CHAPTER XIII. THE MOQUI INDIANS
THE Indians of Arizona are, perhaps, the most interesting of any of the American aborigines. They are as unique and picturesque as is the land which they inhabit; and the dead are no less so than the living.
The Pueblo Indians, with which the Moquis are classed, number altogether about ten thousand and are scattered in twenty-six villages over Arizona and New Mexico. They resemble each other in many respects, but do not all speak the same language. They represent several wholly disconnected stems and are classified linguistically by Brinton as belonging to the Uto-Aztecan, Kera, Tehua and Zuñi stocks. He believes that the Pueblo civilization is not due to any one unusually gifted lineage, but is altogether a local product, developed in independent tribes by their peculiar environment, which is favorable to agriculture and sedentary pursuits1.
The houses are constructed of stone and adobe, are several stories high and contain many apartments. None of the existing pueblos are as large as some that are in ruins which, judging by the quantity of débris, must have been huge affairs. Since the advent of the Spaniard the style of building has changed somewhat to conform to modern ideas, so that
Their manners and customs are peculiar to themselves and make an interesting study. Their civilization is entirely original, though modified to some extent by centuries of contact with the whites. They understand the Spanish language, but have not forgotten their mother tongue. They hold tenaciously to their old customs and have not changed materially during the past four hundred years.
During that time the Catholic missionaries endeavored to convert them to Christianity, but with only partial success. While they appeared to acquiesce, by giving formal obedience to the requirements of the new religion, they yet held sacred their old beliefs and in the privacy of the estufa practiced in secret the rites and ceremonies of their ancient faith.
The Spaniards undertook to conquer a free and independent people by teaching them dependence and submission, but signally failed. After a struggle of two hundred and eighty years Spanish civilization withdrew and left the Pueblo civilization victorious.
Under successive Spanish, Mexican and American rule the Pueblo has preserved itself intact which fact stamps the Pueblo people as being eminently valiant, self-reliant and persevering. They are peaceable, industrious and hospitable and are said to be the best governed people in the world. As nearly as can be ascertained they are free from every gross vice and crime and Mr. C. F. Lummis, who knows them well, believes them to be a crimeless people.
MOQUI GIRL, ORAIBI.
WATER CARRIER, WAĺ-PI.
In the early Spanish days Moqui land was designated as the Province of Tusayan and was shrouded in mystery. The seven Moqui towns were at one time regarded as the seven Cities of Cibola, but later it was decided that Zuñi and not Moqui was the true Cibola.
When Coronado, at the head of his intrepid army, marched through the land in the year 1540, he procured native guides to aid him in exploring the country, hoping to find fabulous wealth which failed to materialize. He heard of a race of giants whom he wished to meet, but instead of finding them discovered a river with banks so high that they ‘‘seemed to be raised three or four leagues into the air.’’ What he saw was the Colorado River with its gigantic cañon walls and wealth of architectural grandeur and beauty. The bewildering sight naturally astonished him as it does every beholder. Think of a fissure in the earth over a mile deep! But the Grand Cañon of Arizona is more than a simple fissure in the earth. It is composed of many cañons which form a seemingly endless labyrinth of winding aisles and majestic avenues—fit promenades for the Gods.
The land of the Moquiños is full of surprises and, although they are not all as startling as the Grand Cañon, they are sufficiently striking to make Arizona a wonderland that is second to none on the continent.
Upon the second or middle mesa are the towns of Mishonǵ-novi, Shi-páuli-ovi and Shong-ó-pavi; and on the third mesa is O-raí-bi, which is the largest of the Moqui villages and equal to the other six in size and population. The entire population of the seven Moqui towns numbers about two thousand souls.
In 1583 Espéjo estimated that the Moquis numbered fifty thousand, which, doubtless, was an over estimate, as he has been accused of exaggeration. However, since their discovery their numbers have greatly diminished and steadily continue to decrease, as if it were also to be their fate to become extinct like the ancient cliff dwellers.
The Moqui Pueblos are well protected by natural barriers upon all sides except towards the south. Perched upon their high mesas the people have been safe from every attack of an enemy, but their fields and flocks in the valley below were defenseless. The top of the several mesas can only be reached by ascending steep and difficult trails which are hard to climb but easy to defend. The paths on the mesas have been cut deep into the hard rock, which were worn by the soft tread of moccasined feet during centuries of travel, numbering, perhaps, several times the four hundred years that are known to history.
KEAM'S CAñON SCHOOL.
The houses are built of stone and mortar, and rise in terraces from one to five stories high, back from a street or court to a sheer wall. Some of the remodeled and newly built houses have modern doors and windows. The upper stories are reached from the outside by ladders and stone stairways built into the walls. The rooms are smoothly plastered and whitewashed and the houses are kept tidy and clean, but the streets are dirty and unsanitary.
In these sky cities the Moquis live a retired life that is well suited to their quiet dispositions, love of home life and tireless industry. The men are kind, the women virtuous and the children obedient. Indeed, the children are unusually well behaved. They seldom quarrel or cry, and a spoiled child cannot be found among them. The Moquis love peace, and never fight among themselves. If a dispute occurs it is submitted to a peace council of old men, whose decision is final and obeyed without a murmur.
They are shy and suspicious of strangers, but if addressed by the magic word lolomi, their reserve is instantly gone. It is the open sesame to their hearts and homes, and after that the house contains nothing too good to bestow upon the welcome guest. They are true children of nature, and have not yet become corrupted by the vices of white civilization. The worst thing they do is that the men smoke tobacco.
Their industries are few, but afford sufficient income to provide for their modest needs. They are primarily tillers of the soil, and as agriculturists succeed under circumstances that would wholly baffle and discourage an eastern farmer. Several years ago a man was sent out from Washington to teach the Moquis agriculture, but before a year had passed the teacher had to buy corn from the Indians.
Just how the Spaniards got the notion that the Moquis loved gold and possessed vast stores of that precious metal is not apparent unless it be, as Bandelier suggests, that it originated in the myth of the El Dorado, or Gilded Man2 The story started at Lake Guatanita in Bogota, and traveled north to Quivera, but the wealth that the Spaniards sought they never found. Their journey led them over deserts that gave them but little food and only a meager supply of water, and ended in disaster.
The mesas are all rock and utterly barren, and their supplies are all brought from a distance over difficult trails. The water is carried in ollas by the women from springs at the foot of the mesa; wood is packed on burros from distant forests; and corn, melons and peaches are brought home by the men when they return from their work in the fields. A less active and industrious people, under similar circumstances, would soon starve to death, but the Moquis are self-supporting and have never asked nor received any help from Uncle Sam.
In the early morning the public crier proclaims in stentorian tones from the housetop the program for the day, which sends everyone to his daily task. They are inured to labor and do not count work as a hardship. It is only by incessant toil that they succeed at all in earning a living with the scanty resources at their command, and the only surprise is that they succeed so well. There is scarcely an hour
MESA TRAIL WORN BY MOCCASINED FEET.
MOQUI CORNFIELD, WAĺ-PI IN THE DISTANCE.
The men travel many miles every day going to and from their work in the fields. If a man owns a burro he sometimes rides, but usually prefers to walk. What the burro does not pack, the man carries on his back. He often sings at his work, just as the white man does in any farming community, and his song sounds good.
The burro is the common carrier and, because of his sterling qualities, is a prime favorite in all of the pueblos. If he has any faults they are all condoned except one, that of theft. If he is caught eating in a corn field he is punished as a thief by having one of his ears cut off; and if the offense is repeated he loses his other ear in the same manner.
The area of tillable land is limited and is found only in small patches, which cause the farms to be widely scattered. The soil is mostly sand which the wind drifts into dunes that sometimes cover and destroy the growing crops. The peach trees are often buried in sand or only their top branches remain visible. There are no running streams of water and rains are infrequent.
Corn is the principal crop and support of the Moquis. If there is a good crop the surplus is stored away and kept to be used in the future should a crop fail. The corn is planted in irregular hills and cultivated with a hoe. It is dropped into deep holes made with a stick and covered up. There is always enough moisture in the sand to sprout the seed which, aided by an occasional shower, causes it to grow and mature a crop. The corn is of a hardy, native variety that needs but little water to make it grow. The grain is small and hard like popcorn and ripens in several colors.
The Moqui woman is favored above many of her sex who live in foreign lands. As a child she receives much attention and toys galore, as the parents are very fond of their children and devote much time to their amusement. They make dolls of their Katcinas which are given to the children to play with. A Katcina is the emblem of a deity that is represented either in the form of a doll carved out of wood, woven into a plaque or basket, or painted on tiles and pottery. There are between three and four hundred Katcina dolls each one representing a different divinity. When a doll is given to a child it is taught what it means, thus combining instruction with amusement. The method is a perfect system of kindergarten teaching, which the Moquis invented and used centuries before the idea occurred to Froebel.
When the girl is ten years old her education properly begins and she is systematically inducted into the mysteries of housekeeping. At fifteen she has completed her curriculum and can cook, bake, sew, dye, spin and weave and is, indeed, graduated in all the accomplishments of the finished Moqui maiden. She now does up her hair in two large coils or whorls, one on each side of the head, which is meant to resemble a full-blown squash blossom and signifies that the
NOTICE ON SNAKE KIVA, REQUESTING VISITORS TO BEHAVE.
SNAKE PRIESTS, ORAIBI.
Her dress is not Spanish nor yet altogether Indian, but is simple, comfortable and becoming, which is more than can be said of some civilized costumes. She chooses her own husband, inherits her mother's name and property and owns the house in which she lives. Instead of the man owning and bossing everything, as he so dearly loves to do in our own civilization, the property and labor of the Moqui husband and wife are equally divided, the former owning and tending the fields and flocks and the latter possessing and governing the house.
The Moquis are famous for their games, dances and festivals, which have been fully described by Dr. J. Walter Fewkes in various reports to the Smithsonian Institution. They have many secret orders, worship the supernatural, and believe in witchcraft. Their great fête day is the Snake Dance, which is held in alternate years at Walpi and Oraibi, at the former place in the odd year and at the latter place in the even year, some time during the month of August. It is purely a religious ceremony, an elaborate supplication for rain, and is designed to propitiate the water god or snake deity.
The snakes used in the dance are all wild, and captured out on the open plain. Four days prior to the dance the snake men, dressed in scanty attire and equipped with their snake-capturing paraphernalia, march out in squads and scour the surrounding country in search of snakes. One day each is spent in searching the ground towards the four points the compass, in the order of north, west, south and east, returning at the close of each day with their catch to the Kiva, where the snakes are kept and prepared for the dance. The snakes caught are of several varieties, but much the largest number are rattlesnakes. Respect is shown for serpents every variety and none are ever intentionally harmed, but the rattlesnake is considered the most sacred and is proportionately esteemed. Its forked tongue represents lightning, its rattle thunder and its spots rain-clouds. The number of snakes they find is surprising, as they catch from one to two hundred during the four days' hunt on ground that might be carefully searched by white men for months without finding a single reptile.
The snake men are very expert in catching and handling serpents, and are seldom bitten. If one is bitten it is nothing serious, as they have a secret medicine which they use that is both prophylactic and curative, and makes them immune to the poison so that no harm ever results from a bite. The medicine is taken internally and also applied local Efforts have been made to discover its composition but without
THE SNAKE DANCE AT ORAIBI.
WASHING CEREMONY, AFTER THE SNAKE DANCE. Photo by F. I. Monsen.
Visitors who attend the dance are under no restrictions, but are free to come and go as they please, either sightseeing or in search of curios. If the visitor has a supply of candy, matches and smoking-tobacco to give away he finds frequent opportunities to bestow his gifts. The children ask for ‘‘canty,’’ the women want ‘‘matchi,’’ and the men are pleased with a ‘‘smoke.’’
On the morning of the dance both the men and women give their hair an extra washing by using a mixture of water and crushed soap-root. The white fibers of the soap-root get mixed with the hair, which gives it a tinge of iron gray. The children also get a bath which, because of the great scarcity of water, is not of daily occurrence.
To the Moquis the snake dance is a serious and solemn affair, but to the visitors it is apt to be an occasion for fun and frolic. Owing to a misunderstanding of its true meaning, and because of misconduct in the past on similar occasions, notice is posted on the Kiva asking visitors to abstain from loud laughing and talking. In other words it is a polite request made by the rude red man of his polished (?) white brother to please behave himself.
The dance begins late in the afternoon and lasts less than one hour, but while it is in progress the action is intense. The snakes are carried in a bag or jar from the Kiva to the Kisa, built of cotton-wood boughs on one side of the plaza, where the snakes are handed out to the dancers. After much marching and countermarching about the plaza, chanting
After the snakes have all been danced they are thrown into a heap and sprinkled with sacred corn meal by the young women. The scattering of the meal is accompanied by a shower of spittle from the spectators, who are stationed on convenient roofs and ladders viewing the ceremony. Fleet runners now catch up the snakes in handfuls and dash off in an exciting race over the mesa and down rocky trails to the plains below where the snakes are returned unharmed to their native haunts.
While the men are away disposing of the reptiles the women carry out large ollas, or jars, filled with a black liquid, which is the snake medicine that is used in the final act of purification by washing. When the men return to the mesa they remove their regalias and proceed to drink of the snake medicine which acts as an emetic. With the remainder of the concoction, and assisted by the women, they wash their bodies free from paint. After the men are all washed and puked they re-enter the Kiva, where the long fast is broken by a feast and the formal ceremonies of the snake dance are ended.
MOQUI GIRLS PREPARED TO SPRINKLE THE SACRED MEAL. Photo by H. Conrad.
TAKING THE EMETIC. Photo by H. Conrad.
On the lower portion of the road which leads up from the spring to the gap at Walpi on the first mesa, the trail is over drifted sand which makes difficult walking. To remedy this defect in the trail, a path has been made of flat stones laid in the sand, which shows that the Moquis are quick to recognize and utilize an advantage that contributes to their convenience and comfort.
The Santa Fé Pacific is the nearest railroad, which runs about one hundred miles south of the Moqui villages. The tourist can secure transportation at reasonable rates of local liverymen either from Holbrook, Winslow, Cañon Diablo or Flagstaff. The trip makes an enjoyable outing that is full of interest and instruction from start to finish.
Some years ago the government, through its agents, began to civilize and Christianize these Indians and established a school at Keam's Cañon, nine miles east of the first mesa, for that purpose. When the school was opened the requisition for a specified number of children from each pueblo was not filled until secured by force. As free citizens of the United States, being such by the treaty made with Mexico in 1848 and, indeed, already so under a system of self-government superior to our own and established long before Columbus discovered America, they naturally resented any interference in their affairs but, being in the minority and overpowered, had to submit.
The reservation school was opened for the purpose of instructing the Moqui children in civilization, but the results obtained have not been entirely satisfactory. The methods employed for enforcing discipline have been unnecessarily severe and have given dissatisfaction. As recently as the year 1903 the children of this inoffensive and harmless people were forcibly taken from their homes and put into the schools. The time selected for doing the dastardly deed was during the night in midwinter when the weather was cold and the ground covered with snow. Under the orders of the superintendent the reservation police made the raid without warning or warrant of any kind. While the people slept, the police entered their houses, dragged the little children from their comfortable beds and drove them naked out into the snow and cold, where they were rounded up and herded like cattle.
The indignity and outrage of this and other similar acts have embittered the Moquis until they have lost what little respect they ever had for Christianity and civilization, The policy of the government is to make them do whatever they do not want to do, to break up the family and scatter its members. The treatment has created two factions among the Moquis known as the ‘‘hostiles’’ who are only hostile in opposing oppression and any change in their religious faith and customs ; and the ‘‘friendlies’’ who are willing to obey the boss placed over them and comply with his demands.
TOM POLAKI. Photo by F. I. Monsen.
ON THE MOQUI TRAIL.
They are a highly religious people worshiping after their own creed, and are sincere and conscientious in their devotions. Almost everything they do has some religious significance and every day its religious observance. Their religion satisfies them and harms no one, then why not leave them in peace ? We believe that we can benefit them, which is doubtless true, but might they not also teach us some useful lessons ? It would sometimes be more to our credit if we were less anxious to teach others, and more willing to learn ourselves.
Next to their religion they love their homes most. The rocks upon which they live, are they not dear from associations ? Is it not the land of their birth and the home of their fathers during many generations ? They cling with stubborn tenacity to their barren mesas and nothing thus far has succeeded in driving them away ; neither war, pestilence nor famine. Repeated attempts have been made to induce them to leave, but without success.
Tom Polaki, the principal man of Tewa, was the first man to respond to the call to come down. He left the mesa several years ago, and went to the plain below to live. Having captured the bell wether it was presumed that the balance of the flock would soon follow, but the contrary proved to be
That the Moquis are changing is best illustrated by reference to one of their marriage customs. It is the custom when a youth contemplates matrimony to make a marriage blanket. He grows the cotton, spins the yarn and weaves the cloth, which requires a year or more of time to finish. Since the children have gone to school it is not deemed necessary for a young man to go to so much trouble and expense as to make a marriage blanket, but instead, he borrows one from a friend in the village, and after the ceremony is over returns it to the owner. Even now it is not easy to find such a blanket, and very soon they will be priceless as no more such garments will be made.
The only reasonable explanation why any people should select a location like that of the Moquis is on the hypothesis of choice. There is much of the animal in human nature that is influenced by instinct, and man, like the brute, often unconsciously selects what is most congenial to his nature. Thus instinct teaches the eagle to nest on the highest crag and the mountain sheep to browse in pastures which only the hardiest hunter dare approach. For no better reason, apparently, do the Moquis occupy their barren mesas ; they simply prefer to live there above any other place.
Again, if safety was their only reason for staying, they could have left long ago and had nothing to fear, as they have been for many years at peace with their ancient enemy the predatory Navajo. But rather than go they have chosen to remain in their old home where they have always lived, and will continue to live so long as they are left free to choose.
The modern iconoclast in his unreasonable devotion to realism has, perhaps, stripped them of much old time romance, but even with all of that gone, enough of fact remains to make them a remarkable people. Instead of seeking to change them this last bit of harmless aboriginal life should be spared and preserved, if possible, in all of its native purity and simplicity.
1. The American Race, by D. G. Brinton, 1891.
2. . The Gilded Man, by A. F. Bandelier, 1893.