O´odham Ha-ñeñei Songs of the Papago People

Danny Lopez

I wish to give thanks and gratitude to the O´odham people of today and my ancestors. I owe my life to the medicinemen who saved my life when I was a sickly child. They saved my life with their given powers and with the herbs from the earth. My mother and my father spent many sleepless nights with me as I lay ill before them. They had love, care, and hope. I never knew my paternal grandparents, as they died a very long time ago, but I love them just as much as I loved my maternal grandparents whom I knew for a short time. I thank all the people who gave me their knowledge about the culture of our people. I sat with many of these wise and knowledgeable people as they told about the precious ways of the O´odham through songs, orations, and conversations.

As a young person I did not know much about my culture but I heard the calling when I was in my mid-thirties. Only then did I think and live like a O´odham. Only then did I learn about the beautiful and unique ways of the O´odham. As with everything else in the life of a human being who is; devoted to a cause, there are things you must give up. While others are out enjoying life, you must be about doing your work. You even have to face ridicule from the very people you are trying to work for. Every day as I go outside and give thanks, I look at white rain clouds, the mountain ranges, the trees and cacti, as I breathe the sacred air that gives me life, as I stand on the earth that I respect, as I see the little children playing, I know that it is all worth it. Every breath is all worth it.

I want to share a few of the traditional songs of the O´odham. Singing is only one of the many aspects of O´odham culture, but one of the most important. Songs are heard during the sleeping hours of gifted people. Songs are about many things, moods, ceremonies, or just a social occasion. Some of the songs are from many years ago and some are from people who are still living today.

I´itoi Ne´i (I´itoi Songs)

These songs are from the story which tells how I´itoi killed the Eagleman who was bothering the people. (See Ho´ok´oks), the first song is sung before the killing.

Wañ do al I´itoi
Wañ do al I´itoi
Wa:siw cuca k ab o himena

Little I´itoi I am 
Little I´itoi I am 
With these plants I place and I climb up.

After he kills the Eagleman and the Eagleman´s son, I´itoi brings all the people Eagleman has killed back to life. He stands at the edge of the steep mountain and sings this song. Then he leads them down.

Wañ do al I´itoi
Wañ do al I´itoi
Wa:siw cu:ca k ab o hununa

Little I´itoi I am 
Little I´itoi I am 
With these plants I place and I climb down.

Gohimli Ñe´i (Song for Rain)

Al wa s-ko: magi hikiwigi ma:kai
Su:nañi s-e:muina
Kia t-nanamai hihi:hime
Do k al totosagi kia n-ab wiwihime

Al wa s-ko: magi bamahad ma:kai
Su:nañi s-hohoimuina
Kia t-weweco hihihime
Do k al mamatod kia ñ-ab wiwihime

Little grey woodpecker medicineman 
The water he feared 
To the heavens he flew 
"This is the water-foam that is on my tail," he said

Little grey frog medicineman
The water he liked
Beneath the water he went
This is the water-moss that is on me," he said

Duajida Ñe´i (Curing Song)

Al wa s-cucuige komkicud makaigam 
Al wa s-cucuige komkicud makaigam
Jeweñe sikol bijmina 
Am sikol bijmina
Am ñeida
E:na g mumkinage s-ha:sigam o cucuigam.

Little dark turtle medicine man 
Little dark turtle medicine man 
The earth is turning around. 
There it is turning around 
See there. 
In there the sickness is difficulty there.

Celkona Ne´i (Corn Song)

Kums ia woiwa k wa:sañ wo:pohi
Kums ia woiwa k wa:sañ je:weñ huninan
Kums heg mumui huhun yuhug k wa:san
wo:pohi We ran to here, and we ran around over there. 
We ran to here and we ran there to the edge of the world.
We took much corn and we ran over there.

Danny Lopez. "O´odham Ha-ñeñei: Songs of the Papago People" printed by permission of the author. Copyright ©1980 by Daniel Lopez.

As printed in Larry Evers, ed. The South Corner of Time. Tucson, Ariz.: The University of Arizona Press, ©1980, p. 123.