Huhugam Heritage Center: Turning action into tools with the O’otham suffix -kuḍ

March 18, 2016


Huhugam Heritage Center


Our O’otham ñeo’ok is full of many words that describe actions (verbs) as well as words for people or things that perform those actions (nouns). Often there are relationships between words where the word describing an object is built upon another action word.


For example, if you want to tell someone in O’otham to turn on the gas stove in your house, you can simply tell them “I na:th heg na:thakuḍ.” The action word in this sentence is na:th and taken by itself simply means to make a fire. The object word, na:thakuḍ, here refers to the stove and when you say it you’ll notice that it is built on the action word na:th.


The change from na:th to na:thakuḍ is done through the use of two separate word endings, called suffixes. The first suffix –a makes the word longer by turning na:th into na:tha and changes the meaning from an action word into a noun, in this case the fire itself.


The second suffix changes the meaning even further to create a word na:thakuḍ that refers now to the instrument or tool that makes fire; in this case the stove. Na:thakud is an interesting word as its meaning has extended over time. When cast iron stoves were first introduced into our community many decades ago they were referred to as na:thakuḍ.


Nowadays as cooking is done mostly indoors a na:thakuḍ can refer to anyplace where fire is made or cooking is done. It can be a gas or electric stove, an outdoor grill, a fireplace or even a microwave oven. Although cooking has become modern, that primordial relationship between fire and cooking is still found within the two words in our O’otham ñeo’ok.


As our O’otham universe started to evolve we needed a way to measure time, this is especially true when we began to count the days before a large festivity was held. The leader of the hosting village would send out bundles of sticks to the surrounding villages. The sticks were stuck in the ground and at sunset each day a stick was removed until the day of the event. This was one of our first O’otham calculators that were used to measure the solar days before a big event.


By itself kuinth means to count and if I performed the counting it would become eñ kuintha, the things that I counted. The first tools or instruments that were used to help track time back in those days were called kuinthakuḍ. Here again we can see the relationship between the action word kuinth and the tool/instrument used to perform the action kuinthakuḍ.


Other items used to count or measure were introduced to our community such as rulers, measuring tapes, and modern calculators, but nonetheless they are all labeled as kuinthakuḍ; an instrument used to measure distances and calculate numbers on an infinite scale.  


Now at the end of the day when we have cooked all the food in the na:thakuḍ and counted or measured items with the kuinthakuḍ we become tired and go voi or lay down on our voikuḍ, or bed. This month’s word match will focus on items that make our everyday lives much easier and can be found in the home or at the store, some items that we carry with us every day.


We encourage you to learn these words and use them in your everyday lives.