village near Cotaco was very old, having seen 91 summers. His three sons were Cokato, Hulaco, and Cotaco. In their language Cokato meant fierce warrior; Hulaco: Fearless one, and Cotaco: Brave and wise.
In the village near the great river was another sub-chief whose daughter was very fair. She was as slender and straight as the arrows with which braves slew the deer and bear. Her voice was the music of the rippling brook. Her eyes were as soft as those of the fawn. Her name was Talucah which means 'soft breeze'.
The old chief , father of Cokato, Hulaco, and Cotaco, was happy that Cokato was a great warrior because by the rules of the tribe, Cokato, the eldest, would become chief when the old chief had gone to the happy hunting ground.
But he was also worried because Cokato had 'the temper of a she bear when her cubs are attacked.' All three brothers loved Talucah and each hoped to take her to his wigwam as his wife to cook his meals and bare his children.
According to tribal law, when a maiden passed her eighteenth summer, she was to declare her preference if more than one brave sought her favors. Her preference was always honored and this kept the braves from fighting among themselves.
When Talucah was four months past her eighteenth summer, she still was unable to decide between the braves. Cokato and Hulaco pressed their suits aggressively, with gifts of beads, deer skin, and wampum, while Cotaco took her flowers and sweet herbs.
One day, Cokato and Hulaco appeared at Talucah's wigwam at the same time to pay court to her. Cotaco was not far behind. After many words between them, Cokato attacked Hulaco. This was contrary to tribal law, for brothers who quarreled were supposed to choose unrelated braves to fight for them. In this manner one brother did not shed another's blood and honor was satisfied.
After many hours of fighting Cokato threw Hulaco to the ground and was about to strike him with his tomahawk. At this time Cotaco., who had watched most of the fight in silence, threw his arms around Cokato and held him because Cokato was tired and the strength of Cotaco was greater.
Because tribal laws had been broken, a council of the sub-chiefs and older warriors was called to deal with the matter.
The council spokesman told Cokato, "You have broken our laws. You have attacked a blood brother. You have shed his blood and would have killed him had not Cotaco restrained you. For this council has decided that you will be banished. You will take your weapons and nothing else. You will travel in the direction of which the wild geese flies when the flowers begin to bloom. Between three and four moon's travel, you will come to a great body of water. Here you will spend the season of ice and snow. When the flowers bloom again, you will travel again toward the setting sun until you have gone around this great lake. Then you will continue to travel with the wild goose until you have reached another great body of water (Hudson Bay) as great as that toward which the geese fly when the leaves turn red and the frost is on the vine (Gulf of Mexico). Here, you will make your home. You may never return to your childhood home. You must remain where we send you."
To Hulaco the spokesman said "You have fought to defend your life as any warrior would, but you broke our law when you fought your brother. It is better to die with honor than to break our law. You may remain with us if you wish but you can not become our chief when your father goes to the happy hunting ground. Cotaco shall become chief of our village because he upheld our law while you broke it."
Talucah spoke "I too have broken our law. I should have chosen my brave, and this would not have happened. I shall banish myself. We have kinsmen among the people to the south and east. I will cross the small river (Chattahooche) and go to our kinsmen. Here I will make my home."
Cokato took his weapons and left in a fit of great anger. But Hulaco said "I have done no wrong. I was attacked, and I fought, not to kill my brother, but to save my own life so that I might kill the deer and the bear to feed our people; so that I might live to defend our village if we are attacked. If I can not become your chief, I will choose a maiden for my wife. I will go to the mountains to the south where there is much game. I will make my home there and establish my own village. Do I go with warrior's honor"?
The spokesman replied, "Go with honor. Your offspring may choose their mates from our village if they wish." Hulaco departed with a warrior's honor and established his lodge near the village which bares his name today and Talucah began her journey to the south and east in search of her kinsmen. When Talucah established her home with her kinsmen, many of the unrelated braves sought her hand because she was very fair. But her heart was with her homeland to which she wished to return but would not.
After three summers, the old chief went to the happy hunting ground during the cold season, and Cotaco became chief in his stead. His first act as chief was to assemble the council and to persuade it to let Talucah return to her home if she wished. He traveled to her new home, stole her from her bed, and returned home. The town of Alapaha, Georgia, named in her memory, means 'maiden who did not stay', is still in existence today.
Cotaco governed his tribe with courage and wisdom. Talucah bore him many papooses who grew into great warriors and fair maidens. So ends the legend of Cotaco.
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Monday, October 23, 2000 09:10:42 AM