Archaeologist Julian Hayden’s account of traditional South Mountain ‘creation story’

Submitted by local resident, Tedy Rushton

In the 1930s Julian Hayden, an archaeologist who helped excavate and record Snaketown (the modern
name) on the Gila River south of Phoenix, was fortunate enough to record the traditional Pima “creation story” that includes the following accounts relating to what is now the Phoenix South Mountains:

“The child got up and came east. She settled and grew up somewhere
in Papago country. From then, whenever she found that there was a
baby at some place, she would go there and play very kindly with it,
take the baby home, and eat it up. All the people were afraid, so
they let her take their babies.

“She kept doing this and killed a lot of children, so the people
asked Siuuhu to do something to get rid of her. One man went to
Siuuhu’s house – – at that time he was near here at Ma-ha-duk (South

“When the man got to Siuuhu’s home, he asked if he knew that this
thing was going on, that something was eating the babies and
destroying a lot of children, amd he told Siuuhu that the people
wanted him to kill this thing. Siuuhu said, “Yes, I know, it’s ‘ho’ok
(some kind of evil witch). Tell them to gather a lot of wood, and
when the fourth day is up I will come over there.

“When the fourth day was up, and the sun went down, he came. He told
them to send one man to this evil person’s home and tell her that
Siuuhu was going to sing some songs. The man went to her house and
told her what Siuuhu said, and she said she doesn’t like that kind of
singing. The man went back and told Siuuhu that she would not come.

This man went over there three times and told her to come, but she
would not come. The fourth time he went there, the woman said that
she will come. This mean woman was very glad to go. She packed up
her dress made from human bones and put it on.

When the man came back to Siuuhu, he told him that she was coming.
Siuuhu went to work and made four cigarettes. One of them was called
‘chuna suk.’

Another [cigarette] was called ‘heo-ko-tatk,’ some kind of root to
make her weak. The third was some kind of tobacco that is a dope for
sleeping, and the fourth was a weed that grows in damp places, roots
of jimsonweed. He told the people that, when the woman came, he would
light one of the cigarettes, smoke it for awhile, then give it to the
woman to smoke. Then he sang.

The mean woman came. The first thing she did was to go and stand
beside Siuuhu and begin to dance. Siuuhu lit the first cigarette,
smoke it a little, and gave it to the old woman who smoked it,
breathed it in her breast, rubbed her breast with her hands,, and
said, “I’ll never get tired, I’ll dance all night.”

They passed this first cigarette around. The people, knowing what
was in it, pretended to smoke it but were not smoking it at all.
Siuuhu sang:

On top of this mountain (Mo-ha-duk)
I am singing . . .

The old woman was getting weaker all the time. She would open her
eyes and then close them again. Then Siuuhu sang the fourth song:

Old woman went to some singing
And fell asleep
And this old woman was sound asleep

When she was sound asleep they took her to a cave, laid her on her
back, and pulled wood into the door of the cave. They set fire to the
wood and burned her to death. From then on the children grew up and
the people lived happily for many years.”