Music: Raven Dreams by R. Carlos Nakai
A long time ago the Bluebird's feathers were a very dull ugly color. It lived near a lake with water of the most delicate blue which never changed
because no streamed flowed in or out. Because the bird admired the blue water, it bathed in the lake four times every morning for four days, and
every morning it sang:
There's a blue water.
It lies there.
I went in.
I am all blue.
On the fourth morning it shed all its feathers and came out in its bare skin, but on the fifth morning it came out with blue feathers.
All the while, Coyote had been watching the bird. He wanted to jump in and catch it for his dinner, but he was afraid of the blue water. But on the
fifth morning he said to the Bluebird: "How is it that all your ugly color has come out of your feathers, and now you are all blue and sprightly and
beautiful? You are more beautiful than anything that flies in the air. I want to be blue, too."
"I went in only four times," replied the Bluebird. It then taught Coyote the song it had sung.
And so Coyote steeled his courage and jumped into the lake. For four mornings he did this, singing the song the Bluebird had taught him, and on the
fifth day he turned as blue as the bird.
That made Coyote feel very proud. He was so proud to be a blue coyote that when he was walking along he looked about on every side to see if
anyone was noticing how fine and blue he was.
Then he started running along very fast, looking at his shadow to see if it was also blue. He was not watching the road, and presently he ran into a
stump so hard that it threw him down on the ground and he became dust-colored all over. And to this day all coyotes are the color of dusty Earth.
|Bluebird and the Coyote
A Pima Legend
All Rights Reserved
|Chuhwuht: The Song of the World
A Pima Legend
In the beginning there was only darkness and water. The darkness congealed in certain places and it is from this that the Creator was made. He
wandered aimlessly above the water and began to think. He became fully conscious of who he was and what he was to do. He then reached into his
heart and pulled out a magic creation stick.
He used this as a walking stick and when some resin formed on the tip, he made it into ants. He took more of this resin and rolled it with his feet into
a perfect ball while chanting
Chuhwuht tuh maka-i
Chuhwuht tuh nato
Chuhwuht tuh maka-i
Chuhwuht tuh nato
I make the world, and see,
the world is finished.
I make the world, and see,
the world is finished.
Let it go, let it go
Let it go, start it forth!
As he chanted, the ball grew larger and larger until it became the present size of the earth; thus was the earth created. Then the Creator took a great
rock, broke it, and threw it into the heavens, where the pieces became stars. Then he made the moon in a similar fashion, but neither the moon nor
the stars furnished enough light.
So the Creator then took two bowls of water from out of his flesh and he thought thoughts of light. The sun appeared in the sky as he pulled the bowls
apart. But the sun did not yet move. So the Creator bounced it like a ball to the east and it bounced back to the west, even as it does today.
Coyote is a trickster celebrated in Indian songs and stories from the Gulf of Mexico to the Northern Plains and from the Pacific Ocean to the
Mississippi River. But nowhere is he more infamous than in the Southwest, where he appears in many forms. Coyote is a wise fool who teaches
tribal rules by breaking them. No matter how tricky he is, the joke is always on Coyote in the end. The most important thing that he teaches is that
people shouldn't take themselves too seriously.
He's Appointed To The Study The Stars. This guy, Coyote, was always appointing himself over people, wanting to show them he could do anything,
however hard it was. So the medicine men, wanting to find out if it was true, said, "Maybe he's just a fraud." They says to him, "Uncle! Uncle!
You're so fast and wise about everything that you should go and find out for us what those things are doing shinning up there every night." As they
said this, they pointed to the stars. Coyote took them seriously. So Coyote went off and didn't return for a long time. Then suddenly, he came back
Beneath the heavens above us
There are round pools of water,
Each time coyote drinks from one,
He sees his reflection and says
"i-toi" (all drunk up)
But when he catches on,
He laughs quietly at himself.
|Coyote and the Mesquite Beans
A Pima Legend
After the waters of the flood had gone down, Elder Brother said to Coyote, "Do not touch that black bug; and do not eat the mesquite beans. It is
dangerous to harm anything that came safe through the flood."
So Coyote went on, but presently he came to the black bug. He stopped and ate it up. Then he went on to the mesquite beans.
He stopped and looked at them a while, and then said, "I will just taste one and that will be all." But he stood there and ate and ate until he had eaten
them all up.
And the bug and the beans swelled up in his stomach and killed him.
|Coyote and the Quails
A Pima Legend
Once upon a time, long ago, Coyote was sleeping so soundly that a covey of quails came along and cut pieces of fat meat out of his flesh without
arousing him. Then they went on.
After they had camped for the evening, and were cooking the meat, Coyote came up the trail.
Coyote said, "Where did you get that nice, fat meat? Give me some."
Quails gave him all he wanted. Then he went farther up the trail. After he had gone a little way, Quails called to him,
"Coyote, you were eating your own flesh."
Coyote said, "What did you say?"
Quails said, "Oh, nothing. We heard something calling behind the mountains."
Soon the quails called again: "Coyote, you ate your own meat."
"What did you say?"
"Oh, nothing. We heard somebody pounding his grinding stone."
So Coyote went on. But at last he began to feel where he had been cut. Then he knew what the quails meant. He turned back down the trail and told
Quails he would eat them up. He began to chase them. The quails flew above ground and Coyote ran about under them. At last they got tired, but
Coyote did not because he was so angry.
By and by Quails came to a hole, and one of the keenest-witted picked up a piece of prickly cholla cactus and pushed it into the hole; then they all ran in
after it. But Coyote dug out the hole and reached them. When he came to the first quail he said,
"Was it you who told me I ate my own flesh?"
Quail said, "No."
So Coyote let him go and he flew away. When Coyote came to the second quail, he asked the same question. Quail said, "No," and then flew away. So
Coyote asked every quail, until the last quail was gone, and then he came to the cactus branch. Now the prickly cactus branch was so covered with
feathers that it looked just like a quail. Coyote asked it the same question, but the cactus branch did not answer. Then Coyote said,
"I know it was you because you do not answer."
So Coyote bit very hard into the hard, prickly branch, and it killed him.
|Coyote and the Tortillas
A Pima Legend
Once upon a time, a river rose very high and spread all over the land. An Indian woman was going along the trail by the river side with a basket of
tortillas on her head, but she was wading in water up to her waist.
Now Coyote was afraid of the water, so he had climbed into a cottonwood tree. When the woman came up the trail, Coyote called, "Oh, come to this
tree and give me some of those nice tortillas."
The woman said, "No, I can't give them to you; they are for somebody else."
"If you do not come here I will shoot you," said Coyote, and the woman really thought he had a bow.
So she came to the tree and said, "You must come down and get them. I can't climb trees."
Coyote came down as far as he dared, but he was afraid of the deep water. The woman laughed at him. She said, "Just see how shallow it is. It's only
up to my ankles."
But she was standing on a big stump. Coyote looked at the water. It seemed shallow and safe enough, so he jumped.
But the water was deep and he was drowned. Then the woman went on up the trail.
A Pima Legend
When Coyote was traveling about one day, he saw a small bird. The bird was hopping about contentedly and Coyote thought, "What a beautiful bird.
It moves about so gracefully."
He drew nearer to the bird and asked, "What beautiful things are you working with?" but the bird could not understand Coyote. After a while the bird
took out his two eyes and threw them straight up into the air, like two stones. It looked upward but had no eyes. Then the bird said, "Come, my eyes.
Come quickly, down into my head." The eyes fell down into the bird's head, just where they belonged, but were much brighter than before.
Coyote thought he could brighten his eyes. He asked the bird to take out his eyes. The bird took out Coyote's eyes, held them for a moment in his hands,
and then threw them straight up into the air. Coyote looked up and called, "Come back, my eyes. Come quickly." They at once fell back into his head
and were much brighter than before. Coyote wanted to try it again, but the bird did not wish to. But Coyote persisted.
Then the bird said, "Why should I work for you, Coyote? No, I will work no more for you." But Coyote still persisted, and the bird took out his eyes
and threw them up.
Coyote cried, "Come, my eyes, come back to me." But his eyes continued to rise into the air, and the bird began to go away. Coyote began to weep. But
the bird was annoyed, and called back, "Go away now. I am tired of you. Go away and get other eyes."
But Coyote refused to go and entreated the bird to find his eyes for him. At last the bird gathered gum from a pinon tree and rolled it between his hands
and put it in Coyote's eye holes, so that he could see.
But his eyes had been black and very bright. His new eyes were yellow. "Now," said the bird, "go away. You cannot stay here any longer."
|Grandfather Gray Owl
A Pima Legend
A long, long time ago, when the world was new, Ban (Coyote) stole an old woman's chu'i (pinole). The chief of the village chased the thief.
To escape, Ban flew to the sky, spilling the white chu'i across it. The chief flew after him. When he caught the culprit, he angrily picked him up and
flung him to the moon.
Thus on a bright moonlit night, the desert Coyotes look up to the sky. They see the Coyote in the moon and wail for their brother.
And when you look up at the sky, you can still see the pinole scattered all across it.
* Note: This story was used as a teaching tool to teach children not to steal or they might end up like Coyote in the moon.
|How the Bluebird Got Its Color
A Pima Legend
A long time ago, the bluebird was a very ugly color. But Bluebird knew of a lake where no river flowed in or out, and he bathed in this four times every
morning for four mornings.
Every morning he sang a magic song:
"There's a blue water. It lies there. I went in. I am all blue."
On the fourth morning Bluebird shed all his feathers and came out of the lake just in his skin. But the next morning when he came out of the lake he was
covered with blue feathers.
Now all this while Coyote had been watching Bluebird. He wanted to jump in and get him to eat, but he was afraid of the water. But on that last
morning Coyote said, "How is it you have lost all your ugly color, and now you are blue and gay and beautiful? You are more beautiful than anything
that flies in the air. I want to be blue, too."
Now Coyote at that time was a bright green.
"I only went in four times on four mornings," said Bluebird. He taught Coyote the magic song, and he went in four times, and the fifth time he came out
as blue as the little bird.
Then Coyote was very, very proud because he was a blue coyote. He was so proud that as he walked along he looked around on every side to see if
anybody was looking at him now that he was a blue coyote and so beautiful.
He looked to see if his shadow was blue, too. But Coyote was so busy watching to see if others were noticing him that he did not watch the trail. By and
by he ran into a stump so hard that it threw him down in the dirt and he was covered with dust all over. You may know this is true because even today
coyotes are the color of dirt.
|How The Rattlesnake Learned To Bite
A Pima Legend
After people and the animals were created, they all lived together. Rattlesnake was there, and was called Soft Child because he was so soft in his motions.
The people liked to hear him rattle and little rest did he get because they continually poked and scratched him so that he would shake the rattles in his tail.
At last Rattlesnake went to Elder Brother to ask help. Elder Brother pulled a hair from his own lip, cut it in short pieces, and made it into teeth for Soft
"If any one bothers you," he said, "bite him."
That very evening Ta-api, Rabbit, came to Soft Child as he had done before and scratched him. Soft Child raised his head and bit Rabbit. Rabbit was
angry and scratched again. Soft Child bit him again. Then Rabbit ran about saying that Soft Child was angry and had bitten him. Then he went to
Rattlesnake again, and twice more he was bitten.
The bites made Rabbit very sick. He asked for a bed of cool sea sand. Coyote was sent to the sea for the cool, damp sand. Then Rabbit asked for the
shade of bushes that he might feel the cool breeze. But at last Rabbit died. He was the first creature which had died in this new world.
Then the people were troubled because they did not know what to do with the body of Rabbit. One said, "If we bury him, Coyote will surely dig him up."
And another said, "If we put him in a tree, Coyote will surely climb up."
So they decided to burn the body of Rabbit, and yet there was no fire on Earth.
Blue Fly said, "Go to Sun and get some of the fire which he keeps in his house." So Coyote scampered away, but he was sure the people were trying to get
rid of him so he kept looking back.
Then Blue Fly made the first fire drill. Taking a stick like an arrow he twirled it in his hands, letting the lower end rest on a flat stick that lay on the
ground. Soon smoke began to arise, and then fire came. The people gathered fuel and began their duty.
But Coyote, looking back, saw fire ascending. He turned and ran back as fast as he could. When the people saw him coming, they formed a ring, but he
raced around the circle until he saw two short men standing together. He jumped over them, and seized the heart of Rabbit. But he burned his mouth
doing it, and it is black to this day.
|Origin of the Saguaro and Palo Verde Cacti
A Pima Legend
Once upon a time an old Indian woman had two grandchildren. Every day she ground wheat and corn between the grinding stones to make porridge
One day as she put the water-olla on the fire outside the house to heat the water, she told the children not to quarrel because they might upset the olla. But
the children began to quarrel. They upset the olla and spilled the water and their grandmother spanked them.
Then the children were angry and ran away. They ran far away over the mountains. The grandmother heard them whistling and she ran after them
and followed them from place to place, but she could not catch up with them.
At last the older boy said, "I will turn into a saguaro, so that I shall live forever and bear fruit every summer."
The younger said, "Then I will turn into a palo verde and stand there forever. These mountains are so bare and have nothing on them but rocks. I will
make them green."
The old woman heard the cactus whistling and recognized the voice of her grandson. So she went up to it and tried to take the prickly thing into arms,
but the thorns killed her.
That is how the saguaro and palo verde came to be on the mountains and the desert.
|Speech on the Warpath
A Pima Legend
We have come thus far, my brothers. In the east there is White Gopher, who gnaws with his strong teeth. He was friendly and came to me. On his way
he came to the surface from the underground four times. Looking in all four directions, he saw a magic whitish trail. Slowly following this, he neared the
enemy, coming to the surface from the underground four times during the journey. Their power stood in their land like a mountain, but he bit it off short,
and he sank their springs by biting them. He saw that the wind of the enemy was strong and he cut it up with his teeth. He gnawed in short pieces their
clouds. They had good dreams and bright false-seeing, good bow strings and straight-flying reeds, but these he grasped and bit off short. The different
belongings lying about he took with him, turning around homeward. On his way homeward over the whitish trail, he came to the surface four times, and
magic fire appeared around the edges. Then he came to his bed. He felt that the land roared rejoicing with him.
In the south was Blue Coyote and there I sent my cry. He was friendly and came to me from his blue darkness, circling around and shouting four times,
on his journey, making magic fire everywhere. When he arrived, he looked in four directions, then understood. A whitish magic trail lay before him. He
cast his blue darkness upon the enemy and slowly approached them, circling around and shouting four times on the way. Like a mountain was their
power in the land, and he sucked it in. The springs of water under the trees he sucked in. The wind that was blowing he inhaled. He sucked in the clouds.
The people dreamed of a white thing, and their dreams he sucked in, with their best bow and strings and the straight-flying reeds. All the different
belongings which lay around he gathered and slowly turned back. Hidden in the blue darkness, he came to me, circling around, shouting four times on
his journey. Then he homeward took his way, circling, howling, four times, and shouting reached his bed. With pleasure he felt all directions thud. The
In the sunset direction was Black Kangaroo Mouse, an expert robber. To him I sent my cry. He was friendly to me and came hidden in black darkness,
sitting down four times upon his way. Magic fire covered the edges of his trail. When he reached me, he looked in all directions. The magic trail brightly
lay before him. He threw black darkness around him and slowly reached the enemy, sitting down four times upon the trail. He found a bag of the
enemy, with much prized possessions. It was tied one knot on top of another but he bit them off. He took from it the blue necklaces, blue earrings, and
the different belongings lying around gathered up with him. Then he slowly took his way back on the magic trail, with magic fire everywhere. Hidden in
his yellow darkness, he returned to me. He left the others at the council and in darkness took his homeward way, resting four times. He sat on his bed
and felt all directions of the earth rustling in the darkness. Darkness lay all around.
I called on Owl, the white blood-sucker. To him I sent my cry. He was friendly and came down to me with four thin flys (sailing) on the way. He looked
in all directions. The magic trail brightly before him lay. He flew, with four thin flys, toward the enemy. The mountain of their power which stood in the
land he bit off short. The springs he bit off, and their very good dreams. The best bow strings and the straight-flying reeds he grasped and cut very short.
He bit off their flesh and made holes in their bones. From the things gathered, he made a belt from a bowstring. Then he returned. He came through the
whitish mist of dawn in four flights. The people held a council. Leaving them there, he after four thin flys reached his bed in the gray dawn mist. Then in
all directions he heard the darkness rattling, as he lay there.
|Tale of Elder Brother
A Pima Legend
You people desired to capture Elder Brother so that you might destroy him, so you went to Vulture. He made a miniature earth, shaping the mountains,
routing the water courses, and placing the trees, and in four days he completed his task.
Mounting the zigzag ladders of his house he flew forth and circled about until he saw Elder Brother. Vulture saw the blue flames issuing from Brother's
heart and knew that he was invulnerable. In his turn Elder Brother knew what had made the earth, and wished to kill him.
Elder Brother, as he regained consciousness, rose on hands and feet and swayed unsteadily from side to side. He looked at the land about him, and at
first it seemed a barren waste, but as he recovered from his bewilderment he saw the wonderful world Vulture had built.
Looking about him he saw a river toward the west along which grew arrow bushes. From these he cut four magic sticks; placing his hand on these he
blew smoke over them, whereupon magic power shone forth from between his fingers. He was much pleased with this and laughed softly to himself.
He rubbed his magic bag of buckskin four times with each of the four sticks and then put them in and tied it. Then, with his strength fully recovered, Elder
Brother began to move.
He arose and crushed all mortal magicians; the orator, the warrior, the industrious, and the provident woman, and even ground his own house into the
earth. Then he sank beneath the surface of the earth.
He reappeared in the east and made a transparent trail back to the place where he had gone down. About the base of his mountains the water began to
seep forth; entering, he came out with spirit refreshed.
Taking all waters, even those covered with water plants, he dipped his hands in and made downward passes. Touching the large trees he made
downward sweeps with his hands.
Going to the place where he had killed Eagle he sat down looking like a ghost. A voice from the darkness asked, "Why are you here?"
He answered sadly that despite all that he had done for them the people hated him.
He went on to the east, renewing his power four times at the place where the sun rises. He blew his hot breath upon the people, which like a weight held
them where they were.
He went along with the sun on his journey, traveling along the south border of the trail where there was a fringe of beads, feathers, strings of down, and
flowers. He jerked the string holding these so that they fell and made the magicians jump. Later he did the same thing in the north.
On his journey along the sun's orbit Elder Brother came to Talking Tree.
"Why do you come like a ghost?" asked Tree.
He replied, "Despite all I have done for the people they hate me."
Tree broke one of its middle branches and cut a notch around it to form a war club and gave it to him. Then Tree took a branch on the south side and
made a bundle of ceremonial sticks from it for him.
He saw a trail toward the south and another toward the north bordered with shells, feathers, down, and flowers, and he turned them all over.
Arriving at the drinking place of the sun, he knelt down and saw a dark-blue stone. He left there the sticks cut from the arrow bush which he knew
contained all his enemies' power, but he kept in his grasp the sticks cut from Talking Tree.
Toward the south were strewn necklaces, earrings, feathers, strings of down, and flowers, all of which he jerked and threw face down.
Toward the north he threw down the same objects, and as they struck the earth the magicians jumped again.
Reaching the place where the sun sets he slid down four times before he reached the place where the Earth Doctor lived.
"Why do you come looking like a ghost?" asked the god.
"Despite all that I have done for them the people hate me," he answered.
By Earth Doctor's order the wind from the east caught him up and carried him far to the east, then brought him back and violently tossed him back down
to earth. The south wind carried him to the north; the east wind carried him to the west, the wind from the zenith carried him to the sky; all carelessly
dropped him back down again.
From his cigarette containing two kinds of roots Earth Doctor blew smoke upon the breast of Elder Brother, whereupon green leaves sprang forth and he
gained consciousness. Earth Doctor cleared the ground for a council and then picked up Elder Brother as he would have taken up a child and put him in
Earth Doctor sent Gray Gopher up through the earth to emerge in the east by the white water where lay the eagle tail.
He came out by the black water where lay the raven feathers.
He came out by the blue water where lay the bluebird's feathers.
He came out by the yellow water where lay the hawk feathers.
He found so many people that he feared they could not be conquered. But he gnawed the magic power of their leader until he weakened it. Then he
returned to the council in the nether world, where his power as a magician was recognized, and he was placed on a mat with Elder Brother.
The people were now ready to do whatever Elder Brother desired of them and, like fierce predatory animals or birds of prey, they poured out of the
underworld and fell upon the people of the upper world, whom they conquered without difficulty.
The victors swept the property and everything relating to the conquered from the face of the earth.
Consider the magic power which abode with me and which is at your service.
This fantastic tale of creation and violence features several related episodes in the life of the great Pima culture hero, Elder Brother, whose task it is to
assert order in the primordial chaos. Elder Brother fixes the features of the landscape, he brings elements of Pima culture, and he struggles with
representatives of predation and evil, vanquishing them or, in turn, being killed himself and rising to live on another day. The Pima tell such stories not
as self-contained tales but in a narrative chain, one incident suggesting the next, achieving an episodic progression with neither beginnings nor ends.
Once upon a time, when all the Earth was flooded, two birds were hanging above the water. They were clinging to the sky with their beaks.
The larger bird was gray with a long tail and beak, but the smaller one was the tiny bird that builds a nest shaped like an olla, with only a very small
opening at the top.
The birds were tired and frightened.
The larger one cried and cried, but the little bird held on tight and said, "Don't cry. I'm littler than you are, but I'm very brave."
|The Boy and the Beast
A Pima Legend
Once an old woman lived with her daughter and son-in-law and their little boy. They were following the trail of the Apache Indians.
Now whenever a Pima Indian sees the trail of an Apache he draws a ring around it; then he can catch him sooner. And these Pimas drew circles around
the trail of the Apaches they were following, but one night when they were asleep, the Apaches came down upon them. They took the many and younger
woman by the hair and shook them out of their skins, just as one would shake corn out of a sack. So the boy and the old woman were left alone.
Now these two had to live on berries and anything they could find, and they wandered from place to place. In one place a strange beast, big enough to
swallow people, camped in the bushes near them. The grandmother told the boy not to go near these bushes. But the boy took some sharp stones in his
hands, and went toward them. As he came near, the great monster began to breathe. He began to suck in his breath and he sucked the boy right into his
stomach. But with his sharp stones the boy began to cut the beast, so that he died. Then the boy made a hole large enough to climb out of.
When his grandmother came to look for him, the boy met her and said, "I have killed that monster."
The grandmother said, "Oh, no. Such a little boy as you are to kill such a great monster!"
The boy said, "But I was inside of him, just look at the stones I cut him with."
Then the grandmother went softly up to the bushes, and looked at the monster. It was full of holes, just as the little boy had said.
Then they moved down among the berry bushes and had all they wanted to eat.
|The Children of Cloud
A Pima Legend
When the Hohokum dwelt on the Gila River and tilled their farms around the great temple which we call Casa Grande, there was a beautiful young woman
in the pueblo who had twin sons. Their father was Cloud, and he lived far away.
One day the boys came to their mother, as she was weaving mats. "Who is our father?" they asked. "We have no one to run to when he returns from the
hunt, or from war, to shout to him."
The mother answered: "In the morning, look toward the sunrise and you will see a white Cloud standing upright. He is your father."
"Can we visit our father?" they asked.
"Yes," said their mother. "You may visit him, but you must make the journey without stopping. First you will reach Wind, who is your father's eldest
brother. Behind him you will find your father."
The boys traveled four days and came to the house of Wind.
"Are you our father?" they asked.
"No, I am your Uncle," answered Wind. "Your father lives in the next house. Go on to him."
They traveled on to Cloud. But Cloud drove them away. He said, "Go to your uncle Wind. He will tell you something." But Wind sent them back to Cloud
again. Thus the boys were driven away from each house four times.
Then Cloud said to them, "Prove to me you are my sons. If you are, you can do what I do."
The younger boy sent chain lightning across the sky with sharp, crackling thunder. The elder boy sent the heat lightning with its distant rumble of thunder.
"You are my children," said Cloud. "You have power like mine."
But again he tested them. He took them to a house near by where a flood of rain had drowned the people. "If they are my sons," he said, "they will not be
Then Cloud sent the rain and the storm. The water rose higher and higher, but the two boys were not harmed. The water could not drown them. Then
Cloud took them to his home and there they stayed a long, long time.
But after a long time, the boys wished to see their mother again. Then Cloud made them some bows and arrows differing from any they had ever seen, and
sent them to their mother. He told them he would watch over them as they traveled but they must speak to no one they met on their way.
So the boys traveled to the setting sun. First they met Raven. They remembered their father's command and turned aside so as not to meet him. Then they
met Roadrunner, and turned aside to avoid him. Next came Hawk and Eagle.
Eagle said, "Let's scare those boys." So he swooped down over their heads until they cried from fright.
We were just teasing you," said Eagle. "We will not do you any harm." Then Eagle flew on.
Next they met Coyote. They tried to avoid him, but Coyote ran around and put himself in their way. Cloud was watching and he sent down thunder and
lightning. And the boys sent out their magic thunder and lightning also, until Coyote was frightened and ran away.
Now this happened on the mountain top, and one boy was standing on each side of the trail. After Coyote ran away, they were changed into mescal - the
very largest mescal ever known. The place was near Tucson. This is the reason why mescal grows on the mountains, and why thunder and lightning go
from place to place - because the children did. That is why it rains when we gather mescal.
|The Creation of Man-Kind and the Flood
A Pima Legend
After the world was ready, Earth Doctor made all kinds of animals and creeping things. Then he made images of clay, and told them to be people. After a
while there were so many people that there was not food and water enough for all.
They were never sick and none died. At last there grew to be so many they were obliged to eat each other. Then Earth Doctor, because he could not give
them food and water enough, killed them all. He caught the hook of his staff into the sky and pulled it down so that it crushed all the people and all the
animals, until there was nothing living on the earth. Earth Doctor made a hole through the earth with his stick, and through that he went, coming out safe,
but alone, on the other side.
He called upon the sun and moon to come out of the wreck of the world and sky, and they did so. But there was no sky for them to travel through, no stars,
and no Milky Way. So Earth Doctor made these all over again. Then he created another race of men and animals.
Then Coyote was born. Moon was his mother. When Coyote was large and strong he came to the land where the Pima Indians lived.
The Elder Brother was born. Earth was his mother, and Sky his father. He was so powerful that he spoke roughly to Earth Doctor, who trembled before
him. The people began to increase in numbers, just as they had done before, but Elder Brother shortened their lives, so the earth did not become so
crowded. But Elder Brother did not like the people created by Earth Doctor, so he planned to destroy them again. So Elder Brother planned to create a
magic baby. . . .
The screams of the baby shook the earth. They could be heard for a great distance. Then Earth Doctor called all the people together, and them there would
be a great flood. He sang a magic song and then bored a hole through the flat earth-plain through to the other side. Some of the people went into the hole to
escape the flood that was coming, but not very many got through. Some of the people asked Elder Brother to help them, but he did not answer. Only
Coyote he answered. He told Coyote to find a big log and sit on it, so that he would float on the surface of the water with the driftwood. Elder Brother got
into a big olla which he had made, and closed it tight. So he rolled along on the ground under the olla. He sang a magic song as he climbed into his olla.
A young man went to the place where the baby was screaming. Its tears were a great torrent which cut gorges in the earth before it. The water was rising
all over the earth. He bent over the child to pick it up, and immediately both became birds and flew above the flood. Only five birds were saved from the
flood. One was a flicker and one a vulture. They clung by their beaks to the sky to keep themselves above the waters, but the tail of the flicker was washed
by the waters and that is why it is stiff to this day. At last a god took pity on them and gave them the power to make "nests of down" from their own
breasts on which they floated on the water. One of these birds was the vipisimal, and if any one injures it to this day, the flood may come again.
Now South Doctor called his people to him and told them that a flood was coming. He sang a magic song and he bored a hole in the ground with a cane so
that people might go through to the other side. Others he sent to Earth Doctor, but Earth Doctor told them they were too late. So they sent people to the top
of a high mountain called Crooked Mountain. South Doctor sang a magic song and traced his cane around the mountain, but that held back the waters
only for a short time. Four times he sang and traced a line around the mountain, yet the flood rose again each time. There was only one thing more to do.
He held his magic crystals in his left hand and sang a song. Then he struck it with his cane. A thunder peal rang through the mountains. He threw his staff
into the water and it cracked with a loud noise. Turning, he saw a dog near him. He said, "How high is the tide?" The dog said, It is very near the top." he
looked at the people as he said it. When they heard his voice they all turned to stone. They stood just as they were, and there they are to this day in groups:
some of the men talking, some of the women cooking, and some crying.
But Earth Doctor escaped by enclosing himself in his reed staff, which floated upon the water. Elder Brother rolled along in his olla until he came near the
mouth of the Colorado River. The olla is now called Black Mountain. After the flood he came out and visited all parts of the land.
When he met Coyote and earth Doctor, each claimed to have been the first to appear after the flood, but at last they admitted Elder Brother was the first, so
he became the ruler of the world.
|The Creation of the World
A Pima Legend
In the beginning there was nothing at all except darkness. All was darkness and emptiness. For a long, long while, the darkness gathered until it became a
Over this the spirit of Earth Doctor drifted to and fro like a fluffy bit of cotton in the breeze. Then Earth Doctor decided to make for himself an abiding place.
So he thought within himself, "Come forth, some kind of plant," and there appeared the creosote bush. He placed this before him and set it upright. But it at
once fell over. He set it upright again; again it fell. Si it fell until the fourth time it remained upright. Then Earth Doctor took from his breast a little dust
and flattened it into a cake. When the dust cake was still, he danced upon it, singing a magic song.
Next he created some black insects which made black gum on the creosote bush. Then he made a termite which worked with the small earth cake until it
grew very large. As he sang and danced upon it, the flat World stretched out on all sides until it was as large as it is now. Then he made a round sky-cover
to fit over it, round like the houses of the Pimas. But the Earth shook and stretched, so that it was unsafe. So Earth Doctor made a gray spider which was to
spin a web around the edges of the Earth and sky, fastening them together. When this was done, the Earth grew firm and solid.
Earth Doctor made water, mountains, trees, grass, and weeds made everything as we see it now. But all was still inky blackness. Then he made a dish,
poured water into it, and it became ice. He threw this round block of ice far to the north, and it fell at the place where the Earth and sky were woven
together. At once the ice began to gleam and shine. We call it now the sun. It rose from the ground in the north up into the sky and then fell back. Earth
Doctor took it and threw it to the west where the Earth and sky were sewn together. It rose into the sky and again slid back to the Earth. Then he threw it
to the far south, but it slid back again to the flat Earth. Then at last he threw it to the east. It rose higher and higher in the sky until it reached the highest
point in the round blue cover and began to slide down on the other side. And so the sun does even yet.
Then Earth Doctor poured more water into the dish and it became ice. He sang a magic song, and threw the round ball of ice to the north where the Earth
and sky are woven together. It gleamed and shone, but not so brightly as the sun. It became the moon, and it rose in the sky, but fell back again, just as the
sun had done. So he threw the ball to the west, and then to the south, but it slid back each time to the Earth. Then he threw it to the east, and it rose to the
highest point in the sky-cover and began to slide down on the other side. And so it does even today, following the sun.
But Earth Doctor saw that when the sun and moon were not in the sky, all was inky darkness. So he sang a magic song, and took some water into his
mouth and blew it into the sky, in a spray, to make little stars. Then he took his magic crystal and broke it into pieces and threw them into the sky, to make
the larger stars. Next he took his walking stick and placed ashes on the end of it. Then he drew it across the sky to form the Milky Way. So Earth Doctor
made all the stars.
|The Flood On Superstition Mountain
A Pima Legend
In the state of Arizona, the Pima Indian tribe declares that the father of all men and animals was Great Butterfly --Cherwit Make, meaning the
One day long ago, Great Butterfly fluttered down from the clouds to the Blue Cliffs, where two rivers met, later called the Verde and Salt rivers. There he
made man from his own sweat.
From that day on the people multiplied, but in time they grew selfish and quarrelsome. Earth-Maker became annoyed with their behavior and decided it
might be best to drown all of them.
But first, he thought to warn them through the voices of the winds.
"People of the Pima tribe," called North Wind. "Sky Spirit warns you to be honest with one another and to live in peace from now on."
Suha, Shaman of the Pimas, interpreted to the people what North Wind had warned them about.
"What a fool you are, Suha, to listen to the voices of the winds," taunted his tribesmen.
On the next night, the same warning from Earth-Maker was repeated by East Wind, who added, "Chief Sky Spirit warns that all of you will be destroyed by
floods if you do not live nobler lives."
Again the Pimas mocked the winds and ignored their warnings. Next night, West Wind spoke, "Reform, people of the Pimas, or your evil ways will destroy
Then South Wind breathed into Suha's ear, "Suha, you and your good wife are the only people worth saving. Go and make a large, hollow ball of spruce
gun in which you and your wife can live as long as the coming flood will last."
Because Suha and his wife believed the warnings and were obedient, they set to work immediately on a high hill, gathering spruce gum and shaping it into a
large hollow ball. They stocked it with plenty of nuts, acorns, water, and bear and deer meats.
Near the appointed time, Suha and his good wife looked down sadly upon the lovely green valley. They heard the songs of the harvesters. They sighed to
think of the beauty about them that would be destroyed when the flood came because of the people's selfishness. Suddenly, a bright lightning flash and loud
thunder rocked the Blue Cliffs. It was a signal for the flood to begin.
Suha and his wife went into the gum-ball ark and closed the door tightly. Swirling, dark clouds surrounded them. Torrents of rain poured down
everywhere. For many days, the ark rolled and tossed about on the deepening sea.
After many, many moons, the downpour of rain stopped. The ark settled upon the land again, high on a mountaintop. Suha opened the door and stepped
forth to see a tuna cactus growing near his feet. He and his wife ate some of the red fruit of the cactus plant. Below them, they saw water everywhere.
That night they retired again to the ark. They must have slept a very long time, because when they awoke the water had disappeared, the valleys were
green, and the bird songs rang forth again.
Suha and his wife descended from Superstition Mountain, a name later given to the mountain upon which the ark had landed. They went down into the
fertile valley and lived there for a thousand years. The forthcoming people prospered, becoming known as the Pima tribe.
These Pimas later believed a story that an evil one named Hauk lived behind Superstition Mountain. He was also called the "Devil of Superstition
Mountain" because he tried to steal daughters from the Pimas.
One day, Hauk secretly descended into Pima valley, where the women were busy weaving. He stole one of Suha's daughters. Suha followed Hauk to his
home behind Superstition Mountain, where he observed his daughter treated as a servant-girl by Hauk.
Suha poisoned the cactus wine that his daughter served Hauk. When he drank it, Hauk died instantly. After that the world seemed less wicked, but always
the Pimas feared that Hauk's evil spirit still lurked behind Superstition Mountain.
Suha, Shaman and inspired leader of the Pima tribe, taught his people to build adobe houses, to dig gardens with bones and stones, to irrigate their lands
from the rivers; to raise sheep, horses, and cattle, and, above all, to live in peace with one another.
On his dying day, Suha gathered his people and foretold:
"If you ever grow arrogant with wealth, if you ever become covetous of others' lands, if you ever make war for gain, if you ever disgrace yourselves before
Chief of the Sky Spirits --another flood will come upon you.
"If that happens again, bad persons will never be saved; only good persons will eventually live with the Sun-God."
Since that time, Pimas have believed Suha's prophecies; and they never, never go onto Superstition Mountain.
But their people love to tell the story of why and how the gun-ball ark landed on Superstition Mountain, saving Suha and his good wife, who became the
beloved ancestors of their large and important Pima Tribe.
|The Legend of Eagleman
A Pima Legend
It was on a summer morning in the days before Se-eh-ha lost the love of the River People. Just as the sun came over the eastern hills, the Chief of Cactus
Village stood on his brush arbor and shouted, "My people! The gods have favored us. We have stored enough food to last all winter. Our families are well
fed. Tomorrow at dawn the warriors will go on a rabbit drive. Each man must have four arrows. Get busy and repair your weapons."
The day was a busy one for the people. The men joked with one another and the village hummed with excitement. The women were busy roasting wheat,
grinding it fine on their metates (stone grinders). Pinole would be good to take on the rabbit drive.
Tall Flowers, a beautiful maiden, took the children to clean gourds at the spring.
"Fill the gourds with fresh water," she said. The children all loved Tall Flowers and willingly obeyed her. Everyone worked for this special day.
Before sunrise the hunters departed for their usual hunting grounds near Gagaurke-Slanting Mountain -or Superstition Mountain as we know it now.
Suddenly a young brave whose name was Hick-vick (Woodpecker), cried, "I have only two arrows instead of four."
"Go home and get the rest of your arrows," ordered the Chief. "We'll wait for you in the shade of this mesquite tree."
Hick-vick ran back to the village. When he reached the spring near Slanting-Mountain, he stopped to get a cool drink of water. He was surprised to hear a
"I have some good pinole in this bowl. Please drink it, you look hungry." The young brave eagerly drank the pinole. Every swallow caused little pin
feathers to come out all over his body.
"What is happening to me? I feel so strange," wailed Hick-vick. Soon he was changed into a huge eagle.
"Ha, ha, ha," laughed the old witch. "I mixed ground eagle feathers in the pinole. Hereafter you will be Eagleman."
In the meantime the hunters waited for Hick-vick to return. The Chief grew impatient.
"What is keeping the boy?"
He sent a runner to find out what was detaining him.
The runner started at once. When he reached Slanting Mountain, he saw a huge eagle sitting by the spring. The eagle had the head of Hick-vick but his
body, wings, and talons were those of a huge eagle.
Immediately the runner returned to tell the hunters his discovery.
"Hick-vick has been changed to a big eagle. I saw an ugly old woman running to the mountain. She was carrying a bowl," related the runner.
The Chief sadly nodded his head and recalled past events. He told the young braves about the legend.
"Once the witch was a beautiful maiden. But she was proud and disobeyed her parents; the gods changed her into an ugly old witch. She lives in a cave on
the side of Slanting Mountain, and now and then she comes out to bewitch someone," explained the Chief. "It means the gods are angry. Let us return to our
village at once."
When they passed near the spring they found Eagleman sitting with his bow and two arrows. The hunters aimed their sharp arrows at the bird, but he
deftly caught the arrows with his talons. He flew to a palo verde tree and alighted on one of the branches, which broke under his heavy body. Then he flew
away. When the hunters saw this they decided there was nothing to do but to return home and warn their people.
Eagleman flew over the land until he found a big cave near the top of a high cliff. There he made his home and hunted for game to satisfy his great appetite.
When all the game was gone, Eagleman started to kill the people of Cactus Village. Those who escaped him lived in fear and anxiety.
One day Eagleman swooped down on the home of Tall Flowers and carried her away to make her his bride. The people heard her cries for help, but were
powerless to help her. The village of Cactus went into mourning for their beloved daughter. The Chief and his counselors held meetings to find a way to kill
"He'll wipe out the whole tribe," reasoned the Chief.
Tall Flowers' uncle remembered Elder Brother, a wise old man. "He'll help us."
The next day a young runner went to the home of Elder Brother on top of Greasy Mountain (South Mountain). He returned with distressing words. "Elder
Brother is not there. His house id deserted."
The people were deeply disappointed. Every so often someone would go to see if Elder Brother had returned to his house, only to find it still empty.
Finally, after a year, only a small number of the tribe remained alive in Cactus Village. A runner went again to Elder Brother's home and was relieved to
find him there at last.
"Elder Brother, I've been told to come and ask you to help us," explained the runner.
"What's the trouble?" asked Elder Brother.
"Eagleman has been killing our people and we're unable to stop him."
"Go home and tell your people I'll come after four days have passed," said Elder Brother.
The runner returned to his village and told the Chief that Elder Brother would not come to their aid for another four days. It was discouraging news.
During those days Eagleman made his regular raids without trouble.
At last the four days passed, and Elder Brother came to the village to give help to the people. The warriors went with Elder Brother to show him the high cliff
where Eagleman lived.
When they arrived, Elder Brother took out some stakes cut from very hard wood. He drove the first stake into the side of the cliff, using his stone axe.
"Before I climb the cliff I want to ask you to return to your village and tell the people to watch my mountain home. If they see white clouds floating over
Greasy Mountain, it is a sign I have killed Eagleman. But if black clouds appear you will know I've been killed by Eagleman," said Elder Brother.
Elder Brother slowly ascended the high cliff, driving the hard stakes and using them as an isk-liff (ladder). It was a slow, difficult climb, but Elder Brother
was used to all kinds of hardships. Besides, he wanted to help the people.
When he reached the top of the cliff he found the cave, the home of Eagleman. Cautiously he peered into the dark cave, shading his eyes with his hands so as
to see clearly.
A small cry came from the dark cave. It was the glad cry of Tall Flowers.
"My Elder Brother, you ought not to have come. It's risky," sobbed Tall Flowers.
"I'll risk my life to save you, Tall Flowers. Stop your crying and tell me, when does Eagleman come home?"
"He generally gets home at noon," answered Tall Flowers, drying her eyes.
They quickly decided what course of action to take, for time was running short.
"But the child will reveal your presence. He's very much like his father and takes great delight in killing the helpless little insects around here."
"Don't worry. I'll be safe." Elder Brother took some ashes from the fireplace and made a mark across the child's mouth, rendering him unintelligible. In the
distance they heard a great noise like peals of thunder. Eagleman was on his way home. Elder Brother quickly changed himself into a little fly and hid
under a corpse which was in one part of the cave.
When Eagleman arrived he dumped his load on top of the corpse, hiding Elder Brother more securely. His little son ran to his father and exclaimed,
"A-pa-pa Chu-vich! A-pa-pa Chu-vich!"
"What is the boy trying to tell me? I command you, Tall Flowers, to tell me."
"There is nothing to tell. No one ever comes here, as you well know."
"But someone is here." Eagleman searched the cave for any living creature but did not find anyone. He sat down and ate his meal. Afterwards he put his
head on Tall Flowers' lap and took a nap.
Tall Flowers sang a soft lullaby, whistling after each stanza. Eagleman heard and asked sleepily, "Why do you sing and whistle?"
"Because I'm so happy to see you bring home plenty of meat."
Eagleman finally went into a deep sleep and did not hear Tall Flowers whistle.
Elder Brother came out very quietly. With his stone axe he gave Eagleman a hard blow on his head, killing him instantly. The child met the same treatment.
Elder Brother knew it was not a nice thing to do, but the people's safety was his first concern, and he wanted to make certain of their safety forever. He cut
off the eagle's head and threw it to the east, and his body he tossed to the west.
Tall Flowers buried her face against the cliff outside the cave. Her heart was badly torn but she, too, felt that the safety of her people came first. So she
leaned against the hard cliff to give her strength.
Elder Brother came out after he had made sure his task was completed. As he started to help Tall Flowers climb down the ladder of stakes, the cliff swayed
back and forth. Eagleman's power was felt even in death.
When the rocking of the cliff stopped, Tall Flowers and Elder Brother descended. Her uncle welcomed her joyously and took her home.
Meanwhile, the people patiently watched the mountain home of their Elder Brother. Their hearts were glad when they saw white clouds floating over
Greasy Mountain. Eagleman was destroyed at last!
|The Thirsty Quails
A Pima Legend
A Quail once had more than twenty children, and with them she wandered over the whole country in search of water and could not find it.
It was very hot and they were all crying, "Where can we get some water? Where can we get some water?" but for a long time they could find none.
At last, way in the north, under a mesquite tree, the mother quail saw a pond of water, but it was very muddy and not fit to drink.
But the little quails had been wandering so many days and were so tired they stopped under the shade of the mesquite tree, and by and by, one by one, they
went down to the water and drank it.
But the water was so bad they all died.
|The Well-Baked Man
A Pima Legend
The creation of the white man is depicted here, as in many other tales, as one of the Creator's slight mistakes.
The Magician had made the world but felt that something was missing. "What could it be?" he thought. "What could be missing?" Then it came to him that
what he wanted on this earth was some beings like himself, not just animals. "How will I make them?" he thought. First he built himself a horno, an oven.
Then he took some clay and formed it into a shape like himself.
Now, Coyote was hanging around the way he usually does, and when Magician, who was Man Maker, was off gathering firewood, Coyote quickly changed
the shape of the clay image. Man Maker built a fire inside the horno, then put the imagine in without looking at it closely.
After a while the Magician said: "He must be ready now." He took the image and breathed on it, whereupon it came to life. "Why don't you stand up?" said
Man Maker. "What's wrong with you?" The creature barked and wagged it's tail. "Ah, oh my, Coyote has tricked me," he said. "Coyote changed my being
into an animal like himself."
Coyote said, "Well, what's wrong with it? Why can't I have a pretty creature that pleases me?"
"Oh my, well, all right, but don't interfere again." That's why we have the dog; it was Coyote's doing.
So Man Maker tried again. "They should be companions to each other," he thought. "I shouldn't make just one." He shaped some humans who were rather
like himself and identical with each other in every part.
"What's wrong here?" Man Maker was thinking. Then he saw. "Oh my, that won't do. How can they increase?" So he pulled a little between the legs of one
image, saying: "Ah, that's much better." With his fingernail he made a crack in the other image. He put some pleasant feeling in them somewhere. "Ah, now
it's good. Now they'll be able to do all the necessary things." He put them in the horno to bake.
"They're done now," Coyote told him. So Man Maker took them out and made them come to life.
"Oh my, what's wrong?" he said. "They're underdone; they're not brown enough. They don't belong here-- they belong across the water someplace." He
scowled at Coyote. "Why did you tell me they were done? I can't use them here."
So the Magician tried again, making a pair like the last one and placing them in the oven. After a while he said: "I think they're ready now."
"No, they aren't done yet," said Coyote. "You don't want them to come out too light again; leave them in a little longer."
"Well, all right," replied Man Maker. They waited, and then he took them out. "Oh my. What's wrong? These are overdone. They're burned too dark." He
put them aside. "Maybe I can use them some other place across the water. They don't belong here."
For the fourth time Man Maker placed his images inside the oven. "Now, don't interfere," he said to Coyote, "you give me bad advice. Leave me alone."
This time the Magician did not listen to Coyote, but took them out when he himself thought they were done. He made them come to life, and the two beings
walked around, talked, laughed, and behaved in a seemly fashion. They were neither underdone nor overdone.
"These are exactly right," said Man Maker. "These really belong here; these I will use. They are beautiful." So that's why we have the Pueblo Indians.
--Based on fragments recorded in the 1880's.
|Why the Apaches Are Fierce
A Pima Legend
Elder Brother, Coyote, and Earth Doctor, after the flood vanished, began to create people and animals.
Coyote made all the animals. Elder Brother made the people.
Earth Doctor made queer creatures which had only one leg, or immense ears, or many fingers, and some having flames of fire in their knees.
Elder Brother divided his figures of people into four groups. One of the Apaches came to life first. He shivered and said, "Oh, it's very cold," and began to
sway back and forth.
Then Elder Brother said, "I didn't think you would be the first to awake," and he took all the Apaches up in his hand and threw them over the mountains.
That made them angry, and that is why they have always been so fierce.