HHC: Kui Hiosig Mashath
April 20, 2018
Huhugam Heritage Center
Gila River Indian Community
The name for this month refers to the hiosig (flowering) of the Kui (Velvet Mesquite tree) which will soon produce vihog (Velvet Mesquite bean pods) in a few months. Other desert plants begin to enter flowering-stage including Kuk Chehedag (Foothills Palo Verde) and Ko’okmadk (Blue Palo Verde) trees, their abundant s-oam hiosig (yellow flowers) are hard to miss.
One category of plants easily over looked are the ho’i hab ma:s haichu vu’vaithag, (cactus-like plants, plants with spines). In the Akimel O’otham plant classification system ho’i hab ma:s haichu vu’vaithag have their own unique category and includes all cacti and spine-bearing desert plants. Our Hekiu O’otham didn’t over look the cacti as they observed their shapes, where they grew and other characteristics.
From these observations they assigned names to many different cacti species. A few ho’i hab ma:s haichu vu’vaithag that produce hiosig (flowers) are; Hannam (Buckhorn Cholla) which grow up in the nearby Tho’oag (mountain) and on the Tho’othonk (foothills). Some families still pick the buds before they flower and slow roast them overnight in the Hannam chuámaikuḍ (rock-lined cholla roasting pit), Hoi (to de-spine the cholla buds), then Hannam gakithaj (to dry the cholla buds) and stored to be used later for haichu hu:k (food). I:svik (Engelmann’s hedgehog cactus) can be found on the Tho’othonk and sometimes in isolated areas on the S-sheliñ Jeveḍ (floodplain).
There are two species of Chiavul (Barrel Cacti) that thrives in our community, one grows only on the Tho’oag and Tho’othonk while the other thrives on the S-sheliñ Jeveḍ. One easily recognized plant is the Melok (Ocotillo) with their red clusters of blossoms that grows on the nearby Tho’oag and Tho’othonk.
Another easily recognized cactus is I’ibai (prickly-pear cactus) which will bloom later on in the summer. One cactus that may be hard to find is Ban Bisulthag, ‘Coyote’s Paws’ (Fishhook Cactus) since they rarely grow over six inches and can be hidden between rocks on the nearby Tho’othonk.
Our most important gift is the Ha:shañ (Saguaro Cactus) which will bloom near the end of next month. This month’s word-match will focus on ho’i hab ma:s haichu vu’vaithag hiosig.
We encourage you to learn these O’otham words and use them in your everyday lives. We also encourage you to get out and take a look at a few ho’i hab ma:s haichu vu’vaithag when in hiosig.