I´itoi and Ho´ok ´oks

as told by
Ventura José

I´itoi is called Elder Brother (Si´ihe) by all the Papago people. He was the First Born, the first to come forth at the beginning of things, when the sky came down and met the earth:

Long ago, they say, when the earth was not yet finished, darkness lay upon the water, and they rubbed each other. The sound they made was like the sound at the edges of a pond. There, on the water, in the darkness, in the noise, and in a very strong wind, a child was born. (Saxon, Legends and Lore of the Papago and Pima Indians)

I´itoi prepared the earth for the Papago people, and then he went away to his home on Baboquivari Peak. The following story tells of how I´itoi saved the people from the Ho´ok ´oks. It was told to Susie Ignacio by her great-uncle Ventura Jose who lived in Vajillo, Sonora, Mexico, and first transcribed and translated by Professor William Kurath. Papago linguist Daniel Matson passed it on to Ofelia Zepeda who has done a new transcription for this publication. The translation is essentially Professor Kurath's.

There lived a youth, swift and handsome, who was all that parents want their children to be. Elder Brother became jealous of him. He decided that he would do something to this boy. So he went to where lived a bold woman and said to her: "Go very early tomorrow to get water at the foot of the mountain. A young man will come, and he will be kicking his kickball. From a distance he will approach kicking his kickball; it will roll toward you and pass beside you, and you will pick it up and hide it by sitting on it. He will ask you if you have not seen his kickball. You will tease him and tell him that you will give it to him if he will mix your powder with water and drink it. He will try to refuse but will not be able to get around it, and he will drink this mix that has an eagle feather ground up in it."

The next day before sun-up, the girl went with her olla on her head to sit there where the water was. Just as the sun was coming up the young man came running from a distance. When he had come to a certain point he kicked the ball, and it rolled right toward her and rolled past her. She took it and sat on it to hide it. He came there on the run but could not find it. "I kicked my ball and it rolled this way, didn't you see it?"

"You can't find it anywhere," the girl finally told him laughingly.

"You did see it, but you didn't tell me! Come on, give it to me!"

Then finally the girl said: "Will you make a potion of this flour so that I may give you your kickball?"

He didn't want to do it, but he finally gave in when she refused to give the ball to him.

So he drank her potion. After one big swallow, he shook all over. I suppose it went all over him, and he drank and drank until he had drunk it all up. He started growing feathers all over. The girl saw that he had turned into an eagle. After repeated shakings, he flew a short distance and sat down. Finally she got up and could not find the kick ball she had sat on, so the girl went to her home and told what had happened to the young boy.

Some months later this girl gave birth to a girl child. Right away, the people found out that there was going to be something queer about this child because she was so strong and grew so rapidly. Her mother did not know what to do. As soon as she was able to walk she would fight with other children. Sometimes, when she could, she would kill the child. Later on when she grew older she proceeded to fight with the big children. Whenever she would kill a child she would eat it raw. When the people looked on this child they were afraid because now she was eating big people too. The people had a conference trying to decide what to do with this weird being, Ho´ok as they called her.

They couldn't think what to do, so they said they would tell Elder Brother and maybe he would tell them what to do. So they sought out a fast runner who would run up to see Elder Brother up on Baboquivari Peak where he lived.

In a few days the wise man appeared and told them that they were to bring the girl to him and he would tell her something. They brought her. Elder Brother said to her: "You never knew who your father was. I will tell you right now." He showed the Ho´ok the desert land, and he said: "Do you see that thing before you?" And there was only a mirage out in space. The Ho´ok looked and believed the Si´ihe. Then and there he told her to go after her father to try to see her father. But she never caught up with him, because whenever she got near, the mirage would be farther in front of her again. She got further and further away, but she never reached it. When she came to what is now called Green Well she found out that she would never reach her father, and she wept. She climbed up on the mountain there and found this one cave in which she made her home.

She became very old. Every morning she would stand on top of the cliff and sniff in all directions. From whatever direction she would smell a baby she would run that way. When she got there from where the smell of the child came, she would say: "Grandchild, Grandchild! You will bring the child, I want to see it." Then they would give her the child; she would hold it for a little while in her arms, then suddenly she would claw on its stomach, and she would put it in her burden basket and away she would go carrying it on her back. The people told each other that she was their greatest fear. Almost from the very first the people found out and when they heard her from a far distance, they would hide their children. They would hear her - she would be making this noise as she ran because she wore fingernails, bones, and teeth on a necklace and some for a belt. From a far distance, when she was just on her way, they would hear her make this jingling and rattling noise. When the women heard this they would hide their offspring very securely. When she came, she would not go away, but there she would keep on sitting. Now and then a child would cry and right away she would ask them for it.

As time went on she ran out of very small children and started on the big children. She did not seize girl children but seized only the male children. The mothers told their young boys that when the Ho´ok went under a mesquite tree, they should hang onto a branch of it. The child would sit up in the tree until the Ho´ok got far off, and then he would run back home. When the children caught on to this, they would say right away to her, "I want under the tree, my grandmother."

She kept on doing this until later on she got to where, if she could, she would kill grown people. Also she knew all about things, about hunting, pottery making and basket making, and about whatever women knew or men knew. The people got together and discussed what they ought do to this old woman. Some said: "If we are not able to kill her, she will do away with us all by killing us.

There were some who said that they must tell Elder Brother and hear what he had to say. They looked for one who was a very fast runner who would run up to tell Elder Brother. The youth ran from there and was gone for a number of days. When he arrived up where Elder Brother was, by running, he saw a poor decrepit old man lying there. He told Elder Brother why they had sent him.

Elder Brother said: "Run back home, and perhaps I shall be there when you arrive." The young man thought to himself: "Where could you run to, old man?" Just as soon as he got back home he told them: "Your friend is lying down all exhausted. He didn't look as though he could do anything." Even as he was saying this, Elder Brother stood before them in the shape of a very young man. The Si´ihe was like that and could change himself to anybody.

It was told that if a person was to live a long time, he would see him as an old man, and one who would die soon would see him as a very young man. Then the people gathered together and heard that which he told them of his wisdom: "I have an idea, but it will be very hard work. Now you will have a big 'sing' here and a big dance and you will drink lots of sahuaro wine. You will sing for four days and nights. The Ho´ok ´oks will be on the go through all this time. During all this time some others will carry firewood to put at the mouth of the cave where the old woman lives. Still some others will make matted grass doors; they will place them at her home. During all this time the old lady will be on the go. You will make a cigarette with these ingredients, and you will pass it around, but you will remember that you must only pretend to smoke; the old lady will not know what it is, and she will smoke avidly, because she likes to smoke very much. After doing this she will want to go to sleep, but those of you who are standing next to her will not permit her to sleep. When she can't help it any longer she will sleep and fall down. Her house will be finished by this time and she will be carried and laid in it."

The people did what the Si´ihe told them to do. Four days and four nights they sang and during all this they danced. Some of them got ready and gathered a lot of firewood at her house. Some made doors, and they also placed them there. During all this the old woman was on the go. Every once in a while the dancers passed a cigarette around, and they gave it to her. She took big puffs and she inhaled very vigorously because she liked it so much. The people only pretended to smoke. She tried very hard to keep up with them but with all this she became tired and sleepy. Sometime later when she became very sleepy she tried to go home, but they wouldn't let her. She would stand in the dancing line, and she would dance again. When sleepiness overcame her, they held her up and made her dance.

The only thing she feared was rattlesnakes, and whenever she couldn't endure her drowsiness she would try to run home, and yet she had to cross an arroyo in which some people would be sitting; so when she passed, they would shake their rattles and she would turn right back and she would be dancing again. Three nights and three days they had been dancing, when she couldn't endure any longer, so she slept and they carried her and pushed her along.

Then the Si´ihe said: "It is time that you carry and place the old lady in the cave." A whole bunch helped each other and took her. Some carried her, and they put her in the farthest corner. They would put one of these doors, then from there they would place firewood, and then they would put another door. They did this until they reached the entrance of the cave with their doors and piles. Then they set fire to it all; it burned and burned for some time; then the old lady cried and said: "My grandchildren! Be kind to me and save me!" When the fire reached her she jumped up and down, and she cracked the top of the cave. The Si´ihe tried immediately to step on the crack, but a wisp of smoke had already escaped, and it became a blue hawk.

Right there the Ho´ok ´oks was done away with; but this hawk that was formed was bothering them far more than she had done. Because he didn't care whom he beat down and killed; and when he was flying high above, he would swoop down and beat down anyone that was walking along; then he would grab him or claw him, then fly away with him.

Once again, the people planned to kill this hawk. One at a time, certain individuals would tell their plan of how to kill this hawk. Then plans were worked out, but it didn't turn out the way they wanted it. They tried everything, but they couldn't find any way by which they could kill the hawk. So they again said they would ask the Si´ihe how they could kill the hawk which was killing them off.

The best pottery makers were asked to make four big ollas. Bigger than any that they had ever made. They would put these ollas in a row. They would put their openings towards the north, because it was from that direction that the hawk came down. So the very best potters did what they were told and made the big ollas. The Si´ihe had told them that they should find the prettiest girl and place her in front of these ollas. It wasn't long before the hawk was flying over them. They took out the ollas and put them in a row towards the north. The girl stood in front of them. After they had done this, all the people ran away in different directions. After the hawk flew around for a while, it swooped down and tried to beat down the girl but she was watching out for him so he passed right by her and fell into one of the very red hot ollas. Right then and there the life of the child which was formed from a kick ball was really ended.

But what became of the youth who became an eagle after drinking the girl's potion? Just as she saw the young man turn into an eagle, the girl ran home and told the people what had happened. All the people ran out to that place, but they couldn't do anything.

This eagle flew away until he found a crack which was in the highest part of the mountains, and there he made his home. From there he would fly repeatedly over the people and kill them. The hunters tried to shoot him down, but they couldn't kill him, because he was big and very strong. One day, he stole a girl and took her up to his cave.

Some time passed. They found out that this girl bore a child, but no one ever saw it because she would never come down. During all this time the eagle flew around over them and killed.

They again talked among themselves and discussed what they should do to this eagle. Again the Elder Brother saved them; he said: I will go myself and see if I can't kill this thing that you are afraid of. Some days will pass, and if from the east red clouds appear, you will know that the eagle has killed me; but if white clouds appear you will know that I have killed the eagle."

Then Elder Brother went, and when he reached the foot of the mountain he looked high up above and saw the cave in which this eagle lived, but it was hard to get to that cave. However Elder Brother knew about everything, and right away he knew what to do.

He planted a gourd seed at the foot of the cliff. And in a short time the gourd grew, and it began to grow and grow, and before many days it reached the eagle's cave. Right away Elder Brother climbed up on this plant, and he climbed and climbed; and he got there about the time when the eagle wasn't home. There sat the woman with her child. He told her why he came: "But I will say that we will try to kill your child also so that there will be no offspring from the eagle who is killing the people." The woman agreed with this, and she told him that when the eagle came he slept right after eating, while she combed his hair. The child slept at the same time. Then Elder Brother said: "When he sleeps I will cut off their heads, and they will die."

Suddenly he heard something that sounded like a strong wind coming. The woman said that it was the eagle coming. As far as the eye could see, there were the remains of human beings lying around in the corners of the cave. Some were already rotten, and some weren't spoiled yet, and some still showed signs of life. Elder Brother shook himself very strongly and became a blue fly. And he flew and got under the dead bodies. Just as soon as the eagle came in, he sniffed in every direction while his child cried right away: "Came, came!"

Immediately the eagle said: "Has anybody come? I smell human meat." His old lady tried to say that it was the bodies of the dead people that were lying around. The eagle said: "Why is the child saying what he said?"

The woman said: "It's only that he has learned to say that word. That's how a child is when he is learning to talk."

The eagle said: "But I smell a live body."

Then he ran around and lifted up every one of the dead bodies. When he came to the one at the very bottom, the fly flew out from underneath. He tried to kill it. High above, was a crack in the rock and the fly went into that.

The eagle really did eat and sleep afterwards, and his child went to sleep by his side. His wife combed his hair. Before long he went to sleep. Just as soon as Elder Brother knew that the eagle was asleep, he turned back into a person. Right away he chopped off the heads of the sleeping ones. The child died right away, but the eagle didn't die at once. He flew in every direction without his head, and his feathers flew whitely far away.

The people saw that, from the east, white clouds appeared, thin and flat. Then they knew that Elder Brother had won. The white clouds that came forth were just the eagle feathers that came out whitely when the eagle came thudding down.

Ventura José. "Ho´ok ´oks" printed by permission of Daniel Matson.

As printed in Larry Evers, ed. The South Corner of Time. Tucson, Ariz.: The University of Arizona Press, ©1980, p. 110.