The Lady of Cofitachequi: A South Carolina Native American Folktale

University of South Carolina. (Young Palmetto Books). Aug. 2019. 40p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781611179897.
Gr 4-6–This retelling is a folktale about the Lady of Cofitachequi, a member of the Otter Clan, and her encounter with Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto. A Native boy learned that de Soto was in search of gold and silver, told de Soto about the Cofitachequi community, and led him to the location. De Soto and his men were greeted with hospitality, most notably from the leader of the Cofitachequi, a woman dressed entirely in white. De Soto and his men were convinced that the Otter Clan possessed gold or silver, despite the protests of the Native peoples. De Soto kidnapped the Lady, and she escaped. Most folktales feature some elements of truth and some elements that are imagined. It is historical fact that the Cofitachequi lived in what is now South Carolina. It is verifiable that they constructed mounts and maintained a complex society that was skilled in the use of copper, pottery, and other natural resources. However, the cultural information about the Cofitachequi is questionable from an Indigenous point of view. The language used to describe the “human people,” “two legged humans,” “otter people,” and tribe membership is made more complicated than it needs to be. The description of the Lady leaves readers with the impression that she is merely a stereotypical Indigenous superhero who has extraordinary wisdom and beauty. The illustrations depict the Lady and her people sporting a mixture of Aztec, Northeastern, and Plains tribe attire and tattoos.
VERDICT While this story could be worth telling and researching further, it is not recommended. With some folktales, such as this title, the perspective is not always from the original people and yet is presented as “truth.”

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