The Moqui Tribe In History 1851-1852

In 1851-1852 P. S. G. Ten Broeck assistant surgeon United States army stationed in New Mexico made several journeys among the Moqui Pueblos and Navajos. In March 1852 he visited the Moquis of which visit he writes as follows:

March 31 1852.

Between 11 and 19 o’clock today we arrived at the first towns of Maqui [Moqui]. All the inhabitants turned out crowding the streets and house tops to have a view of the white men. All the old men pressed forward to shake hands with us and we were most hospitably received and conducted to the governor’s house, where we were at once feasted upon guavas and a leg of mutton broiled upon the coals. After the feast we smoked with them and they then said that we should move our camp in, and that they would give us room and plenty of wood for the men and sell us corn for the animals. Accordingly a Maqui [Moqui] Indian was dispatched with a note to the sergeant ordering him to break up camp and move up town. The Indian left on foot at 12:30 p m., and although it took an hour to catch the mules and pack up, the men arrived and were in their quarters by 6 p. in. The camp was about 8.5 miles from the village. He could not have been more than an hour in going there, but they were accustomed to running from their infancy and have great bottom. This evening we bought sufficient corn for the mules at $5 per faneja (2.5 bushels), paying in bayjeta or red cloth, and they are now enjoying their first hearty meal for many days. The 3 villages here [Walpi, Sichumnavi and Towa] are situated on a strong bluff about 300 feet high, and from 30 to 150 feet wide, which is approached by a trail passable for horses at only one point. This is very steep and an hour’s work in throwing down the stones with which it is in many places built up could render it utterly inaccessible to horsemen. At all other points they have constructed footpaths, steps etc. by which they pass up and down. The side of the rock is not perfectly perpendicular, but after a sheer descent of 60 or 70 feet there are ledges front 5 to 8 yards wide, on which they have established their sheepfolds. The bluff is about 800 yards long and the towns are some 150 yards apart. That upon the southern part contains fully as many inhabitants as both the others, and the houses are larger and higher; horses can not reach it as the rock is much broken up between it and the second town.

The houses are built of stone laid in mud (which mast have been brought from the plain below as there is not it particle of soil upon the rock), and in the same form as those of the other pueblos. They are however by far the poorest I have seen. The stories are but a little over 6 feet high and scarcely any of the houses can boast of doors or windows. The rafters are small poles of piñon 7 feet with center pole and supporting posts running lengthwise through the building. Over these, and at right angles with smaller ones, poles covered with rushes are placed, and a coating of mud over all forms the roof. They are whitewashed inside with white clay. Hanging by strings from the rafters I saw some curious and rather horrible little Aztec images made of wood or clay, and decorated with paint and feathers, which the guide told me were “saints”; but I have seen the children playing with them in the most irreverent manner. The houses are entered by means of ladders as in the other pueblos. The bluff runs nearly north and south, inclining a very little to the northwest. When a quarter of a mile from its foot, it is impossible for a stranger to distinguish the town, as from the little wood used there is no smoke perceptible, and the houses look exactly like the piles of rocks to be seen on any of the neighboring mesas, and I did not know where the Moqui was until fairly on the top of the ridge and just entering Haruo [Towa] the first town which is situated on the north end.

There is a mountain in the plain southwest front Moqui, which is covered with perpetual snow and called by the Navajos Cierra. Natary the chief mountain”.

When there is great drought in the valley the Moqui go in procession to a large spring in the mountain for water and they affirm that after doing so they always have plenty of rain.

There is no running stream near here and they obtain all their water from a small spring near the eastern base of the mountain or rather bluff. They do not irrigate nor do they plow as they have no cattle and I have not seen 10 horses or smiles about the place. The valley is most miserably poor but there are thousands of acres in it. They plant in the sand.

April 1.

At Sickmunari [Sichumnavi] the middle town of the first mesa I was awakened at midnight by the Indians who were singing and dancing in the plaza for some hours doubtless in preparation for today. I have been trading today with Moquis Navajos and Payoches [Pai Utes] and going now and then to look at the dancing in the plaza just behind us, which they tell me is a religious ceremony to bring on rain.

The dance today has been a most singular one, and differs from any I have ever seen among the Pueblo Indians, the dresses of the performers being more quaint and rich. ‘Mere were 20 men and as many women ranged in two files. The dresses of the men were similar to those I have described at Laguna during the Christmas holidays, except that they wear on their heads large pasteboard [wooden] towers, painted typically and curiously decorated with feathers, and each man has his face entirely covered by a visor made of small willows with the bark peeled off, and dyed a deep brown. They all carry in their hands gourds filled with small pebbles, which are rattled to keep time with the dancing. The women all have their hair put up in the manner peculiar to virgins, and immediately in the center where the hair is parted a long straight eagle feather is fixed. They are also adorned with turkey and eagle feathers, in much the same way as the malinchi of the Lagunians. But by far the most beautiful part of their dress is a talma of some 3.5 feet square, which is thrown over the shoulders fastened in front and hanging down behind, reaches halfway below the knee. This talma pure white; its materials I should suppose to be cotton or wool; its texture is very fine and has one or more wide borders of beautiful colors, exceedingly well wrought in and of curious patterns. The women also wear visors of willow sticks, which are colored a bright yellow, and arranged in parallel rows like pandean pipes. On each side of the files is placed a small boy, who dances or capers up and down the line, and is most accurately modeled after the popular representation of his satanic majesty’s imps. With the exception of a very short fringed tunic, reaching just below the hip joint and a broad sash fastened around the waist, the boy is entirely naked. On his head he wears a thing like a sugar loaf painted black which passes over the whole head and rests upon his shoulders. Around the bottom of this encircling his neck is a wreath made of twigs from the spruce tree, and on the top are fixed 2 long feathers which much resemble horns, and are kept in their places by is connecting string. The whole body is painted black, relieved by white rings placed at regular intervals over the whole person. The appearance of these little imps as they gamboled along the line of dancers was most amusing. They had neither a tombe accompaniment nor a band of singers; but the dancers furnished their own music, and a most strange sound it was, resembling very much the noise on a large scale, of a swarm of bluebottle flies in an empty hogshead.

Each one was rolling out an aw, aw, aw, aw in a deep bass tone and the sound coming through a hallow visor produced the effect described. The flatten wits a most monotonous one the dancers remaining in the same place and alternately lifting their feet in time to the song and; gourds. The only change of position was an occasional “about face”. When they first came in 2 old men who acted as masters of ceremonies. Went along the whole line and with a powder held between the thumb and forefinger anointed each dancer on the shoulder. After dancing a while in the mode described above the ranks were opened, and rugs and blankets being brought and spread upon the ground the virgins squatted on them while the men kept up a kind of mumming dance in front. Every third or fourth female had at this time a large hollow gourd placed before her on which rested a grooved piece of wood shaped like an old fashioned washboard; and by drawing the dry shoulder blade of it sheep rapidly across this a sound was produced similar to that of a watchman’s rattle. After performing the same dance on each side of the plaza they left to return again in about 15 minutes and thus they kept it up from sunrise till dark when the dancing ceased.

As appendages to the feast they had clowns who served as messengers and waiters and also to amuse the spectators while the dancers were away. The first hatch consisted of 6 or 8 young men in breech clouts having some comical daubs of paint on their faces and persons with wigs made of black sheepskins. Some wore rams’ horns on their heads and were amusing themselves by attempts at dancing singing and running races when they were attacked by a huge grizzly bear (or rather a fellow in the skin of one) which after a long pursuit and many hard fights they brought to bay and killed. They then immediately opened him and took from out his body a quantity of guavas green corn etc. which his bear ship had undoubtedly appropriated from the refreshments provided for the clowns; but no sooner had they disposed of bruin than a new trouble came upon them in the shape of 2 ugly little imps who prowling about took every opportunity to annoy them, and when by dint of great perseverance they succeeded in freeing themselves from these misshapen brats, in rushed 8 or 10 most horrible looking figures (in masks) all armed with whips which they did not for a moment hesitate to apply most liberally to any of the poor clowns who were so unlucky as to fall into their clutches. They even tied some hand and foot and laid them out in the plaza.

It seamed they were of the same race as the imps and came to avenge the treatment they had received at the bands of the clowns; for the “limbs of satan” returned almost immediately and took an active part in their capture and in superintending the flagellating operations. Such horrible masks I never saw before noses 6 inches long, mouths from ear to ear, and great goggle eyes as big as half a hen’s egg, hanging by a string partly out of the socket. They came and vanished like a dream and only staying long enough to inflict a signal chastisement on the unfortunate clowns, who however soon regained their wanted spirits after their tormentors left, and for the rest of the day had the field to themselves. The simple Indians appeared highly delighted by these performances and I must avow having had many a hearty laugh at their whimsicalities.

While the dances were going on large baskets filled with guavas of different forms and. Colors, roasted ears of corn bread meat and other eatables were brought in and distributed by the virgins among the spectators. The old governor tells me this evening that it is contrary to their usages to permit the females to dance and that those whom I supposed to be young virgins were in fact young men dressed in female apparel for the occasion. This is a custom peculiar to the Moquis I think for in all the other pueblos I visited the women danced.”

We seated ourselves with the governor and other principal men smoked and had our “big talk” obtaining from them as much information as possible relative to their history, customs, origin, religion, crops etc. The principal rider was present.

This government is hereditary but does not necessarily descend to the sons of the incumbent for if the people prefer any other blood relation he is chosen.

The population of the 7 villages I should estimate at 8,000 of which one-half is found in the first 3. (a) They say that of late years wars and disease have greatly decreased their numbers. They spoke of fevers and disease which I supposed to be phthisic and pertussis. They observe no particular burial rites. They believe in the existence of a Great Father who lives where the sun rises and a Great Mother who lives where the sun sets. The bust is the author of all the evils that befall them as war pestilence famine etc.; and the Great Mother is the very reverse of this and from her are derived the blessings they enjoy: fertilizing showers etc.

In the course of the “talk” the principal governor made a speech in which he said: Now we all know that it is good the Americans have come among us for our Great Father who lives where the sun rises is pacified and our Great Mother who lives where the sun sets is smiling and in token of her approbation sends fertilizing showers (it was snowing at the time) which will enrich our fields and enable us to raise the harvest whereby we subsist”. They say it generally rains this time of the year. Of their origin they give the following account:

“Many many years ago their Great Mother brought from her home in the west 9 races of men, in the following forms: first the deer race; second the sand race; third the water race; fourth; the bear race; fifth the hare race; sixth the prairie wolf race; seventh the rattlesnake race; eighth the tobacco plant race; ninth the reed grass race. Having placed them on the spot where their villages now stand she transformed them into men who built the present pueblos and the distinction of races is still kept up. One told me he was of the sand race another the deer etc. They are firm believers in metempsychosis and they say that when they die they will resolve into their original forms and become bears deer etc. again. The chief governor is of the deer race. Shortly after the pueblos were built the Great Mother came in person and brought them all the domestic animals they now have which are principally sheep and goats and a few very large donkeys.”

They have scarcely any horses and mules as there is no grass nearer than 6 miles from the rock and their frequent wars with the Navajos render it almost impossible to keep them. The snared fire is kept constantly burning by the old men and all I could glean from them was that some great misfortune would befall their people if they allowed it to be extinguished. They know nothing of Montezuma and have never had any Spanish or other missionaries among them. All the seeds they possess were brought from where the morning star rises. They plant in May or June and harvest in October and November. They do not plow or irrigate but put their seeds in the sand and depend upon the rains for water. They raise corn, melons, pumpkins, beans and onions also cotton of which I procured a specimen and a species of mongrel tobacco.

They have also a few peach trees and are the only Pueblo Indians who raise cotton. They have no small grain of any kind. They say they have known the Spaniards ever since they can remember. About 20 years ago a party of about 15 Americans the first they over saw came over the mountains and took the Zuni trail; 6 .years afterward another party with 4 females passed through. Their crop last year was very small and sometimes fails them entirely on account of the drought. For this reason they hoard up their corn and that sold its was 4 years old. Roasting ears hanging around the room are of the same age.

Their mode of marriage might well be introduced into the United States with the bloomer costume. Here instead of the swain asking the hand of the fair one she selects the young man who is to her fancy and then her father proposes the match to the she of the lucky youth. This proposition is never refused. The preliminaries being arranged the young num on his part furnishes 2 pairs of moccasins, 2 fine blankets, 2 mattresses and 2 of the sashes used at the feast while the maiden for her share provides an abundance of eatables when the marriage is celebrated by feasting and dancing. Polygamy is unknown among them but at any time either party, if dissatisfied can be divorced and marry with another. If there are children they are taken care of by their respective grandparents. They are a simple happy and most hospitable people. The vice of intoxication is unknown among them, as they have no kind of fermented liquors. When a stranger visits one of their houses the first act is to set food before him and nothing is done “till he has eaten.”

In every village is one or more edifices (estufas) underground which one reaches by descending a ladder. They answer to our village groceries, being a place of general resort for the male population. I went into one of them and found it stifling hot, all the light and air coming through the scuttle above. In the center was a small square box, of stone, in which was a fire of guava bushes, and around this a few old men were smoking. All about the room were Indians (men) naked to the “breechclout”; some were engaged in sewing and others spinning and knitting. On a bench in the background sat a warrior, most extravagantly painted who was undoubtedly undergoing some ordeal as I was not allowed to approach him. They knit weave aril spin, as the other pueblos also make cotton fabrics.

Pipes belonging to the chief men are of peculiar shape and made of smooth polished stone. These pipes have been handed down from generation to generation and they say their pipes were found in their present form by their forefathers centuries ago in the water of a very deep ravine in a mountain to the west.

Their year is reckoned by 12 lunar months. They wear necklaces of very small seashells, ground flat (doubtless procured from California) which they say were brought to them by other Indians who lived over the western mountains, who claimed that they obtained them from 3 old men who never die. Several Navajos who were present at the conversation appeared perfectly friendly I saw to day a Navajo chief named Cavallada who has a paper from Governor Calhoun making him a chief.

The villages of the Moquis are 7 in number and more nearly correspond to the 7 cities of Cibola (spoken of by Mr. Gallatin in his letter to Lieutenant Emory, United States army, than any which have yet been discovered. They are situated in the same valley; they are upon the bluff. Oraivaz [Oraibi] called Musquin by the Mexicans is about 30 miles distant and almost due west from the bluff. There is another town at 20 miles west by south and 2 others about south-southwest and some 8 or 10 miles distant from the first 3. Of these the 2 at the southern extremity of the bluff are the largest containing probably 2,000 inhabitants. Oraivaz [Oraibi] is the second in size. The inhabitants all speak the same language except those of Harno [Tewa] the most northern town of the 3, which has a different language and some customs peculiar to itself. It is however considered one of the towns of the confederation and joins in all the feasts. It seems a very singular feet that being within 150 yards of the middle town; Hamm [Tewa] should have preserved for so long a period its own language and customs. The other Moquis say the inhabitants of this town have a great advantage over them as they perfectly understand the common language and none but the people of Harno [Tewa] understand their dialect. It is the smallest town of the 3. The dress of the men when abroad is similar to that of the other Pueblos but when at home they have a great fancy for going in “purls naturalibus” wearing nothing but the breechcloth and moccasins. If they slip out for a moment they perhaps throw a blanket over their shoulders. They dress their hair like the Lagunians. I was much amassed with one fellow who had a kind of full dress on. The coat was made of alternate pieces of red and blue cloth, with large bright buttons shoulder knots and tops of horsehair and with it battened up to the chin, and naught else on, he would strut about with as much self satisfaction as any Broadway dandy. He had obtained the coat from the Eutaws [Utes] of the Great Salt Lake who were here last fall. (The governor showed me a letter signed. by one Day an Indian agent and Brigham Young the Mormon governor which the Eutaws [Utes] had with them. This was their first visit but they are to return next fall.) The women are the prettiest squaws I have yet seen and very industrious. Their manner of dressing the hair is very pretty. While virgins, it is done up on each side of the head in two inverse rolls which bear some resemblance to the horns of the mountain sheep. After marriage they wear it in 2 large knots or braids on each side of the face. In the northern town they dress their hair differently the unmarried wearing all the hair long and in 2 large knots on each side of the face and after marriage parting it transversely from ear to ear and cutting or the front hair in a line with the eyebrows. These people make the same kind of pottery as the Zuñians and Lagunians ”

We started on our return to the Navajo country at 9 a. m. and were truly an hour getting down the trail, so slippery was it from the melting snow. We have had a very fair sample of the hospitality of these kind people today. As it was known that we were to depart this morning, woman after woman came to the house where we were stopping, each bringing us a basket either of corn meal or guavas that we might not suffer for food while on the road home. The governor killed a sheep and presented it to us. When we were fairly started and passing through the towns the women stood at the tops of the ladders with little baskets of corn meal urging us to take them.

History, Moqui,

Department of the Interior. Report on Indians Taxed and Indians not Taxed in the United States, Except Alaska at the Eleventh Census: 1890. Washington DC: Government Printing Office. 1894.

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