CHAPTER V. THE HAVASUPAI.
HAVASUPAI (“blue or green water people”). A small isolated tribe of the Yuman stock (the nucleus of which is believed to have descended from the Wallapai) who occupy Cataract Canyon of the Rio Colorado in northwestern Arizona. Whipple (Pac. R. R. Rep., III pt. I, 82, 1856) was informed in 1850 that the “Cosninos” roamed from the Sierra Mogollon to the San Francisco mountains, and along the valley of the Colorado Chiquito. The tribe is a peculiarly interesting one, since of all the Yuman tribes it is the only one which has developed or borrowed a culture similar to, though less advanced, than that of the Pueblo peoples; indeed, according to tradition, the Havasupai (or more probably a Pueblo clan or tribe that became incorporated with them) formerly built and occupied villages of a permanent character on the Colorado Chiquito east of the San Francisco mountains, where ruins were pointed out to Powell by a Havasupai chief as the former homes of his people. As the result of the war with tribes farther east, they abandoned these villages and took refuge in the San Francisco mountains, subsequently leaving these for
Mr. F. H. Cushing, who can be classed as the premier archaeologist of Arizona and New Mexico, having spent a number of years among the Zunis, and being the first to explore the ruins of the Salt River Valley, has given us in an article printed in the Atlantic Monthly, in 1882, the following description of the habits, history and legends of the Havasupais:
“A most curious fact, and a very significant one in the consideration of the origin of the Havasupai, is the absence of the Gentile system of descent or organization among them, their society consanguineally being patriarchal; but they claim to be the people of the Coyote, which indicates that one gens has absorbed all the others, or else that they are, as seems more probable, a single gens, which has separated from its original body, and never again developed the separate gentes, as has been the case with other segregated clans among Indians. I incline to this belief from the fact that the Hualapai, to whom their relationship is indisputable, have, as subsequent investigations have shown, the Gentile and Phratral systems, certainly to some extent. And as far as I can ascertain this is also the case with the Apache-Yumas and Apache-Mohaves, who are only other divisions of the same stock. Descent is therefore not
“They are polygamists, the number of wives a man shall have being limited, apparently, only by the number he can procure, or by his means for supporting them. These marriages are constant, the only ground for divorce being unfaithfulness, which, with the women of rare occurrence, scarcely exists with the men, as a cause. Betrothals by purchase or stipulation are common, a girl of seven or eight summers being frequently promised to a man as old as, or even older than, her father. Marriages are therefore, with the girls, usually very early in life; with the men, late. In consequence of this polygamy, a large number of the men are unmarried, the women being monopolized, with or without their will, by the wealthier and more influential men of the tribe. The male population is in excess of the female; hence it sometimes happens that Hualapai squaws are married, and in one instance a Moqui woman, a probable outcast from her own nation, was observed by us.
“The children do not seem to have regular property, as with the Pueblos, until after puberty, although, on the death of the father, his portable property is inherited by the son, for sacrifice at the rites to be described further on.
“The head chieftaincy is hereditary. In the absence of a son, the chief's nephew on the father's side is, I believe, chosen as successor. All the subchiefs are named by the head chief, on account of personal preference, wealth, or influence. There seems to be no distinct order of warriors; when a scalp is taken, it is brought to the village, and a dance, celebrating the death of the enemy, is given in honor of the victor, and the body is then cremated; no record or mark of dress being preserved to represent the rank or prowess of the warrior. In case of hostility, obligations to war are simply coextensive with the adult population. There is, however, a certain importance attached to one of the warriors, who is supposed to have in his keeping a medicine of war, and who, by virtue of his valor and possession, is a sort of war chief, although the civil and martial affairs of the nation are more closely allied than is the case with most Indian tribes.
“Nor is the ecclesiastical much distinguished from the civil, with them; for the head chief combines with his political office the caciqueship, or that which in Zuni is distinctively religious, being termed Kiakwemosone, or ‘Mastership of the House,’—a kind of high-priesthood. He not only presides at the more important councils, makes treaties with other tribes, etc., directs war parties, and condemns criminals, but also prays, offering sacrifices toward securing rain, propitious seasons, and success in the chase for his children, as he terms his nation. He receives, contrary to the Pueblo practice, tithes for his
“The present head chief, Ko-hot, is nicknamed Navajo. He is a man of the most wonderful character. His portrait in profile, as I look upon it, and to the sketching of which he submitted with ease and pleasure, bears a remarkable likeness to Washington. I cannot forbear giving two instances of his judgment, which exemplify his fine sense of justice, but at the same time his unrelenting will, in any measure, however severe, for the good of his own people. When the Apache-Mohaves were moved by the government to San Carlos, one of them, discontented, returned through his former country, and after great suffering reached the home of the Havasupai. He expressed his wish to live with the latter people to the end of his days. Ko-hot convened a council, and after long and fair deliberation concluded that it would be offensive to the Americans should he be harbored, and endanger his own people, leading ultimately, to their removal as well. He therefore informed the Apache that, notwithstanding he was a member of a nation of enemies, he felt for him, but could give him the choice of but two alternatives,—return to San Carlos, or death. The Apache, hoping Ko-hot would relent, replied that die he might, but return to San Carlos he never would. Ko-hot arose, then and there, without one more word, and struck him dead.
“When the officers of the cavalry expedition called a council, and told Ko-hot that their mission was to determine the borders of his country for all time, and that it remained with him to decide how large it should be, he replied to the following effect: ‘My people live by their country and their river. They are small. Let your lines but include the river and the little plain we live on; for why should a small nation wish for a great country? There are many other nations in the world. Some one of them—the Americans, perhaps, for they are a great people, and talk of making boundaries where we have lived very well for all time without them—might try, some time, if it were large and indivisible, to take our country from us. Where would the Havasupai go?’ And he would not permit the boundaries to be placed a step above the springs where it leaps down into the pool under the limestone barrier.
“Aside from the head chief, perhaps the only representatives of an ecclesiastical order are the well-paid medicine men, some of whom, by virtue of their practices, are a sort of chiefs, and keepers of old traditions and songs, if my informant told the truth. They are believed to possess certain influences over the spirits, and exorcisms which cause disease, as well as over the benevolent spiritistic agencies which assist in its amelioration or cure. Incantation and jugglery are practiced by them, and as the disease or influence is supposed to have an objective spiritual existence, the whole company around a sick person, over whom the doctor is practicing his insane manipulations, rise up at certain intervals
“Labor is not regularly divided, except between the sexes; save that among the men, arrow making and some such special arts are more practiced by those who excel in them than by others, and basket-making among the women. The men do all the hunting, bringing the game to camp, and skinning the larger kinds, the women cutting it up and preparing it for drying or cooking. Both men and women gather the agave plant, in its season, with many festivities, vying in the preparation of it for mescal, although the burden of the labor in burning it falls to the women. The men break up the soil, lay out and dig the acequias, etc., performing the heavier agricultural work, as well as the planting, while the women weed the crop and assist in hoeing. When the corn ripens, the women gather it and bring it in, make it ready, and store it in the little stone and adobe granaries under the cliffs, and in little obscure rock shelters. They also cook all the foods, make baskets and most other implements of household use, while the men cut out and sew the clothing both for themselves and for the women. Much
“Sedentary agriculturists in summer, the Havasupai produce immense quantities of datila, mescal, watertight basketwork, and arrows. Nomadic hunters in winter, throughout the choicest ranges of the Southwest, they have become justly famous for the quantity, fineness and quality of their buckskins, which are smooth, soft, white as snow yet thick and durable. These buckskins, manufactured into bags, pouches, coats, and leggings, or as raw material, are valued by other Indian tribes, even as far east as the Rio Grande, as are the silks of China or the shawls of Persia by ourselves. All this material is bartered with the Pueblos for blankets and various products of civilization, the former being again traded to the Hualapai for red and black paints, undressed buckskins, and mountain lion robes. Their red paint, ochre of the finest quality, has such celebrity among the Indian tribes that, reaching the Utes on the north, and the Comanches in Texas, it sometimes travels, by barter from hand to hand, as far east as to the tribes of the Mississippi Valley.
“The engineering skill and enterprise of this little nation are marvellous. Although their appliances are rude, they are able to construct large dams, and dig or build deep irrigating canals, or durable aqueducts, which often pass through hills, or follow considerable heights along shelves of rock or talus, at the bases of the rugged and crooked walls of the canyon.
“Most wonderful of all, however, are their aerial trails. Through the western branch of the canyon, down from the Hualapai country, the trail for horses as well as foot travellers is over promontories, up shelves, along giddy narrow heights, in and out of recessions, or over stone pecked slopes, such as would dismay civilized man, with all his means of moulding the rugged face of nature. At times, so impossible does it seem for any living thing to pass farther, that nowhere can the trail be traced; when a turn to some crack in the rock, almost hidden by intervening bowlders, and hewn down with stone hammers to give precarious footing, shows where it goes up or descends. Great ingenuity is shown in continuing the trail along the bare, smooth face of a cliff which slopes at an angle of forty-five, fifty, even sometimes sixty degrees. The surface, after being roughened, is overlaid with little branches of cedar, upon which large sticks and stones of great weight are laid, the whole being filled in with dirt and a sufficient quantity of pebbles to guard against washing away. If such a surface be interrupted by a crevice, the two sides of the latter are notched, a fragment of rock fitted in, and the whole covered as before described. Considerable nerve is required, however, to pass these trails. The foothold is always uncertain, and one of these
“Besides their horses, which are adventurers as wonderful as the Indians themselves, through their canyon training, they have a few dogs, often wolfish, always mongrel, and six or eight lonely cats, which are extravagantly prized by their possessors, and well fed, yet so worried by dogs and children that they resemble half-starved wild beasts of the feline tribe rather than the descendants of the sleek, domesticated animal of civilization. Not unfrequently beautiful little coyotes are to be seen about the camp, and these, as the emblems of his own ancestry, his national deity, are affectionately fondled and petted by the Havasupai; being allowed a place at the family bowl even in preference to the women or children. Add to these certain sand lizards and many noisy birds of prey, kept more for their feathers than as pets, and the list of Havasupai domestication is complete.
“During intervals in the labor of the fields, the men may always be seen gathered in groups of six or ten, chatting together; and the women, always busy, exchange visits while at work about the fire, and the visitor is scarcely distinguishable from the hostess, as she shares with her all duties in which the latter may be engaged. So also, when at work in the fields, the women are prone to gather in busy little groups, where their talk and merriment, free from the restraint of
“The children are always boisterously at play, the girls with the boys, and are touchingly affectionate toward one another. The youth gather on level spots and run races, or play games of chance by the hour. They are fond of displaying themselves on horseback; two, sometimes even three, mounting some little pony, and wildly galloping up and down the paths which thread the cornfields where the women and girls are at work. They improve their marksmanship and gain local celebrity, vying with one another in firing at the marks of nature's hand about the great cliffs of their subterranean home.
“As illustrative of this, I may give the following example: When I entered the canyon, warned of the characteristics of the Havasupai by Pu-la-ka-kai, I made a rule, in the first council, that any trade sealed by the customary handshake and ‘a-ha-ni-ga,’ or ‘thanks,’ should be regarded as final. During one of the four days of our stay, Pu-la-ka-kai traded one of his hides for a quantity of things, among which was a famously large buckskin. The next morning, the evil-looking, one-eyed fellow who had purchased the horse returned to trade back, or have the difference split by a return of the buckskin. Pu-la-ka-kai asked my permission, and I tersely refused. The man went away, soon coming back with a noisy, low-browed crowd, which increased
“The coming stranger is heralded by the first observer, the chief waiting at his own house to receive him or his embassy. Any hut at which he first alights, even though the poorest, is almost sacredly regarded as his home. The inmates flock out, however suspiciously they may regard him, remove the saddles and packs from his animals, arrange them around the sides of the dwelling, invite him to enter, seat him on the best blanket or robe, and immediately improvise a meal for him, offering him, meanwhile, a drink of fresh water. During his wanderings about the village, wherever he may enter, he will almost surely find someone eating, even though it be late at night, and he will invariably be invited to partake.
“On meeting a stranger or a long-absent friend, the Havasupai grasps him by the hand, moving it up and down in time to the words of his greeting; and, as he lets go, lifts his own hollow palm toward his mouth, then, with a sudden and graceful motion, passes it down over his heart. As an evidence of confidence in a
“When a man dies among them, he is bathed and painted, dressed in all his richest apparel, and laid, with his face toward the rising sun, to await the funeral ceremonials. Throughout the fields and orchards, usually with corn and sunflowers growing all around them, with vines and brambles covering them, are scattered little mounds of earth and ashes. These are the funeral pyres. Over the summit, a huge collection of wood is piled, and the dead, together with his various possessions, is laid upon the pile. This is lighted by the son and heir, or nearest other relative, and, as the flames shoot up and envelop the body, he who applied the light throws all his worldly possessions, together with those he has inherited, upon the burning pyre, slaying his favorite dogs and horses, and adding them to the last sacrifice. Upon the wings of the last film of smoke, the soul of his
“The spirits of those for whom the last offering has been neglected, become unhappy and evil ghosts, which, together with the souls of the enemy whose scalp has not been taken and burned, torment the living with the weird voices of the night or the lone moanings of the wind on the pine covered mesas; or, as demons of disease and death, obey the behest of the dread sorcerer, or war against the good offices of the happier souls.
“The grammatic structure of their language, though inferior to that of the Zuni, is nevertheless quite regular. Intonation, as with the Chinese, repetition, as with the natives of Australia, are employed to vary the shades of meaning in words. Most of the consonants not occurring in other Indian tongues are common in the Havasupai, which is strikingly soft and rapid. Just as the music of the Zunis has caught the spirit of the desert winds, so have both the music and the language of the Havasupai been infused with the sounds of the rushing waters by which they are surrounded. As I listened to the weird song of a doctor, one night, it seemed more like the echoes of water in a cavern, or in resounding
“It is indeed, an interesting question how far man's environments, climatic, physical, even biologic, have influenced the sound of his music and language. Possibly of the same family of Indians as the Zunis, there are, nevertheless, elements of sound in the music and words of the Havasupai, unpronounceable by the Zuni, never heard in his music. On the other hand, the music of the Hualapai, on the plains to the westward, the undoubted fathers of the Havasupai, is as strangely in keeping with the wild, dry, forest-clad hills and valleys of his native land.
“Possessing nothing but a rude architecture, their art is correspondingly crude, being mostly confined to the patterns on their basket work, and the paintings on their bows and arrows. The basket work, by virtue of the regular arrangement of the splints, is often beautiful. But few people live, however, whose appreciation of art seems as great compared with their limited practice of it.
“They are mimics, but their dances—a few rude shuffles, half religious, half social—are neither representative nor picturesque, as are the cachinas or ka-kas of the Pueblos. ‘We know of these things,’ said Ko-hot, ‘but we are the children of the Coyote, and he did not teach our fathers to make themselves happy or prosperous by such means; therefore, our fathers did not teach us.’
“They are not fair dealing toward the enemy. Ko-hot told me, with strange frankness, that a few years ago his people joined other Indians in war against the whites, and, regarding them as enemies, stole horses and cattle from them whenever they could, bringing them down into the canyon, where they either sacrificed them or killed and ate them. ‘But,’ he added, ‘the time has come when I see this is wrong, and my people will listen to me when I tell them to smile on the Hai-ko (American), to ask him to eat, and to let his poorest or most tempting possession lie in the place it has been laid in; for has not the Hai-ko given to my children the hard metal and the rich garments you see all around you? (This with a proud wave of the hand toward the array of wornout clothing in the council, and a downward glance at his own threadbare soldier coat and well-patched breeches.) I am young (he was nearly fifty), but am I not old enough to remember how my people dug the soil with wooden hoes, or cut the poles of their
“The worship of the Havasupai consists of prayers, made during their smokes, or at the hunting shrines, which are merely groups of rude pictographs along nooks or caves in the walls of the canyon. Here, seated on the ground, the worshipper blows smoke to the north, west, south and east, upward and downward; then says, in a low tone, some simple prayer, only one of which, addressed to the spirit of the Deer-God, I was able to record:
“‘Let it rain, that grass may grow for the deer,
Go not away, O deer, from my arrows and weapons.
Thou art ours; by thee do we live.
Go not away, but remain to minister to our wants, to accept of my sacrifices.’
“The Havasupai believes that the source of his river is sacred and pure; that polluted by the touch of man it would cease to give forth its waters, and the rocks of the canyon would close forever together.
“‘When the world was new it was covered with waters, save where a single mountain peak to the north looked out above their surface. Here, alone, wandered the great Coyote. Mankind lived in the four dark cave-plains of earth, below this mountain, until, under the guidance of a great cacique, they journeyed up from one to
“‘The Coyote, who saw from afar the smoke of the fire they had kindled, was angry, and, running back as fast as he could, came to the place just as the body was consumed. But the heart still remained, and, rushing into the fire, he grabbed it in his mouth, and ran away with it. The fire was so hot that it singed his face and forepaws; hence, to this day, the face and forepaws of the coyote are black. He ate only a part of the heart, burying the rest; hence, also,
“‘Where the Coyote buried the heart a corn plant grew, and upon its stalk were six ears of corn,—yellow, white, variegated, black, blue, and red; hence, corn springing from the heart of man, is his life to this day. As the nations of men came out one after another, each was given an ear of corn; yellow to the Zuni, white to the Moqui, variegated to the Northern nations, a very little black to the Apache, and blue to the Hualapai; but the Havasupai, coming last, had only a little red ear given them by the fathers (gods).
“‘Now they did not know how they could live on the small portion that had been given them. So the Coyote, when he heard them bemoaning their lot, came and told them to follow his example; therefore, our fathers became a nation of hunters. As the waters of the world dried and flowed away, the face of the earth cracked, and was worn full of deep canyons. One of these canyons was very narrow and filled with rattlesnakes. This was the canyon of the Havasupai; and down in a grotto, under the falls, lived a great goddess, Ka-mu-iu-dr-ma-gui-iu-e-ba, or ‘Mother of the Waters.’ She was wooed by the rattlesnakes, and bore two sons, Ha-ma-u-giu-iu-e-ba, or ‘Children of the Waters.’ Upon the head of each was a great flint knife. Now the earth became so dry that our forefathers had but little water to drink, and, wandering about in search of it, came to the brink of the canyon; but they could not enter because
“‘But, alas! the Coyote ate a part of the heart of the great cacique; hence, only during summer do we live in the home of the Mother of the Waters, and plant as she told us; but in winter we have to follow the deer with our father, the Coyote, and live only as he does, in houses of grass and bark; for the Mother, of the Waters grew sad when her people became so foolish, and, leaving only one of her sons to take care of them,
“‘Oh, yes,’ I said, and then I told him the story of the mermaid; and, happy almost to tears, he added, ‘Alas! I cannot tell you more, for the only books our fathers gave us were our hearts and our mouths.’
“A fairy story is this, of the Nation of the Willows; and while science teaches us another tale, may we not poetically believe, with these simple natives, that they have always lived here, apart from the world of nations; that ever since they wandered forth from the four fertile wombs of mother earth, this little strip of land and river and willow, and the great rock-walls, so near together, yet so sublime and impassable, have bounded their generations of life, have had shadows cast on them by the smoke-clouds of the numberless funeral pyres of all their unnamed dead?”