Auppa I’ivakithak Mashath, Sha:’i chu’ig jek’keḍ?

Huhugam Heritage Center



Our Hekiu O’otham understood the weather and named the different elements.  We must remember that they had spent their day’s outdoors throughout the changing seasons. This is the time of year when we experience huge weather changes, as the cold weather systems passes through our community. The weather is something that we all have in common on a day to day basis. Many O’otham, such as linemen and archaeologists, work outdoors every day. They all dress for the cold weather and try to keep warm to ensure that they don’t become susceptible to weather related ailments. The inclement weather may cause them to change work schedules. 


Before heading outside, it is helpful to ask someone to observe what the weather is like before we leave home. One way to do this in O’otham is by asking the question “Sha: ‘i chu’ig jek’keḍ?” which translates into English as (What is it like outside?)  Knowing how much the weather changes this time of year, there is a whole list of possible responses including the following: “S-he:pith ‘o jek’keḍ.” (It’s cold outside). “Ju:k ‘o jek’keḍ.” (It’s raining outside). “Heveḍ ‘o jek’keḍ.” (It’s windy outside).  “S-chev’gig ‘o jek’keḍ.”  (It’s cloudy outside).  


This is also the time of year when we experience gevshp (to freeze/frost-ice) and s-ku:bsig (fog).   The high humidity freezes and causes frost to form on surfaces. Most notably, on our vehicle windshields and rooftops. Ground fog forms after heavy rainfall when the atmosphere is somewhat stable. The moist air and ambient temperature equalizes and creates a mist.  As the day progresses, the frost melts and the fog banks lift, or blown away by the surface winds.


Let’s say, that we wanted to answer the question, by responding the weather is really strong in some aspect (“really cold, or really raining). We can say this in O’otham by using the word i:vo within the statement.  The word ‘i:vo’ or ‘hi:vo’ works like the words “very” or “really” in English in that it gives importance to the action verb.  I:vo (‘o) s-he:pith jek’keḍ.  (It’s really cold outside).  I:vo (‘o) ju:k jek’keḍ. (It’s really raining outside).  I:vo (‘o) heveḍ jek’keḍ. (It’s really windy outside).  I:vo (‘o) chevgig jek’keḍ. (‘o is the shortened version of i:vo/hi:vo).


In O’otham we can combine different weather elements into one response or observation. “Hevel ‘o s-he:pith jek’keḍ!” (The wind is really cold outside!).  “Ju:k ‘o ge:sh jek’keḍ!” (The rain is really falling outside!).  “S-ku:bsig ‘o jek’keḍ!” (It’s really foggy outside!).  “Jeveḍ ‘o gevshp jek’keḍ!” (The ground is really frosty outside!).  A few statements often spoken by Elders is “Vath’o s-he:pij.” (It’s going to get real cold) and “Kut ‘g m hu s-hevhogim s’ap ‘o chickpanath!” (In cool weather we’ll work well!).

We encourage you to speak O’otham in your everyday lives and observe the weather around us. You can test how much you remember by completing this month’s word match.  Responses and observations may be slightly different between the villages.  Speak with an Elder or Speaker and ask what other weather observations are possible.


A special Thank You to Community Elders for sharing their knowledge of weather that made this article possible. Additional source related from Agriculture Handbook, Mark J. Schroeder & Charles C. Buck, U. S. Department of Agriculture, Government Printing Office,1970.