Huhugam Heritage Center - S-he:pijig Mashath - He’ekia? How many?

October 20, 2023


Submission by Huhugam Heritage Center


S-he:pijig Mashath translates to the “cold month,” which notes the arrival of cooler weather and windy days.  

There are several ways of counting in O’otham, each are slightly different, depended on the items being counted. Say you wanted to ask someone how old they are. One way to ask this question in O’otham is to say “He’ekia ap vuḍ ‘i aithag?” (How old are you?) This question makes use of the O’otham word “he’ekia” which the word that corresponds to the English word (how many) and the phrase “vuḍ ahithag” (to be a certain number of years old). One way to respond to this question is to use the phrase “Thañ________ahithag” which says (I am ________ old) and add in your age using the O’otham number. For example, you could say “Thañ gokko vesthma:m ahithag” (I am twenty years old). 


He’ekia is used in different situations when you are asking how many people or items are being counted. It is also used when you want to ask how much something costs, or its worth. This is accomplished by using the question “He’ekia namkig?” (How much does it cost?). There are many possible answers to the question “He’ekia namkig?” that range from “I:vo ‘o s-namkig.” (It’s really expensive.) to “Bi ‘o shai namkig.” (It’s not that expensive).  We can also give the exact price by using “pi:sh” and “lial” (Dollars and cents.) like “Tho vaik pi:sh ch heg hemako lial.” (It costs $3.25). 


The O’otham word “he’ekia” is very useful and used when you want to find out how many people or things there are in a group. One last example for counting how many is asking how many pets somebody owns. This can be done with “he’ekia” by using the general term for pets “shoshiga” or by asking specifically using the animal name and using the word ending “–ga” which denotes ownership. For example: You can ask “He’ekia ap ‘i mimitholga?” (How many cats do you own?) if you wanted to know how many cats someone owns.  The response would be in the same manner as the previous replies. As you can see, any item can be applied to “he’ekia?” (How many?).   


This month’s “Chukuḍ ha Thash” (Ghost’s their day), or (Halloween). When O’otham adapted to western society practices, they named items related to certain observations. In this case, they applied certain words to different Halloween items. “O’o Otham” (skeleton), “ge’e s-uam ha:l” (jack ‘o lantern), “chu:chkuḍ ha-ki:” (ghost’s their house), or haunted house.  Of course, we already know what a’al, ba:ban and nanak’mel are in O’otham.  This month’s word match will test your understanding of this question word as well as your numbers in O’otham. We encourage you to ask an Elder or fluent speaker how to say the phrases as they may be different between villages.


A special Thank You to community Elders for sharing their knowledge about he’ekia? and Chukuḍ ha Thash that made this article possible.