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The Story Of The Gambler's War


Source: Aw-aw-tam Indian Nights

And after this, for a long time, there was peace toward the Apaches,
but it happened, once, that two brothers of the country went to
gamble with the Awup, playing the game called waw-pah-tee in which
the gamblers guess in which piece of cane a little ball is hidden.

And one of the brothers, after losing all his goods, bet his brother
and lost him, and then bet the different parts of his own body,
leaving his heart to the last, and finally wagered his heart against
all his previous bets, saying it was worth more than they, and hoping
so to recover all, but he lost that also.

And when the game was ended the Apaches killed his brother, but
allowed him to walk away, and he returned to his own land.

But all the way he would see his brother's tracks, and whenever he
stopped to camp he would see his brother's body, where it lay, and
how he looked, lying there dead; and when he got home he felt so sad
he cried aloud, but no one paid any attention to him.

And when he got home his folks gave him food to eat, and water to
drink, but he would neither eat nor drink, feeling so sad about his
brother, and he took nothing for four days.

But on the fifth day he went out and sought the cool shade of trees
to forget his brother, and went upon the hills and stood there, but
he could not forget; and then, in coming down, he fell down and went
to sleep.

And in his sleep his brother came to him, and he seemed to know him,
but when he tried to put his arms around his brother he woke up and
found he was not there.

And he went home and ate, and then made this speech:--

"My pitiful relatives, I will pity you and you will pity me.

This spread-out-thing, the world, is covered with feathers, because
of my sadness, and the mountains are covered with soft feathers.

Over these the sun comes, but gives me no light, I am so sad.

And the night comes, and has no darkness to rest me, because my eyes
are open all night.

(This has happened to me, O all my relatives.)

And it was my own bones that I raked up, and with them made a fire
that showed me the opposite land, the Land of the Enemy.

(This was done, my relatives.)

The sticks I cut for the number of days were my own sinews, cut and
bound together.

It was my own rib that I used as an eev-a-dah-kote, or fire rubbing

It was my own bowels that I used for a belt.

And it was my scalp, and my own hair, that I used for sandals.

It was my own skull that I filled with my own blood, and drank from,
and talked like a drunkard.

And I wandered where the ashes are dumped, and I wandered over the
hills, and I found it could be done, and went to the shadows of the
trees and found the same thing.

On the level ground I fell, and the Sun, the Traveller, was overhead,
and from above my brother came down, and I tried to hug him, but only
hugged myself.

And I thought I was holding all sadness, but there was a yet stronger
sadness, for my brother came down and stood on my breast, and the
tears fell down and watered the ground.

And I tried to hug him, but only hugged myself.

And this was my desire, that I should go to the powerful woman,
and I reached her quietly where she lived.

And I spoke to her this way:

'You were living over there.

You are the person who makes a hoop for her gyihhaw from the Apaches'
bow, and with their arrows makes the back-stop, the oam-muck, and
with their blood you color the gyihhaw prettily; and you split the
arrow-heads and make from them the ov-a-nuck, and tie it in with the
Apaches' hair, weaving the hair to the left and then binding it on.'

And this way I spoke to her.

And then she gave me good news of the weakness of the Apaches and I
ran out full of joy.

And from there I rose up and reached the Feather-Nested Doctor,
Quotaveech, and I spoke to him this way:

'And you belong here.

And you make the ribs of your kee from the Apache bows, and you tie
the arrows across with the bow strings, and with the sinews of their
bows you tie them.

And with the robes of the Apaches, and with their head-wear, and with
their moccasins, you cover the kee instead of with arrow weeds.

And inside, at the four corners, there are hung locks of Apaches' hair,
and at the corners are the stumps of the cane-tube pipes, smoking
themselves, and forming the smoke into all colors of flowers--white
and glittering and gray and yellow.'

And this way I spoke to him, and he gave me the good news of the
weakness of the Apaches.

And I came down and went Southward to the other doctor, called
Vahk-lohn Mahkai and there I reached him.

And this way I spoke to him:

'And here is where you belong.

The Apache bow you make into the likeness of the pretty rainbow,
and the arrows you make into the likeness of the white-headed grass.

And the fore shaft of the arrows you turn into water moss, and the
arrows into resemblance of flat clay.

And the hair of the Apaches you make into likeness of clouds.'

And this way I spoke to him, and he told me the news of the weakness
of the Apaches.

And I ran out of the house, and went westward, and found the old
woman doctor, Tawquahdahmawks.

And I said to her:

'You belong here.

And you make the bow of the Apaches into the hoop of the game the
Aw-aw-bopp, the Maricopas, play, the rolling hoop that they throw
sticks after.

And their arrows you flatten up with your teeth, and wear around your
brows like a crown.

And the fore shafts of the arrows you have split, and painted red
with the Apache blood, and made into gainskoot, the dice sticks.

And the Apache hair you make into a skirt.'

And this way I spoke to her, and she told me the thought of the two
different peoples, the Awawtam and the Awup, that they were enemies,
and she told me this, and I went out from there and strengthened
myself four times.

And I spread the news when I got home, and set the doctor over it.

And there was the stump of the doctor's pipe standing there, and
smoking itself, and I imbibed it, and smoked it toward the enemy,
and the smoke changed into different colors of flowers, white,
glittering, grey and yellow, and reached the edge of the earth,
the land of the Apache, and circled around there.

And it softened the earth, and brought fresh grass, and fresh leaves
on the trees, so that the Apaches would be gathered together.

And my western famous enemy went and told his son to go to his uncle,
to see if it was so that there was plenty of grass and plenty of
things to eat there.

And his son went and said: 'My father sent me to find out about these
things,' and his uncle said: 'It is so what he has heard, that we have
plenty of things to eat, and all kinds of game, and that is what I eat.

You go back and tell the old man to come, so that I will be with
him here.'

So the boy went and told the old man this, and he got up and put on
his nose-ring of turquoise, and took his cake of paint, and his locks
of hair, and his pouch.

After he got everything together he started out and camped for one
night, and arriving at his destination the next morning, after the sun
rose, came to his brother and called him, 'Brother!' with a loud voice.

And the next morning the brother got up and went hunting, and found
a dead deer, and brought it home, and called it fresh meat, and they
ate it together.

But instead of eating deer they ate themselves up.

And their skins became like sick person's skin, and their hair became
coarse, and their eyes were sore, and they became lousy, and were
so weak that they left their hands beneath their heads when they
scratched themselves lying down.

And the brother's wife went and gathered seed to eat, and found it
easy to gather, without husks, and thought to enjoy eating it, but
when she ate it she ate her own lice, and her skin became as a sick
person's skin, her hair became coarse, her person lousy, her eyes sore.

And my enemy in the far east heard about food being so plenty to eat
there, and sent his son to ask his uncle if these reports were so.

And his father got up and took his war-bonnet of eagle-feathers,
and his moccasins, and, using his power, brought even his wind and
his clouds and his rainbow with him, and all his crops, for tho he
had plenty at home he thought to find more at his brother's place.

And, camping one night on the road, he came to his brother, after
sunrise, and called him 'Brother' with a loud voice.

And everything happened to this enemy from the east, and his brother,
and brother's wife, that had happened to the enemy from the west and
his brother and brother's wife.

And I found the Apache enemy early in the morning, lying asleep,
still needing his blanket, and covering himself up, and captured him
without trouble.

And there I captured all his property, and took from him captives
and many scalps, and my way coming back seemed to be down hill,
and I strengthened myself and came to the level ground.

And when I came to the hollow where I drank, the water rippled from
my moving it.

And I appointed messengers to go ahead and tell those at home, the
old men and women waiting to hear of us, the good news of our victory.

And after sending on the messengers I went on, rejoicing, carrying
the consciousness of my victory over the Apaches with me; and arriving
home at evening I found the land filled with the news, even the tops
of the hills covered.

And I told my people to send word to our western relatives, and to
our southern relatives, and our eastern relatives, that the good news
might be known to all."

After this he called the people together for war, and the first
evening they camped a man prophesied, and said:

"Now we have heard our war-speech, and are on our way, and I foresee
the way beautiful with flowers, even the big trees covered with
flowers, and I can see that we come to the enemy and conquer them

And the road to the east is lined with white flowers, and the Apaches,
seeing it, rejoice also, with smiles, thinking it for their good,
but really it is for their destruction, for it is made so by the
power of our doctors.

And in the middle of the earth, between us and the enemy, stood the
Cane-Tube Pipe and smoked itself.

I inhaled the smoke and blew it out toward the East, and saw the
smoke rising till it reached the Vahahkkee of Light, and up still
till it reached the Cane of Light.

And I took that cane and punched it at the corner of the Vahahkkee,
and out came the White Water and the White Wasps, and the wasps flew
around it four times and then they went down again.

And then in the South I saw the Blue Vahahkkee, and the Blue Cane,
and I took the cane and punched it into the corner of the vahahkkee,
and there came out Blue Water and Blue Wasps, and the wasps flew
around four times, and then sank down again.

And in the West there stood the Black Vahahkkee, and the Black Cane,
and I took the cane and punched at the corner, and there came out
Black Water and Black Wasps, and the wasps flew around four times,
and then went in again.

And in the North stood the Yellow Vahahkkee, and the Yellow Cane,
and I took the cane and punched it at the corner, and there came out
Yellow Water and Yellow Wasps, and the wasps flew around four times,
and then went in again.

And on top of this vahahkkee was a Yellow Spider, and I asked him to
help me, and he stretched his web four times, and there found my enemy.

And there he bound his heart with his web, and bound his arms, and
bound his bow and his arrows, and left him there in the state of a
woman, with nothing to defend himself with.

And he pushed me toward where he had left him, and I captured him
very easily, and all his property, and all his children.

You, my relatives, may not like the noise of our rejoicing, but it
is only for a short time that we rejoice over the enemy."

And they camped out another night, and another one spoke, and he said:

"I was lying in ashes, and praying the distant mountains for strength,
and the far doctors for power.

And there was a Sun that rose from the east and followed the western

And all the four-footed animals met together and called themselves
relatives, and all the birds met together and called themselves
relatives, and in this order followed the Sun.

And the Sun rose again, and brought me the See-hee-vit-tah Feather,
the Sunbeam, to wear on my head, and hugged me up to him.

And the Sun rose again, and brought the Blue Fog, and in the fog took
me toward the enemy.

But instead of taking me to the enemy it took me up into the sky,
to the Yellow Crow.

And the Yellow Crow, as a powerful mahkai, went down to the enemy
and divided their land four times, and slew the human beings, and
painted the rocks over beautifully with their blood.

And from there I went to the Yellow Spider, living on the back of
the mound at the North, and asked him to help me.

And he stretched his web four times, and found my enemy, and bound
him, and pushed me toward him, and I took him, and all his, captive,
and came home rejoicing.

So, my relatives, think of this, that there will be victory. You may
not like the noise of our rejoicing, but it is only for a short time
that we rejoice over the enemy."

And they went toward the mountains where the Apaches live, and camped
there, and there were empty Apache houses there, and one of them
spoke using himself figuratively as a type of his people:

"Perhaps these Apaches have gone from here to my house, and have
killed me and have dragged me thru the waters we passed coming here,
and have beaten me with all the sticks we saw on the road, and have
thrown ashes over me, and maybe these are my bones that lie here,
and this dry blood is my blood.

This has been done, my relatives, and there in the East is a Vahahkkee
of Light, and within it there is a Butcher-bird of Light.

And I asked the Butcher-bird for power, and he followed his Road of
Light, and touched the ground four times with his tail, and came to me.

And he went on the road that is lighted by a mahkai, and following
that reached my enemy.

And my enemy thought himself a good dreamer, and that his dreams were
fulfilled for good, and that he had a good bow with a good string,
and good cane arrows, but the Butcher-bird had already punched his
eyes out without his knowing it.

And all the animals and birds of the Apaches think they have good
eyes to see with, but the Butcher-bird has punched their eyes out
without their knowing it.

And the winds of the Apaches think they have sharp eyes, and the clouds
of the Apaches think themselves sharp-eyed, but the Butcher-bird has
punched their eyes out without their knowing it.

So he treated the enemy like that, and left him there as a woman,
and then pushed me toward him, and I went and captured him easily.

And I gathered all the property, and all the captives, and, turning
back, looked ahead of me and found the country all springy with water,
and wasps flying, and I followed them.

And ahead of me was a road with many flowers, and a butterfly that
beautifully spread itself open and led the way, and I followed.

And I brought the dead enemy home, and from there the news spread
all over my country.

So, my relatives, think of this, that there will be victory.

And you may not like the sound of our rejoicing, but it is only for
a short time that we rejoice over our enemy."


In this we are given wonderful glimpses into the strange, fierce,
sad, extravagant poetry of the Indian speeches, which seem oftenest
inspired by the passion of revenge. Notice that in these stories,
if several speeches are given in any one story, they generally have
a quite similar ending, a sort of refrain: "So, my relatives," etc.

This story ends abruptly, and is, I think, manifestly only a
fragment. Following the speeches, which were mere boastful prophecies,
should have been an account in detail of the actual campaign, as in
the story of Pahtahnkum's war.

Next: The Story Of Nahvahchoo

Previous: The Story Of Pahtahnkum

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