Land of many hills

Today, we’re going to take a break from talking about snakes, snakes, or snakes.

Today, we’re going to talk instead about tchoupitoulas. The Tchoupitoulas Native Americans were a tribe of Mardi Gras indians from Louisiana. Tchoupitoulas–pronounced CHOP-ih-TOO-luhs–means “people of the river.” They were related, apparently, to the Cahokia people, which were mound-building people, making structures like this. So, although the Cahokia were to the north of their Louisiana cousins, who celebrated the wild days before Lent, that is, before the Europeans forced them to know what Lent was even about, the mounds were looking a whole lot like Central American mounds, or for that matter even the pyramids, and this might cause my brain to overwork and want to go back to discussion of snakes in dryer vents if I don’t stop that train at this station right now, Mister, thank you very much.

But how does tchoupitoulas relate to Kerrville?

If you go onto Pint & Plow’s website and look at their beer descriptions, which I view as a historian and not an active participant, you’ll see that Sidney Baker Street used to be called Tchoupitoulas. (Here’s where I run into snake-infested narrative territory…where the secret annals of Joe Herring Jr. archives might prove any one of my jots or tittles aforementioned or heretofore an outright lie. In fact, I see that Joe’s writing is syndicated widely, and appears on the site connected to where we live. Who knows but what this True Kerrville Historian might–all in good humor, mind you–put a garden snake in my purple pool noodle? If there’s one there next week, Joe, I know who I’m coming after.)

But back to words.

What’s also cool is that “San Y’bon” is what our part of the Guadalupe River was called. It’s also a beer here. But, again, that’s merely history to me, not an invitation.

My hometown, incidentally, is also next to a river. Actually, it’s nestled between two. There were peoples who lived peaceably there once. One of those peoples was the Lenape of the Delaware River tribe. Lenape means “true people.”

The Dutch and Lenape traded goods four hundred years ago so that the Dutch could use the land, which was also near the Atlantic ocean and therefore good as a port, for commerce. The Lenape, in the culture of native peoples, saw the transaction as a perpetual usage fee of sorts. Perhaps it was “tribute” that the Dutch paid to them, or so they thought. The Dutch, in European culture, saw it as a purchase outright, with ownership transferring to them. To the Lenape, land “ownership” was an oxymoron. Who could own the land, which was there for the good of all?

This transaction concerned an island called by the Lenape “the land of many hills.” That land now has very few hills. It used to be called “Mannahatta,” referred to still as such by Walt Whitman in the mid-19th Century.

Now, it has a Times Square.


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