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The Ark On Superstition Mountains


Source: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

The Pima Indians of Arizona say that the father of all men and animals
was the butterfly, Cherwit Make (earth-maker), who fluttered down from
the clouds to the Blue Cliffs at the junction of the Verde and Salt
Rivers, and from his own sweat made men. As the people multiplied they
grew selfish and quarrelsome, so that Cherwit Make was disgusted with his
handiwork and resolved to drown them all. But first he told them, in the
voice of the north wind, to be honest and to live at peace. The prophet
Suha, who interpreted this voice, was called a fool for listening to the
wind, but next night came the east wind and repeated the command, with an
added threat that the ruler of heaven would destroy them all if they did
not reform.

Again they scoffed, and on the next night the west wind cautioned them.
But this third warning was equally futile. On the fourth night came the
south wind. It breathed into Suha's ear that he alone had been good and

should be saved, and bade him make a hollow ball of spruce gum in which
he might float while the deluge lasted. Suha and his wife immediately set
out to gather the gum, that they melted and shaped until they had made a
large, rounded ark, which they ballasted with jars of nuts, acorn-meal
and water, and meat of bear and venison.

On the day assigned Suha and his wife were looking regretfully down into
the green valleys from the ledge where the ark rested, listening to the
song of the harvesters, and sighing to think that so much beauty would
presently be laid waste, when a hand of fire was thrust from a cloud and
it smote the Blue Cliffs with a thunder-clang. It was the signal. Swift
came the clouds from all directions, and down poured the rain.
Withdrawing into their waxen ball, Suha and his wife closed the portal.
Then for some days they were rolled and tossed on an ever-deepening sea.
Their stores had almost given out when the ark stopped, and breaking a
hole in its side its occupants stepped forth.

There was a tuna cactus growing at their feet, and they ate of its red
fruit greedily, but all around them was naught but water. When night came
on they retired to the ark and slept--a night, a month, a year, perhaps a
century, for when they awoke the water was gone, the vales were filled
with verdure, and bird-songs rang through the woods. The delighted couple
descended the Superstition Mountains, on which the ark had rested, and
went into its valleys, where they lived for a thousand years, and became
the parents of a great tribe.

But the evil was not all gone. There was one Hauk, a devil of the
mountains, who stole their daughters and slew their sons. One day, while
the women were spinning flax and cactus fibre and the men were gathering
maize, Hauk descended into the settlement and stole another of Suha's
daughters. The patriarch, whose patience had been taxed to its limit,
then made a vow to slay the devil. He watched to see by what way he
entered the valley. He silently followed him into the Superstition
Mountains; he drugged the cactus wine that his daughter was to serve to
him; then, when he had drunk it, Suha emerged from his place of hiding
and beat out the brains of the stupefied fiend.

Some of the devil's brains were scattered and became seed for other evil,
but there was less wickedness in the world after Hauk had been disposed
of than there had been before. Suha taught his people to build adobe
houses, to dig with shovels, to irrigate their land, to weave cloth, and
avoid wars. But on his death-bed he foretold to them that they would grow
arrogant with wealth, covetous of the lands of others, and would wage
wars for gain. When that time came there would be another flood and not
one should be saved--the bad should vanish and the good would leave the
earth and live in the sun. So firmly do the Pimas rely on this prophecy
that they will not cross Superstition Mountains, for there sits Cherwit
Make--awaiting the culmination of their wickedness to let loose on the
earth a mighty sea that lies dammed behind the range.

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Previous: The Coming Of The Navajos

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