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Early History — Language — Always Peaceable—Chief Support Agriculture—Weapons — Legends and Myths — Legends of Building of Casa Grande—Casa de Montezuma—Other Legends—The Turquoise Legend—Wind and Rain Gods—Birth of Hok.

Frank Russell, in the 26th Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology, Smithsonian Institution, 1904–05, gives the following in regard to the Pima Indians:

“The tribe known as the Pimas was so named by the Spaniards early in the history of the relations of the latter with them. The oldest reference to the name within the writer's knowledge is that by Velarde: ‘The Pima Nation, the name of which has been adopted by the Spaniards from the native idiom, call themselves Otama, or, in the plural, Ohotoma; the word Pima is repeated by them to express negation. This ‘negacion’ is expressed by such words as Pia, ‘none,’ piatc, ‘none remaining,’ pimatc, ‘I do not know’ or ‘I do not understand.’ In the last the sound of tc is often reduced to a faint click. The Americans corrupted this to ‘Pimos,’ and while this form of the word is now used only by the illiterate living in the neighborhood of the tribe, it is fairly common in the literature referring to them. They call themselves A-a-'tam,


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‘men’ or ‘the people,’ and when they wish to distinguish themselves from the Papago and other divisions of the same linguistic stock, they add the word â'kimûlt, ‘river.’ ‘River people’ is indeed an apt designation, as evidenced by their dependence on the Gila.’

“Gatschet has thus defined the Pima linguistic stock in an article entitled ‘The Indian languages of the Pacific,’ which was published in the Magazine of American History:

“‘Pima. Dialects of this stock are spoken on the middle course of the Gila river, and south of it on the elevated plains of Southern Arizona and Northern Sonora, (Pimeria alta, Pimeria baja). The Pima does not extend into California unless the extinct, historical Cajuenches, mentioned in Mexican annals, spoke one of the Pima (or Pijimo, Pimo) dialects. Pima, on Pima reserve, Gila river, a sonorous, root-duplicating idiom; Nevome, a dialect probably spoken in Sonora, of which we possess a reliable Spanish grammar, published in Shea's Linguistics; Papago, on Papago reserve, in southwestern Arizona.’”

The Pimas were the hereditary foes of the Apaches as will be seen by some of the traditions. They were, at one time, a very numerous tribe; indeed, it is claimed by some archaeologists, as will be shown later in this history, that the Pimas built the Casa Grande and other works of that nature. They have cultivated the land which they now occupy for more than three hundred years, supporting themselves always through agriculture. Their crops were wheat, corn, vegetables and cotton. The Pimas and

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the Maricopas supplied the Americans with food in the early history of Arizona. The Mormon Battalion was their customer in 1847; they supplied the Boundary Survey under Bartlett, with cereals for man and beast. The Walker Party owed much to their generosity; in fact, the Pimas, particularly, with open-handed hospitality, have always supplied the necessary wants of the white man.

Their weapons originally were war clubs of mesquite wood; bows and arrows; the arrows sometimes pointed with glass, stone and iron, were used in warfare. For defensive purposes they had a raw-hide shield, which was almost impenetrable. They took no scalps. They considered their enemies, particularly the Apaches, as possessed of evil spirits, and did not touch them after death. Adult warriors of the Apache tribes were never taken captives, but women, girls, and young boys, were, at times, made prisoners, while on other occasions all the inhabitants of a besieged Apache camp were killed. They treated their prisoners with great humanity, sharing with them their food and clothing. These captives frequently acquired the Pima language, and, at times, would marry into the tribe.

Agriculture, with the aid of irrigation, was practiced by them from prehistoric times. Each community owned an irrigation canal, sometimes several miles in length, the waters of the river being diverted into them by rude dams. At times, since the occupation of the country by Americans, they have suffered for lack of water, but this now, to a great extent, has been obviated.

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In former times they planted with a dibble, and later plowed their fields with crooked sticks, drawn by oxen. Grain was threshed by the stamping of horses, and winnowed by the women, who skillfully tossed it from flat baskets. Wheat is now their staple crop, of which, during favorable seasons, for many years past, they sold large quantities to the whites. They also cultivate corn, barley, beans, pumpkins, squashes, melons, onions, and some long staple cotton, known as Pima Cotton. In common with most of the Indian tribes, the mesquite bean was formerly one of their principal articles of food, large quantities of which were gathered by the women, pounded in mortars, or ground on metates, and preserved for winter use. The women of the tribe also gathered large quantities of the saguaro cactus, and made it into syrup, from which an intoxicating beverage was formerly brewed. Tobacco was regarded by the Pimas rather as a sacred plant, than one to be used for pleasure. The women were, and are, expert makers of water tight baskets of various shapes and sizes, decorated in geometrical designs. The swastika also appears in their basket work, and is found upon the painted rocks of their reservation. Whence they derived it, is a mystery. They manufacture coarse pottery, some of which is also decorated. It is said that their arts have deteriorated from contact with the whites.

The squaws were the real laborers, the males preparing the ground and tilling the fields and reaping the crops, but the squaws winnowed the grain and carried it to market in huge baskets,

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while the buck oftentimes rode along on a pony, collecting the money for the grain, and spending it for his own pleasures.

They were governed by a head chief, and a chief for each village. These officers were assisted by village councils, which, however, did not appoint representatives to the tribal councils, which were composed of the village chiefs. The head chief was not hereditary, but he was elected by the village chiefs. Descent was traced in the male line, and bore some resemblance to the gentes, though they exert no influence on marriage within the group or gens prohibited. The whole history of the Pimas is written in legends and myths.

The first move in starting a school and mission work among the Pimas was made by General A. J. Alexander, who was stationed at Fort McDowell, and, while there, on October 18th, 1868, he wrote a letter to a member of the Ladies Union Mission School Association in the State of New York upon this subject. This was the lever that started the missionary work among the Indians of Arizona, and also resulted later in the establishment of schools by the Government, the first of these being at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and others in Arizona, in 1870. The Rev. Charles H. Cook came from Chicago, and opened the first Indian school in Arizona, at Sacaton Agency, on February 15th, 1871. Mr. Cook continued this work for many years thereafter.

In the 28th Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, of the Smithsonian Institution, 1906–07, is an article by Jesse Walter

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Fewkes, on the Casa Grande, which article contains a collection of the legends of the Pimas.

Their first legend was related to Father Font by the Governor in 1775, and is the oldest legendary account of Casa Grande extant, from Pima sources. This legend is as follows:

“That in a very distant time there came to that land a man who, because of his evil disposition and harsh sway, was called The Bitter Man; that this man was old and had a young daughter; that in his company came another man who was young, who was not his relative or anything, and that he gave him in marriage his daughter, who was very pretty, the young man being handsome also, and that the said old man had with him as servants the Wind and the Storm-cloud. That the old man began to build the Casa Grande and ordered his son-in-law to fetch beams for the roof of the house. That the young man went far off, and as he had no axe or anything else with which to cut the trees, he tarried many days, and at the end he came back without bringing any beams. That the old man was very angry and told him he was good for nothing; that he should see how he himself would bring beams. That the old man went very far off to a mountain range where there are many pines and, calling on God to help him, he cut many pines and brought many beams for the roof of the house. That when this Bitter Man came there were in that land neither trees nor plants, and he brought seeds of all and he reaped very large harvests with his two servants, the Wind and the Storm-cloud, who served him. That by reason of his evil disposition he grew

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angry with the two servants and turned them away and they went very far off; and as he could no longer harvest any crops through lack of the servants, he ate what he had gathered and came near dying of hunger. That he sent his son-in-law to call the two servants and bring them back and he could not find them, seek as he might. That thereupon the old man went to seek them and, having found them, he brought them once more into his service, and with their aid he had once more large crops, and thus he continued for many years in that land; and after a long time they went away and nothing more was heard of them.

“He said also, that after the old man, there came to that land a man called The Drinker, and he grew angry with the people of that place and he sent much water so that the whole country was covered with water, and he went to a very high mountain range which is seen from there, and which is called The Mountain of the Foam (Sierra de la Espuma), and he took with him a little dog and a coyote. (This mountain range, Superstition Mountains, is called ‘of the foam,’ because at the end of it, which is cut off and steep like the corner of a bastion, there is seen high up near the, top a white brow as of rock, which also continues along the range for a good distance, and the Indians say that this is the mark of the foam of the water which rose to that height.) That The Drinker went up, and left the dog below that he might notify him when the water came too far, and when the water reached the brow of the foam the dog notified. The Drinker, because at that time the animals

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talked, and the latter carried him up. That after some days The Drinker Man sent the Rose-sucker to Coyote to bring him mud; they brought some to him and of the mud he made men of different kinds, and some turned out good and others bad. That these men scattered over the land, upstream and downstream; after some time he sent some men of his to see if the other men upstream talked; these went, and returned saying that although they talked, they had not understood what they said, and that The Drinker Man was very angry because these men talked without his having given them leave. That next he sent other men downstream to see those who had gone that way and they returned saying that they had received them well, that they spoke another tongue, but that they had understood them. Then The Drinker Man told them that those men downstream were the good men, and there were such as far as the Opa, with whom they are friendly, and that there were the Apache, who are their enemies. He said also that at one time The Drinker Man was angry with the people and killed many and transformed them into saguaros, (giant, cacti), and on this account there are so many saguaros in that country. Furthermore, he said that at another time The Drinker Man was very angry with the men and caused the sun to come down to burn them, and was making an end of them; that he now begged him much not to burn them, and therefore The Drinker Man said that he would no longer burn them and then he told the sun to go up, but not so much as before, and he told them that he left

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it lower in order to burn them by means of it, if ever they made him angry again, and for this reason it is so hot in that country in summer.”

In the account of Casa Grande given by Johnston in his Journal, in Emory's “Notes of a Military Reconnaissance,” Washington, 1848, he wrote:

“The general asked a Pimo who made the house (Casa Grande) I had seen. ‘It is the Casa de Montezuma,’ said he; ‘it was built by the son of the most beautiful woman who once dwelt in yon mountain; she was fair and all the handsome men came to court her, but in vain; when they came, they paid tribute, and out of this small store, she fed all people in times of famine, and it did not diminish; at last, as she lay asleep, a drop of rain fell upon her navel, and she became pregnant, and brought forth a boy, who was the builder of all these houses.’”

Capt. F. D. Grossman, in the Smithsonian Report for 1871, made the following allusions to the Pima legends regarding Casa Grande:

“The Pimas claim to be the direct descendants of the chief So-ho. The children of So-ho reinhabited the Gila River Valley, and soon the people became numerous. One of the direct descendants of So-ho, King Sivano, erected the Casas Grandes on the Gila River. Here he governed a large empire, before—long before—the Spaniards were known.”

The following quotation is taken from Bandelier's Final Report, 1892, pt. 2, in Papers Arch. Inst. Amer.:


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“Mr. J. D. Walker, an old resident in the vicinity of Casa Grande, who has been to me personally an excellent friend and valuable informant, told me this tale:

“‘The Gila Pimas claim to have been created on the banks of the river. After residing there for some time a great flood came that destroyed the tribe, with the exception of one man, called Ci-ho. He was of small stature, and became the ancestor of the present Pimas. The tribe, beginning to grow in numbers, built the villages now in ruins and also spread to the north bank of the river. But there appeared a monstrous eagle, which, occasionally assuming the shape of an old woman, visited the pueblos and stole women and children, carrying them to his abode in an inaccessible cliff. On one occasion the eagle seized a girl with the intention of making her his wife. Ci-ho thereupon went to the cliff, but found it impossible to climb. The girl, who was still alive, shouted down to him the way of making the ascent. When the eagle came back Ci-ho slew him with a sword, and thus liberated his people from the scourge.’”

Continuing from 28th Annual Report of Bureau of Ethnology:

“The following existing Pima legends relating to Morning Green, chief of Casa Grande, were collected from Thin Leather (Kamaltkak), an old Pima regarded as one of the best informed story-tellers of the tribe. Some of his legends repeat statements identical with those told to Father Font, 137 years ago, a fact which proves apparently that they have been but little

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changed by intervening generations. The statement which recounts how Morning Green was miraculously conceived by a Hohokam maiden has been verified by several legendists. The following stories supplement published legends of this chief and other ancients and shed light on the condition of early society in the settlement over which Morning Green is said to have ruled:


“‘Morning Green, chief of Casa Grande, invited Chief Tcernatsing and his women to visit him. Tcernatsing lived in a great house situated near Gila Crossing, which is so far away from Casa Grande that he found it necessary to camp one night en route at the settlement on the Gila River opposite Sacaton. When the visitors arrived at Casa Grande a dance was celebrated in the open space north of Compound A, somewhere between it and the circular wall inclosing a reservoir or ‘well.’ Here the women who accompanied Tcernatsing danced with those of Casa Grande, singing the song:

Ta sai na wu wu
Sun shade sing with me
My body will become a humming bird.

“‘When Tcernatsing came and witnessed the women dancing he shook his rattle and sang a magic song, which enticed all the women of Casa Grande to follow him to another dance place, nearer the Gila. Morning Green, who also sang a magic song, found it powerless to prevent the departure of the women, and he went back to

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his house for a more powerful “medicine,” after which he returned to the dance and ordered his women back to their dwellings; but they were so much bewitched by the songs of Tcernatsing that they could not, or would not, obey him. Farther and farther from their homes Tcernatsing enticed the women, dancing first in one place and then in another until they came to his compound. Among the women who abandoned their home was the wife of Morning Green, who refused to return even after he sent a special messenger to her.’

“The sequel of the legend is that Tcernatsing married Nactci a daughter of Morning Green, making her father so angry that he sent a spider to bite his own grandson, offspring of the union. When the boy was sick unto death, Tcernatsing invited Morning Green to visit his grandson before the boy died. Morning Green relented and sent his daughter an herb (the name of which is lost) powerful enough to cure the spider's bite, and thus the child's life was spared.”

Another legend of Chief Morning Green, also obtained from Thin Leather, affords an instructive glimpse of prehistoric thought.


“One day, long ago, the women and girls of Casa Grande were playing an ancient game called toka, formerly much in vogue at Casa Grande, but now no longer played by the Pimas. During the progress of the game a blue-tailed lizard was noticed descending into the earth at a spot where the stones were green. The fact

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was so strange that it was reported to Morning Green, who immediately ordered excavation to be made. Here they eventually discovered many turquoises, with which they made, among other things, a mosaic covering for a chair that used to stand in one of the rooms of Casa Grande. This chair was carried away many years ago and buried, no one knows where.

“Morning Green also distributed so many turquoises among his people that the fame of these precious stones reached the ears of the Sun, in the East, who sent the bird with bright plumage, (parrot?) to obtain them. When Parrot approached within a short distance of Casa Grande he was met by one of the daughters of the chief, who returned to the town and announced to her father the arrival of a visitor from the Sun. The father said, ‘Take this small stick, which is charmed, and when Parrot puts the stick into his mouth, you lead him to me.’ But Parrot was not charmed by the stick and refused to take it into his mouth and the girl reported her failure. The chief answered, ‘Perhaps the strange bird would eat pumpkin seed,’ and told his daughter to offer these to him. She made the attempt without result, and, returning, reported that the bird refused pumpkin seed. The father then said, ‘Put the seed into a blanket and spread it before the bird; then perhaps you may capture him.’ Still Parrot would not eat, and the father thereupon suggested watermelon seed. But Parrot was not tempted by these or by seed of catsclaw, nor was he charmed by charcoal.

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“The chief of Casa Grande then told his daughter to tempt Parrot with corn well cooked and soaked in water, in a new food-bowl. Par rot was obdurate and would not taste it, but, noticing a turquoise bead of blue-green color, he swallowed it; when the two daughters of the chief saw this they brought to him a number of blue stones, which the bird greedily devoured. Then the girls brought valuable turquoise beads, which Parrot ate; then he flew away. The girls tried to capture him, but without success. He made his way through the air to the home of the Sun in the East, where he drank an emetic and vomited the turquoises, which the Sun god distributed among that people which reside near his house of rising, beyond the eastern mountains. This is the reason, it is said, why these people have many stone ornaments made of this material.

“But when the chief of Casa Grande heard that Parrot had been sent to steal his turquoises, he was greatly vexed and caused a violent rain to fall that extinguished all fires in the East. His magic power over the Rain god was so great that he was able even to extinguish the light of the Sun, making it very cold. Then the old priests gathered in council and debated what they should do. Man-Fox was first sent by them into the East to get fire, but he failed to obtain it, and then Road-runner was commissioned to visit Thunder, the only one that possessed fire, and steal his lighted torch. But when Thunder saw him running off with the torch he shot an arrow at the thief and sparks of fire were scattered around, setting afire every tree, bush and

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inflammable object, from which it happens that there is fire in everything.”


“Morning Green is reputed to have had special magic power over two supernatural beings, known as Wind-man and Rain-man. It happened at one time that many people were playing a game with canes in the main plaza of Morning Green's settlement (Casa Grande), on the south side of the compound; among these were Rain-man and Wind-man. The latter laid a wager that if he lost, his opponent should look on the charms of a certain maid. When Wind-man lost, in revenge he sent a great wind that blew aside her blanket, at which indignity she cried and complained of Wind-man to Morning Green, who was so angry that he made Rain-man blind, obliging him to be led about by his servant, the wind; he also banished both from Casa Grande. They went to the San Bernardino Mountains in what is now California and lived at Eagle Mountain, near the present town of Wadsworth, where as a consequence it rains continually.

“After the banishment of these two the rain ceased at Casa Grande for four years, and Morning Green sent Humming-bird to the mountains where Wind-man and Rain-man resided. Humming-bird carried with him a white feather, which he held aloft to detect the presence of the wind. Three times he thus tried to discover Wind-man by the movement of this feather, but

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was not successful. When at last Hummingbird came to a place where there was much green grass he again held up the feather to see whether it showed any movement of the air. It responded by indicating a slight wind, and later he came to the spot where Wind-man and Rain-man were, but found them asleep.

“Humming-bird dropped a little medicine on the breasts of Wind-man and Rain-man, which caused them after a time to move and later to awake. When they had risen from their sleep Humming-bird informed them that Morning Green had sent him to ask them to return and again take up their abode with him at Casa Grande. Rain-man, who had no desire to return, answered, ‘Why did Morning Green send us away?’ and Wind-man said: ‘Return to Morning Green and tell him to cut off his daughter's hair and make from it a rope. Bring this rope to me and I will tie it about my loins that Rain-man, who is blind, may catch hold of it while I am leading him. But advise all in Casa Grande to take the precaution to repair the roofs of their houses so they will not leak, for when we arrive it will rain violently.’ Humming-bird delivered the message to the chief of Casa Grande, and later brought back the twisted rope of human hair. Wind-man and Rain-man had barely started for Casa Grande when it began to rain, and for four days the downpour was so great that every roof leaked. Morning Green vainly used all his power to stop the rain, but the magic availed but little.”

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“Long ago the Sun god sent a messenger on an errand to the settlement now called Casa Grande. As this messenger proceeded on his way he occupied himself in kicking a stone ball, and on approaching Casa Grande he gave the ball so violent a kick that it landed near a maiden who sat on the housetop making pottery. Seeing the object the girl picked it up and hid it under her belt. When the man sought the stone it was nowhere to be found; he asked the girl if she knew where it fell, but she would not divulge what had become of it. Discouraged in his quest the man was about to return to the Sun god, but the girl urged him not to depart but to search more diligently for the ball. She also sought for it, but it was no longer under her belt; it had disappeared. Later she was with child, and in due time gave birth to a girl baby, which, instead of feet and hands, had claws like a bear or a mountain lion. As this strange child grew older and played with other boys and girls she scratched them so often with her claws that they were afraid of her, and ran away whenever she appeared. The brothers of the girl were hunters of rabbits, but were unsuccessful. When their sister grew older she followed them to the hunt and their luck changed, so that henceforth they killed plenty of game. As she matured, however, she outgrew all restraint and became a wild woman. She was then called Hok, and developed into a cannibal monster, who captured her victims wherever she went and carried them in a basket on her back until she

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wished to devour them. Hok once met two youths, whom she tried to capture, but they ran swiftly away and when she made another attempt they blinded her by throwing sand in her eyes. This monster terrorized the whole country to such an extent that the ancients sought her life, but in vain. The culture-hero, Tcuhu, endeavored to kill Hok. He turned himself into a snake and furnished the children with rattles; when Hok approached them they shook these rattles and frightened her. Hok first retired to a distant cave in the Santa Catalina Mountains, but later went south to Poso Verde. The people living there were also oppressed by Hok and desired to kill her. Tcuhu sent word to his uncle that there was to be a dance at Casa Grande and asked him to invite Hok to attend. This was a kind of ceremonial dance in which men and women participate, forming a circle and alternating with each other. Several invitations were sent to Hok, but she did not accept; at last she promised to attend the dance and to be there at sunset. Tcuhu danced and smoked with Hok, and the festivities lasted four days and nights. While she was absent the women gathered wood and made a fire in the cave where Hok lived. When she discovered what had taken place she flew to the top of her cave and entered it through a crack open to the sky. At the opening Tcuhu stood so as to prevent Hok's escape and slew her as she emerged.”


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