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The Story Of Ah-ahn-he-eat-toe-pahk Mahkai


Source: Aw-aw-tam Indian Nights

And there was an orphan named Ah-ahn-he-eat-toe-pahk Mahkai
(which means Braided-Feather Doctor) who lived at a place called
Two Reservoirs (Go-awk-Vahp-itchee-kee) north of Cheoff-Skaw-mack,
or Tall Gray Mountain.

And his only relative was an old grandmother. And she used to go
and get water in earthern vessels, a number of them in her carrying
basket. And when she neared home she would call to her grandson,
saying: "Come, help me wrestle with it!" meaning to help her down
with her load. And he would jump and run, and wrestle so roughly he
would break all the vessels in her basket.

And thus was he mean and mischievous, a bad boy in many ways. And
one day his grandmother sent him to get some of the vegetable called
"owl's-feathers," which the Awawtam cook by making it into a sort
of tortilla, baked on the hot ground where a fire has just been. And
he went and found an owl and pulled its feathers out & brought them
to the old woman, and she said: "This is not what I want! It is a
vegetable that I mean!"

And so he went off again and got the vegetable owl's-feathers for her.

After that she sent him for the vegetables named "crow's-feet" and
"blackbird's-eyes," saying to him that they were very good cooked
together. And the mischievous orphan went & got the feet of some real
crows and the eyes of real blackbirds and brought them to her. And
she said: "This is not what I mean! I want the vegetables named after
these things!"

And the boy, who was then about twelve years old, went and got what
she wanted and she cooked them.

And this orphan boy had a dream which he liked and wished to have come
true, and went to a dance that was being danced in the neighborhood,
a ceremonial dance such as is celebrated when a young girl arrives
at womanhood, and he went to see it, hoping it would in some way be
like his dream, but when he saw it he was disgusted.

And he went to hear the song of a singing doctor, a mahkai or
medicine-man, but when he heard his singing he was disgusted with
that too.

And he left his home and on his way found a little house, or kee,
made of rough bushes. And the one who lived therein invited him to
stay awhile and see all the different people who would arrive there.

And he did so, and in the early evening they came--all the fiercest
animals, cougars, bears, eagles, and they were bewitching each other,
but nobody bewitched him, and in the morning he went on.

And he went along until he came to another kee, and the owner invited
him to stay over night and see all the people who came there. And he
did so, and in the early evening came the same creatures and did the
same as before, but he was not bewitched.

And he went on again till he came to a desert place, utterly barren,
without trees or bushes and there a wind came to meet him, a whirlwind,
Seev-a-lick, and it caught him up and carried him to the East &
then back again; and to the North and back again; and to the West &
back again; and then South & back again. And so it got possession of
his soul and carried it off to its own place.

And Seevalick, the whirlwind, said to him: "You shall be like me."

And there his dream came true and he said: "This is what I was looking
for; this it is for which I was travelling."

And he wished to go back, and the wind took his soul back again into
his body, and so he returned to his home.

And after his return he was the best young man in the country, kind
to everybody, and everybody liked him. But he did not care to be with
boys of his own age, but liked better to be with the wise old men, and
went where they came together at nights. And he would sit and listen
to them, but did not attempt to make any speeches himself. His reasons
were that the young were often vicious, thieves, beggars, murderers,
and he would rather be with the old who followed what was better.

And in the evening he would often hear the old people say: "We will
go rabbit-hunting in such a place," but he stayed at home and did
not go with them.

But one night, after a while, when they said: "Tomorrow we will go
jack-rabbit hunting," he went home as they did, but the next morning,
when they went hunting, he went and made himself a bow & arrows,
as Seevalick had told him and placed them where he could find them.

And the next evening they were talking again of hunting, and appointed
a place to meet, and the following morning, when they were getting
ready, he got his bows & arrows, but he did not come quite up to the
meeting place, but sat a little way off.

And as he sat there the people came up to him and made fun of him
and asked him if he expected to kill anything with his weapons, for
he had made a big bow & arrows as the Whirlwind had done. And the
people handed these about among themselves, laughing, and when they
were thru ridiculing them they brought back the bow and arrows and
laid them down before him. But he said nothing, and when the people
were thru he left the bow & arrows there, and went home and went
again to look for a suitable stick to make a bow from.

And he made a new bow & arrows and left them where he could find them,
and went home.

And again he went in the evening to the old people's gathering and
heard them appoint a place for the hunting, and went home when they
did. And in the morning, when he heard the signal cry for hunting,
he went and got his bow & arrows and followed after them again, but
again stayed some distance off. And again the people came about him and
handled his bow & arrows and laughed at them. And again he left them
lying there on the ground and went home to make a new bow & arrows.

And the fourth time this happened he was late at the place of meeting,
and before he came the one at whose house the meeting was said to the
others: "There is a young man who has been several times with us to
the place where we come together for the hunting, and I suppose he
has made a new bow & arrows today, for he has to do that whenever you
handle his weapons. Now I want you not to handle his weapons any more,
but to let him be till we see what he will do, for it appears to me
that he is some kind of a powerful personage (mahkai).

And Toehahvs, who was listening, said: "You yourself, were the very
first to handle his weapons."

And the next morning when Ahahnheeattoepahk Mahkai heard the signal
yells for the hunting, he went to the meeting place, with his bow and
arrows, and sat away off, as before, but this time nobody came to him.

And then the hunting began, and in it some one called to him: "There
is a jack-rabbit (choo-uff) coming your way!" and he shot the rabbit
with his arrow; but when he came to it he did not pick it up, but
grasped the arrow and with a swinging motion threw the rabbit from
it to the man nearest him.

And thus he went on all day, killing rabbits and giving them to others,
keeping none for himself.

And again he was late at the place of meeting, and the man who had
spoken the night before said: "Now you see what he has done! This is
the fourth bow that he has made. If you people had left him alone
before, he would, before this, have been killing game for you. And
now if you do not disturb him I am sure he will go on, and you will
have jack-rabbits to eat all the time."

And so he killed rabbits at every hunt, and gave them away, especially
to the old. Whenever he killed one he would pick it up and give it
to an old man, and keep on that way.

And one night at the place of meeting the spokesman said: "Tomorrow we
will surround the mountain and hunt deer, and we will put him at the
place where the deer will run, and we will see how many he will kill!"

And in the morning, at the mountain, they placed him at the deer-run,
and told him to "shut the valley," meaning for him to head-off and
kill any deer which might run toward him. But the young man began
to get big rocks and try to make a wall to close the valley up, and
paid no attention to the deer running past him, and when the people
came and asked him about his shooting he said: "You did not tell me
to kill the deer, you told me to 'shut the valley.'"

(Not but what he understood them, but he was acting again as he had
once done with his grandmother.)

And the next day they tried another mountain and said: "We will see
if the young man will kill us any deer there." So when they came to
this mountain they told him to go to a certain valley, on the other
side, and hang himself there. This is a form of speech which means
to hang around or remain at a place; but the young hunter went there
and left his bow & arrows on the ground, and hung himself up by his
two hands clasped around the limb of a tree.

And after they had chased many deer in his direction they said:
"Let us go now & butcher-up the deer the young man has killed, for
he must have killed a good many by this time."

But when they came to where the young man was, there he hung by
his hands, and when they asked him how many he had killed, he said:
"I have not killed any. You did not tell me to kill any, only to hang
myself here, which I did, and I have hung here and watched the deer
running past."

And they tried him again, on another morning, at another valley, and
this time they told him if he saw a doe big with fawn, "snon-ham,"
which is also the word used for a woman soon to become a mother, he
should kill her. And he went to his place, and there came by such a
woman and he shot her down and killed her.

And the next day they took him to another mountain and told him
to kill the "kurly," which means the old, but they meant him to
understand old deer. And when they came to him later to butcher-up
the deer he had killed, and asked him where they were, he replied:
"I have not killed any deer, you did not tell me to kill deer, but
to kill the kurly, and there is the kurly I have killed!"

And it was the old man who goes ahead whom he had shot with his arrow.

And after they had buried the old man they returned to the village, and
that night the man who owned the meeting place said: "Tomorrow we must
give him another trial, and this time I want you to tell him straight
just what you want. Tell him to kill the deer, either young or old,
and he will do it. If you had done this before he would have killed
us many deer. You should have understood him better by this time,
but you did not tell him straight, and now he has killed two of us."

And the next morning they took him to another mountain, and placed
him in a low place, and told him to kill all the deer which came
his way. And when they went after a while, after chasing many deer
toward him, they asked him where the deer were which he had killed,
and he replied: "Down in the low place you will find plenty deer." And
they went there and found many dead deer of all kinds, and butchered
them up.


In the story of Ah-ahn-he-eat-toe-pahk Mahkai we are introduced to
the Indian faith in dreams and to more witchcraft. We come, too,
to the national sport of rabbit-hunting, with its picturesqueness
and excitement.

In the transaction between Seevalick and the boy we have a reappearance
of the world-wide belief that there is a connection between the wind
and the human soul.

The strange quality of savage humor, labored, sometimes gruesome,
and often tragic, appears in the latter part of the tale.

It is noticeable that they buried the old man, but no mention is made
of burying the woman who was shot. The Pimas of old time buried their
dead in a sitting posture, neck and knees tied together with ropes,
four to six feet under ground, and covered the grave with logs and
thorn-brush to keep away wolves. The interment was usually at night,
with chants, but without other ceremony. Then, immediately after,
the house of the deceased was burned, and all personal effects
destroyed, even food; the horses and cattle being killed and eaten
by the mourners, excepting such as the deceased might have given to
his heirs. After the prescribed time of mourning (one month for a
child or distant relative, six months or a year for husband or wife)
the name of the dead was never more mentioned and everything about
him treated as forgotten.

The Maricopas burn their dead.

It is noticeable, too, that no one appears to have punished the slayer
for his murderous practical jokes. Indeed, while the Awawtam appear
to have been people of exceptionally good character, it also appears
that they seldom punished any crimes except by a sort of boycott or
pressure of public disapproval.

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