Words And Places native literature from the american southwest

Seyewailo: The Flower World
Yaqui Deer Songs

Yaqui men playing fiddles accompanying deer song performers


It is hard to go far in the borderlands country of Arizona and Sonora without encountering images of the Yaqui deer dancer. Fixed in bronze and larger than life, he stands as a public monument in Ciudad Obregon. Travel posters, hotel directories, salsa bottles, even the official seal of the state of Sonora feature his image. Yet even when he cavorts wildly in the interpretive motions of one folk dance troupe or another, he is mute. What speaks are the political and economic motives that cluster around him. He is the aboriginal connection of the politicians, the romantic lure of the ad man, the borderlands equivalent, in many ways, to the warbonneted Plains Indian horseman of the wild west.
To all Yaqui Indian people, the deer dancer is "little brother," and when he dances for them he has a voice. The voice speaks to all who attend a deer dance through the songs to which the dancer moves. The songs of the deer singer are the voice of the deer. In them, as one deer singer puts it, "he does not talk, but he talks in an enchanted way."

Watch the video with English captions

MP3 (audio only)

Video Credits

Larry Evers, Producer
Dennis Carr, Director
Felipe Molina, Narrator, Translator & Consultant
Anselmo Valencia, Consultant
Michael Orr, Post Production Supervisor
Andy Peterman, Engineer
Special thanks to: Fern Cupis, James Griffith, Pasqua-Yaqui Association, Arizona Desert Sonora Museum, & KGUN-TV
In Cooperation with the University of Arizona Radio-TV-Film Bureau
© Arizona Board of Regents 1978

Performers: Damacio Romero, Moro; José M. Valencia, Violinist; Cayetano Matus, Harpist; Juan Amarillas, Tampaleo; Reyno Romero, Pahkola; Felipe Galaviz, Pahkola; José Alvarez, Pahkola; Luis Cinfuego, Maso; Leonardo Buitimea, Water Drummer; Juan Buli, Deer Singer; Loretto Salvatierra, Deer Singer

This program was made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities


Transcript Notes

For Comment and Discussion (includes related readings)


By This Song I Walk: Navajo Songs | Seyewailo: The Flower World Yaqui Deer Songs | The Origin of the Crown Dance: An Apache Narrative and Ba'ts'oosee: An Apache Trickster Cycle | Iisaw: Hopi Coyote Stories & Hopi Songs | Natwaniwa: A Hopi Philosophical Statement | Running on the Edge of the Rainbow: Laguna Stories and Poems | Songs of My Hunter Heart: Laguna Songs and Poems | A Conversation with Vine Deloria, Jr. | Home