Original image from book
Figure 24 Si-we-ka
Figure 25 Si-we-ka
THE FASCINATING PUEBLOS
Of all the one hundred and twenty-eight Indian tribes among whom I have lived and worked, the most fascinating were those of the Pueblo group the Hopi, Zuni, Acoma, Laguna, Zia, San Ultel Fonso, Namba, Jamez; Isleta, Santo Domingo, and Tewa tribes. Among some of them I was welcomed; among others I painted at the risk of my life.
To this day it astonishes me to think of a people as intelligent and skillful as the Pueblos living shackled by superstition and witchcraft. The Pueblos have been more or less under the white man's domination since 1540, when the Spanish explorers first found them. Yet four centuries of contact with the white man find the Pueblos still living primitively in isolated tenements constructed of clay in the characteristic architecture which has so greatly influenced our own throughout the southwestern states.
Long before the white men came, these town dwelling natives of the desert had developed a considerable civilization of their own. Surrounding them on all sides were ruins of cliff dwellings pointing to an even greater Indian culture. The Pueblos spoke four distinct languages. They are related more closely to the Indians of central Mexico than those that live near them, and it is believed that their culture was an offshoot of the ancient Mayan civilization which preceded that of the Aztecs. All the Pueblos were remarkable Indians in that they had learned how to till the soil, raise their own food, and store it against droughts. They had also become skillful artisans at pottery, basket making, and weaving.
They usually built their homes on mesas. Often their pueblos were reached only by ladders which could be drawn up when enemies threatened them. Because of this aloofness, I found portrait painting among the different Pueblo tribes an exciting adventure. Certain tribes, notably the Hopi, made me welcome. Others, such as the Zunis and Santo Domingos, bade me be gone. Invariably I ran headlong against traditions and superstitions which made the life of an artist difficult.
Original image from book
Figure 26 He-patina
The Zunis believed that anyone who made a line of another person was a witch. As soon as I arrived among this isolated people they nicknamed me "Witch Man." Inadvertently I chose as one of my first subjects an old woman who had recently been accused of witchery. This old squaw lived near a Zuni family, one of whose children had died suddenly. The Zuni medicine men concluded that she had bewitched the child and caused its death. After a powwow they seized her one night, rushed her to a church, and hanged her to a rafter.
Other Zunis, more sensible, arrived in time to cut her down before she died. She was revived and lived to have her portrait painted by the "Witch Man," an act which did not improve the reputation of either of us. In fact, shortly after she sat for me I was earnestly advised by friendly Zunis to leave their village, which I did.
It was eight years before I returned to their pueblo. When I came back they recognized me immediately, but were more friendly. I asked them if they still considered me a witch. "No," said one of their chief medicine men, "we do not, believe in witches any more. We have learned better." After that I was permitted to paint portraits among them without serious objection.
Not so with the Santo Domingos. My first contact with these aloof Indians was at another pueblo where two Santo Domingos were visiting. Wishing to meet some of the tribe, I went over to them and extended my hand to one of them. Since he could not avoid it, he shook hands, but he was anything but enthusiastic about doing so. I told them I wanted to come to their village to paint the portraits of some of their chiefs, and had arranged with the government Indian agent to visit them. The agent had provided me with a letter to the "governor," as the head man in any Pueblo tribe is known.
In spite of these preliminary arrangements I learned when I set out for the village of Santo Domingo that the Indians had put two guards on the trail to head me off before I entered their village. So I took a roundabout trail and reached the village by the back door, so to speak, before they were aware of it.
At the first house I asked where I could find the governor. I thought at first that the big six-foot Indian who came to the door was going to attack me. But instead he rushed past me, motioning me to follow him. He led me to a dim council chamber where I found several Indians holding a powwow. The upshot of their discussion was that the interpreter advised me to leave at once. I pled with them to let me return on the following day and show them my portfolio. After some hesitation they agreed.
The next day I found the same group assembled. They immediately became very much interested in my paintings and examined them carefully. I thought that I had overcome their hostility. Imagine my astonishment when, after a brief discussion, the interpreter turned to me and said, "We have seen your pictures, now get out."
I told the interpreter I had heard a good deal about the Santo Domingo Indians, and asked him if he would care to hear what was told me. He replied, "Yes. Tell us." "I was told you treated the school teacher, who was a woman, so badly that she left. This morning I looked in the schoolhouse and discovered that you are using it as a stable for horses."
"The government wanted to build you a good flume, costing twenty-five thousand dollars, to take the place of the old one which leaked and caused you a lot of trouble. But you would not allow it to be built."
"The government, in order to have a good well dug for you, had to have soldiers with Winchester rifles to keep you Indians off until the well was dug. It was a good well. But as soon as the well was finished, you Indians killed a burro and threw it into the well to spoil the water."
"A lady took some photographs of your village. You took her camera and broke it, then gave it to her and ordered her away. Is all this that I have told you true?" I asked the interpreter. "Yes," he answered. "But why do you do such things?" I asked. He did not answer. "Do you want me to tell you what I think about it?" "Yes," he replied again. "I think you Indians do not use good judgment." But by no amount of pleading could I change their decision. The most I could wheedle out of them was permission to paint portraits of any Santo Domingo who happened to be in the nearby town where I was stopping. The curious aftermath of this experience was that several of the Santo Domingos who participated in the decision against me came secretly to pose for me, each insisting that I never tell any other Santo Domingo that he had posed for his picture. After leaving there I went on to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to the Indian School. There the Santo Domingo Indian girls, very fine subjects, posed for me.
The dances of the Pueblo Indians' ceremonies are of great significance to them, and they object to having strangers witness them. For example, I arrived at the pueblo of Jemez while the Indians were holding one of their important ceremonial dances in an open court. They immediately escorted me into a small dark room and insisted that I stay there until the dance was over.
Shortly before, just as the ceremonial dance was beginning, the United States mail stagecoach had arrived at the village. The Indians held up the coach, delaying it for four hours so that the driver could not see the dance while he was driving through the village. This act almost provoked war between the United States government and the Jemez pueblo. When the postmaster complained about the holding up of the mail, the Indians were warned that it must not happen again. They solved the problem by ingeniously rigging up a huge sheet between two poles. When during the next dance the mail coach arrived, two Indians walked alongside the stagecoach, carrying the sheet between the driver and the dancers, so that he could not see what was going on.
So far as I know there was only one white man permitted to witness a Jemez Indian ceremony. He had been made a medicine man for a most unusual reason. The Indians were digging an irrigation ditch when they encountered a boulder so large they could not remove it. This white man happened along about that time and obligingly blew the rock out of the way with dynamite. The white man's dynamite impressed them as being very potent medicine indeed, and they accepted him as one of their own people.
To me the most interesting of all the Pueblo Indians were the Hopis. They were known as the "peaceful people," and it was their proud boast that they had never waged an offensive war against their neighbors. Originally the Hopis were called "the Moqui Tribe." However, Moqui means "death" in their language, and the tribe changed its name to "Hopi" which means "life."
The Hopis still live in their compact villages built on three mesas or tablelands in eastern Arizona and western New Mexico, just as they did when the Spaniards first discovered them in 1540. At that time the gold hungry conquistadores thought they had found in the Hopi villages the fabulously rich seven cities of Cibola. Finding no gold among the Hopis, they returned to Mexico leaving these industrious natives to their quaint ways.
On the easternmost, or first mesa, are the villages of Hano, Sichomovi, and Walapi. The people of the first mesa are the pottery makers. On the second mesa are the Mishnonghovi, Shipaulovi, and Shumopavi. On the westernmost, or third mesa, are the villages of Orabi, Hotemvilla, and Bacabi. Forty miles farther west is the village of Moenkopi which is the farming center for Oraibi. On the second and third mesas live the basket makers and rug weavers of Hopiland.
All of the Hopis, except the residents of Hano, speak one language. Tradition has it that the people of Hano are Tewas. Originally they lived farther to the south in New Mexico, and were famed as warriors. A century ago when the Hopis were being continuously robbed by the marauding Navajos and Apaches, the Tewas were invited to come there and live among them to act as guards against invasion. Since that time the Hopis have lived in peace. Being skillful pottery makers, the Tewas brought their art with them and are still the leaders in this craft.
I lived among the Hopis for many months. Never have I known a more charming, hospitable, and peace-loving people. Several years prior to my arrival, the government, in the interest of good health, offered to build the stone walls of some new homes if the Hopis would agree to move down from the mesas to the lowlands. The Great White Father even agreed to put on tin roofs, to build floors and doors and windows in the new pueblos, and to furnish them with beds, stoves, chairs, and tables. Many of the Indians accepted his offer of furnished homes, and a number of them were built at Polacca, Arizona. But few of the Hopis lived in the new houses. Instead they rented them to tourists and lived on the proceeds. I rented one of these houses for five dollars a month, and converted it into a comfortable studio. The house was just as the government had built it, except that the springs to the beds were gone. When I complained about this, the Hopi owner naively explained that he needed the bed springs to dry peaches in the sun.
Hopi life is typical of the best Pueblo traditions. Since I spent more time among the Hopis than among the other Pueblo tribes, I will try to give a word picture of it in detail, but living conditions in the other Pueblo villages are almost identical.
Life is hard, wrested from the barren soils of the southwestern deserts. It is a strange enigma indeed that the greatest advance towards civilization made by any primitive American people was achieved by the Pueblos. And of all the Pueblo peoples, the Hopis were the most advanced and prosperous.
As the result of repeated droughts, the Hopis had learned, like the ancient Egyptians, to store their grain against the dry years. They had no buffalo herds, fish-bearing streams, nor food-yielding wilderness in which to forage. Theirs was a harsh, unfriendly land which produced only when the weather conditions were exceptionally good. Usually the Hopis stored enough grain to last at least two years, in case of emergency.
Their lands for growing crops had been handed down from generation to generation for hundreds of years. Their farms were the joint property of the people of the village. Each village had its own farm lands, some of them quite distant. I was told that the men who farmed the lands belonging to the village of Moenkopi sometimes ran forty miles to their work in the morning, worked all day in the burning sun, then ran forty miles back home at night. This gives but an idea of the difficulties under which this amazing people carried on their agriculture.
Their principal crop was corn. Because of the frequent sandstorms, Hopis had to be very careful about the planting of their corn. First they would dig a hole in the sand, place a few grains in the hole, then build a fortification of dirt around the hill on the side from which the prevailing winds blew. This protected the young shoots from the sandstorms and by the time the corn grew above the fortification sandstorm time had passed.
That did not end the Hopi's worries over his cornfield. Crows and ground rats and other wild life hovered about waiting for a chance to eat the corn stalks. At the edge of each field a hut was built and there a Hopi stayed all day long watching for invaders. If bird or beast entered his field or that of his neighbors he stood sentinel to drive them away.
Corn was raised in three colors: red, yellow, and blue. They also grew many squashes and melons, and raised the finest peaches I ever ate. It was a custom among these people to allot each peach tree to a girl whose duty it was to care for the tree from childhood on as long as she lived.
Each Hopi village had its flock of turkeys. Curiously these were not raised for food, but for their feathers which were highly prized in ceremonial rites. Just before the big dances these turkeys presented an odd appearance strutting around with their tail feathers plucked. Many Hopi villages had their flocks of eagles which were captured young and raised in cages. They, too, were prized for their feathers.
In many ways the Hopi villages, like those of the other Pueblo Indians, were women's worlds. The weaker sex seemed to dominate the affairs of each pueblo. The women owned the property, including the pueblo itself. The family line was traced through the women. They had the final say so in most village affairs. Those who know the Pueblos say that it is the conservatism of the women of these tribes that is largely responsible for the lack of change in the four centuries that the Pueblos have been exposed to the white man's civilization.
The men were the farmers in each Hopi village. They were the warriors if the village was attacked. They conducted the ceremonial dances by which the Hopis propitiated their gods. The women, on the other hand, took charge of the food when it was produced, and stored it. They were the cooks, the pottery and basket makers, and the rug weavers. It always seemed to me that in spite of the fact that they were the bosses of the pueblo, the Hopi women took on much more of the work than did the men.
The most important job was that of grinding the corn into fine meal. This was done by pulverizing the grain between two stones. It was a tedious operation and it required a long time to get a little meal. The little Hopi girls were started at this job as soon as they were old enough to hold a grinding stone in their hands. When they were grinding corn they would sing, and all had sweet voices.
As soon as they were in their teens they learned to make a bread called "pike." Many times I have watched them at this fascinating operation. Their stove consisted of a flat stone two feet long and one foot wide. It was propped up at each corner with smaller stones. Underneath it a fire was built. The corn meal was mixed with water and lye, to make a batter. When the stone was heated just right they spread this batter over it with their hands. It cooked very quickly and when it was done it was removed from the hot stone in sheets as thin as paper. It ranged in color from bluish black to pink. I found pike very nourishing and healthful. When rolled up it was most convenient to dunk into coffee or soup. I became very fond of it until I saw the dogs lying on the warm stones.
When I first arrived at Polacca I enjoyed the corn bread made by the natives. But I enjoyed it, too, only until I saw them make it. A group of Hopi women would gather around a large bowl. They filled their mouths with corn meal and began to chew. When the meal was thoroughly mixed with saliva each woman would deposit her contribution in the bowl. When a sufficient amount had been accumulated it was put in the oven to bake.
It is a well-known fact that saliva mixed with corn meal sweetens it in a chemical change. Many primitive people have used this method. I must admit that the Hopi corn bread was tasty, but after witnessing its preparation, I could no longer stomach it.
The Hopis were among the finest cooks I found in my years among the Indians. I never ate better corn, soup, or meats than those which they prepared. They were particularly skillful at cooking mutton.
While I was staying with the Indians, the government issued cattle to the various Indian tribes on the reservations. It was the custom to deliver them on the hoof. The Indians would shoot the steers, and as soon as an animal fell, men, women, and children rushed in to butcher it. This was a bloody sight. First the Indians would cut out the liver, dip it in the gall bladder, and eat it raw. In no time at all their hands and faces and clothes were covered with blood.
The Hopis had an ingenious way of catching small fowl known as winter birds. They tied several loops of horsehair to a stick about a yard long and placed it where the birds congregated on the snow. The birds invariably managed to get their feet tangled in the loops of horsehair and then the Hopi boys caught them. Pulling the quill from one of the tail feathers, the Hopi would pierce the snow bird's gizzard, killing it instantly. These little birds were roasted over hot coals, stringing about a dozen on a stick, then they were laid away for future consumption.
The climate was hot in the summer, and quite cold in winter in most of the Hopi villages. But as a rule, the little Hopi children went around as naked in the winter as they did in the summer. I spent December, January, February, and March at Polacca, and saw children up to six years of age naked, playing in the snow. When they got cold they ran into the house.
As a consequence of the cold, the Hopi Indians could keep cooked food for a long time; likewise the melons, which they kept from one season to another. They had a trick for opening watermelons with their thumbs. They would make a nick at each end and then drop the melon to the ground from a height of about two feet. Invariably it would split lengthwise, exactly in the center. If a visitor were present when the melon was cracked, the Hopi would hand him one half and eat the other half himself. An accepted Hopi custom was to use the fingers to scoop out the center. Then rolled-up pike was used to sop up the juice.
The Hopi Indian women had likewise elected themselves to be beasts of burden. One of their principal jobs was carrying water to their homes on the mesa. At Polacca the pueblo is seven hundred feet above the surrounding territory. All the water they had was carried up the trail by the women in big earthen jars on their backs. Many times I have seen little Laguna girls playing games on their way back from the water hole, meanwhile carrying earthen jars on their heads without losing a drop of water.
The Hopis told me that they had known the art of weaving rugs, belts, and material for their clothes since ancient times. They told me that a dress woven by a Hopi woman would last for a lifetime with all kinds of wear. Among some of the Pueblo tribes the men had taken up rug weaving and had become very skillful at it.
From the Tewas the Hopis had learned the art of making pottery that was artistic and decorative. as well as useful. The finest pottery of all, I believe, was made by a Tewa woman named Nam-pay-a. The Tewas had long since learned to develop colors for their pottery by pulverizing different colored stones. Green they obtained by allowing water to stand in tin vessels until verdegris formed, and yellow from boiling the yellow desert flowers.
In pottery making as well as in basketry each tribe had its characteristic designs which were continuously repeated. One tribe, for example, made a jet black pottery with a beautiful gloss. For a long time it was a mystery how they obtained this beautiful finish. One day I had the opportunity of seeing them do it. They burned damp straw which gave off clouds of black smoke. By glazing the pottery in this slow heat they gave it the beautiful ebony finish so highly prized in this ware.
The Zunis were the most skillful of the Pueblos in making jewelry. They made unusually beautiful shell beads by breaking sea shells into small pieces about the size of a dime. They punched holes in these pieces and strung them on wires. After this they would roll the shells on a stone with their hands until each bead was round and smooth. Then they strung the shell beads with others made from turquoise and whole shells.
The Zunis also made elaborately designed blankets which they wore in their numerous ceremonies. If any dancer should happen to stumble or fall during the ceremony, the blanket was never used again and would be sold for a low price.
In their spare time the Hopis often busied themselves carving small images of wood which they called "katcins" or gods. These were originally made for the Hopi children, but when the Hopis discovered that they could be sold to tourists, a thriving industry in wood carving was developed.
I found the Hopis as well as the other Pueblos very fond of music. Many of them, especially the girls, had wonderful singing voices.
The Hopis seemed particularly fond of their children. One time I was standing in a trading post when a Hopi father and his little girl came into the store. The little girl took a fancy to a toy in the shop. The Hopi father lacked the money to buy the toy. Rather than have the youngster disappointed, he took off his moccasins, left them with the storekeeper as security, and went away barefooted, his little girl happily clutching the toy.
As soon as the Hopi girls' hair became long enough, it was done up on each side of her head in a flat knot representing a squash blossom. This was a difficult thing to do, and once done the hair was kept that way for a long time. However, as soon as the girl married, the squash blossoms were supposed to fade, and then the hair was taken down and made into two long braids which hung down in front of her shoul-ders. These were the only two styles of head dress used among the Hopi women. The men usually wore their hair cropped just above their shoulders with a band around their foreheads.
The Hopis never punished their children, yet they seemed to extract the greatest obedience from them by kindness alone. The discipline of the youngsters was amazing. I painted pictures of several of these little Hopi children and they sat as patiently as did the older people.
One day Quen-Chow-a, a Hopi girl eighteen years old, was sitting for me. She sat still so long that the strain became too great and before I realized that she was uncomfortable she had fainted away. I was wondering how I could revive her when her mother who happened to be with her that day rushed outside, and returned with a handful of sand which she rubbed over her daughter's stomach. This was a new treatment to me, but apparently it was very effective because the girl recovered consciousness immediately.
During this period I decided that the little North American Indian was perhaps the happiest child in the world. For some deep reason known only to the simple, primitive heart, the Indian father and mother trained their children in psychological principles which only recently the white man has discovered. Modern psychologists say, "Be slow and gentle with children; suddenness, either mental or physical, will confuse them. Let their life fall into a routine. Let them feel they are part of the family. Let them develop as individuals, and do not repress, but guide their natural interests." This was the policy of the Indians as I observed them.
Nowhere were children more charmingly treated than among the Pueblo Indians, for example. It was rare to hear a Pueblo child cry or to hear him quarrel with his playmates. I think I never saw a Pueblo Indian strike or punish a child. And the little people were polite, gentle, and happy.
How did the Indian parents accomplish this miracle? First by affection. Then, both men and women, young and old, always had time for the youngsters. The interests of the children were woven smoothly into the routine of the home. If the mother was making pottery, she gave the little child a piece of clay to work with. Then she never said, "No, no, you're doing it wrong. Make your pot this way." She simply let the child learn by trial and error and by watching her skillful hands.
When the pots were ready to be fired, a whole host of children showed up with ears of blue corn. The firing was done out-of-doors, without a kiln, by means of a sort of bonfire. After the blaze died down, the mother always had time to shell the blue corn and rake some of the embers into the sand, so that the children could drop the kernels among the hot coals and pop them.
Little girls were encouraged to balance on their heads little pots which were cracked or had turned out badly in the fire. If they broke the pots, nothing was said. Soon they would bring up water from the river or the pump, though among the Hopi Indians the older women did most of the water carrying.
They were very saving with water. For instance, I have seen a mother bathe her baby with water in her mouth, letting the water drop on the infant's body.
Every Pueblo child could dance almost as soon as he could walk. At sundown it was common to see a Pueblo father, after a long day's work in the fields, pick up a tiny thing perhaps only three months old, and hold the baby carefully against his breast while he chanted a weird Indian song and went through the steps of a dance. Indian rhythms were thus literally danced into the babies.
When the Pueblo Indians put on a dance, the tiny tots followed along after their elders, dressed in ceremonial clothes just like the grown-ups. They brought up the rear of a long line of dancers, patting out the rhythm with tiny feet in buckskin shoes. Seldom did they err in the tempo, though the detail of the step might be a little vague. But again, no one corrected them or criticized them. It was assumed that they had their part in the tribal ceremony, and that they were doing well. They learned in their own way.
The life of the entire pueblo was slow and gentle and quiet. The bright sun rose, work in the fields and in the house went on. There was clay to play with. There were playmates and dogs and cats. And one day was much like another. Adults spoke to each other quietly, courteously. An Indian's voice is seldom raised; seldom is he inconsiderate in his speech. These habits are quickly picked up by children.
There was always a grandfather or aunt or big sister ready to cradle the sleepy child; always an old man singing an ancient song or telling an ancient tale out in the plaza, in the shade of the house. Sleepy babies swung happily in cradle swings suspended from the roof beams. They were securely tied in, and one good push kept them swinging for many minutes. It seemed to me no wonder that Indian children were both happy and good. But the Hopi youngsters, like their parents, were not above playing tricks, even on the "Witch Man."
One day, I was preparing to eat an apple when a Hopi boy reached up to me and said, "Oh, you hand-some man. Give me that apple."
At Polacca the Indian agent, Major Williams, always brought a pail of candy for the children when he visited the pueblo. He was very fond of Hopi youngsters and they of him. However, that did not keep them from playing jokes on him. One day in mid-winter half a dozen little Hopi girls came into my studio while Major Williams was there. They were all barefooted. "What!" exclaimed the Major. "You are walking barefooted in the snow?" The girls did not explain to him that they had purposely removed their shoes before entering the studio. A short time after the Major left, a shipment of shoes arrived, a pair for every child in the pueblo.
One day a little Hopi boy came to me and said that his teacher had told him to learn a piece to recite in school. He wanted me to teach him something. I scratched my head and could think of nothing but "Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater," so I told him that. He learned the piece all right, but he could not pronounce the words very well. As he spoke it, it sounded like "Pater, Pater, Punkin Ater." The next day I received word from his teacher that if I couldn't do better than that I had better stick to my art.
While I learned a few words of the Hopi language, they were largely terms dealing with food, and those needed, to tell my subjects when to rest. There were times when I wished that I knew the language well. One of these times was while I was at Polacca. A little Indian girl came to me one day and asked me to accompany her. She led me to a big rock and we sat down. She seemed to be in great trouble and wanted me to help her. She talked to me earnestly for more than an hour. I could not understand a word she was saying but I listened intently. Every so often she would be so overcome that she would cry. All I could say was "How-o," meaning "Is that so?" She would answer most piteously "Oh-ee," which means, "Yes, that is so." I have often wondered what it was all about and why she would unburden her heart to a white man.
I once took two Hopi boys on a trip from Polacca to Holbrook, Arizona, via Keam Canyon, about 125 miles. I had a buckboard and a team of horses. We camped out in the open and it was a revelation to me to find out what excellent cooks these two youngsters were and how easily they could fix up a comfortable camp out on the desert.
One day we came to a ravine which it seemed impossible to cross. It looked as though our journey were over. The Hopis got out and cut all the under-brush they could find. They partly filled in the ravine, then unhitched the horses and let the wagon down by hand. They coaxed the horses down into the ravine, re-hitched them, and then with much shouting and pushing managed to get the rig up the other bank. In Holbrook one of the horses, never having seen a train before, broke loose and ran away. One of the Hopi boys set out to trail him and in a short time he brought the horse back.
We had run out of meat on the trip and were obliged to get along without enough food for the last day. At Holbrook I took the boys into a Chinese restaurant for breakfast. The price of the breakfast was fifty cents. The Hopis wanted to know if that meant they could eat all they wanted. The Chinaman, who was both cook and waiter, told them they could. They were still eating when I left them to go down the street to tend to some business. On my way back to the restaurant I met a man who wanted to know if the Indian boys in the Chinese restaurant were my charges. I told him they were. "You better hurry up," he said. "They are eating the Chinaman out of house and home." They were still eating when I entered. The Chinaman was laughing. "Little Indian boys velly big appetite," he said, passing them another stack of hot cakes. These Hopi boys had never seen a locomotive close up. When they finally finished eating, I took them over to look at a new one the Santa Fe had just received. The engineer took a liking to the little Indians and took them all over the locomotive, explaining carefully how it worked. The boys were delighted, but what intrigued them most was when they put their eyes down on the rails and squinted up the line. They were trying to figure out why the rails met in the distance instead of running parallel.
The Hopis invariably showed a childlike interest in all my personal belongings and affairs. I subscribed for a Chicago paper while I was living in Polacca. The political cartoons particularly intrigued them. I remember one cartoon which showed a woman on horseback pursued by a bunch of cowboys on horseback, all armed to the teeth with daggers and pistols. The Hopis assumed that this was a picture of a real occurrence and wanted to know what manner of men were these that they would chase a woman that way. For the sake of the white man's reputation I was obliged to give them an elaborate explanation of the picture, but even then they could not understand why a band of armed men would want to chase a helpless woman.
Another cartoon showed a rooster dressed up in coat, pants, and hat, smoking a pipe and carrying a cane under his wing. This picture puzzled them beyond words. They talked about it so much and so many of them came to see the picture of "the rooster that smoked," that I finally gave them the paper to get rid of them.
I soon learned in working among the Indians never to leave my portraits uncovered during my absence. The Indians were unable to distinguish pictures of birds and elk's teeth from the real article, and frequently they would attempt to pick them off the canvas, sometimes ruining my work. Somehow they couldn't realize that paintings were paintings.
When I was at Polacca, I painted two pictures of the Snake Dance. Always when the dance is in progress some old Hopi sprinkles sacred meal on all the dancers. The last picture I had painted of the Snake Dance was on my easel, not quite dry. I noticed a Hopi woman looking at the painting up close. Just in time I caught her as she was about ready to sprinkle real meal over the wet paint. Of course she had no intention of ruining the picture, but merely wished to give it luck.
One day I was painting the belle of the Hopi village, a young woman recently married, while her husband sat on the bed in back of me. She could speak English, but he could not, so I paid very little attention to him. When I looked around, I discovered him squeezing paint out of the tubes in papers to take home. He had paint all over his hands, and resolved to give him a good scare. I hurriedly told his wife to tell him to wash his hands immediately, because the paint was deadly poison and would kill him. We rushed around with water and soap and had him scrubbing his hands furiously. Meantime I pretended a great anxiety. Finally the paints were removed and I expressed great relief. Evidently this Indian told the others of the tribe, because after that I had no more trouble of that kind.
One day I was painting a portrait of Sah-ah-lok-o, an old Hopi woman. While she was posing, an old friend of hers came in. The day was hot and he began shedding his clothes piece by piece until he stood in nothing but a breech cloth. She seemed not in the least way embarrassed by his disrobing. The day being so warm, I wished that the artist "Many-Brushes" could do the same, but I was no Indian.
In every Pueblo village I found one or more churches. Some of them were old churches built a century or more ago by the early Catholic missionaries. Some were newer churches built by the Protestants. Indians had adopted some of the missionaries' teachings, but they clung to their own ideas of how the world was made and of the hereafter.
The Zunis had a legend about Thunder Mountain which was similar to that of Noah in the Bible. They believed that when the flood came, inundating all the country, their tribe built a refuge on the top of this mountain where they remained a long time. To prove this they pointed to the remains of a village still to be seen near the mountain top.
One zealous missionary among the Zunis told them the Bible story of the creation. He told them that God made man from adobe and that by taking a rib from Adam's side He made woman. At this point the Zunis refused to listen any longer. "What kind of man could He make from adobe and what kind of woman from a rib and how could she bear children?" they asked. The missionary was never able to answer this satisfactorily to them and that ended his efforts to preach to them.
At Acoma, New Mexico, where I went one day by team, about twenty-five miles from Laguna, New Mexico, I saw a fine old church, and as it was near Christmas time, the Indians were decorating the church for Christmas festivities. I went into the church, and saw twelve large oil paintings as large as doors. Eleven of them had been ruined by dew damp, but one of the paintings was in good condition. It was a fine picture of a saint holding the infant Christ in his hand, and had been painted by a great Spanish artist. The next day I spoke to Mr. Marmon, who lived at Laguna, about the painting. He told me the Laguna Indians had taken the painting away from the Acomas, but that later on the Acoma Indians had succeeded in getting the picture back. I wrote to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington about the painting, and they replied that they knew all about it, and would give forty thousand dollars for it.
When the Smithsonian wrote me about the painting, they said they wished that Catlin (a well known artist who painted Indians long before I was born) had painted more portraits of Indians like I was painting. Catlin devoted more of his time to painting the different dances the Indians gave then. Some of the dances he painted have been stopped by the government because of their cruelty. These paintings are now priceless.
When I was at the Sac and Fox Agency, Chief Keokuk posed for a portrait for me. He had on the wall in his comfortable home, a print taken from a picture that Catlin had painted of his father dressed in the Sac and Fox Indian costume. Keokuk, Iowa, was named after Keokuk's father.
A little later I went to Acometa, New Mexico, where there was a young Acoma Indian who was well educated and could speak good English. I told him to try to use his influence to get the painting; that the forty thousand dollars could be divided among the Acoma Indians. He asked me to give him the address of a store where he could purchase some books on American history.
In due time I arrived at St. Michaels, Arizona, where the Franciscan monks lived. They could not have been nicer to me than they were; in fact, they were the same to all who came there. They had a school for Navajo Indians. No missionaries were doing better work for the Indians than they were. They had a large farm where they raised all they ate, had pigs, chickens, cattle, and other stock. I spoke to the Fathers about the painting in the church at Acoma. They told me the painting belonged to the Catholic Church. Later on I was told the painting met the same fate as the other eleven pictures.
Frequently the good people at the Sunday school back home packed up batches of clothing and other articles which were sent out to the missionaries for distribution among the Indians. Often the natives were at a loss to know how to use some of these contributions. While I was at Polacca, a large shipment of warm clothing and toys was distributed. Among the goods were a dozen flannel night gowns, a tall plugged hat, and a swallow-tailed coat with a vest. On the following Sunday morning several of the squaws wore flannel nightgowns to church. A chief named Ho-mo-vi fell heir to the plug hat and the swallow-tailed coat with the vest. Lacking trousers to go with them, he painted his bare legs yellow, donned the rest of the outfit, and after church came to my studio where he earnestly besought me to paint his portrait.
All of the Pueblos are stocky people of short stature, but of great physical strength. The men are known for their prowess as runners. The Hopi men often ran from twenty to forty miles to work and back again in the evening.
While I was among the Zunis I saw a unique bare-footed race over a twenty-five mile course. Much money was bet on this race. Each runner carried two sticks painted different colors. As he ran, the runner picked up the sticks with his toes and threw them in front of him with his feet. Even if the stick fell in the midst of a cactus plant, the runner was obliged to pick it out with his toes. The Hopi had a similar race using stones instead of sticks.
The agent at the Zuni pueblo told me that the Indian who carried the mail from the agency to the railroad, a distance of thirty-five miles, made the round trip on foot in twelve hours.
One day I noticed in the home of a Zuni a gold headed cane bearing the inscription "A. Lincoln." It excited my curiosity and I made inquiries. The Indians told me that many years ago a group of their forefathers journeyed to the center of the white man's land to visit the Great White Father. They had been entertained at the Big White House and Lincoln had given each of them a gold-headed cane to take home. The canes had been handed down from father to son for generations and were held in great veneration by all Pueblos.
Once, while a delegation of Zunis was in Washington, the Barnum circus came to town. P. T. Barnum invited the Indians to see the spectacle from a special box, and asked if he might sit among them to observe their comments. They watched every detail and conversed in their own tongue. Finally Barnum asked the interpreter what they were saying. Their talk was entirely of the trapeze performers who were hurtling through the air. The Zunis were fearful lest they should fall and get hurt. After the show, the great showman gave the Zunis, a fine dinner and offered to let them take home anything they had seen at the circus - an elephant, a cage of lions, a steam calliope, or anything they wanted. The Zunis held a council. What they wanted most, they said, was a set of the circus billboard posters, so that they could show their tribe what they had seen.
The Hopis would never believe me when I told them what a lot of white people there were in the world. While I was among them, a delegation of Hopis went to Washington. They decided to count white men and see whether or not I was lying. The Santa Fe gave them a private car, in which the Hopis stationed a man at each window to count white people. From Holbrook to Albuquerque, they had no trouble, but by the time they reached Kansas City the white people were so thick they decided to count houses. They counted houses all the way to Chicago, and then began counting towns. That kept them busy until they reached Washington, where they held a powwow and decided that Many-Brushes had not lied to them, after all.
The greatest surprise I had among the Pueblos came one day when I was sitting in my studio at Polacca writing letters. A white man entered and I greeted him asking him where he came from. He looked at me questioningly. "Right here," he said. "I am a Hopi Indian." I studied him more closely. His skin complexion was lighter than my own. His hair was yellow and his eyes were pink. He was a Hopi albino. Later on I became well acquainted with him and found him well educated, able to speak both English and Hopi. His wife was a Hopi girl and their children were as dark as those of any other native. After that I was always on the lookout for another albino, but among the 128 Indian tribes I visited, I never found another "white Indian."