Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Legend of Bayou Teche, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana


(Above): A scenic view of Bayou Teche.

From the FOX8 News website:  

Heart of Louisiana: The Beauty of Bayou Teche, written by: Dave McNamara, Heart of Louisiana

"NEW ORLEANS, La. - If you spend any time in South Louisiana, you've been near a bayou. But you get an entirely different experience if you can paddle a bayou in a canoe or kayak. Tonight, FOX 8's Dave McNamara takes us to St. Martin Parish for a trip down the state's longest bayou in the 'Heart of Louisiana'.

(Above): Bayou Teche looks very much the same as it did back in the 1800s.  Painting by artist Meyer Straus (1831–1905) Bayou Teche c. 1870. Oil on canvas 30 x 60 inches. 
'The same meaning that the Mississippi has to the New Orleans area or Baton Rouge, Bayou Teche has to the Acadians,' said tour guide Cory Werk. A funny thing happened to Werk, who is originally from California. The political science major was planning on law school. But he changed course, moved to South Louisiana, bought some kayaks and started offering tours through his 'Bayou Teche experience.' 'My mother's from Baton Rouge, she's an LSU grad, and my grandmother's from Breaux Bridge,' Werk said. 'So I have deep and long-standing ties in this area.' Werk's future is now linked to Bayou Teche, a 135-mile-long scenic bayou that starts at Port Barre and snakes its way through Cajun country on the way to the Atchafalaya River at Morgan City.

(Above): Bayou Teche, the State of Louisiana's longest bayou.

If you drive through Southwest Louisiana, you've likely crossed it. But the bayou is hardly noticeable as you speed along Interstate 10. The beauty is on the water. 'Whether it's giant live oaks that are towering above on the bayou or the large cypress trees that you can weave in and out of with your kayak in the swamp, there's no place in the world that has these opportunities that Acadiana offers,' Werk said. 'Bayou Teche gets its name from the Chitimacha Indians who fished, hunted and lived along the waterway centuries ago. And they have a story about how the bayou got came to be. 'Teche' is the Chitamacha word for 'snake.'

(Above): The monument which tells the Legend of Bayou Teche in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana.

A bayou-side monument in Breaux Bridge tells the legend of how the Chitimacha fought a huge snake 'They came together and they fought by hand to kill this snake,' said Nicole Patin, one of the organizers of Tour du Teche, a three-day race down the full length of the bayou. 'And where the snake lay and decomposed is actually where the bayou lies today.'

(Above): A monument to the legend of how the 125-mile long Bayou Teche was formed.

From The Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana website: 

The Legend of Bayou Teche 

"Many years ago, in the days of the Tribe's strength, there was a huge and venomous snake. This snake was so large, and so long, that its size was not measured in feet, but in miles. This enormous snake had been an enemy of the Chitimacha for many years, because of its  destruction to many of their ways of life. One day, the Chitimacha chief called together his warriors, and had them prepare themselves for a battle with their enemy. In those days, there were no guns that could be used to kill this snake. All they had were clubs and bows and arrows, with arrowheads made of large bones from the garfish.

(Above): A close up of the monument shows markings commemorating the founding of several old towns along the bayou.

Of course, a snake over ten miles long could not be instantly killed. The warriors fought courageously to kill the enemy, but the snake fought just as hard to survive. As the beast turned and twisted in the last few days of a slow death, it broadened, curved and deepened the place wherein his huge body lay. The Bayou Teche is proof of the exact position into which this enemy placed himself when overcome by the Chitimacha warriors."   

The Bayou Teche, 'Teche' meaning 'snake', is today proof of the exact position into which this enemy placed himself when overcome by the Chitimachas in the days of their strength

(Above): Acadian farmstead situated along the bank of Bayou Teche.

From U.S. Geological Survey. National Hydrography Dataset National Map, 2011:
The Science Behind the Legend

"The Bayou Teche is a 125-mile-long  waterway of great cultural significance in south central Louisiana in the United States. Bayou Teche was the Mississippi River's main course when it developed a delta about 2,800 to 4,500 years ago. Through a natural process known as deltaic switching, the river's deposits of silt and sediment cause the Mississippi to change its course every thousand years or so."

Myth or legend ... you decide.