The Story Of Corn And Tobacco
Category: STORIES OF THE FOURTH NIGHT
Source: Aw-aw-tam Indian Nights
There was a powerful mahkai who had a daughter, who, tho old enuf, was
unmarried, and who grew tired of her single life and asked her father
to bury her, saying, we will see then if the men will care for me.
And from her grave grew the plant tobacco, and her father took it and
smoked it and when the people who were gathered together smelled it
they wondered what it was, and sent Toehahvs to find out.
But, altho the tobacco still grew, the woman came to life again and
came out of her grave back to her home.
And one day she played gainskoot with Corn, and Corn beat her, and
won all she had. But she gave some little things she did not care for
to Corn, and the rest of her debt she did not pay, and they quarreled.
She told Corn to go away, saying; "Nobody cares for you, now, but they
care a great deal for me, and the doctors use me to make rain, and
when they have moistened the ground is the only time you can come out."
And the Corn said: "You don't know how much the people like me; the
old as well as the young eat me, and I don't think there is a person
that does not like me." And Corn told Tobacco to go away herself.
There were people there who heard them quarreling, and tho Tobacco
staid on, whenever she would be in a house and hear people laughing she
would think they were laughing at her. And she became very sad, and one
day sank down in her house and went westward and came to a house there.
And the person who lived there told her where to sleep, saying,
"Many people stop here, and that is where they sleep."
But she said: "I am travelling, and no one knows where I am, and if
any one follows me, and comes here, you tell them that you saw me,
that I left very early in the morning and you do not know which way I
went." And she told him that she did not know herself which way she
would go, and at night, when she went to bed, she brought a strong
wind, and when she wanted to leave she sank down and went westward,
and the wind blew away all her tracks.
And she came to the Mohaves and lived there in a high mountain, Cheof
Toe-ahk, or tall mountain, which has a cliff very hard to climb,
but Tobacco stood up there.
And after Tobacco had gone, Corn remained, but when corn-planting
time came none was planted, because there was no rain. And so it went
on--all summer, and people began to say: "It is so, when Tobacco was
here, we had plenty of rain, and now we have not any, and she must
have had wonderful power."
And the people scolded Corn for sending Tobacco away, and told him
to go away himself, and then they sent for Tobacco to come back,
that they might have rain again.
And Corn left, going toward the east, singing all the way, taking
Pumpkin with him, who was singing too, saying they were going where
there was plenty of moisture.
And the next year there was no water, and a powerful doctor,
Gee-hee-sop, took the Doctor's Stone of Light, and the Doctor's
Square Stone, and some soft feathers, and eagle's-tail feathers, and
went to where Tobacco lived, asking her to come back, saying "We are
all suffering for water, and we know you have power to make it rain,
And every seed buried in the ground is begging for water, and likely
to be burned up, and every tree is suffering, and I want you to come."
Then Tobacco said: "What has become of Corn? He is still with you,
and corn is what you ought to eat, and everybody likes it, but nobody
cares for me, except perhaps some old man who likes to smoke me,
and I do not want to go back, and I am not going!"
But Geeheesop said: "Corn is not there now, he has gone away, and we
do not know where he is." And again he asked Tobacco to come back but
she refused, but gave him four balls of tobacco seed and said to him:
"Take these home with you, and take the dirt of the tobacco-worm,
and roll it up, and put it in a cane-tube and smoke it all around,
and you will have rain, and then plant the seed, and in four days it
will come up; and when you get the leaves, smoke them, and call on
the winds, and you will have clouds and plenty of rain."
So Geeheesop went home with the seed balls, and tobacco-worm dirt, and
did as Tobacco had told him; and the smoking of the dirt brought rain,
and the seeds were planted in a secret place, and in four days came up,
and grew for a while, but finally were about to die for want of rain.
Then Geeheesop got some of the leaves and smoked them, and the
wind blew, and rain came, and the plants revived and grew till they
When the tobacco was ripe Geeheesop gathered a lot of the leaves and
filled with them one of the gourd-like nests which the woodpecker,
koh-daht, makes in the har-san, or giant-cactus, and then took a few
of these and put them in a cane-tube pipe, or watch-kee, and went to
where the people gathered in the evening.
And the doctor who was the father of Tobacco said: "What is this I
smell? There is something new here!"
And one said, "Perhaps it is some greens that I ate today that you
smell," and he breathed toward him.
But the mahkai said, "That is not it."
And others breathed toward him, but he could not smell it.
Then Geeheesop rolled a coal toward himself, and lit up his pipe,
and the doctor said: "This is what I smelled!"
And Geeheesop, after smoking a few whiffs, passed the pipe around to
the others, and all smoked it, and when it came back to him he stuck
it in the ground.
And the next night he came with a new pipe to the place of meeting,
but the father of Tobacco said: "Last night I had a smoke, but I did
not feel good after it."
And all the others said: "Why we smoked and enjoyed it."
But the man who had eaten the greens kah-tee-kum, the day before, said:
"He does not mean that he did not enjoy the smoke, but something else
troubled him after it, and I think it was that when we passed the
pipe around we did not say 'My relatives,' 'brother,' or 'cousin,'
or whatever it was, but passed it quietly without using any names."
And Tobacco's father said "Yes, that is what I mean."
(And from that time on all the Pimas smoked that way when they came
together, using a cane-tube pipe, or making a long cigarette of
corn-husk and tobacco, and passing it around among relatives.)
So Geeheesop lit his pipe and passed it around in the way to satisfy
And the people saved the seeds of that tobacco, and to day it is all
over the land.
And the Corn and the Pumpkin had gone east, and for many years they
lived there, and the people they had left had no corn, and no pumpkins;
but after a while they returned of themselves, and came first to the
mountain Tahtkum, and lived there a while, and then crossed the river
and lived near Blackwater, at the place called Toeahk-Comalk, or White
Thin Mountain, and from there went and lived awhile at Gahkotekih or,
as it is now called, Superstition Mountain.
While they lived at Gahkotekih there was a woman living near there
at a place called kawt-kee oy-ee-duck who, with her younger brother,
went to Gahkotekih to gather and roast the white cactus, and while
they were doing this Corn saw them from the mountain and came down.
And the boy saw him and said: "I think that is my uncle coming,"
but his sister said, "It cannot be, for he is far away. If he were
here the people would not be starving as now."
But the boy was right, it was his uncle, and Corn came to them and
staid with them while the cactus was baking. And after awhile, as he
sat aside, he would shoot an arrow up in the air, and it would fall
whirling where the cooking was, and he would go and pick it up.
Finally he said to the woman: "Would you not better uncover the
corn and see if it is cooked yet?" And she said: "It is not corn,
it is cactus."
Again, after a while, he said: "Would you not better uncover the
pumpkin and see if it is done?" And she replied: "It is not pumpkin,
we are baking, it is cactus." But finally he said "Well, uncover it
anyway," and she uncovered it, and there were corn and pumpkin there,
together, all nicely mixed and cooked, and she sat staring at it,
and he told her to uncover it more, and she did so and ate some of it.
And then he asked about the Tobacco woman, if she were married yet, and
she said, "No, she is not married, but she is back with us again, now."
Then he asked her to send the little boy ahead and tell the people
that Corn was coming to live with them again. But first the little
boy was to go to the doctor who was the father of Tobacco, and see if
he and his daughter wanted Corn to return. If they did he would come,
and if they did not he would stay away. And he wanted the boy to come
right back and tell what answer he got.
So the little boy went, and took some corn with him to the doctor,
and said: "Corn sent me, and he wants your daughter, and he wants to
know if you want him. If you do he will return, but if you do not he
will turn back again. And he wants me to bring him word what you say."
And the mahkai said "I have nothing to say against him. I guess he
knows the people want corn. Go and tell him to come."
And Corn said: "Go back to the doctor and tell him to make a little
kee, as quick as he can, and to get the people to help him, and to
cover it with mats instead of bushes, and to let Tobacco go there
and stay there till I come.
And tell all the people to sweep their houses, and around their houses,
and if anything in their houses is broken, such as pots, vahs-hroms,
to turn them right side up. For I am coming back openly; there will
be no secret about it."
So the little boy went back and told the doctor all that Corn had told
him to say, and the doctor and the people built the kee, and Tobacco
went there, and the people swept their houses and around them as they
And before sunset the woman came home with the corn and pumpkins she
had cooked at the mountain, but Corn staid out till it was evening.
And when evening came there was a black cloud where Corn stood, and
soon it began to rain corn, and every little while a big pumpkin would
come down, bump. And it rained corn and pumpkins all night, while Corn
and his bride were in their kee, and in the morning the people went
out and gathered up the corn from the swept place around their houses.
And so Corn and Pumpkin came back again.
The people gathered up all the corn around their houses, and all their
vessels, even their broken ones, which they had turned up, were full,
and their houses were soon packed full of corn and pumpkins.
So Corn lived there with his wife, and after a while Tobacco had a
baby, and it was a little crooked-necked pumpkin, such as the Pimas
call a dog-pumpkin.
And when the child had grown a little, one day its father and mother
went out to work in the garden, and they put the little pumpkin baby
behind a mat leaning against the wall. And some children, coming in,
found it there, and began to play with it for a doll, carrying it on
their backs as they do their dolls. And finally they dropped it and
broke its neck.
And when Corn came back and found his baby was broken he was angry,
and left his wife, and went east again, and staid there awhile, and
then bethought him of his pets, the blackbirds, which he had left
behind, and came back to his wife again.
But after awhile he again went east, taking his pets with him,
scattering grains of corn so that the blackbirds would follow him.
Corn made this speech while he was in the kee with Tobacco:
In the East there is the Tonedum Vahahkkee, the Vahahkkee of Light,
where lives the great doctor, the king fisher.
And I came to Bives-chool, the king fisher, and asked him for power,
and he heard me asking, and flew up on his kee, and looked toward
the West, and breathed the light four times, and flew and breathed
again four times, and so on--flying four times and breathing after
each flight four times, and then he sat over a place in the ground
that was cut open.
And in the West there was a Bluebird, and when I asked him for power
he flew up on his kee, and breathed four times, and then flew toward
the East, and he and Biveschool met at the middle of the earth.
And Biveschool asked the Bluebird to do some great thing to show his
power, and the Bluebird took the blue grains of corn from his breast
and then planted them, and they grew up into beautiful tall corn, so
tall its tops touched the sky and its leaves bowed over and scratched
the ground in the wind.
And Biveschool took white seeds from his breast, and planted them,
and they came up, and were beautiful to be seen, and came to bear
fruit that lay one after another on the vine--these were pumpkins.
And the beautiful boys ran around among these plants, and learned
to shout and learned to whistle, and the beautiful girls ran around
among these plants and learned to whistle.
And the relatives heard of these good years, and the plenty to eat,
and there came a relative leading her child by the hand, who said:
"We will go right on, for our relatives must have plenty to eat,
and we shall not always suffer with hunger.
So these came, but did not eat it all, but returned.
So my relatives, think of this, that we shall not suffer with hunger
And Corn made another speech at that time to Tobacco's father:
"Doctor! Doctor! have you seen that this earth that you have made
is burning! The mountains are crumbling, and all kinds of trees are
And the people over the land which you have made run around, and
have forgotten how to shout, and have forgotten how to walk, since
the ground is so hot and burning.
And the birds which you have made have forgotten how to fly, and have
forgotten how to sing.
And when you found this out you held up the long pinion feathers,
mah-cheev-a-duck, toward the East, and there came the long clouds
one after the other.
And there in those clouds there were low thunderings, and they spread
over the earth, and watered all the plants, and the roots of all the
trees; and everything was different from what it had been.
Every low place and every valley was crooked, but the force of the
waters straightened them out, and there was driftwood on all the
shores: and after it was over every low place and every valley had
foam in its mouth.
And in the mouth stood the Doctor, and took the grains from his
breast, and planted them, and the corn grew and was beautiful. And
he went on further, to another low valley, and planted other seeds,
and the pumpkin grew and was beautiful.
And its vine to the West was black and zigzag in form, and to the
South was blue and zigzag in form, and to the East was white and
zigzag in form, and to the North was yellow and zigzag in form.
So everything came up, and there was plenty to eat, and the people
gathered it up, and the young boys and girls ate and were happy, and
the old men and the old women ate and lengthened even their few days.
So think of this, my relatives, and know that we are not to suffer
with hunger always."
And the Dog-Pumpkin Baby lay there broken, after Corn went away,
but after awhile sank down and went to Gahkotekih, and grew up there,
and became the Harsan or Giant Cactus.
And the mother and grandfather could not find the Dog-Pumpkin Baby,
and called the people together, and Toehahvs was asked to find it,
and he smelled around where it had been, and went around in circles.
And he came to where the Giant Cactus was and thought it was the baby,
but was not sure, and so came back, and told them he could not find it.
And they wanted Nooee to go, and Toehahvs said to Nooee: "I did see
something, but I was not quite sure, but I want you to examine that
So Nooee flew around and around and examined the Giant Cactus and
came back, and when the people questioned him said: "I have found it
and it is already full-grown, and I tell you I think something good
will happen to us because of it."
And when the Cactus had fruit the people gathered it, and made tis-win,
and took the seeds and spread them out in the sun.
And the Badger stole these seeds, and when the people knew it they
sent Toehahvs after the thief.
And Toehahvs went and saw Badger ahead of him in the road, and saw
him go out and around and come into the road again and come toward him.
And when they met, Toehahvs asked him what he had in his hand. And
Badger said "I have something, but I'm not going to show you!"
Then Toehahvs said: "If you'll only just open your hand, so I can see,
I'll be satisfied."
And Badger opened his hand, and Toehahvs hit it a slap from below,
and knocked the seeds all around, and that is why the giant cactus
is now so scattered.
NOTES ON THE STORY OF CORN AND TOBACCO
In the Story of Corn and Tobacco we touch the superstitions about rain,
the most desired thing in the desert. The mahkais used tobacco in
their incantations, both for curing sickness and for making rain. It
would appear that the Piman mind confused clouds of smoke and clouds
of vapor, and because tobacco made clouds it was probably supposed
to be potent in begetting rain. The Pimas told me that the Doctor's
Square Stone was used in the incantations for rain, and there appears
to have been a connection in Piman thought between feathers and clouds,
and therefore between feathers and rain, and it will be noticed that
when Geeheesop went to get Tobacco's help in making rain he took
feathers and both kinds of Doctor-stone.
This story seems to profess to give the origin of tobacco, giant
cactus and of tiswin.
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