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Prelude 1—
The Bitter Man (Governor of Uturituc)

In a very distant time there came to that land a man who, because of his evil disposition and harsh way, was called the Bitter Man; and that this man was old and had a young daughter; that in his company there came another man who was young, who was not his relative nor anything, and that he [Bitter] 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 that Casa Grande and ordered his son-in-law to fetch beams for the


roof of the house [the house beams are cedar, which does not grow in the Pima desert]. That the young man went far off, and as he had no axe or anything else with which to cut the trees, he tarried for 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 the 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 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. (Quoted in Fewkes 1912: 43)

The Bitter Man appears as a harassed small-scale chief. He fetches his own rafters when his son-in-law assistant cannot get them for him. He is chief in a farming community with resident wind and rain. Assuming that this is one community among several, although perhaps the preeminent one (this is stated in Manje), we can imagine a scene more or less as the archaeologists envisioned, of river valleys with a sprinkling of small great-houses, each with its own rain and each attended by its own chief.

What might surprise the archaeologists is that the text does not mention irrigation. In fact, the actual prehistoric Casa Grande and the other great-houses were served by irrigation canals, and the historic (post-1694) Pimas practiced irrigation from some of the same rivers (but principally the Gila). We will find a myth about the origin of Hohokam irrigation in Smith-Allison (story 8), but we will also find Smith-Allison's Hohokam history to be more fundamentally concerned with rain than with irrigation. I will be explicit on the rain side of this issue after the next Font text is given. But for now let us simply note that, like Siba, the principal characters of later Pima-Papago myth seem to care more for rain than for irrigation.

Note then the following possibilities. The actual Pimas of 1900 and 1694 appear to have been diligent irrigators. Anthropologists have observed that their opportunity and ability to tap rivers liberated them from the fickle rains of their region (Russell 1908: 86–89; Ezell 1983: 151). However, it is possible—in fact, it is evidently true—that the Pimas, like their riverless relatives the Papagos, were more fascinated by rain than by rivers. Thus, they ceremonialized rain making more than they did river tapping, the former considerably (Russell 1908: 331–334, 347–352) and the latter apparently not at all.[4] It is also evidently true that they believed the Hohokam shared this fascination with rain. Finally, it is possible, although there is no evidence for


this, that the Hohokam shared this fascination. If that were true, the Hohokam may not have been as dedicated to river tapping as the archaeologists suppose; or rather, if they were dedicated in practice, they may have neglected the subject in myth.

The other possibility is that the Pimas have gotten the Hohokam wrong, that they would be surprised if they could hear what the Pimas have said about them. I will return to this. By the end of this prelude we will understand the seventeenth- through twentieth-century Pima and Papago ideas on rain, but we will not know if the Hohokam had the same ideas.

Let us resume with Font's story and note the reason that Siba abandoned his house and farm: there is none. He suffered a weather reversal, but he set it right again and then left. This may be hard to believe, but it could symbolize what some archaeologists have thought about the end of the great-houses, that as a result of the salting of the soil or changes in rainfall—rainfall on the mountain watershed, according to the archaeologists—the Hohokams' farming became too lean to support the great-house life-style. Surely that may have been a real factor or at least a nagging anxiety. As it happens, however, a brief mention of the Siba myth by Juan Manje in 1694 gives another often-cited archaeological explanation, warfare. In this oldest of written documents on Pima myth, the war is not fratricidal or rebellious as in the later versions. Rather, the war is in the form of raids by the east-living, Athabascan-speaking Apaches. Such raiders were surely a factor in the lives of the Pimas of 1694. It is a moot point whether they were or would have been a factor in the actual end of the great-houses, ca. 1400.

Here is the Manje textlet.


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