The Story Of The Flood
Category: STORIES OF THE FIRST NIGHT
Source: Aw-aw-tam Indian Nights
Now Seeurhuh was very powerful, like Juhwerta Mahkai, and as he took
up his residence with them, as one of them, he did many wonderful
things which pleased Juhwerta Mahkai, who liked to watch him.
And after doing many marvelous things he, too, made a man.
And to this man whom he had made, Seeurhuh (whose other name was
Ee-ee-toy) gave a bow & arrows, and guarded his arm against the
bow string by a piece of wild-cat skin, and pierced his ears & made
ear-rings for him, like turquoises to look at, from the leaves of
the weed called quah-wool. And this man was the most beautiful man
And Ee-ee-toy told this young man, who was just of marriageable age,
to look around and see if he could find any young girl in the villages
that would suit him and, if he found her, to see her relatives and
see if they were willing he should marry her.
And the beautiful young man did this, and found a girl that pleased
him, and told her family of his wish, and they accepted him, and he
And the names of both these are now forgotten and unknown.
And when they were married Ee-ee-toy, foreseeing what would happen,
went & gathered the gum of the greasewood tree.
Here the narrative states, with far too much plainness of
circumstantial detail for popular reading, that this young man married
a great many wives in rapid succession, abandoning the last one with
each new one wedded, and had children with abnormal, even uncanny
swiftness, for which the wives were blamed and for which suspicion they
were thus heartlessly divorced. Because of this, Juhwerta Mahkai and
Ee-ee-toy foresaw that nature would be convulsed and a great flood
would come to cover the world.
And then the narrative goes on to say:
Now there was a doctor who lived down toward the sunset whose name was
Vahk-lohv Mahkai, or South Doctor, who had a beautiful daughter. And
when his daughter heard of this young man and what had happened to
his wives she was afraid and cried every day. And when her father
saw her crying he asked her what was the matter? was she sick? And
when she had told him what she was afraid of, for every one knew
and was talking of this thing, he said yes, he knew it was true,
but she ought not to be afraid, for there was happiness for a woman
in marriage and the mothering of children.
And it took many years for the young man to marry all these wives,
and have all these children, and all this time Ee-ee-toy was busy
making a great vessel of the gum he had gathered from the grease
bushes, a sort of olla which could be closed up, which would keep
back water. And while he was making this he talked over the reasons
for it with Juhwerta Mahkai, Nooee, and Toehahvs, that it was because
there was a great flood coming.
And several birds heard them talking thus--the woodpecker, Hick-o-vick;
the humming-bird, Vee-pis-mahl; a little bird named Gee-ee-sop,
and another called Quota-veech.
Eeeetoy said he would escape the flood by getting into the vessel he
was making from the gum of the grease bushes or ser-quoy.
And Juhwerta Mahkai said he would get into his staff, or walking stick,
and float about.
And Toehahvs said he would get into a cane-tube.
And the little birds said the water would not reach the sky, so they
would fly up there and hang on by their bills till it was over.
And Nooee, the buzzard, the powerful, said he did not care if the
flood did reach the sky, for he could find a way to break thru.
Now Ee-ee-toy was envious, and anxious to get ahead of Juhwerta
Mahkai and get more fame for his wonderful deeds, but Juhwerta Mahkai,
though really the strongest, was generous and from kindness and for
relationship sake let Ee-ee-toy have the best of it.
And the young girl, the doctor's daughter, kept on crying, fearing
the young man, feeling him ever coming nearer, and her father kept
on reassuring her, telling her it would be all right, but at last,
out of pity for her fears & tears, he told her to go and get him
the little tuft of the finest thorns on the top of the white cactus,
the haht-sahn-kahm,  and bring to him.
And her father took the cactus-tuft which she had brought him, and
took hair from her head and wound about one end of it, and told her
if she would wear this it would protect her. And she consented and
wore the cactus-tuft.
And he told her to treat the young man right, when he came, & make
him broth of corn. And if the young man should eat all the broth,
then their plan would fail, but if he left any broth she was to eat
that up and then their plan would succeed.
And he told her to be sure and have a bow and arrows above the door
of the kee, so that he could take care of the young man.
And after her father had told her this, on that very evening the young
man came, and the girl received him kindly, and took his bows & arrows,
and put them over the door of the kee, as her father had told her,
and made the young man broth of corn and gave it to him to eat.
And he ate only part of it and what was left she ate herself.
And before this her father had told her: "If the young man is wounded
by the thorns you wear, in that moment he will become a woman and a
mother and you will become a young man."
And in the night all this came to be, even so, and by day-break the
child was crying.
And the old woman ran in and said: "Mos-say!" which means an old
woman's grandchild from a daughter.
And the daughter, that had been, said: "It is not your moss, it is
your cah-um-maht," that is an old woman's grandchild from a son.
And then the old man ran in and said: "Bah-ahm-ah-dah!" that is
an old man's grandchild from a daughter, but his daughter said:
"It is not your bah-ahm-maht, but it is your voss-ahm-maht," which
is an old man's grandchild from a son.
And early in the morning this young man (that had been, but who
was now a woman & a mother) made a wawl-kote, a carrier, or cradle,
for the baby and took the trail back home.
And Juhwerta Mahkai told his neighbors of what was coming, this
young man who had changed into a woman and a mother and was bringing
a baby born from himself, and that when he arrived wonderful things
would happen & springs would gush forth from under every tree and on
And the young man-woman came back and by the time of his return
Ee-ee-toy had finished his vessel and had placed therein seeds &
everything that is in the world.
And the young man-woman, when he came to his old home, placed his
baby in the bushes and left it, going in without it, but Ee-ee-toy
turned around and looked at him and knew him, for he did not wear a
woman's dress, and said to him: "Where is my Bahahmmaht? Bring it to
me. I want to see it. It is a joy for an old man to see his grandchild.
"I have sat here in my house and watched your going, and all that
has happened you, and foreseen some one would send you back in shame,
although I did not like to think there was anyone more powerful than
I. But never mind, he who has beaten us will see what will happen."
And when the young man-woman went to get his baby, Ee-ee-toy got into
his vessel, and built a fire on the hearth he had placed therein,
and sealed it up.
And the young man-woman found his baby crying, and the tears from it
were all over the ground, around. And when he stooped over to pick
up his child he turned into a sand-snipe, and the baby turned into
a little teeter-snipe.
And then that came true which Juhwerta Mahkai had said, that water
would gush out from under every tree & on every mountain; and the
people when they saw it, and knew that a flood was coming, ran to
Juhwerta Mahkai; and he took his staff and made a hole in the earth
and let all those thru who had come to him, but the rest were drowned.
Then Juhwerta Mahkai got into his walking stick & floated, and Toehahvs
got into his tube of cane and floated, but Ee-ee-toy's vessel was
heavy & big and remained until the flood was much deeper before it
And the people who were left out fled to the mountains; to the
mountains called Gah-kote-kih (Superstition Mts.) for they were
living in the plains between Gahkotekih and Cheoffskawmack (Tall
And there was a powerful man among these people, a doctor (mahkai),
who set a mark on the mountain side and said the water would not rise
And the people believed him and camped just beyond the mark; but the
water came on and they had to go higher. And this happened four times.
And the mahkai did this to help his people, and also used power to
raise the mountain, but at last he saw all was to be a failure. And
he called the people and asked them all to come close together, and he
took his doctor-stone (mah-kai-haw-teh) which is called Tonedumhawteh
or Stone-of-Light, and held it in the palm of his hand and struck
it hard with his other hand, and it thundered so loud that all the
people were frightened and they were all turned into stone.
And the little birds, the woodpecker, Hickovick; the humming-bird,
Veepismahl; the little bird named Gee-ee-sop, and the other called
Quotaveech, all flew up to the sky and hung on by their bills, but
Nooee still floated in the air and intended to keep on the wing unless
the floods reached the heavens.
But Juhwerta Mahkai, Ee-ee-toy and Toehahvs floated around on the
water and drifted to the west and did not know where they were.
And the flood rose higher until it reached the woodpecker's tail,
and you can see the marks to this day.
And Quotaveech was cold and cried so loud that the other birds pulled
off their feathers and built him a nest up there so he could keep
warm. And when Quotaveech was warm he quit crying.
And then the little birds sang, for they had power to make the water
go down by singing, and as they sang the waters gradually receded.
But the others still floated around.
When the land began to appear Juhwerta Mahkai and Toehahvs got out,
but Ee-ee-toy had to wait for his house to warm up, for he had built
a fire to warm his vessel enough for him to unseal it.
When it was warm enough he unsealed it, but when he looked out he
saw the water still running & he got back and sealed himself in again.
And after waiting a while he unsealed his vessel again, and seeing
dry land enough he got out.
And Juhwerta Mahkai went south and Toehahvs went west, and Ee-ee-toy
went northward. And as they did not know where they were they missed
each other, and passed each other unseen, but afterward saw each
other's tracks, and then turned back and shouted, but wandered from
the track, and again passed unseen. And this happened four times.
And the fourth time Juhwerta Mahkai and Ee-ee-toy met, but Toehahvs
had passed already.
And when they met, Ee-ee-toy said to Juhwerta Mahkai "My younger
brother!" but Juhwerta Mahkai greeted him as younger brother &
claimed to have come out first. Then Ee-ee-toy said again: "I came
out first and you can see the water marks on my body." But Juhwerta
Mahkai replied: "I came out first and also have the water marks on
my person to prove it."
But Ee-ee-toy so insisted that he was the eldest that Juhwerta Mahkai,
just to please him, gave him his way and let him be considered
And then they turned westward and yelled to find Toehahvs, for they
remembered to have seen his tracks, and they kept on yelling till he
heard them. And when Toehahvs saw them he called them his younger
brothers, and they called him younger brother. And this dispute
continued till Ee-ee-toy again got the best of it, and although really
the younger brother was admitted by the the others to be Seeurhuh,
or the elder.
And the birds came down from the sky and again there was a dispute
about the relationship, but Ee-ee-toy again got the best of them all.
But Quotaveech staid up in the sky because he had a comfortable nest
there, and they called him Vee-ick-koss-kum Mahkai, the Feather-Nest
And they wanted to find the middle, the navel of the earth, and
they sent Veepismahl, the humming-bird, to the west, and Hickovick,
the woodpecker, to the east, and all the others stood and waited for
them at the starting place. And Veepismahl & Hickovick were to go as
far as they could, to the edge of the world, and then return to find
the middle of the earth by their meeting. But Hickovick flew a little
faster and got there first, and so when they met they found it was
not the middle, and they parted & started again, but this time they
changed places and Hickovick went westward and Veepismahl went east.
And this time Veepismahl was the faster, and Hickovick was late,
and the judges thought their place of meeting was a little east of
the center so they all went a little way west. Ee-ee-toy, Juhwerta
Mahkai and Toehahvs stood there and sent the birds out once more,
and this time Hickovick went eastward again, and Veepismahl went
west. And Hickovick flew faster and arrived there first. And they said:
"This is not the middle. It is a little way west yet."
And so they moved a little way, and again the birds were sent forth,
and this time Hickovick went west and Veepismahl went east. And when
the birds returned they met where the others stood and all cried
"This is the Hick, the Navel of the World!"
And they stood there because there was no dry place yet for them to
sit down upon; and Ee-ee-toy rubbed upon his breast and took from
his bosom the smallest ants, the O-auf-taw-ton, and threw them upon
the ground, and they worked there and threw up little hills; and this
earth was dry. And so they sat down.
But the water was still running in the valleys, and Ee-ee-toy took
a hair from his head & made it into a snake--Vuck-vahmuht. And with
this snake he pushed the waters south, but the head of the snake was
left lying to the west and his tail to the east.
But there was more water, and Ee-ee-toy took another hair from his
head and made another snake, and with this snake pushed the rest of
the water north. And the head of this snake was left to the east and
his tail to the west. So the head of each snake was left lying with
the tail of the other.
And the snake that has his tail to the east, in the morning will
shake up his tail to start the morning wind to wake the people and
tell them to think of their dreams.
And the snake that has his tail to the west, in the evening will
shake up his tail to start the cool wind to tell the people it is
time to go in and make the fires & be comfortable.
And they said: "We will make dolls, but we will not let each other
see them until they are finished."
And Ee-ee-toy sat facing the west, and Toehahvs facing the south,
and Juhwerta Mahkai facing the east.
And the earth was still damp and they took clay and began to make
dolls. And Ee-ee-toy made the best. But Juhwerta Mahkai did not make
good ones, because he remembered some of his people had escaped the
flood thru a hole in the earth, and he intended to visit them and
he did not want to make anything better than they were to take the
place of them. And Toehahvs made the poorest of all.
Then Ee-ee-toy asked them if they were ready, and they all said yes,
and then they turned about and showed each other the dolls they
And Ee-ee-toy asked Juhwerta Mahkai why he had made such queer
dolls. "This one," he said, "is not right, for you have made him
without any sitting-down parts, and how can he get rid of the waste
of what he eats?"
But Juhwerta Mahkai said: "He will not need to eat, he can just smell
the smell of what is cooked."
Then Ee-ee-toy asked again: "Why did you make this doll with only one
leg--how can he run?" But Juhwerta Mahkai replied: "He will not need
to run; he can just hop around."
Then Ee-ee-toy asked Toehahvs why he had made a doll with webs between
his fingers and toes--"How can he point directions?" But Toehahvs
said he had made these dolls so for good purpose, for if anybody
gave them small seeds they would not slip between their fingers,
and they could use the webs for dippers to drink with.
And Ee-ee-toy held up his dolls and said: "These are the best of all,
and I want you to make more like them." And he took Toehahv's dolls
and threw them into the water and they became ducks & beavers. And he
took Juhwerta Mahkai's dolls and threw them away and they all broke
to pieces and were nothing.
And Juhwerta Mahkai was angry at this and began to sink into the
ground; and took his stick and hooked it into the sky and pulled the
sky down while he was sinking. But Ee-ee-toy spread his hand over his
dolls, and held up the sky, and seeing that Juhwerta Mahkai was sinking
into the earth he sprang and tried to hold him & cried, "Man, what
are you doing! Are you going to leave me and my people here alone?"
But Juhwerta Mahkai slipped through his hands, leaving in them only
the waste & excretion of his skin. And that is how there is sickness &
death among us.
And Ee-ee-toy, when Juhwerta Mahkai escaped him, went around swinging
his hands & saying: "I never thought all this impurity would come
upon my people!" and the swinging of his hands scattered disease
over all the earth. And he washed himself in a pool or pond and the
impurities remaining in the water are the source of the malarias and
all the diseases of dampness.
And Ee-ee-toy and Toehahvs built a house for their dolls a little
way off, and Ee-ee-toy sent Toehahvs to listen if they were yet
talking. And the Aw-up, (the Apaches) were the first ones that
talked. And Ee-ee-toy said: "I never meant to have those Apaches
talk first, I would rather have had the Aw-aw-tam, the Good People,
But he said: "It is all right. I will give them strength, that they
stand the cold & all hardships."
And all the different people that they had made talked, one after
the other, but the Awawtam talked last.
And they all took to playing together, and in their play they kicked
each other as the Maricopas do in sport to this day; but the Apaches
got angry and said: "We will leave you and go into the mountains and
eat what we can get, but we will dream good dreams and be just as
happy as you with all your good things to eat."
And some of the people took up their residence on the Gila, and some
went west to the Rio Colorado. And those who builded vahahkkees,
or houses out of adobe and stones, lived in the valley of the Gila,
between the mountains which are there now.
JUHWERTA MAHKAI'S SONG BEFORE THE FLOOD
My poor people,
Who will see,
Who will see
This water which will moisten the earth!
THE SONG OF SUPERSTITION MOUNTAINS
We are destroyed!
By my stone we are destroyed!
We are rightly turned into stone.
EE-EE-TOY'S SONG WHEN HE MADE THE WORLD SERPENTS
I know what to do;
I am going to move the water
NOTES ON THE STORY OF THE FLOOD
In the Story of the Flood we are introduced to Indian marriage. Among
the Pimas it was a very simple affair. There was no ceremony
whatever. The lover usually selected a relative, who went with him to
the parents of the girl and asked the father to permit the lover to
marry her. Presents were seldom given unless a very old man desired
a young bride. The girl was consulted and her consent was essential,
her refusal final. If, however, all parties were satisfied, she went at
once with her husband as his wife. If either party became dissatisfied,
separation at once constituted divorce and either could leave the
other. A widow or divorced woman, if courted by another suitor, was
approached directly, with no intervention of relatives. Of course,
on these terms there were many separations, yet all accounts agree
that there was a good deal of fidelity and many life-long unions and
cases of strong affection.
Polygamy was not unknown.
Grossman says that the wife was the slave of the husband, but it
is difficult to see how a woman, free at any moment to divorce
herself without disgrace or coercion, could be properly regarded as
a slave. Certainly the men appear always to have done a large part
of the hard work, and as far as I could see the women were remarkably
equal and independent and respectfully treated, as such a system would
naturally bring about. A man would be a fool to ill-treat a woman,
whose love or services were valuable to him, if at any moment of
discontent she could leave him, perhaps for a rival. The chances are
that he would constantly endeavor to hold her allegiance by special
kindness and favors.
But today legal marriage is replacing the old system.
So far as I saw the Pimas were very harmonious and kindly in family
The birds, gee-ee-sop and quotaveech, were pointed out to me by the
Pimas, and as near as I could tell quotaveech was Bendire's thrasher,
or perhaps the curve-bill thrasher. It has a very sweet but timid
song. I did not succeed in identifying gee-ee-sop, but find these
entries about him in my journal: "Aug. 5--I saw a little bird which
I suppose to be a gee-ee-sop in a mezquite today, smaller and more
slender than a vireo, but like one in action, but the tail longer and
carried more like a brown thrasher, nearly white below, dark, leaden
gray above, top of head and tail black." Again on Sept. 1: "What a
dear little bird the gee-ee-sop is! Two of them in the oas-juh-wert-pot
tree were looking at me a few minutes back. Dark slate-blue above and
nearly white below, with beady black eyes and black, lively tails,
tipped with white, they are very pretty, tame and confiding."
The faith of the Aw-aw-tam in witchcraft appears first in this story
and afterwards is conspicuous in nearly all. Almost all diseases
they supposed were caused by bewitching, and it was the chief
business of the medicine-men to find out who or what had caused the
bewitching. Sometimes people were accused and murders followed. This
was the darkest spot in Piman life. Generally, however, some animal or
inanimate object was identified. Grossman's account in the Smithsonian
Report for 1871 is interesting. In the stories, however, witchcraft
appears usually as the ability of the mahkai to work transformations
in himself or others, in true old fairy-tale style.
Superstition Mountain derives its name from this story. It is a
very beautiful and impressive mountain, with terraces of cliffs,
marking perhaps the successive pausing places of the fugitives, and
the huddled rocks on the top represent their petrified forms. Some
of the older Indians still fear to go up into this mountain, lest a
like fate befall them.
What beautiful poetic touches are the wetting of the woodpecker's tail,
and the singing of the little birds to subdue the angry waters.
The resemblances to Genesis will of course be noted by all in these
two first stories. Yet after all they are few and slight in any matter
In Ee-ee-toy's serpents, that pushed back the waters, there is a
strong reminder of the Norse Midgard Serpent.
The making of the dolls in this story is one of the prettiest and
most amusing spots in the traditions.
The waste and perspiration of Juhwerta Mahkai's skin again comes into
play, but this time as a malign force instead of a beneficent one. It
would also appear from this that the more intelligent Pimas had a
glimmering of the fact that there were other causes than witchcraft
I have generally used the word Aw-aw-tam (Good People, or People of
Peace) as synonymous with Pima, but it is sometimes used to embrace
all Indians of the Piman stock and may be so understood in this story.
And perhaps this is as good a place as any to say a few descriptive
words about these Pimas of Arizona, and their allies, who have from
prehistoric times inhabited what the old Spanish historian, Clavigero,
called "Pimeria," that is, the valleys of the Gila and Salt Rivers.
Their faces seemed to me to be of almost Caucasian regularity and
rather of an English or Dutch cast, that is rather heavily moulded. The
forehead is vertical and inclined to be square; and the chin, broad,
heavy and full, comes out well to its line. The nose is straight,
or a little irregular, or rounded, at the end, but not often very
aquiline, never flat or wide-nostriled. The mouth is large but well
shaped, with short, white, remarkably even teeth, seldom showing any
canine projection. The whole face is a little heavy and square, but
the cheek bones are not especially prominent. The eyes are level, frank
and direct in glance, with long lashes and strong black brows. In the
babies a slight uptilt to the eye is sometimes seen, like a Japanese,
which indeed the babies suggest. The head of almost all adults is
well-balanced and finely poised on a good neck.
Another type possesses more of what we call the Indian feature. The
forehead retreats somewhat, so does the chin, while the upper lip
is larger, longer, more convex and the nose, above is more aquiline,
with wider nostrils. Consequently this face in profile is more convex
thruout. The cheek-bones are much more prominent, too, and the head
not generally so well-balanced and proportional.
While I have seen no striking beauty I believe the average good looks
is greater than among white men, taken as they come.
The women as a rule, however, do not carry themselves gracefully, are
apt to be too broad, fat and dumpy in figure, with too large waists,
and often loose, ungracefully-moving hips. This deformity of the hips,
for it almost amounts to that, I observe among Italian peasant women,
too, and some negresses, and, I take it, is caused by carrying too
heavy loads on the head at too early an age. There seems to be a
settling down of the body into the pelvis, with a loose alternate
motion of the hips. There are exceptions, of course, and I have seen
those of stately figure and fine carriage. Sometimes the loose-hip
motion appears in a man.
A slight tattooing appears on almost all Pima faces not of the last
generation. In the women this consists of two blue lines running down
from each corner of the mouth, under the chin, crossing, at the start,
the lower lip, and a single blue line running back from the outer
angle of each eye to the hair.
In the men it is usually a single zigzag blue line across the forehead.
The pigment used is charcoal.
The men are generally erect and of good figure, with good chests and
rather heavy shoulders, the legs often a little bowed. Strange to say
I never saw one who walked "pigeon-toed." All turned the toes out like
white men. The hands are often small and almost always well-shaped; and
the feet of good shape, too, not over large, with a well-arched instep.
Emory and his comrades found the Pimas wearing a kind of breech-cloth
and a cotton serape only for garments; the women wearing only a
serape tied around the waist and falling to the knee, being otherwise
nude. Today the average male Pima dresses like a white workman, in hat,
shirt, trousers and perhaps shoes, and his wife or daughter wears a
single print gown, rather loose at the waist and ruffled at the bottom,
which reaches only to the ankles. Both sexes are commonly barefooted,
but the old sandals, once universal, are still often seen. These
gah-kai-gey-aht-kum-soosk, or string-shoes, as the word means, were
made in several different ways, and often projected somewhat around
the foot as a protection against the frequent and formidable thorns
of the country.
Sometimes a wilder or older Indian will be seen, even now, with only
a breech-cloth on, and some apology for a garment on his shoulders.
The skin is often of a very beautiful rich red-bronze tint, or perhaps
more like old mahogany.
Except the tattooing both sexes are remarkable for their almost
entire absense of any marked adornment or ornament of person. Even a
finger-ring, or a ribbon on the hair, is not common, and the profuse
bead-work and embroidery of the other tribes is never seen.
The exceedingly thick and intensely black hair was formerly worn
very long, even to the waist, being banged off just over the eyes
of the women and over the eyes and ears of the men and allowed to
hang perfectly loose. But the women seldom wore as long hair as
the men. This long hair is still sometimes seen and is exceedingly
picturesque, especially on horseback, and it is a great pity so
sightly a fashion should ever die out. I have seen Maricopas roll
theirs in ringlets. Sometimes the men braided the hair into a cue,
or looped up the ends with a fillet. But the Government discourages
long and loose hair, and now most men cut it short, and women part
theirs and braid it. Like all Indians, the men have scant beards,
and the few whiskers that grow are shaved clean or resolutely pinched
off with an old knife or pulled out by tweezers.
Their hair appears to turn gray as early as ours, tho I saw no baldness
except on one individual. In old times (and even now to some extent)
the hair was dressed with a mixture of mud and mezquite gum, at times,
which was left on long enough for the desired effect and then thoroly
washed off. This cleansed it and made it glossy and the gum dyed the
gray hair quite a lasting, jet black, tho several applications might
Women still carry their ollas and other burdens on their heads and
are exceedingly strong and expert in the art, balancing great and
awkward weights with admirable dexterity.
The convenient and even beautiful gyih-haw (a word very difficult to
pronounce correctly), or burden basket, of the old time Pima woman,
seems to have entirely disappeared. It was not only picturesque,
but an exceedingly useful utensil.
The wawl-kote, or carrying-cradle for the baby, is obsolete, too,
now. Strange to say, tho in shape like most pappoose-cradles, it
was carried poised on the head, instead of slung on the back in the
The Pimas are fond of conversation and often come together in the
evening and have long talks. Their voices are low, rapid, soft and
very pleasant and they laugh, smile and joke a great deal. They are
remarkable for calmness and evenness of temper and the expression of
the face is nearly always intelligent, frank, and good-natured.
They are noticeably devoid of hurry, worry, irritability or
Unlike most Indians these have not been removed from the soil of their
fathers and, indeed, such an act would have been cruelly unjust, for,
true to their name, the Pimas have maintained an unbroken peace with
Lieutenant Colonel W. H. Emory, of "The Army of the West," who visited
them in 1846, was perhaps the first American to observe and describe
these people. He says: "Both nations (Pimas and Maricopas) cherished an
aversion to war and a profound attachment to all the peaceful pursuits
of life. This predilection arose from no incapacity for war, for they
were at all times able and willing to keep the Apaches, whose hands
are raised against all other people, at a respectful distance, and
prevent depredations by those mountain robbers who held Chihuahua,
Sonora and a part of Durango in a condition approaching almost to
As observed by Emory and the other officers of the "Army of the West"
they were an agricultural people raising at that time "cotton, wheat,
maize, beans, pumpkins and water melons." I found them raising all
these in 1903, except cotton, and I think he might have added to his
list, peppers, gourds, tobacco and the pea called cah-lay-vahs.
Emory says: "We were at once impressed with the beauty, order,
and disposition of the arrangements made for irrigating the land
... the fields are subdivided by ridges of earth into rectangles of
about 200x100 feet, for the convenience of irrigating. The fences
are of sticks, matted with willow and mezquite." I found this still
comparatively correct. The fields are still irrigated by acequias
or ditches from the Gila, and still fenced by forks of trees set
closely in the ground and reinforced with branches of thorn or barbed
wire. Some of these fences with their antler-like effect of tops are
From the description given by Emory, and Captain A. R. Johnson of the
same army, of their kees or winter lodges, they were essentially the
same as I found some of them still inhabiting. There is the following
entry in my journal: "I have been examining the old kee next door,
since the old couple left it. It is quite neatly and systematically
made. Four large forks are set in the ground, and these support
a square of large poles, covered with other poles, arrow-weeds,
chaff and earth, for the roof. The walls are a neat arrangement of
small saplings, about 10 inches apart curving up from the ground on
a bending slant to the roof, so that the whole structure comes to
resemble a turtle-shell or rather an inverted bowl. These side sticks
are connected by three lines of smaller sticks tied across them with
withes, all the way around the kee. Against these arrow-weeds are
stood, closely and neatly, tops down (perhaps thatched on) and kept in
place by three more lines of small sticks, bound on and corresponding
to those within. Then the whole structure is plastered over with adobe
mud till rain-proof. No window, and only one small door, about 2-1/2
feet square, closed by a slat-work."
This kee of the Pima was not to his credit. The most friendly must
admit it dirty, uncomfortable and unpicturesque. It was too low to
stand erect in, the little fire was made in the center, the smoke
escaping at last from the low doorway after trying everywhere else
and festooning the ceiling with soot.
The establishment of the Pima was most simple. He sat, ate and
slept on the earth, consequently a few mats and blankets, baskets,
bowls and pots included his furniture. A large earthen olla, called
by the Pimas hah-ah, stood in a triple fork under the shade of the
vachtoe and being porous enough to permit a slight evaporation kept
the drinking water cool.
The arbor-shed or vachtoe pertains to almost every Piman home
and consists of a flat roof of poles and arrow-weeds supported
by stout forks. Sometimes earth is added to the roof to keep off
rain. Sometimes the sides are enclosed with a rude wattle work of
weeds and bushes, making a grateful shade, admitting air freely;
screening those within from view, while permitting vision from within
outward in any direction. Sometimes this screen of weeds and bushes,
in a circular form, was made without any roof and was then called
an o-num. Sometimes after the vachtoe had been inclosed with wattle
work the whole structure was plastered over with adobe mud and then
became a caws-seen, or storehouse. All these structures were used
at times as habitations, but now the Pima is coming more and more to
the white man's adobe cottage as a house and home. But the vachtoe,
attached or detached, is still a feature of almost every homestead.
Under the vachtoe usually stood the metate, or mill (called by the
Pimas mah-choot) which was a large flat or concave stone, below,
across which was rubbed an oblong, narrow stone (vee-it-kote),
above, to grind the corn or wheat. Other important utensils were a
vatchee-ho, or wooden trough, for mixing, and a chee-o-pah, or mortar,
of wood or stone, for crushing things with a pestle. The nah-dah-kote,
or fire-place, was an affair of stones and adobe mud to support the
earthern pots for cooking or to support the earthern plates on which
the thin cakes of corn or wheat meal were baked. These were what the
Mexicans call tortillas. Perhaps the staple food of the Pima even
more than corn (hohn) or wheat (payl-koon) is frijole beans--these
of two kinds, the white (bah-fih), the brown (mohn). A sort of meal
made of parched corn or wheat; ground on the mahchoot and eaten, or
perhaps one might say drank, with water and brown sugar (pano-che)
was the famous pinole, the food carried on war trips when nutrition,
lightness of weight and smallness of bulk were all desired. It has a
remarkable power to cool and quench thirst. Taw-mahls, or corn-cakes
of ground green corn, wrapped in husks and roasted in the ashes,
or boiled, were also favorites. Peppers (kaw-aw-kull) were a good
deal used for seasoning and relishes.
Today the country of the Pima is very destitute of large game but he
adds to the above bill of fare all the small game, especially rabbits,
quail and doves, that he can kill. In the old days when the Gila always
had water it held fine fish and the Indians caught them with their
hands or swept them up on the banks by long chains of willow hurdles
or faggots, carried around the fish by waders. I could not learn that
they ever had any true fish-nets or fish-hooks; nor any rafts, canoes
or other boats. But owing to the frequent necessity of crossing the
treacherous Gila the men, and many of the women, were good swimmers.
The Toe-hawn-awh Aw-aw-tam, or Papagoes, whose reservation is in
Pima County, near Tucson (and called St. Xavier) are counted "blood
brothers" of the Pimas, speak essentially the same language, are on
the most cordial terms with them, and are under the same agency.
The Maricopas are a refugee tribe, related to the Yumas, who
once threatened them with extermination because of an inter-tribal
feud. They were adopted by the Pimas and protected by them, and have
ever since lived with them as one people, having however a different
language, identical with that of the Yumas.
The Quojatas are a small tribe, of the Piman stock, living south of
the Casa Grande.
The total number of Pimas, Papagoes and Maricopas in the U. S. is
now estimated at about 8000, the Pimas alone as 4000.
I am not a linguist, or a philologist, and my time was short with
these people, and I did not go to any extent into their language,
or study its grammar. Their voices were soft and pleasant, and I
was continually surprised at the low tones in which they generally
conversed and the quickness with which they heard. But their words
were most awkward to my tongue. There were German sounds, and French
sounds, too, I would say, in their language, and there were letters
that seemed to disappear as they uttered them, or never to come really
forth, and syllables that were swallowed like spoonfuls of hot soup.
But I trust that I am substantially correct in the words that I have
retained in the stories and that I have written them so that the
English reader can pronounce them in a way to be understood.
The accent is generally on the first syllable.
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