Why Do So Many People Pretend to Be Native American?

Originally posted on Longreads Blog:

Russell Cobb | This Land Press | August 2014 | 16 minutes (3,976 words)

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The Origin of the Thunderbird

This is a legend of long, long ago times. Two Indians desired to find the origin of thunder. They traveled north and came to a high mountain. These mountains performed magically. They drew apart, back and forth, then closed together very quickly.

One Indian said, “I will leap through the cleft before it closes. If I am caught, you continue to find the origin of thunder.” The first one succeeded in going through the cleft before it closed, but the second one was caught and squashed.

On the other side, the first Indian saw a large plain with a group of wigwams, and a number of Indians playing a ball game. After a little while, these players said to each other, “It is time to go.” They disappeared into their wigwams to put on wings, and came out with their bows and arrows and flew away over the mountains to the south. This was how the Passamaquoddy Indian discovered the homes of the Thunderbirds.

The remaining old men of that tribe asked the Passamaquoddy Indian, “What do you want? Who are you?” He replied with the story of his mission. The old men deliberated how they could help him.

They decided to put the lone Indian into a large mortar, and they pounded him until all of his bones were broken. They moulded him into a new body with wings like thunderbird, and gave him a bow and some arrows and sent him away in flight. They warned him not to fly close to trees, as he would fly so fast he could not stop in time to avoid them, and he would be killed.

The lone Indian could not reach his home because the huge enemy bird, Wochowsen, at that time made such a damaging wind. Thunderbird is an Indian and he or his lightning would never harm another Indian. But Wochowsen, great bird from the south, tried hard to rival Thunderbird. So Passamaquoddies feared Wochowsen, whose wings Glooscap once had broken, because he used too much power.

A result was that for a long time air became stagnant, the sea was full of slime, and all of the fish died. But Glooscap saw what was happening to his people and repaired the wings of Wochowsen to the extent of controlling and alternating strong winds with calm.

Legend tells us this is how the new Passamaquoddy thunderbird, the lone Indian who passed through the cleft, in time became the great and powerful Thunderbird, who always has kept a watchful eye upon the good Indians.

Credit: A Passamaquoddy Legend
photo credit: source

Mother Bear Story

Long ago, a group of girls of the tribe were out gathering huckleberries. One among them was a bit of a chatterbox, who should have been singing to tell the bears of her presence instead of laughing and talking. The bears, who could hear her even though some distance away, wondered if she was mocking them in her babbling. By the time the berry-pickers started home, the bears were watching.

As she followed at the end of the group, the girl’s foot slipped in some bear dung and her forehead strap, which held the pack filled with berries to her back, broke. She let out an angry laugh. The others went on. Again she should have sung, but she only complained. The bears noted this and said, “Does she speak of us?” It was growing dark. Near her appeared two young men who looked like brothers. One said, “Come with us and we will help you with your berries”. As the aristocratic young lady followed the, she saw that they wore bear robes.

It was dark when they arrived at a large house near a rock slide high on the mountain slope. All the people inside, sitting around a small fire, were wearing bearskins also. Grandmother Mouse ran up to the girl and squeaked to her that she had been taken into the bear den and was to become one of them. The hair on her robe was already longer and more like a bear’s. She was frightened. One of the young bears, the son of a chief, came up to her and said, “You will live if you become my wife. Otherwise you will die.”

She lived on as the wife of the bear, tending the fire in the dark house. She noticed that whenever the Bear People went outside they put on their bear coats and became like the animal. In the winter she was pregnant, and her husband took her to a cliff cave near the old home, where she gave birth to twins, which were half human and half bear.

One day her brothers came searching for her, and the Bear Wife knew she must reveal her presence. She rolled a snowball down the mountainside to draw their attention, and they climbed up the rock slide. The Bear Husband knew that he must die, but before he was killed by the woman’s brothers, he taught her and the Bear Sons the songs that the hunters must use over his dead body to ensure their good luck. He willed his skin to her father, who was a tribal chief. The young men then killed the bear, smoking him out of the cave and spearing him. They spared the two children, taking them with the Bear Wife back to her People.

The Bear Sons removed their bear coats and became great hunters. They guided their kinsmen to bear dens in the mountains and showed them how to set snares, and they instructed the people in singing the ritual songs. Many years later, when their mother died, they put on their coats again and went back to live with the Bear People, but the tribe continued to have good fortune with their hunting.
Legend: A Haida Legend
photo: Mort Künstler : Haida Bear Dance

The Origin of Some Oraibi Clans

Away down the sípapu in the under-world the people lived in the same manner as they do here. The wife of the chief of the Bear clan often danced in the Butterfly dance (Políhtikivee), at which the chief got angry.

The Spider clan had also a chief. The Bear chief sent the Pö’okong to limit for them another life (kátci) or world and see whether they could not get out. He was so angry at his wife’s participating in the dance, fearing that she would be led astray, he wanted to go away and leave her.

Pö’okong and his younger brother Balö’ongahoya went in search of another world, and when they returned, reported that there was an opening right above them. Pö’okong had reached it by means of a reed on which he had spit and thus made it strong.

The chief said, as they were still dancing (the Butterfly dance) they would move in four days. After four days they were still dancing, and the chief said to some one that he would not tell his wife anything, but try to find another wife. So he left, being accompanied by Pö’okong and, Balö’ongahoya, the Pölis still dancing wildly.

They started and went out, Pö’okong first, then Balö’ongahoya, then the Bear clan chief, who was followed by the Spider clan chief. Then the Bear clan people, the Spider clan people, and after them many other people came out. When many were out the Bear chief closed the opening.

When they were out the chief said, ”Well, what now?” They were in the dark yet, the entrance, however, being closed.

The chief sent the Eagle who flew around hunting an opening or light. H returned, and the chief asked: ”Taá um hin nawóti?” “Well, I found an opening and made it more light, but it is very hot high up yet. Send another one.” So the chief sent the Buzzard (Wicóko). The latter ascended higher but got burned (hence he has no feathers on his head and wings), but he made it lighter.

When he returned that chief said: “Thank you. Well, now what? Now it is somewhat better. The sky has been opened somewhat more and it is much lighter.” The question arose: Which way? The Bear clan spoke for the South, the Spider clan for the north, and the latter talking more and getting the greater crowd, the Spider clan went northward.

The Spider Clan This clan traveled northward. The chief first, the people following. After four nights they carne to a nice country, where the “North Old Man” (Kwináe Wuhtaka) lives. But it was cold there.

The chief decided that there they would stay. So the people were glad and began to plant corn, watermelon, melons, sweet corn, etc. The chief had brought with him the cult and altar of the Blue Flutes. When the corn began to grow the chief put up his altar, sang and fluted, but he did all that alone. So the corn, etc., grew nicely, but when it tasseled and the ears began to develop, it became cold and the crop was destroyed.

“Ishohi!” (Oh!) the people exclaimed. They tried it another year, but the same: thing was repeated in every respect. Again no crop. Another year it was tried, but now the corn only began to tassel, and the fourth year it was still very small when the frost killed it. Then there was dissatisfaction. “Ishohí! (Oh!) Our Father, you have spoken falsely, you said it was good here.” So they all also started southward after the Bear People.

After the first night the chief said to his wife: “You bathe yourself.” This she did (in warm water). Then she rubbed her body and collected the small scales which she had rubbed from her skin and handed them to her husband. He laid them on a blanket until there was a considerable quantity of them. He then wrapped this in a reed receptacle, sang over it and waved it four times, whereupon the scales turned into burros and rushed out. “What is that?” the people asked. “Those are burros,” the chief said. So they were glad that now they would not have to carry everything themselves any longer, and the chief said that now they would move on towards the rising sun.

The chief and his wife repeated the same performance, but instead of burros, Spaniards came out. To them the chief said: You put supplies and your things on the burros and follow the other Hopi (that is, the Bear clan), and when you overtake them, kill them. So the Castilians went south, and the Spider people went south-east, following a Stream (Nönö’pbaya, a rolling stream, because of the high recoiling waves). They came to a nice place where they stayed one year and planted and reaped a crop. From there they proceeded south-east, stopped another year at a certain place, where they again planted, but were harassed by enemies. They saved a portion of the crop and proceeding farther south-east they ascended a bluff or mesa, staying another year and planting in the valleys.

Thus they stopped in all at ten different places, but being constantly harassed by the people along the water, they never planted more than once. Finally they arrived where the sun rises and the Americans (Bahánas) live. With them they became friends; here they planted, their children learned the language a little, and they stayed there three years. They also here learned that the Bear clan had been there and had already gone westward again. The Spider people followed, arrived at Oraíbi, where they found , the Bear clan, whom they joined. Their chief was then Machíto. They also had the Â’ototo and Áholi Katcinas.

The Bear Clan This clan had gone south from the sípahpuni. They had with them the Â’ototo Katcina. They soon found the Young Corn Ear (Píhk’ash) people with the Áholi Katcina, who wanted to join them. So the Bear clan chief took them along. They stopped at a place and here had a good crop because they had the two Katcinas with them. The next year they came to a clear stream. In all they stopped ten times before arriving at the Americans, where the sun rises. Here they stopped four years. Their children learned a little English.

The land being scarce, the Americans told them to go west and hunt land for themselves, and if anybody would be bad to them (núkpana) and cause their children to die, they (the Americans) would come and cut the Núkapana’s heads off. This was told them, because they (the Americans) had been told that down in the old home there had been Pópwaktû (sorcerers, etc.). So they traveled westward, found the Pueblo, but no good land that they could get. So they finally arrived at Shongópavi, where some people lived, and there they settled down.

One time the people saw that the chief, Machíto, held a sweet corn-ear between every two fingers, at the same time eating from the other hand. Corn was very scarce at that time, so the people spoke to him about his greediness, at which he got angry and left, taking with him the Â’ototo and Áholi. Hunters later found them at a rock, now Bean Spreading Place (Báhpu-Möyanpi), where there is still a stone on which there is some writing called Machítûtûbeni. Machíto left his wife at Shongópavi, also his people, who then formed the Shongópavi Bear clan. When the hunters found him they informed the people at Shongópavi.

Some went there to get them back, but Machíto would not listen to them. Then his wife went to him but he would not listen to her either. So they left him. Machíto took a big stone and went with them for some distance to make the landmark between Oraíbi and Shongópavi. The people said several times: “Put it here.” But he would not listen until arriving at a place called “Ocápchomo,” where he placed it, thus making a landmark between the fields of the Shongópavi and his own.

Then Machíto and the two Katcinas went up the Oraíbi mesa where they remained. Later the Spider people arrived. Machíto asked about their wanderings and they told him. He wanted to know why the corn would not grow although they had the Flute cult. The Spider clan chief accused the “North Old Man.”

Machíto then said: “All right, you may live here, but as your cult does not seem to be effective, you watch the sun for me, and when he has arrived at his south limit, you tell me, and we shall have the Soyál ceremony. Also your pü’htavi does not seem to have been good, so I want you to make my kind of pü’htavi.”

After the matter had been settled between Machíto and the Spider clan chief, the latter’s people came up. Among these were also the Lizard clan, to which the Sand clan is related. These names were given to people while wandering. One would find and see something, perhaps under peculiar circumstances, and he called after it.

The Lizard people were also asked what they knew and when they said the Maraú cult, they were also permitted to stay, but were requested to co-operate in the Soyál ceremony. For that reason Pungñánömsi, who is of the Bear clan, and village chief, now makes the pûhu (road) in the night of the Maraú ceremony from the nátsi at the south end of the kiva towards the rising sun.

The Rattle-snake (Tcû’a) clan also came with the Spider clan to Oraíbi, but it is not known how or where this clan became a part of the Spider clan, The Badger people understand medicines, hence they prepare the medicine–for instance, charm liquid–for the Flute, Snake, Maraú, and other ceremonies.

Another Badger clan and the Butterfly (Pówul) came from Kíshi-wuu. These brought the Powámu and Katcina cult.

The Divided Spring (Bátki) clan came from where the sun rises. They came to the village of Oraíbi and arranged a contest at Muyíovatki where each planted corn, the Blue Flutes sweet corn, the others, Wupákaö, over which they played the whole day. The sweet corn grew first, and so the Blue Flutes to this day go to the village in processions, etc., first closing the well (batñi) on the plaza. Later the Drab Flutes (Masítâlentu) had to throw their meal, mollas, etc., from a distance to the warrior (Keléhtaka) of the Cakwálâlentu, who put them into the well in the booth for them.



Credit for Content

A Hopi Legend
H. R. Voth,
The Traditions of the Hopi, 1905

The Origin of Tobacco

A man had lost his horses and was looking for them. A woman was also hunting for horses. They, the man and the woman, met and talked to each other. They sat talking together under a hickory tree which cast a good shade. The woman said, “I am hunting for some horses that have been hidden away.” The man said, “I am also hunting for horses.” As they sat talking something occurred to the man and he spoke to his companion as follows, “I am hunting about for horses; you too are hunting about for horses. Let us be friends, and lie here together, after which we will start on.” The woman considered the matter and said, “All right.” Both lay down, and when they got up the man went on his way and the woman went on hers. Next summer the man was looking for horses again and happened to pass near the place where he and the woman had talked. The man thought, “I will go by that place just to look at it.” When he got there he saw that a weed had grown up right where they had lain, but he did not know what it was. He stood looking at it for a while and then started off. He traveled on and told the old men about it. He said, “I saw something like this and this growing,” and one answered, “Examine it to see whether it is good. When it is ripe we will find out what it is.” Afterwards the man started off to look at it. He saw that it had grown still bigger. He dug close about it to soften the soil and it grew still better. He took care of it and saw the leaves grow larger. When it blossomed the flowers were pretty, and he saw that they were big. When they ripened the seeds were very small. He took the seeds from the hull, gathered leaves, and took them to the old men. They looked at these but did not know what the plant was. After they had looked at them in vain for some time they gave it up. Then one of them pulverized the leaves and put them into a cob pipe, lighted it and smoked it. The aroma was grateful. All of the old men said, “The leaves of the thing are good,” and they named it. They called it hitci (which means both “see” and “tobacco”), they say. Therefore woman and man together created tobacco.


A Hitchiti Legend

John R. Swanton, 1929

The Snake Myth

At Tokóonavi, north of the Grand Canyon, lived people who were then not yet Snake people. They lived close to the bank of the river. The chief’s son often pondered over the Grand Canyon and wondered where all that water went to.

“That must certainly make it very full somewhere,” he thought to himself. So he spoke to his father about it. ”So that is what you have been thinking about,” the latter said. “Yes,” his son answered, “I want to go and examine it.”

The father gave his consent and told his son that he should make a box for himself that would be large enough for him to get into, and he should arrange it so that all openings in the box could be closed. This the boy did, making also a long pole (according to others a long báho), with which he could push the box in case it became fast or tangled up anywhere.

When he was ready he took a lot of báhos and some food, went into the box, and allowed himself to be pushed into the water, on which he then floated along. Finally he came to the ocean, where he drifted against an island. He found the house of Spider Woman (Kóhk’ang Wuhti) here, who called him to come to her house. He went over and found that he could not get through the opening leading to her house. “How shall I get in?” he said; “the opening is too small.” She told him to enlarge it.

This he did and then entered. He told her a story and gave her a báho, and said that he had come after beads, etc. She pointed to another kiva away out in the water and said that there were some beads and corals there. but that there were some wild animals guarding the path to it. “If you had not informed me, how could you have succeeded in getting there and how would you have gotten back? But I shall go with you,” she said, “because you have given me a báho, for which I am very glad.”

She then gave the young man some medicine and seated herself behind his right ear. He spurted the medicine over the water and immediately a road like a rainbow was formed from the dwelling of Spider Woman to the other kiva. On this they went across the water. As they approached the kiva to which they were going they first encountered a panther, who growled fiercely.

The young man gave him a green báho and spurted some medicine upon him, which quieted him. A little farther on they met a bear, whom they quieted in the same manner. Still farther on they came upon a wildcat, to which they also handed a báho, which quieted the animal. Hereupon they met a gray wolf, and finally a very large rattle-snake (K’áhtoya), both of which they appeased in the same manner as the others.

They then arrived at the kiva, where they found at the entrance a bow standard (Aoát nátsi). They then descended the ladder and found in the kiva many people who were dressed in blue kilts, had their faces painted with specular iron (yaláhaii), and around their necks they wore many beads.

The young man sat down near the fireplace, Spider Woman still being seated on his ear, but no one spoke. The men looked at him, but remained silent. Presently the chief got a large bag of tobacco and a large pipe. He filled the latter and smoked four times. He then handed the pipe to the young man and said: “Smoke and swallow the smoke.” The swallowing of the smoke was a test: any one not being able to do that was driven off. Spider Woman had informed the young man about this test, so he was posted. When he commenced to smoke she whispered to him: “Put me behind you.” This he did in an unobserved manner, so when he swallowed the smoke she immediately drew the smoke from him and blew it away, and hence he did not get dizzy.

The men who did not observe the trick were pleased and said to him: ”All right, you are strong; you are certainly some one. Thank you. Your heart is good: you are one of us; you are our child.” “Yes.” he said, and handed them some red nakwákwosis and a single green báho with red points, such as are still made in Shupaúlavi in the Antelope society. They then became very friendly, saving that the were very happy over the báhos. On the walls of the kiva were hanging many costumes made of snake skins. Soon the chief said to the people: “Let us dress up now,” and turning to the young man bid him to turn away so that he would not see what was going on. He did so, and when he looked back again the men had all dressed up in the snake costumes and had turned into snakes, large and small, bull-snakes, racers, and rattle-snakes, that were moving about on the floor hissing, rattling, etc.

While he had turned away and the snake People had been dressing themselves, Spider Woman had whispered to him that they were now going to try him very hard, but that he should not be afraid to touch the snakes; and she gave him many instructions. Among those present in the kiva had also been some pretty maidens who had also put on snake costumes and had turned into serpents. One of them had been particularly handsome. The chief had not turned into a snake, and was sitting near the fireplace. He now turned to the young man and said to him: “You go now and select and take one of these snakes.” The snakes seemed to be very angry and the young man got frightened when they stared at him, but Spider Woman whispered to him not to be a coward, nor to be afraid.

The prettiest maiden had turned into a large yellow rattle-snake (Sik’á-tcua), and was especially angry. Spider Woman whispered to the young man, that the one that acted so very angrily was the pretty maiden and that he should try to take that one. He tried, but the snake was very wild and fierce.

“Be not afraid,” Spider Woman whispered, and handed him some medicine. This he secretly chewed and spurted a small quantity of it on the fierce snake, whereupon it immediately became docile.

He at once grabbed it, held and stroked it four times upward, each time spurting a little medicine on it, and thus freeing it from its anger. The chief was astonished and said: “You are very something, thanks. Now, look away again.” He did so and when he turned back he saw that all the snakes had assumed the forms of men and women again, including the maiden that he had captured. They now were all very good to him, and talked to him in the kindest manner, because they now considered him as initiated and as one of them.

He was now welcome, and the chief invited him to eat. The mána whom the young man had taken got from another room in the kiva some bread made of fresh corn-meal, some peaches, melons, etc., and set this food before the young man. Spider Woman whispered to the young -man to give her something to eat too, which he did secretly. She enjoyed the food very much and was very happy.

Now the chief asked the man why he came, etc. “I hunt a lólomat kátcit (good life) and was thinking about the water running this way, and so this way it runs. I have come also to get Hopi food from here. I also heard that there lives a woman here somewhere, the Hurúing Wuhti, from whom I want beads.” “What have you for her?” they asked. “These báhos,” he said. “All right, you will get there. But now you sleep here.” But Spider Woman wanted to get back. He told them that he wanted to go out a little while.

Then he went and took Spider Woman home, and put her down. She invited him to come and eat with her. She had a pövö’lpik’i off which she lived and which never gave out, but he left her and returned to the Snake kiva, where he was welcomed and called brother and son-in-law (möö’nangwuu), although he had not yet married, but only caught the mana. So he remained there. That evening and night the chief told him all about the Snake cult, altar, etc., etc., and instructed him how he must put this up, and do that, when he would return. He did not sleep that night.

In the morning he again went out on the same excuse as the previous evening, and went to Spider Woman, who went out. She made a rainbow road into the ocean to a high bluff where Hurúing Wuhti lived, and to which they ascended on a ladder. They went in and found an old hag, but on all the walls many beads, shells, etc. The woman said nothing. The young man gave her the báhos, then she, said faintly, “Áskwali!” (Thanks!) At sundown she went into a side chamber and returned a very pretty maiden with fine buffalo and wildcat robes, of which she made a bed, and after having fed him, invited him to sleep with her on the bed. Then Spider Woman ,whispered he should comply with her request, then he would win her favor and get the beads. So he did as requested. In the morning he awoke and found by his side an old hag, snoring. He was very unhappy, He stayed all day, the hag sitting bent up all day. In the evening the change, etc., that occurred on the previous day was repeated, but the hag after this remained a pretty maiden. He remained four days and nights with Hurúing Wuhti, who is the deity of the hard substances.

After four days he wanted to go home, so she went into a room on the north side and got a turquoise bead; then from a room west the same: from a room South a reddish bead (cátsni); from one east, a hard white bead (hurúingwa), a shell. Then she gave him a few of all kinds of beads and told him to go home now, but charging him not to open the sack, because if he did they would be gone, and if he did not they would increase. “You go to the Snakes, who will give you clothes, food, etc.”

He then returned to the Snake kiva. There he staved four days and four nights, sleeping with his wife. When he was ready to go home the chief said: “Take this mana with you. You have won us. Take it all with you, take of our food. Practice the ceremonies there that I told you about. This woman will bear you children and then you will be many and they will hold this ceremony for you.” So they started. At Spider Woman’s house he told his wife, ”You stay here. I will go to the rear.” So he went to Spider Woman’s house and she asked: ”Well, did you get the mana?” “Yes,” he said. “Well, you take everything along.” But she forbid him to touch his wife while they would be on the way, as then his beads would disappear and also his wife.

So they started. The beads were as yet not heavy. During the night they slept separately. In the morning they found that the beads had increased, and they kept increasing as they went along the next day. The next night they spent in the same way. They were anxious to see whether the beads and shells had increased, but did not dare to do so. The third night was again spent, and the contents of the bag increased the same as the previous two nights.

The bag with the beads and shells now became very heavy and the young man was very anxious to see them, but his wife forbade him to open the sack. The fourth night was spent in the same manner, and when they arose in the morning the sack was nearly full and was very heavy. Spider Woman had also put some strings into the bag with the beads, and the beads were strung onto these strings a,; they kept increasing. They now approached the home of the young man, and the latter was very anxious to get home in order to see the contents, of the sack, so they traveled on. When they had nearly one more day’s travel to make the sack had become full. During the last night the man opened the sack, although his wife remonstrated most energetically. He took out many of the finest beads and shells and spread them on the floor before them, put them around his neck, and was very happy. So they retired for the night. In the morning they found that all the beads except those which Hurúing Wuhti had given to the man had disappeared.

Hence the Hopi have so few beads at the present day. If that man had at that time brought home with him all the beads which he had, they would have many. So when they arrived at home they were very despondent.

At that time only the Divided or Separated Spring (Bátki) clan and the Pö’na (a certain cactus) clan lived at that place, but with the arrival of this young couple a new clan, the Snake clan, had come to the village. Soon this new woman bore many children. They were snakes who lived in the fields and in the sand. They grew very rapidly and went about and played with the Hopi children, whom they sometimes bit. This made the Hopi very angry and they said: “This is not good,” and drove them off, so they were very unhappy.

The woman said to her husband: “You take our children back to my home and there we shall go away from here alone.” Then the man’s father made báhos, gave them to his son, who put all the snakes with the báhos into his blanket and took them back to his wife’s home, and there told the Snake people why he brought their children and the báhos. They said it was all right. Hence the Snake priests, when carrying away the snakes from the plaza after the snake dance, take with them and deposit with the snakes some báhos, so that they should not themselves return to the village. When the Snake man returned to his village lit and his wife traveled south-eastward, stopping at various places. All at once they saw smoke in the distance, and when they went there they found a village perched son the mesa. This was the village of Wálpi. They at once went to the foot of the mesa on which Wálpi was situated and announced their presence. So the village chief went down to them from the mesa, and asked what they wanted.

They asked to be admitted to the village, promising that they would assist the people in the ceremonies. The chief at first showed himself unwilling to admit then), but finally gave his consent and took them up to the village. From that time the woman bore human children instead of little snakes. These children and their descendants became the Snake clan, of whom only very few are now living.

Soon also the Bátki and Pö’na clan came to Wálpi and found admittance to the village. At Wálpi the Snake people made the first Snake típoni, Snake altar, etc., and had the first Snake ceremony. From here the Snake cult spread to the other villages, first to Shongópavi, then to Mishóngnovi, and then to Oraíbi. At the first Snake ceremony the Snake chief sent his nephew to the north, to the west, to the south, and to the east to hunt snakes.

He brought some from each direction, The chief then hollowed out a piece of báho, made of cottonwood root. Into this he put the rattles of three of the snakes and the fourth snake entirely. He then inserted into it a corn-ear, and tied to it different feathers of the eagle, the oriole, blue-bird, parrot, magpie, Ásya, and topóckwa, winding a buckskin String around these feathers. When he had made this típoni, the first ceremony was celebrated, and afterwards it took place regularly.


Credit for Content

A Hopi Legend
H. R. Voth,
The Traditions of the Hopi, 1905

How the Circle Katcina and His Wife Became Stars

Halíksai! In Oraíbi the people were living. In the north-western part of the village was at that time a kiva called Hâmís-kiva. Somewhat south of this kiva close to the present site of the, Hanó-kiva lived a maiden.

She persistently refused to marry any young man in the village. At Red Sand (Palánvisa), a place north-east of the village, some maidens were playing the game “jumping over the trays.” The maiden mentioned above never played with the other maidens, but one time she went out intending to play with the maidens. When she came to the edge of the mesa she sat down and watched the other maidens play. A young man dressed in a blue Hopi blanket came by and asked her why she did not play with the other maidens. “Yes,” she said, “I never play with them.” Hereupon he sat down beside her and they talked together a little while, then the maiden returned to her home.

In the evening she was grinding corn. While she was grinding a Katcina came to the village, danced first near the Coyote (Ish) kiva, then at the Singer (Táo) kiva, then at the Public plaza (Kíconvee), then at the Wrinkle (Wíkolapi) kiva, and finally at the Hâmískiva. Hereupon he left the village. The next morning the mána again proceeded to the place at the edge of the mesa where she had been sitting the previous day, and again the youth joined her. This time he asked her if she would marry him if her father and mother were willing. She consented. He told her that if they were willing he would come and get her the next day. He then told her that he was the Katcina who was dancing in the village, saying that he would again dance at the same places as usual, and then after he would be through she should come and meet him at “The Place-Where-Scalpsare- Dressed” (Yóvutzrhrokwanpi). Hereupon they parted.

In the evening she was again grinding corn and the Katcina again went through the village dancing at the places mentioned, and singing the following song while he was dancing, singing the same song at each place: Achípolaina, achipolaina, Koohochunisha, kowishkúnishaa, Palainaiya —————- –aya. Waa-i-aha-ihihi.

The mána had in the meanwhile obtained the permission of her parents to marry the youth. The mother filled a tray with meal for her, with which the mana proceeded to the place named by the Katcina. Here she was met by the Katcina after he had made his round through the village. From here they proceeded to the place called Kocántûika, a bluff named after a certain plant, kocána.

When they arrived here they saw a kiva and a light in it. A voice called out from the kiva inviting them to come in. They entered and found here a great many different Katcinas. The youth was the Circle (Póngo) Katcina. Hereupon the youth handed the mána some píki made of fresh roasting ears, and also some watermelon slices, which she ate.

They then remained in this kiva, the mána preparing the food for the Katcinas, and the latter preparing the bridal costume for the mána. Every night the Póngo Katcina would go to the village and dance, as already explained. When the bridal costume was finished the mána went home in the same manner in which brides go home to-day. Her husband followed her, so they lived in the house of her parents after that. Her parents now found out that the husband of their daughter was a Katcina.

By and by she bore two children, which were also Circle Katcinas. One time the young mother was drying corn-meal, stirring it in a pot over the fire. When she was done with this she left her house and went to the edge of the mesa outside of the village. Her husband had gone to visit the Katcinas at the Katcina kiva mentioned before. While the woman was outside of the village some one approached her. It was the Hotóto Katcina. He told her that she should go with him, to which she consented. They descended the mesa south of the village and went southward to Shongópavi. When the Circle Katcina returned to the house he found his wife gone. Following her tracks, he found that she had gone away with some one, and soon heard who it was that had taken her away. He returned to the house, took his two children and went with them to the Katcina house already mentioned. Here they remained. The two little Katcinas learned the Katcina songs and dances.

After a while the father and his two children concluded to try to find the mother of the two youths. So the people cooked some roasting ears and other food for them, whereupon they proceeded to the village, taking the food with them. Here they danced at Pisávi, a place a short distance east of the Pongóvi kiva. While they danced they sang the following song: Ahahahahai ahahaai Ahahahaha ihihihihihi Umungu uyungnaya Umungu uchioli Ahahahahai ihihihihi-hi-hi-hi.

When they were through singing, the father asked the women among the spectators whether some one would not nurse the children for these roasting ears that they had brought with them, but no one was willing. They went to the plaza, repeated their dancing and singing, whereupon the father again asked the women that some one nurse his children for the roasting ears, but no one was willing. They then proceeded to the Coyote kiva, where the same thing was repeated.

No one being willing to nurse the two children, they left the village and when they came to the last row of houses, where the Katcinas often rest when they have dances now, a woman approached them declaring that she was willing to nurse the children. After she had nursed them and they had given her the roasting ears, they left the village along the trail leading south-eastward. Here they traced the mother to Sik’ákvu, a bluff on top of the mesa about three miles southeast of Oraíbi.

Here they found a kiva where they heard some one singing the following song: Tciihiihihio tcihihiokaaha, Tcihihiokaaha tcihihiokaaha, Ha, ha, ha!

It was the Haháii Wuhti, who was opening comíviki as she was singing. When they heard the song they looked into the kiva and were noticed by the Haháii Wuhti. “Oh!” she said, “here I am meeting you with this song. Recently somebody was fetching your mother by here.” The three went into the kiva and were invited to remain over night.

They were fed by the Haháii Wuhti the comíviki. When they had eaten they danced, singing the following song: Ahahahaihahaiiya toywihihiovohokahai, Ahahaahaaiahaiya toywihihiovohokahai, Ocarasotikiiihi, polaihainahai, Kahaahaowkuruhukahai, koaowaikurukahaihai.

In the morning they proceeded eastward. In the evening of the next day they arrived at a place called Owl Spring (Móngkba). Here they found another Haháii Wuhti in a kiva, who was also engaged in opening comíviki. She was singing the same song that the other Haháii Wuhti had been singing. When the three arrived they looked into the kiva. When the woman noticed them she said, “Utí! here you some one is going about and I am meeting you with this song. Recently some one fetched your mother by here.”

They went in and were fed by the Haháii Wuhti, whereupon they again danced and sang the same song which they sang at the place of the other Haháii Wuhti. They stayed over night at this kiva., and during the night the Haháii Wuhti went to Kí’shiwuu, where many different kinds of Katcinas had a dance. When one party had danced and gone away, another party would come and perform their dance and leave. Then another party, and so on.

When all had danced, Haháii Wuhti returned to her home and told the three Circle Katcinas about the dance. She told them about it; then they also went and performed a dance at Kí’shiwuu, which, it seems, was not far away. When they were through they again returned to Móngkba. Here they remained until it became morning.

In the morning Haháii Wuhti again went to Kí’shiwuu to be present at another dance, the three Circle Katcinas remaining behind. When they had all danced Haháii Wuhti again Invited the three Katcinas. The people who had seen them in the last dance during the night and had not observed them during the day were waiting for them, thinking that they probably would come. They went over and also performed their dance.

Before they went over Haháii Wuhti told them that their mother was at Kí’shiwuu and that she would see them dance and she would certainly be anxious to return with them. They performed their dance on the public plaza, singing the same song that they had sung at the places of the two Haháii Wuhtis, When they were through they again returned and soon met their mother, who had recognized them and had gone before them. So they took their mother back with them.

Before they reached Móngkba night befell them, so they stopped. The father said to the two children they should go ahead to their grandmother, the Haháii Wuhti, which they did.

He then took a pointed stick and killed his wife with it by thrusting it into her throat. Leaving the body at the place, he followed his two sons, but before he reached the place where they were the skeleton of his wife followed him.

The two boys had safely gotten into the house of their grandmother, but their father ran away, being followed by the skeleton. He finally arrived at the First Mesa, rushed into the village of Háno and there into a kiva where a number of women were making jugs. He begged them to hide him as something was pursuing him. Hereupon one of the women hid him under a pile of clay which they were using for making their pottery. The skeleton then arrived, saving, “Havá! Did my husband not come here?” she asked. “No,” they replied.

“Yes,” the skeleton said, “because his tracks end here,” and hereupon she entered the kiva. She threw aside all the piles of clay and material that was lying there, and finally came to the pile under which the man was hidden.

When he noticed that she was close by he jumped up, ran up the ladder and westward towards Wálpi, being pursued by the skeleton of his wife. In Wálpi he again entered a kiva. Here they were practicing a war dance. “Hide me quickly,” he said, “some one is following me.”

“Come here,” they said, and handed him a drum. So he beat the drum. The skeleton soon arrived and entered the kiva after having spoken the same words as in Háno. She shoved the dancers aside, but when she came to the one who was beating the drum, he threw aside the drum and rushed out, running to Mishóngnovi.

Here he again rushed into a kiva where they were assembled for the Lagón ceremony. The women were making trays. He again asked to be hidden as he was being pursued by some one. One of the women told him to be seated in her lap, which he did. She covered him with a tray that she was working on and continued her work.

Soon the skeleton arrived, asked the same questions, and was again answered in the negative.

She came in, looked around, driving the women from one place of the kiva into another, until she arrived at the one who had her husband. When he saw that he could not remain hidden he rushed out and ran towards Shongópavi. Here they also were assembled for the Lagón ceremony and the same thing was repeated that took place in Mishóngnovi.

From here he ran towards Matö’vi (about fifteen miles south of Shongópavi). At this place the Flute society had a ceremony. They were assembled at the spring when he arrived, He again repeated the same request to be hidden, as he was being pursued. They told him to go into the spring to a certain sunflower stalk that was growing in the spring.

This he should mount and hide in its top. He did so. When the skeleton arrived and asked whether her husband was not there the Flute priest told her, “Yes, he has entered the spring.” So she went to the edge of that spring and entered it. Looking into the water she saw the sunflower stalk reflected in the water and on top of it her husband. Thinking that he was in the water she dived in and disappeared.

The pursued man came down and joined the Flute players. On the fourth day they heard somebody pound yucca roots in the water. When the sun rose the woman came out of the water, dressed in a bridal costume, and carrying in her arms a reed receptacle which contained another bridal robe and the white belt.

She appeared in exactly the same manner as the newly married bride appears on the morning when she returns from the home of her husband to that of her own mother. When she came out the two priests called the two together, placed them back to back, made a road with sacred meal for each one; the one road southward, and the other northward. The priests told them to proceed four steps, each one in the direction they were facing.

Then they should turn and meet again. But the man returned when he had taken three steps instead of four. The Flute priests were very angry and called at the woman to run. She started, and her husband started after her. “You shall always follow each other this way,” the Flute priests said. They both ran westward, and are still running in that way. The two stars, Nangö’sohu pursue each other because one constantly follows the other, sometimes overtaking it and then again remaining behind, are these two personages.



A Hopi Legend

H. R. Voth,

The Traditions of the Hopi, 1905

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