The Story Of Tawquahdahmawks And Her Canal
Category: STORIES OF THE SECOND NIGHT
Source: Aw-aw-tam Indian Nights
And after this the people had long peace, increased in numbers,
and were scattered all around. Some lived where the old vahahkkees
now are in the Gila country, and some lived in the Papago country,
and some in the Salt River country. And those who lived where the
mound now is between Phoenix and Tempe were the first to use a canal
to irrigate their land. And these raised all kinds of vegetables and
had fine crops. And the people of the Gila country and the people
of the Salt River country at first did not raise many vegetables,
because they did not irrigate, and they used to visit the people
who did irrigate and eat with them; but after a while the people
who lived on the south side of the Salt River also made a canal,
and you can see it to this day.
But when these people tried their canal it did not work. When
they dammed the river the water did not run, because the canal was
uphill. And they could not seem to make it deeper, because it was
all in a lime rock.
And they sent for Ee-ee-toy to help them. And Ee-ee-toy had them get
stakes of ironwood, and sharpen them, and all stand in a row with
their stakes in their hands at the bottom of the canal.
And then Ee-ee-toy sang a song, and at the end of the song the people
were all to strike their stakes into the bottom of the canal to make
it deeper. But it would not work, it was too hard, and Ee-ee-toy gave
And Ee-ee-toy said: "I can do no more, but there is an old woman
named Taw-quah-dahm-awks (which means The Wampum Eater) and she,
tho only a woman, is very wise, and likely can help you better than
I. I advise you to send for her."
And the people sent for her, and she said: "I will come at once."
And she came, as she had promised, but she did not go to where the
people were assembled, but went right to the canal. And she had brought
a fog with her, and she left the fog at the river, near the mouth of
the canal. And she went up the course of the canal, looking this way
and that, to see how much up-hill it ran.
And when she reached where the canal ran up-hill she blew thru it the
breath which is called seev-hur-whirl, which means a bitter wind. And
this wind tore up the bed of the canal, as deep as was necessary,
throwing the dirt and rocks out on each side.
And then the fog dammed up the river and the water ran thru the canal.
Then the old woman did not go near the people, but went home, and in
the morning, when one of the people went to see why the old woman did
not come, he saw the canal full of water and he yelled to everybody
to come and see it.
And in this way these people got water for their crops and were as
prosperous as the others below them.
NOTES ON THE STORY OF TAWQUAHDAHMAWKS
In this story we find proof that the oldest digging utensil was a
Before these people became agricultural they must have subsisted
mainly on the game and wild fruits of the desert. They showed me
several seed-bearing bushes and weeds which in old time had helped
to eke out for them an existence.
Starvation must have often stared them in the face, and the references
to hunger, and the prophecies of plenty, and of visits to relatives
whose crops were good, are scattered pathetically all thru these
And indeed, until very recently, mezquite beans and the fruit of
various cactus plants were staple articles of food.
Mezquite beans grow in a pod on the thorny mezquite trees. The
gathering of them was quite a tribal event, large parties going
out. The beans when brought home were pounded in the chee-o-pah,
or mortar, which was made by burning a hollow in the end of a short
mezquite log, set in the ground like a low post. A long round stone
pestle, or vee-it-kote, was used to beat with, and sometimes the
cheeopah itself was of stone. But stone mortars were usually ancient
and dug from out the vahahkkee ruins.
The beans, crushed very fine and separated from the indigestible seeds,
packed into a sweet cake that would keep a year.
Various cactus fruits were eaten. They warned me that for a novice to
eat freely of prickly pears produced a lame, sore feeling, as if one
had taken cold or a fever. I noticed no symptoms however. The fruit of
the giant cactus is gathered from the top, around which it grows like
a crown, by a long light pole, made from the rib of the same cactus,
with a little hook at its end made by tying another short piece,
slant-wise, across. They called the constellation of Ursa Major,
Quee-ay-put, or The Cactus-Puller, from a fancied resemblance to this
The giant cactus, or har-san, was eaten ripe, or dried in the sun, or
boiled to a jam and sealed away in earthern jars. They also fermented
it by mixing with water, and made their famous tis-win or whiskey
from it. They had "big drunks" at this time, in which all the tribe
joined in a general spree.
A sort of large worm (larva) was also gathered in large quantities,
boiled and eaten with salt.
The confusion in the Pima thought on religious matters is well revealed
in this tale, in which Ee-ee-toy, who may be regarded as a god,
frankly admits that in some matters an old woman may be wiser and more
powerful than he. Nothing appears to have been very clearly defined
in their faith except that a mahkai might be or do almost anything.
Next: How Nooee Killed Ee-ee-toy
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