A’AGA Something to be told or talked about
By Billy Allen
We are fortunate to reside on and near our ancient lands. We can see landmarks which haven’t changed in many lifetimes. We are rooted here. Our historical experience was/is centered on agriculture, and winter is our time for thanksgiving, and time to tell stories. Most origins stories require a trust, a belief the story is accurate, i.e. landmarks and locations. Our stories differ according to location and storyteller, use of proper names and sequence. This occurs both on reservation and within our four brother tribes. (No disrespect, but there are more than 60 English-language versions of the Bible available.) The following small sampling of stories is taken from Juan Smith who recited them in O’otham with William Smith Allison writing the English translation for Julian Hayden. Hayden was part of the group excavating Snaketown in 1935. In 1994, Don Bahr put these stories and others into a book, The Short Swift Time of Gods on Earth: The Hohokam Chronicles. These condensed versions of Juan Smith’s stories were usually presented on the third night since it took four nights to complete all of the stories. The stories come following the destructions and creation of previous worlds and attempt to bridge the era of the Huhugam and present day Natives.
Se’ehe/Elder Brother had been driven underground, but decided to return to chase out the Huhugam—the builders of great houses. He asked Earth Doctor and O’otham who were underground for help. As the O’otham emerged, they became known as the Vooshkum or “coming out.” While marching to this land, the Vooshkum split into two groups while preparing for battle and becoming familiar with two new weapons: lightning and thunder.
When reaching this land of the great houses, one day before dawn a Vooshkum medicine man/makai placed a bright stone on the sun which sent out different colored sunlight. That unusual sunlight alarmed the leader of the Mesquite Vahki/great house. He sent a runner to Casa Blanca to ask that leader if he was also worried. The runner returned with word that the Casa Blanca leader thought it was a good.
A Vooshkum makai used his power and saw a red painted man who was tracked down and killed. Next stop was a mountain near Snaketown called Hat. Another makai felt the power of a Huhugam leader who had two bright stones. Earth Doctor who stayed underground destroyed the power of the two bright stones.
The Vooshkum marched on and came upon the Casa Grande, the home of brothers Feather Running and Soft Down Feather Running. The brothers created two whales in an attempt to slow down the Vooshkum, but Vooshkum warriors killed the whales. The Casa Grande people ran from the great house, the Vooshkum chased and destroyed these Huhugam people at Curled Up Mountain.
A small mound east of Casa Blanca was the next stop, but a sharp shooter (bow and arrow) shot many Vooshkum during an attack. A Vooshkum makai called upon thunder to kill the sharp shooter.
Then the Vooshkum marched onto Casa Blanca, but four different kinds of fog surrounded this great house making it hard to see. After four days of fighting, the Vooshkum selected an orphan child within their camp. They had the child pull a hair from his head and throw it against the great house. The great dirt house crumbled. The Vooshkum camped and looked westward, but saw nothing but water. Vooshkum medicine men realized it was a Huhugam mirage. A western great house revealed itself which had been built upon a foundation of ocotillo, and soon the Ocotillo people were defeated.
A Vooshkum bluebird man used his power and saw a great house south of the Salt River (Near present day Guadalupe). The Vooshkum went and conquered these people. The bluebird man then saw another great house north of the Salt River. This great house looked impenetrable because it seemed to be solid rock. Another makai who could harness thunder asked if he could “look.” When he saw that only the foundation was rock, he destroyed it with the power of thunder.
The march and saga of the Vooshkum continued westward until a big body of water halted their march. The people turned around but some decided to branch off to the north, south, east and west. We have relatives all over the land.
This time of the year provides many with a time for reflection as we struggle to understand this world. Our ancestors were no different. If the opportunity arises, listen to the stories but note there will be alternative versions.