Chapter XVII. Of the Eight Pueblos of Moqui, and the Way Thither
‘‘THE Moquis? What are they to the Hopis? Oh yes, I know, the Snake Dance. Somebody told me of that. And Maria went to a lecture about it once. Not real rattlesnakes? Oh awful! But their fangs must be taken out first—of course. And we sewed for them one winter in our King's Daughters, and sent them a box of nice flannel shirts, poor things. Oh, not for the snakes, you ridiculous thing, for the people! Yes, I really know a great deal about them. How dreadful for them to live way out in Arizona! And now do tell me about the cotillion last night; I heard,’’ etc.
This is what you get when you try to interest the average citizen of the United States in the case of the eight pueblos of Moqui. Shall I gain any more attention by writing it out on paper? Perhaps not. Nevertheless I shall try. At least I shall not be interrupted till I am through with the story I have to tell.
Northward a hundred miles or so from the railroad, beyond the muddy flow of the Rio Colorado Chiquito, beyond the mirages and sand-storms, the unutterable droughts, and the summer cloudbursts of the Painted Desert of Arizona, are the eight pueblos known collectively as Moqui and individually by names of such rare difficulty to pronounce that I shall disturb you with them as little as possible. This Moqui is the region which the ancient Conquistadores called the Province of Tusayan. Coronado, resting on his arms after the conquest of Zuñi in 1540, heard of it and sent one of his lieutenants with half a dozen musketeers up from Zuñi to ascertain what it was like. This lieutenant's name was Pedro de Tobar, or Tovar, and he enjoys a twentieth-century fame, having a great hotel named for him a hundred miles from Moqui on the rim of the Grand Cañon of the Colorado in Arizona.
Shipau'lovi, Moqui, acropolis-like on a hilltop overlooking the Painted Desert.
Little cities of stone, built fortress-like upon the apexes and dizzy edges of four lofty, rocky promontories that just out into the desert, and housing a population of some two thousand Pueblo Indians, the pueblos of Moqui have a sublime outlook, without parallel in America or probably in the world, upon desert, sky, and distant mountains. Silence and sunlight by day, starlight and silence by night, and always the desert's own peculiar mystery, envelope this land of Moqui, where no man—except he be an American office-holder—can live for a day without being sensible of his individual insignificance in the make-up of the universe.
Hither, long centuries ago, came the ancestors of the present dwellers in Moqui, after movings whose course is fairly well marked to this day by ruins of prehistoric towns scattered along the valley of the Little Colorado, in the cañons of the White Mountains of Arizona, and among the Mogollones. There is every reason to believe that they came seeking in this desert fastness an asylum from war and the depredations of their enemies. For the Lord of Life, it seems, had implanted in the hearts of these red children of His, not a spirit of unrest, rapine, and war—qualities which our superior civilisation invariably associates with the unreconstructed red man,—but the love of peace, of home, and of tilling the ground. Indeed, they called themselves, and still do, Hopi,1 meaning "the Peaceful"; and because their settled abodes and ordered lives of industry as agriculturists and artsmen enabled them to gather to themselves property which excited the cupidity of warlike nomads of the South-West, such as the Utes, the Apaches, and the Navajos, their fields and terraced towns would appear to have been the object of attack and spoliation by these enemies. Then, to escape the ceaseless harrying of marauders, came the flight of the Hopis to the desert, taking to themselves the barren waste as an ally and establishing themselves where the hardship of getting at them would minimise the liability to invasion.
Chief Snake Priest of Walpi, hoeing his corn two or three days after the Snake Dance. Note how short the stalks are, yet they are full grown. The man is but five feet high.
So the pueblos of Moqui came to be—no man can say when, but certainly before the coming of the sixteenth-century Spaniards; and to reach them across the long, sun-scorched, waterless leagues was, in old Spanish parlance, literally una jornada de muerte—a journey of death. Here in Moqui, the Hopis planted their corn of many colours and set up altars and shrines that stand to this present day; and with invocations and thanksgiving to the red gods that had brought their fathers up from the darkness of the underworld to this world of light, they wrestled unceasingly with the desert for a living—and won.
The nearest railroad to Moqui is the Santa Fé's transcontinental line, and the pueblos lie seventy-five to a hundred miles north of it. To them are four principal waggon routes, and unless you are used to desert travel, whichever one you take, you will likely wish you had chosen another; for, at the best, the trip is a hard one. You may, first of all, set out for Moqui from Cañon Diablo, a flag-station where a lone trading-post has been established for many years; amply capable, however, of fitting you out in thorough style. This
The Gallup road also crosses a considerable part of the great Navajo Reservation, affording the traveller a good opportunity to observe this remarkable tribe at close range. Both the Holbrook and Gallup routes present one important advantage over the other two in that their starting point is north of the Little Colorado River, the fording of which is thus avoided. This is an important
It was with the view of including the world-famous Snake Dance at Walpi that we timed our expedition to the Hopi mesas in August. One of the few things we did know about the trip beforehand—and this was confirmed by experience—was that, even in August, we should not encounter any overwhelming heat. Everything else, however, which the midsummer elements could furnish, we had in liberal doses—including wind and cloudbursts, radiant sunshine by day and delicious nights for slumber.
We decided upon the Gallup route. We are not of the robust type of travellers, and previous experience with desert and Indians had taught us our physical limitations. We accordingly made careful provision in advance for a first-class team and competent driver, as well as for as many comforts as could be packed under the seats. On two nights of the journey we knew that lodging accommodations
Though one may travel forty miles without sight of a white face, there are no dangers on a trip of this kind any greater than would be met with in motoring from New York to Boston. The stock bugaboos of the tenderfoot, such as venomous snakes, Indians on the war-path, and "bad men" of the shilling shocker type, are negligible factors. Our frontier West develops in its men,
Nevertheless, it was somewhat of a strain on our faith when we applied at the livery stable at Gallup for the team we had arranged for some weeks in advance, to be told apologetically by the proprietor that the experienced man whom he had counted on to drive us had sprained his arm, and he would have to put us in charge of his only other driver, a seventeen-year-old boy, who had never been thirty miles from home.
As there was no alternative, we did not worry, though there seemed some cause for solicitude in being put in the care of a stripling on a two hundred and fifty mile trip through a wilderness that was as unknown to him as to ourselves; and the next morning found us early on the road.
‘‘This lady and gentleman are going up to the Moqui country and will be gone three or four weeks. You are to take them. Here's twenty dollars for the expenses of the team, and if you need any more, ask the gentleman for it. If you kill one of the horses, buy another, and if you need to pay any cash down, he'll give you a bunch of money. And here's your war-bag’’ (holding up to view a small telescope some eighteen inches long). ‘‘Your mother packed it for you. There's a couple o' pair o' socks and a bunch of cigarette papers in it; that will keep you for a month. Now, you get aboard here, and adios everybody.’’
So, without more formality, the transfer of Bob was effected, and we drove off over a piñon ridge and down into a wide, solitary waste of sagebrush, where all the world was as new and fresh to us as to our first parents when they stepped forth into the great world without Eden.
1. They are also quite generally called Moquis (or Mokis); but this is really a term of contempt, as Dago for an Italian or Mick for an Irishman. In this book the word "Moqui" is used in its geographic sense, meaning the locality in which the Hopis live.