The Story Of Pahtahnkum
Category: STORIES OF THE FOURTH NIGHT
Source: Aw-aw-tam Indian Nights
And when they came to their journey's end the wife of Kaw-koin-puh
had a baby, which grew up to be a fine boy, but the mother cried all
the time, where-ever she went, on account of her husband's death.
And the people, after they had settled down, used to go rabbit-hunting,
and the children too, and this boy, Paht-ahn-kum, used to watch them
wistfully, and his mother said: "I know what you are thinking of,
but there is nothing for you to kill rabbits with. But I will send
you to your uncle, my brother, whom I am expecting will make a bow
and arrows for you."
And the next morning, early, the boy went to his uncle, who said: "Why
do you come so early? It is an unusual thing for you to come to see
me so early instead of playing with boys and girls of your own age."
And the boy replied: "My mother said she was expecting you to make
me a bow and arrows."
And his uncle said: "That is an easy thing to do. Let us go out and
get one." And they went out and found an o-a-pot, or cat-claw tree,
and cut a piece of its wood to make a bow, and they made a fire and
roasted the stick over this, turning it, and they made a string from
its bark to try it with; and then they found arrow-weeds, and made
arrows, four of them, roasting these, too, and strengthening them;
and then they went home and made a good string for the bow from sinew.
And then the boy went home and showed his mother his bow and arrows.
And the next morning the children went hunting and little Pahtahnkum
went with them to the place of meeting.
And they found a quotaveech's nest near them, with young ones in it,
and one of the men shot into it and killed one of the young ones, and
then the children ran up to join in the killing. And when Pahtahnkum
came up, one of the men threw him one of the young birds, and said:
"Here, take it, even if your mother does not wish to marry me."
And the little boy ran home and gave his game to his mother, and when
she saw it she turned her back on it and cried. And he wondered why
she cried when he had brought her game and was wishing she would cook
it for his dinner.
And his mother said: "I never thought my relatives would treat you
this way. There is an animal, the caw-sawn, the wood rat, and a
bird, the kah-kai-cheu, the quail, and these are good to eat, and
these are what they ought to give you, and when they give you those,
bring them home and I will cook them for you." She said, further;
"This bird is not fit to eat; and I was thinking, while I was crying,
that if your father were living now you would have plenty of game,
and he would make you a fine bow, and teach you to be as good a
hunter as there is. And I will tell you now how your father died. We
did not use to live here. But beyond this mountain there is a river,
and beyond that another river still, and that is where we lived and
where your father was killed by the people called Apaches, and that
is why we are here, and why we are so poor now.
I am only telling you this so you may know how you came to be
fatherless, for I know very well you can never pay it back, for the
Apaches are very fierce, and very brave, and those who go to their
country have to be very careful; for even at night the Apaches may
be near them, and even the sunshine in their country feels different
from what it does here."
And the little boy, that night, went to his uncle, who asked: "Why
do you come to me in the night?"
And the little boy said: "I come to you because today I was hunting
with the bow and arrows you made me, and someone gave me a little
bird, and I was bashful, and brought it right home for my mother to
cook for me, and she cried, and then told me about my father and how
he died. And I do not see why you kept this a secret from me. And I
wish you would tell me what these Apaches look like, that they are
so fierce and brave."
And his uncle said: "That is so. I have not told you of these things
because you are just a baby yet, and I did not intend to tell you
until you were a man, but now I know you have sense enuf to wish to
learn. There is nothing so very different or dangerous about these
Apaches; only their bows, and their arrows of cane are dangerous."
And the little boy went on to another doctor, who said: "Why do you
come to me? Are you lost? If so, we will take you home." But the little
boy said to him: "No, I am not lost, but I want you to tell me one
thing--why the Apaches are so dangerous--are they like the har-sen,
the giant cactus, with so many thorns?" And the doctor answered:
"No, they are men like we are, and have thoughts as we have, and eat
as we do, and there is only one thing that makes them dangerous and
that is their bows and their arrows of cane."
So the little boy went to the next doctor, and this doctor also asked
him if he were lost, and he said: "No, but I want you to tell me
just one thing--why the Apaches are so dangerous. Are they like the
mirl-hawk, the cane-cactus, with so many branches all covered with
thorns?" And the doctor replied: "No, they are human beings just
as we are, and think just as we do, and eat as we do, and the only
things that make them dangerous are their bows and their arrows of
cane." And the little boy said: "I am satisfied."
But he went yet to another doctor and asked him also why the Apaches
were so dangerous, were they like the hah-nem, the cholla cactus? But
the doctor said no, and gave the same answer as the others had done,
and the little boy said: "I am satisfied, then," and went back to his
uncle again and began to question him about what people did when they
got ready for war, and what they did to purify themselves afterward,
and his uncle said: "It is now late at night, and I want you to go
home, and tomorrow come to me, and I will tell you about these things."
So the little boy went home, but very early in the morning, before
sunrise, he was again at his uncle's house, and came in to him before
he was yet up. And his uncle said: "I will now tell you, but we must
go outside and not talk in here before other people."
And he took the little boy outside, and they stood there facing the
east, waiting for the sun to rise, with the little boy on the right
of his uncle. And when the sun began to rise the doctor stretched
out his left hand and caught a sunbeam, and closed his hand on it,
but when he opened his hand there was nothing there; and then he used
his right hand and caught a sunbeam but when he opened his hand there
was nothing there; and he tried again with his left hand, and there
was nothing, but when he tried the second time with his right hand,
when he opened it, there was a lock of Apache's hair in his hand.
And he took this and put it in the little boy's breast, and rubbed
it in there till it all disappeared, having entered into the little
And then he told the little boy to get him a small piece of oapot or
cat-claw tree, but no, he said, I will go myself; and he went and got a
little piece of the oapot, and tied a strip of cloth around the boy's
head, and stuck the little piece of wood in it, and then told him to
go home to his mother and tell her to give him a new dish to eat from.
And this stick which the doctor had put into the boy's hair represented
the kuess-kote or scratching stick which the Pimas and Papagoes used
after killing Apaches, during the purification time; and the doctor
had made it from cat-claw wood because the cat-claw catches everybody
that comes near, and he wanted the boy to have great power to capture
And his uncle told the boy to stay at home in the day time, lying
still and not going anywhere, but at night to come to him again. "And
before you come again," he said, "I will make you something and have
it ready for you."
And the little boy kept still all that day, but at night he went to
his uncle again, and his uncle had four pipes ready for him, made from
pieces of cane, and he said, "Now tonight when the people gather here
(for it was the custom for many people to come to the doctor's house
in the evening) they will talk and have a good time, but after they
are thru I will roll a coal from the fire toward you, and then you
light one of the pipes and smoke four whiffs, and after that slide the
watch-kee, the pipe, along the ground toward me, as is the custom,
and I will smoke it four times and pass it to my next neighbor, and
he will do the same, and so the pipe will go all around and come
back to you. And even when it is out, when it comes back to you,
you are to take it and stick the end that was lighted in the ground.
So that evening the people all assembled as usual, and told all the
news of the day, and about the hunting as was their custom. And when
they were thru, and had quieted down, the uncle moved to the fire and
rolled a coal toward Pahtahnkum, who took it and lit one of the pipes,
and smoked it four times, and then slid it slowly (the pipe must be
slid slowly because if it were slid rapidly the enemy would be too
quick and escape, but if it is done slowly the enemy will be slow
and can be captured) along the ground to his uncle. And his uncle
took the watchkee, the pipe-tube, and smoked it also four whiffs,
and passed it on, but saying: "Of course you are all aware that if
any man among you has a wife expecting to have a baby soon, he should
not smoke it, but pass it on without smoking to his neighbor, for if
you smoke in such case the child will not be likely to live very long."
And so the pipe passed around, and the boy, when the pipe came to
him again, buried it as he had been told, and then he began to make
"I am nothing but a child, and I go around where the people are cooking
and when they give me something to eat I generally suffer because it
is so hot. And there was a hunt, and you gave me nothing but a little
quotaveech, and stuck it under my belt as if it were something good
to eat: and when I took it home to my mother, and dropped it down
by her, she turned her back upon it and began to cry. And when she
had done crying she told me of all that had happened before, about my
father's death, and the story entered my heart; and I went for help to
a respectable person, a doctor, one to whom a child would not be likely
to go, and he kindly assisted me, and told me what I asked of him.
And I wanted to be revenged on the slayers of my father, and in
imagination a day was appointed for the war, and I went; and the
first night I feared nothing and felt good, and the second night,
too, I feared nothing and felt good, but the third night I knew I
was in the land of the Apaches, an enemy with shield and club, and
I did not feel good, and it seemed to me the world was shaking, and
I thought of what my mother had said, that the land of the Apaches
was different from ours.
And the fourth day I went on and came to the mountain of the Apaches,
and I found there the broken arrows of my father's fight; and I sat
down, for it seemed to me the mountains and the earth were shaking,
and shook my knees, and I thought of what my mother had said that
the land of the Apaches felt entirely different.
And the next day I went on and came to the water of the Apaches. And my
hair lay over the water like moss. And I looked and found my skull, and
I used it for a dipper, and parted the hair with it, and dipped up the
water and drank it. And when I drank from the skull I felt as if I were
crazy, and clutched around with my hands at things that were not there.
And from there I went on to another water, and that was covered with
the white war-paint of my hair, which lay like ashes on the water,
and I looked around and found my skull, and drank from that water,
and it smelled strong to me like the smell of human flesh and of
And all this was caused in my imagination by the thought of my dead
father, and of how the Apaches had gone along rejoicing because they
had killed him.
And the next place was a great rock, and I sat down under it, and it
was wet with my tears; and the winds of the power of my sadness blew
around the rock four times, and shook me.
In the far east there is a gray cousin, the Coyote, and he knows where
to find the Apaches, and he was the first I selected to help me and
be my comrade, and he took my word, and joined me; and stood up and
looked, and saw the Apaches for me and told me; and I had my band
ready, and my boys captured the Apaches, who had no weapons ready to
And after killing them I took their property, and I seemed to get
all their strength, all their power. And I came home, bringing all
the things I had captured, and enriched my home, strengthening myself
four times, and the fame of my deed was all over the country.
And I went to the home of the doctor, taking the child I had captured,
and when we were there the blue tears fell from the eyes of the child
onto my boys and girls.
And all of you, my relatives, should think of this, and be in favor
of the war, remembering the things we have captured, and the enemies
we have killed, and should make your singing all joy because of our
And after the speech was done, feeling it the speech of a child,
the people were silent, but at length Toehahvs said: "I like the
way of the child, because I am sure he is to be a powerful person,
perhaps stronger than any of us, and I respect him, and that is
why I am kind to him, and I want that we should all take a smoke,
and after that you will get over your feeling of his insignificance."
And then they all smoked again, and began to talk about the war,
and of the things they lacked, but the boy wanted them to get ready
in four days, telling them that was plenty of time. And so they all
began to get ready for the war, making and getting ready shields,
clubs, bows, arrows, shoes, and whatever was needed.
And so the people departed for the war, and the very day they left,
the mother of Pahtahnkum went and got clay to make the new dishes for
the men who should kill Apaches, for she foreknew that many would be
killed, and so she sang at her work. And a few of the people were
left at home, and one of these was an old man, and he passed near
where the mother (whose name was Koel-hah-ah) was making her pottery,
and heard her singing her song, and he said to the people: "It is
very strange that this woman who used to cry all the time is singing
now her boy has gone to the war. Perhaps she is like some wives, who
when their time of mourning is over are looking out for another man."
And the war-party went by near where Tawtsitka (Sacaton) now is, around
the mountain Chirt-kih, and west of the Sah-kote-kih, (Superstition)
mountains, and there they found tracks of the Apaches, and paused,
and the boy, Pahtahnkum, told them to wait there while he went forward
and found where the Apaches were.
And Toehahvs said: "I will go with you, so we can help each other
and be company, and you will feel that you have some strength, and
I will feel the same."
So Pahtahnkum and Toehahvs went out on their scout, and went up an
arroyo, or washout valley, In the mountains, and in making a turn
came suddenly upon some Apache children playing in the sand, and the
children saw them and ran up the valley to where the Apache houses
were. And the two scouts stood and looked at each other and said:
"What shall we do now! for if we go back the people will blame us
for letting the Apaches see us first."
And Pahtahnkum said: "You go back and step in my tracks, and I will
turn into a crow and fly up on this rock." And this was done, and
when the Apaches came they could see only the coyote tracks, and they
said: "There are no human tracks here. It must have been a coyote the
children saw," and they went back home. And then Pahtahnkum flew to
where Toehahvs was, and came down and took his human shape again.
And the band had been anxious about them, because they were gone
so long, and had followed their tracks, and now came near, and when
Pahtahnkum saw them, instead of going back to them, he and Toehahvs
turned and ran toward the Apaches, and all the band rushed after them,
and they took the Apache village by surprise, and conquered and killed
all the men, and then killed all the women, and scalped them all.
And because Pahtahnkum had been so brave, and had killed many, the
people brought all the scalps to him, and all the baskets, and bows
and arrows, and other things they had taken, and laid them around
him; and then they all stood around him in circles, the oldest in the
middle next to the boy, and the others, in the order of their age,
in circles outside.  And then Pahtahnkum began to yell, he was
so rejoiced, and he threw the scalps of the Apaches up into the air,
and then, after them, the other things, the bows and arrows, and all
things captured, because he wanted to make a cloud; for when an Apache
is killed it will rain.
And while this was happening, his mother was rejoicing at home,
knowing all that was happening to her boy.
So the people took everything the Apaches had, and a good many children
as captives, and they returned by the same road, and before they got
home they sent a messenger ahead.
And when they got home they presented all the property taken, and
all the weapons and all the captives to the mother of Pahtahnkum.
Now when the neighbors of those Apaches heard of this they formed a
big war-party, and followed Pahtahnkum's trail, but when they came
to the place called Taht-a-mumee-lay-kote they stopped, because they
did not know where to find water, and so they turned back, tho from
there they could see the mountains where Pahtahnkum lived.
And after Pahtahnkum had gone thru the prescribed purifications, and
the war-dances and rejoicing proper to the occasion, he again formed
a war-party, and again took the trail after the Apaches, only this
time he went to the other end of the Superstition Mts. And there
they saw the lights at night on a peak, where the Apaches lived,
and went up there and killed them, except the children, whom they
took for captives.
And then they went down into an open place in the desert, and there
placing Pahtahnkum and Toehahvs in the center, they again formed the
circles, with the older ones nearest the middle, and again brought
all their trophies to Pahtahnkum and Toehahvs, who threw them up with
rejoicing, as before.
And again the Apaches formed a war-party, and pursued them; and again
they, when they came to the low mountains south west of where Tawtsitka
now is, were frightened, as they looked over the desert, and said:
"This country is unknown to us, and we do not want to die of thirst,"
and again they abandoned the pursuit, and returned home. And because
the place where they made fires was found, these mountains are called
Aw-up Chert-taw to this day.
And again everything was given to Koelhahah, as before.
And once more, after the purification, Pahtahnkum formed a war-party;
and this time they went to the east, and there again found Apaches
at the place called Oy-yee-duck, or The Field, because there the
Apaches had cultivated fields, and here they fought the Apaches,
and defeated them; but they had hard work to kill one Apache, who was
very brave, and who kept his wife before him and his child behind him,
and as the Papagoes did not want to kill these they could not get at
the man. But finally Pahtahnkum killed a man near him, and some one
else killed the woman, and then Pahtahnkum killed this man and took
the little boy captive.
And again they went out to an open place, and formed the circles,
and rejoiced as before.
And a party of Apaches pursued them again and again were discouraged,
and turned back at the red bluff to the eastward, where they dug
a well, which place is still called Taw-toe-sum Vah-vee-uh, or the
And again, in due time, a war-party was formed, and this time it
went far east, and there was found a single hunter of the Apaches,
and this man they killed and cut up and mutilated as had been done
with Pahtahnkum's father, putting his flesh out as if to jerk it. And
they went south-east from there and again found a single hunter; and
him they scalped and placed his scalp like a hat on a giant-cactus,
for which reason the place is still called Waw-num, which means a hat.
And Pahtahnkum walked behind, for he was very sad, thinking of
And then Pahtahnkum returned home, having revenged his father, and
this was the last of his wars.
And once more the Apaches followed him, but stopped at a place near
the Superstition Mts. where, as there had been rain and the ground
was wet, they stopped to clean a field, See-qua-usk, or the Clearing,
but they gave it up and returned, not even planting the crop.
And his mother made a large olla, and a small flat piece of pottery,
like the plates tortillas are baked on. And she put all the Apache
hair in the olla, and placed the flat plate on top to cover it with
greasewood gum to seal it up tight. And then she went and found a cave,
and by her power called a wind and a cloud that circled it round.
And then she returned to her people, and, placing the olla on her
head, led them to the cave, and said. "I will leave this olla here,
and then when I have need of wind, or of rain, I can form them by
throwing these up, and so I shall be independent."
And after this Pahtahnkum was taken ill, and the people said it was
because he had not properly purified himself.
And he went to the tall mountain east of Tucson, and from there to
other mountains, seeking the cool air, but he got no better, and at
last he came to the Maricopa Mts., and died there, and his grave is
And his mother died at her home.
THE SONG OF KOELHAHAH ABOUT HER SON
My poor child, there will be great things happen you!
And there will be great news all over the world because of my boy.
The news will go in all directions.
NOTES ON THE STORY OF PAHTAHNKUM
In this, in the smoking at the war-council, appears a curious
superstition concerning the effect of a man's smoking upon his
Another superstition appears in the idea that the killing of an Apache
and throwing up of his accoutrements or scalp would cause rain.
I have a boy's bow and arrows just like those described in this story,
bought of a Pima child.
War arrows were a yard long, with three feathers instead of two,
and tipped with flint or, later, with iron. But even a wooden arrow
would kill a deer.
Bows were made from Osage orange, cat-claw, or o-a-pot; or, better
still, from a tree called gaw-hee. Arrows from arrow-weeds. The Apache
arrows were made of cane.
The Pimas were formerly famous for archery, and the shooting of bird
on the wing, and of jack rabbits at full run while the archer was
pursuing on horseback, were favorite feats.
The Apache well: I am told the old Arizona Indian wells were not
walled up, and the sides were at such a slant that the women could
walk down to the water and back with their ollas on their heads.
Wells are now obtained without great difficulty, but the water is
salty and often alkaline and none too cool.
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