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The Text

We turn now to the text—let us call it mythology—that was recorded from Smith and Allison at Snaketown. Fully three-fourths of it deals with the Hohokam, either as stories of what happened to them before the conquest or stories of their extensive and merciless defeat. This is why I call the work as a whole "The Hohokam Chronicles." The narrative is in the third person, of course, but the common thread of character between these portions is the figure of Siuuhu (better but less attractively spelled S-e'ehe and meaning 'Elder-brother'), the above-mentioned murdered and revived god. Before these chronicles begin, there is a section on the creation of the earth and the first humans, who were not the Hohokam but perhaps were the ancestors of the Pima-Papago.[9] This era was ended by a flood that the ancestral Pima-Papago escaped by entering the underworld. The Hohokam were created after the floodwater subsided. Appended to the last section of the Hohokam chronicles is a very brief section on Apache wars. Europeans are barely mentioned. Their origin is given along with that of the Africans in a story set in Hohokam times; but characteristic of most Native American mythologies, I think, there is no narrative of white-Indian relations. It is as if the story stopped on the eve of the European coming, a moment that was very long ago, about 450 years in the case of the Pimas. Years are not counted in the mythology, and so we have no idea how long its events would take in years. My impression is that the time would be amazingly short, perhaps just a few generations or even only a few years, since a youthful or middle-aged Siuuhu is present throughout the chronicles and in much of the section leading up to them. When Siuuhu drops out, the post-


Hohokam, Apache-dominated, and, in effect, post-European past begins. Only then does the text give the impression of a fleeting but long passage of years.

Hayden sensibly let Allison supply the register, diction, and cadence of the translation. These things he did not change, and the translation is both readable and authentic.[10] A Presbyterian deacon, Allison was a language conscious and no doubt also socially conscious man. I imagine that he thought of his English as plain. In any case, I think so, because of his preference for simple expressions and what I will call an oral, singsong cadence. Concerning this latter, note the difference between the well-known cadence that Longfellow used for his Indianist poem, The Song of Hiawatha , and what seems to be the basic cadence of Allison's translation. Longfellow made his lines eight syllables long, with accents on the first, third, fifth, and seventh syllables ("THAT was HOW he MADE his POem"). The basic unit is the paired syllable, with the accent on the first of the pair. Allison did not recite his translation in lines, but he did, I think, opt for a paired syllable beat the opposite of Longfellow's, with the accent on the second syllable of the pair ("and SO he MADE it SOUND like THIS"). These are both singsong Englishes and, both are oral in that sense, but if I am correct, they are technically oppositely so. Neither is the better. I must add that Allison's cadence is not rigorously and exclusively as I have just sketched it. His speech is prose, not verse. Furthermore, not only might Hayden have moved it slightly in that direction in recording it (although he certainly did not do so deliberately) but I moved it so in instances while smoothing or shortening Hayden's rendition. Thus, the version given here is not authentic Allison, that is, not as authentic as a text made from a tape of his own voice. This could not be done in 1935. For an example of fine work of this nature, see Anthony Mattina and M. DeSautel's The Golden Woman (1985), a "red English" translation of a long Colville Indian story.

Here in a letter to me of September 1991 is Hayden's recollection of the making of the creation narrative text.

You ask for the background of my recording of the Pima Creation Myth. I'll do the best I can, based on


my recollections, and am checking with Emil Haury for some further details or correction of mine, as he may recall. Herewith my present remembrance:

As part of a planned extensive study of the Hohokam remains of Southern Arizona, Gila Pueblo, a privately endowed research institution of Globe, Arizona, had commenced study and excavation of a very large prehistoric Hohokam site on the north terrace of the Gila River roughly south of Chandler, Arizona. There were a number of large rubbish mounds at the site, evidences of canals, and ball courts—and many rattle-snakes. In fact, the site, and the Pima village near it, was known as Snaketown. So, in the fall of 1934, a tent camp was set up at the site, and a crew of archaeologists was employed, with a number of Pima Indians from the neighborhood as laborers. My father and I, both experienced Hohokam fieldworkers, were part of the crew, which was directed by Emil Haury.

There was, of course, much interest among us all in the Pima stories about the prehistoric folk, and when a four-night telling of the Creation myth was planned by the villagers, some of us attended briefly the first night's telling. Juan Vavages of Salt River, I believe, was the narrator. He was a longhair (conservative), lived in a round house in the old way. His version was said to be the Maricopa version, since his wife was Maricopa. Bits of the tale were translated for our benefit, and we heard several of the songs, and we left.

Later we heard of Juan Smith who was reputed to be the last Pima with extensive knowledge of the Pima version of the Creation story. By pure chance, perhaps, I'd been interested in folklore since a small boy, brought up on the Journal of American Folklore in my father's library, and I was familiar with the disappearance of oral histories, legends, etc., through time. I also had the rather heretical belief that there might be a grain of truth in many origin tales. So, hoping to preserve the myth from loss upon Juan's death, I initiated an effort to record it. I suggested to my Pima friends, who were as interested as I, that Juan be persuaded to tell the tale through an interpreter while I transcribed it


verbatim through as many nights as it might take to tell. William Allison Smith, foreman of the digging crew, volunteered to serve as interpreter, being also interested. He was literate, spoke good English, and was a deacon in the Presbyterian church of the Snaketown area. This latter has an effect on his translation, of course, since he turned to familiar biblical language, King James version, when faced with problems of interpretation, such as obsolete or forgotten words.

Juan agreed to save time by singing the songs once instead of the traditional four times; he hesitated on this count because diverging from the tradition might bring harm to us or to him, but he relented.

I have noted that on the first night of the telling, my father attended with me, and Barney Jackson, a young Pima of the crew, interested in the old ways, came also and helped Juan in the singing. My father also transcribed the first telling, as did I, and I have his manuscript notes, along with the date, March 8, 1935. I will enclose a Xerox copy of them for you. He did not attend further meetings, nor did anyone else, except for one night when I had to be absent, and a friend came and took notes.

It seems that perhaps after an interval of time, we resumed the tellings, especially after the digging season had ended and the other archaeologists had left, and I remained to backfill the trenches, close and dismantle the camp, etc. After that I lived in Chandler (nearest off-reservation town to Snaketown) with the job [dig] cartographer Fisher Motz, who was staying on to finish some mapping, notes, etc. I commuted then from Chandler to the house where we met for the telling. This was an old storehouse belonging to Louis Quisto, as I recall, adobe, roofed with mesquite logs and adobe, holes in walls patched with old baskets, and a large wagon wheel propped up against the wall beside Juan, where one night I photographed him by Coleman lantern light most successfully (see frontispiece). And, although this has no bearing on your interest, the long hours had their effect. I went to sleep


returning to Chandler very late one night, in my Model T stripped-down pickup, ran off the road, and woke just in time to veer away from a line of heavy fence posts. At any rate, we worked very hard each night, Juan patiently waiting the interpretation, I writing furiously, taking down every word longhand, literally verbatim, since I had no shorthand. My transliteration of Pima words was purely phonetic, since I had no linguistics. The two Smiths worked together to present the correct meanings, as best could be.

I typed the manuscript as time permitted, but it was not complete in final typed form until some months had passed, probably after I had begun work at Pueblo Grande [archaeology site and museum in Phoenix] in January of 1936. I eventually took a carbon copy to Juan Smith, or left it with his representative at Bapchule [a village near Snaketown], and gave one to Wm Smith [Allison] also, keeping the original for myself. I have not seen either man since.

You asked if I edited the manuscript when I typed it. No, I did not. I typed up the script with very little change, as was my custom, being a competent recorder. I did not show it at any time to either Smith, due to circumstances beyond our control. I did not preserve the handwritten pages either, but I can vouch for the accuracy of the taking down and typing.

Allison[11] died in 1948, and Smith was lost track of by Allison's relatives (his daughter, Lenora Webb, and his brother, Harvey Allison) and others (principally, Simon Lewis, born in Snaketown and a retired Presbyterian minister) with whom I discussed the manuscript beginning in fall 1991. They recalled Smith as a man with no home of his own, who worked for other families in exchange for food and lodging. At the time of this narrative he was staying with Allison's in-laws at Snaketown. No one that I talked with remembered the last time they had seen him, meaning, it seems, that he passed inconspicuously out of the Snaketown orbit. All agree that he was very well versed in old Pima ways, but it could not be said that he was the only


person with such knowledge in 1935. It seems that he knew and liked Allison and must have liked Hayden, and he was willing to apply himself to the narrating job on that basis.

Finally, on the subject of Smith, I must say in contradiction or supplement to Hayden that the biblical qualities of the text are not entirely from Allison but come also from Smith in this respect, that Smith provided the narrative of myth events and those events are sometimes quite biblical, not so much in repeating stories of the Bible but in drawing orientation from such stories and more broadly in drawing on the ideas and attitudes of the rural Protestant American West. Allison was surely inclined to preach along those same lines in his short commentaries about the mythic narrative. (Those commentaries are included in the document and are set off from the ongoing mythic narrative.) But from what Hayden says about how the text was produced, that it was translated segment by segment, I conclude that Allison had little influence over the actual myth content. Any editorial change that Allison might have wanted to make in one segment would have come back to haunt him in the next. Thus, the mythic narrative, as opposed to the commentary, must be attributed to Smith. It follows that Smith was not innocent of America. I greatly wish that we knew more about him. It is said that he had a bicycle for transportation, was nicknamed Skunk, and was more a vagabond than a holy man.

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