Saturday, April 8, 2017

Large Rock Tied in the Middle

The Papago description of the rock ‘drawn in at the middle’ refers to a time when the peak was twice its size, shaped like an hourglass. The Papago farming along Wamuli Wash were many, and they felt they needed more farmland in the valley. So four elders went to visit I’itoi in the cave to ask him to move the mountains back so that the valley would be bigger. I’itoi said that they must make cactus wine in four days. Then they must drink it, dance, and sing over the next four. Each day they drank and carried on more wildly, and the mountains began to soften and teeter. On the fourth day near dusk, the peak rocked until the top fell over, and the whole range moved, making Wamuli Valley wider. Cloud Man, who lived up in the mountains, did not like this earth-shaking change, brought about by the greed of the people. He had to carry water from the mountains and did not appreciate that he would now have to travel further. In addition, he refused to bring more water to supply the additional land. The Desert People were never able to bring their newly gained land into cultivation, for without more water the land was useless. And the mountain that had looked like an hourglass had lost the shape for which it was named (The Desert Smells Like Rain19-20).

This story is particularly interesting as described in Gary Nabhan’s The Desert Smells Like Rain because it explains that the people’s greed is the reason for the discrepancy between the peak’s name and its actual appearance. However, when we talked to Bernard Siqueiros, he also told us that the original O’odham name meant large rock tied in the middle. However, he simply told us that “an earthquake broke off the top.” Admittedly, this does describe the mechanical aspect of how the peak was broken off based on O’odham mythology. However, the greater context of I’itoi’s role, the role of the greedy people, and Cloud Man grounds that mechanical aspect in traditional O’odham values and illustrates some of the relationships between place and culture. In this case, the physical landscape may serve as a reminder of the community prohibition against greed. 

1 comment:

  1. Good post. I think this illustrates the risk in assuming that every member of a community has been exposed to exactly the same set and same versions of fables, myths, and histories and even if they were that they would understand them in the same way.