Winter storytelling comes to life at the Huhugam Heritage Center
January 18, 2019
Gila River Indian News
For a moment, attendees, were taken into the world of Akimel O’otham legends at the Ho’ok A’agi storytelling event, hosted by the Huhugam Heritage Center on Jan. 18.
Akimel O’otham legends, that have been told through the generations around the fire, have captivated the attention of listeners, and were told by Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Barnaby Lewis.
Lewis, who delivered a resounding performance in front of a packed house of Community members and visitors to the HHC, orated two legends at the storytelling event. The first story. Haw-awk (Ho’ok), at the beginning of the Ho’ok story, is about a man who attempts to win the attraction of a woman, with his talent for making a colorful objects with his hands.
The story led the audience through a series of events and characters, depicting the gluttony of a witch, who was later vanquished. The second story is a gripping legend about Eagle Man (Va:ntha) and his appetite for people from a nearby village. That story also ends with the demise of the eagle and the saving of the people from winged terror.
During the winter, stories are told from evening to sunrise, up to four days, broken-up into segments, and associated with the creation of the world.
To welcome the audience Antonio G:ok Davis from District 5 was the master of ceremonies for the evening. He asked for the people to listen with an open heart and mind and to immerse themselves in the stories that were told at the event.
He described the differences between the winter solstice and summer solstice, and how they are integral to the passing of traditions. Lewis said, “When we tell these stories, we only tell them in the winter, there are certain protocols that the people adhered to, that still apply today.”
Although the stories are central in origin, Lewis said, it is up to the listener to take away something from the stories, that is personal to them. “They are essential to our tradition,” said Lewis, “Even though they are told every year, they reaffirm their connection, knowing we practice our traditions.”
Joyce Hughes, who helped organize the event said, “It encourages us, [the people], to learn the stories.” The stories would go on for four nights in the winter and would have extensions to the story, that would be told the next night.
“It was something that was taught in my family growing-up, but we know not everyone knows the stories,” said Hughes, “This is who we are, and it sparks something in the people, just like the stories, they start and like vines, they lead to another story.”
In working in previous positions in the Community, Hughes worked with the youth and in the Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections. She said the kinds of stories told can have a positive impact on people, because it develops a form of identity and connection to their (our) culture, whatever tribe that may be.
Part of the captivation of the traditional stories is allowing people to think what it means to them and what they take away from the moral of the story.
“Each and everyone one of them took part in preparing for the event, from the poster, luminaires and the volunteers that came out to help,” said Hughes, “The Department of Environmental Quality Fuel & Restoration crew came to help with the fires that were lit.”
Before the storytelling began, a traditional prayer was given. The spiritual part, Hughes said was thought of, because it’s something that we do, before we start telling the stories, or any O’otham event.
O’othams - a ‘OthamGlish’ word (LOL)
Otham =a human being
Akimel Otham =a river human being (Pima)
O’otham =many human beings
Akimel O’otham = many river human beings (Pimas)
What is put before the ‘otham or O’otham’ makes the difference.
(S)-onk Akimel Otham =Salt River Person (singular)
(S)-onk Akimel O’otham =Salt River People (plural)
Akimel Otham =Gila River Person (singular)
Akimel O’otham =Gila River People (plural)
Tohono Otham =Desert Person (singular)
Tohono O’otham =Desert People (plural)
The beginning of an Otham word, such the /o/ in Otham reduplicates.
It is usually a pattern that a lot of nouns reduplicate to make plurals .
Let us make singular coyote and buzzard into plural.
5.) ban ‘coyote’ 6.) ñui ‘buzzard’
8.) ba:ban 9.) ñu’ñui
ba: -ban ñu’-ñui
RED –ban RED-ñui
In number 5 and 6 above you see the first consonant and vowel of each word, the beginning two letters ‘ba’ and ‘ñu’ is added to the words. This is call ‘reduplication’, and is glossed as - RED’.
The prefix used with ban and ñui reduplicates at the front of the root word. By reduplication, we have made plurals (more than one) out of our nouns.
Akimel O’otham uses reduplication often and is the preferred and common way of making a word plural.
On an added note there are those stubborn nouns that refuse to reduplicate but will add a number to pluralize. One needs to remember which ones do not reduplicate. They will sound funny if you are a speaker and it will make you want to put a number with such words.