J. H. (John Hanson) Beadle.

Western wilds and the men who redeem them : an authentic narrative embracing an account of seven years travel and adventure in the far West ... online

. (page 27 of 62)
Online LibraryJ. H. (John Hanson) BeadleWestern wilds and the men who redeem them : an authentic narrative embracing an account of seven years travel and adventure in the far West ... → online text (page 27 of 62)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

ancient streams, long since dry. It is the oldest country on earth, ex-
cept perhaps the " back-bone " of Central Africa ; natural convulsions
have slowly heaved it far above the region of abundant rains or
dews, and the great Colorado, with its affluents, has for ages been
slowly cutting deeper and deeper channels in the sandstone formation,
tapping the sources of the springs at lower points, and steadily suck-
ing the life out of its own basin. On the rocky hills are still some
fine forests; on the slopes the Indians find abundant bunch-grass and
wild sage for their hardy animals; and, at rare intervals, a hidden



valley is found, low enough to have a growing season without frost,
with water enough for irrigation, its soil the volcanic detritus of neigh-
boring hills, and of wonderful fertility. Perhaps one-fortieth of the
entire area is fit for agriculture.


Three races inhabit, this strange region. The white Americans of
both Territories number, perhaps, twenty thousand ; the Mexicans at
least a hundred thousand. The latter are the result of miscegenation
between the Spanish conquerors and the aborigines, the blood being


about half and half; but the aristocracy have more Spanish, tlie- peons
more Indian. The pure Indians of all the South-west are divided
in two general classes Pueblos and Nomads. The first are all
friendly, including the Zunis, Moquis, Teguas, Oraybes, Papagoes,
Pimos and Coco-Maricopas. Of the Nomads, the Navajoes are now
friendly, the Apaches and Comanches fiercely hostile, and the Utes a
little doubtful, but nominally peaceful. In the southern sections, the
San Francisco, White and Magollon Mountains and their spurs
break up the country into a thousand hidden valleys, in which the
murderous Apaches hide and graze their stock ; the few trails go twist-
ing through narrow canons, in which, at most unexpected places, the
savages let fly upon the unwary traveler a shower of poisoned arrows,-
and dreary intervals of desert separate the scant water-holes on which
the way-worn explorer must depend.

On the map Arizona appears to have abundance of water, but it is
an optical illusion. Nine-tenths of the so-called "rivers" are dry; in
the four hundred miles between Agua Azu and Lee's Ferry, on the
Colorado, I crossed eleven considerable river-beds, and saw running
water in but one place. The Colorado is barely navigable for part of
the year, and not far up, as Brigbam Young found to his cost when he'
built the Callville warehouses. The channel is crooked and changea-
ble below the canon, rocky and full of cataracts in the canon, shallow
and impassable above it. Practically it is useless above Fort Yuma.
For fifteen hundred miles it will float no boats ; there is no timber on
its banks that can be got at or is worth getting, no gold deposits in
its bars, no fish in it worth catching, no quarries along it that can be
utilized, and no land that can be cultivated. It is purely an orna-
mental stream.

Along the Gila (HeelaJi) live the semi-civilized Pimos, Maricopas
and Papagoes. They cultivate the earth with some skill, and produce
abundance of wheat, corn, pumpkins and melons. Like all the Pu-
eblos the men are scrupulously holiest the women virtuous to a most
un-Indian degree. They are well supplied with horses, cattle, sheep
and goats, are exposed to Apache raids, and freely join with the
whites in fighting the latter. The Papagoes took a very prominent
part in the notorious Camp Grant massacre. At first these Indians
were delighted at the coming of the whites ; now they are sullen and
uncommunicative, saying tha t t the agents have defrauded them and
tried to debauch their women. Probably correct.

The nomadic tribes, except the Navajoes, are dying off at a very
satisfactory rate. The Yavapais have four natural deaths to one



birth. One-tenth of the Mohaves have died annually for some years.
It is rare to see one of this tribe entirely free from the scrofulous
taint. The whole Apache race numbers less than 7,000 ; 2,000 war-
riors is the utmost they can raise. Forty years ago they numbered


25,000, and could easily collect 4,000 warriors for a grand raid into
Mexico. But they are incurably wild, and often hunted like wild
beasts. For the most part they attack white men at sight, and many
are the fearful tragedies enacted in these wilds. When an Apache is
killed, the white settlers, in gleeful sarcasm of Collyer and other " hu-
manitarians," speak of him as "converted," or "civilized on the spot."


Among the Arizona Indians there are no strong tribal organiza-
tions, and no men of much influence. The hostile parties are not
made up from any one clique or small settlement, nor do the members
join at the command of a chief; but some ambitious leader sends
word that he will start on a raict, and invites the braves of the vicin-
ity to join. It is therefore impossible to govern the tribes through
the chiefs in the manner practiced east of the IWky Mountains.

To all these remarks the Navajoes constitute an encouraging ex-
ception. They are the original Romans of New Mexico. Spanish
accounts say that at the Conquest a branch of the ancient Mexican
Indians, disdaining to submit, took refuge in the hidden valleys and
on the inaccessible plateaus of the Sierra Madre ; there.they joined a
wild tribe of the Athabascan stock, and from the union of the two
sprang the present Navajoes. Kindred, on the Athabascan side, of the
Shoshonees, Comanches, Apaches and Arapahoes, they have all the
bravery and best qualities of the wild tribes, while from the old Aztec
or Toltec blood they inherit a peculiar civilization, fair habits of in-
dustry and thrift, and something like a spirit of progress. For two
hundred years they carried on almost perpetual war with the Span-
iards ; then a sort of peace was patched up and continued till the
Americans got control of the country, and established agencies. Then
war followed, of course. It lasted seven years, and did not end till
General W. H. Carleton, in 1863-'64, had destroyed all their or-
chards and corn-fields, killed their sheep and goats, and literally starved
them out.

Barboncito, their great chief, a born diplomat, succeeded in 1868
in making a very advantageous treaty with General Sherman; and
since then the tribe has slowly built up again. Before the war they
numbered 12,000, and it is claimed they owned over a million sheep
and goats, and at least 30,000 horses. Even now there are few adults
in the tribe who do not own one or more horses each. Ganado
Mncho ("Big Herd"), a prominent chief, owns four hundred. In

1870 they began farming under direction of the agent, but so far it
has not been much of an improvement on their own system. In

1871 they planted extensively, and had a young orchard growing
finely, when, on the night of May 31st. a storm of sleet killed every
tree. The seeds furnished by the department were utterly unsuited
to this altitude, and they have returned to their old system. The
country appears to get dryer year by year. It is a pity they could
not be transferred en masse to the Indian Territory.

They work in iron, wool and leather; but to no great extent, ex-



cept in the second. Of this they make blankets, which are the
wonder of all who see them. The loom is rude and primitive, con-
sisting only of beams to which two sticks are lashed; on these the
warp, or " chain," is stretched very tight, the two sets of strands
crossing in the middle. This, with two loose sticks, dividing the
" chain," and a curved board, looking like a barrel stave with the
edges rounded, constitute the entire loom. The squaw sits before this


with her balls of yarn for " filling" conveniently arranged, works
them through the strands, and beats them firmly together with the
loose board, running it in between the strands with singular dexterity.
The woolen yarn for "filling" is made from their own sheep, gen-
erally, and is of three colors black, white and red, from native col-
oring. Running these together by turns, with nimble fingers, the
squaw brings out on the blanket squares, diamonds, circles and fanci-
ful curves, and flowers of three colors, with a skill which is simply
amazing. Two months are required to complete an ordinary blanket,
five feet wide and eight long, which sells at from fifteen to fifty dol-
lars, according to the style of materials. At the Fort, officers who


wish an unusually fine article, furnish both "chain" and "filling,"
but those entirely of Navajo make are very .fine. One will outlast
a life-time ; and though rolled in the mud, or daubed with grease for
months or years, till every vestige of color seems gone, when washed
with the soap-weed (mole cactus) the bright native colors come out as
beautiful as ever.

They also manufacture, with beads and silk threads obtained
from the traders, very beautiful neck-ties, ribbons, garters, cuffs
and other ornaments. More interesting to me than any of their
handicraft, is the unwearying patience they display in all their work,
and their zeal and quickness to learn in every thing which may im-
prove their condition. Officers and agents universally tell me that
Navajoes work alongside of any employes they can get, and do full
work. They dig ditches and make embankments with great skill,
handling the spade as well as any Irishman. Surely such a people
are capable of civilization.

Mrs. Charity Menaul, teacher at Defiance, reported considerable
progress among the Navajoes under her charge. I found the older
people curious to learn about our customs, and very communicative
as to their own, though like all barbarians a little reticent as to their
theology. Their religion, or superstition, is vague ; there is a differ-
ence on minor points between the bands, though some ideas are com-
mon. Chinday, the devil, is a more important personage in their
system than Whylohay, the god; as, like the Mormons and many
other white schismatics, they charge all they don't like in other people
to the direct personal agency of the devil. About the only use, in
fact, of their god, is to lay plans to outwit the devil. Their moral
code is extremely vague : whatever is good for the tribe is in general
right; whatever is not pro bono publico is wrong. Cowards after
death will become coyotes, while braves will continue men in a better
country. Women will change to fish for awhile, and afterwards to
something else. But they don't trouble themselves much about the
next world. If they had plenty in this, they would consider them-
selves in luck.

On minor points there are as many sects as in Boston. The general
belief is this: there is one Great Spirit; under him each people has
its own god. The god of the Melicanoes is very good to them ; they
have corn and horses, blankets and much chinneahgo. But it is use-
less for Navajoes to pray to him. Each cares for his own. The coy-
ote will not take up the children of the rattlesnake ; the eagle will
not give his meat to the young hawks. It is light, it is nature.


Whylohay (a female, by the way) made the Navajoes in the San Juan
Valley; they were rich, and had abundance of all things. But one
night Chinday dammed the San Juan, and drowned them all. Besides
the fish, only two creatures escaped; the snake swam ashore and the
turkey flew up to a peak in Colorado. The goddess made the turkey
into another man, and made a woman from a fish, and from these two
are descended all the present Navajoes. However, this may be only
an allegorical statement of the general masculine belief that the sex
divine are inclined to be slippery and hard to catch.

Women after death change to fish for awhile ; after that their des-
tiny seems unsettled. Because of this, Navajoes cat neither fish nor
turkeys. The snake is the only animal that knows any thing about
what took place in the first creation. Hence, Navajoes seldom or
never kill one. From other fish Whylohay recreated the animal
kingdom. The turkey was made from a fish in a lake covered with
foam, which lodged on his tail as he swam ashore-; hence, the white
feathers in the turkey's tail. White men after death go up into the
air; Navajoes go down through Bat Canon and into the earth.
Thence they come out a long way west, on the edge of a great water.
The shore is guarded by terrible evil spirits in the form of men, but
with great ears reaching from above their heads to the ground. When
asleep, they lie on one ear and cover with the other. Whether they
ever " walk off on their ear," the old men could not inform me.
Only half of them sleep at a time, and the Navajo has to fight his
way through them. If he is brave, and has treated his women well,
he gets through ; then the goddess takes him across the water. There,
like the white man, they stop; from that country no one has ever
come back, to say what is there, or tell us about the climate.

Their women are often quite handsome; but like barbarian
races generally, they sell their daughters in marriage. Common to
average can be had for property to the value of $25 ; prime to fine
for $50; while young and extra go at $60, the standard price of the
Navajo speckled pony. While in Canon de Chelley, I was offered a,
beautiful Miss of fifteen for $60, or the horse I was riding. Perhaps
I should have closed with the offer it is so much cheaper than one
can get a wife in the States. Two months vigorous courting will cost
more than that particularly in the ice-cream season.

The men do the hardest work, in the fields and on the chase; to
the women is left the weaving, household" work, tending the herds
and grinding. The last is done with the mitata consisting of two
flat stones, the lower stationary, the upper rubbed upon it with the


band, the result being a pasty flour. Of this and water they make
a mixture no thicker than starch, which they cook on hot stones.
The fire is built in a small hole, on which is placed the flat stone, no
more than an inch thick; when sufficiently hot, the squaw thrusts her
hand into the starchy solution, and rapidly draws a handful, which
she spreads upon the stone. In a half-minute it is cooked in the
form of a brown wafer, no thicker than card board. Another and
another follows till they have a layer some inches thick, which is
rolled up conveniently for carrying.

They are the only wild tribe I know who do not scalp dead ene-
mies. They never had that practice. In fact, they never touch a
dead body, even of their own people. Each hogan is so constructed
that the weight rests mostly on two main beams. When one .dies in
a hogan, they loosen these two outside, and let it drop upon him. If
one dies on the plain, they pile enough stones upon him to keep oif
the coyotes, but never touch the body. This observance is a serious
drawback in one respect: it prevents them from building permanent
dwellings. It is said to be a part of their religion, but I apprehend
it originated during some plague, when contagion resulted from touch-
ing the dead.

One surprising fact to me was that an Indian would sunburn by
exposure as readily as a white man. But many of our current notions
about the Indian are erroneous. For instance, it is a great mistake
to suppose they can travel so long without eating. They know the
country, and what roots are nourishing or poisonous. In many places
over this section between the two Coloradoes grows a species of milky
weed, with tough, stringy root, in taste resembling the "sweet hick-
ory " the boys use to pull and chew, along the Wabash. The Nava-
joes cook this in boiled milk, or with bacon when at home, and on
journeys without supplies take it raw. They get poor as snakes on
such food ; but it does keep soul and body together for awhile, and
prevent the deadly faintness resulting from complete fasting. But
they endure thirst much better than we, and for obvious reasons.
Their food contains no salt, their bread no chemicals ; they rarely get
intoxicating liquors, and use very little tobacco. With unsalted bread,
a scant indulgence in bacon, and coffee night and morning, I soon
found I could go half a day without water with no inconvenience
whatever. I also tried the practice of riding bareheaded, and found
that an easy accomplishment. In short, though it takes forty years
to civilize an Indian, I am positive a well-disposed white man could
ffo wild in six months.


The origin of the venereal poison is a subject much discussed by the
Indians. Most of them assert that they had none of it till the Meli-
canoes came, but the old men admitted that cases were introduced,
many years ago, from Mexico. The Coyotero, White Mountain and
Mogollon Apaches have never had a case of it. If one of their
women offend with a white man, her nose and ears are cut off, and she
is made a slave. The Moquis appeared quite ignorant of the exist-
ence of such a disease. The Tabequache Utes have a woman publicly
whipped for infidelity with whites. If she be found diseased, she is
forthwith lanced and her body burned. This savage quarantine has
effectually preserved the tribe, and I supposed at first it was for that
purpose ; but the Navajo old men asserted that it was rather as an act
of mercy to the woman. The Mohaves are perishing rapidly from this
scourge. The Navajoes claim that there is now very little of it among
them, and that they treat it successfully. To sum up on my Xavajo
friends: they are the only Indians in whom I could ever take much
interest, and I am confident they can be civilized, and that the "hu-
manitarian policy" will be a success as applied to them.

I stop four days with the Moquis ; I should need six months to
learn all that is interesting in their mode of life, theology and social
organization. They are aboriginal Quakers; live at peace with all
men, and have a horror of shedding blood. As a natural consequence
they have retreated from the open country, and now occupy this
rocky mole, safe from the hostility of mounted Indians. Who are
they? Well, this is one of those things no fellow can find out. The
conundrum must be referred to that large class relative to the Mound-
Builders and other prehistoric races of America; for it is self evident
that the semi-civilized Indians of the South-west are but the feeble
remnants of a long series of races.

The three towns on this mesa contain about a thousand inhabitants ;
and are known as Moqui, Tegua, and Moquina. (Mokee, Taioah, and
Mokeena.) A little way westward are four other towns of the same
race: Hualpec, Shepalawa, Oraybe, and Beowawa. (Wattpake, She-
palawa, Orybay, and Baowahwa.') The total population is about three
thousand. Their houses are of good architectural design, built of flat
stones laid in white cement, plastered neatly inside, and whitewashed
with a material which gives a hard, smooth polish. The lower story
is not as high as a man ; but that they occupy only in winter. On
this the second story rises ten or twelve feet, seldom more than half
as wide as the lower, leaving a broad margin on which they usually
sleep. The first story has no doors and very small windows; they


ascend to the second by a rude ladder or stone stairway at the corner.
The better class have carpets of sheep-skin, and all have them to sit
on ; the climate is too dry for mold, and I found the residences very

The people are exceedingly kind and communicative. When the
novelty of my appearance had worn away a little, and I could walk
about town without a wondering crowd after me, I rarely turned
toward a house -without receiving the welcome wave of the hand to
the lips and breast, with the words, "Ho, MeUcano, messay to;" or
sometimes, as many know a few words of Spanish, "Entre: Pasar
adehmte." Then a boy or girl would run down the stone staircase,
and extend a hand to steady me in ascending. They took me into
every room in their houses, and seemed to take a pride in exhibiting
their best specimens of pottery, wicker-jugs, and other property. Of
their children they were particularly demonstrative ; and, indeed, they
looked well enough. I did not, in all the towns, see a single birth-
mark, blotch, or deformity, except albinism. Children of both sexes
go entirely naked till about the age of ten years. I noted one curious
fact : the little ones seemed almost as white as American children,
till the age of six months or a year ; then they began to turn darker,
and at ten or twelve had attained to a rich mahogany color. They
play for hours along these cliffs, chasing each other from rock to rock
at that dizzy height, and yet the parents seemed surprised when I
asked if accidents did not happen.

Their mode of living is very simple, and I happened upon a time
of unusual scarcity. The general drought of the past three years had
cut off their crops. As often as Chino, the Capitan of this mesa,
visited me, I had presented him a tin of warm, sweetened coffee, of
which they are very fond, and which was the only thing I could
spare; and had partaken Of parched corn with him the evening of my
arrival, when I received a special invitation to dine with him " the
day before I left." (People with weak stomachs may skip the next

They breakfast early, and dine between 11 and 12. Besides Misi-
amtewah, a sort of official interpreter, there is another Moqui, who
speaks Spanish tolerably well, having been a year in Tucson and Pres-
cott; and both were at dinner with us. We sat upon sheep-skins on
the floor, in a circle around the earthen bowls, in which the food was
placed. The staple was a thick corn mush, which to me was rather
tasteless for the want of salt. The regular bread of the Moquis is a
decided curiosity. The wheat is ground with mitats, as by the Nava-


joes, but much finer, six or seven women grinding together, reducing
the flour to the merest dust. It is then mixed as thin as milk ; the
woman cooking dashes a handful on the hot stone, where it cooks al-
most instantly, and conies off no thicker than paper, and of a bright
blue color. The flakes are about two feet long, and as they are
stacked two or three feet deep on the platter, look remarkably like a
pile of blue silk. They raise white, blue, and red corn ; and by va-
rious mixtures produce bread of seven different colors. They are not
as clean in their cooking as the Navajoes, and it is hinted that they
sometimes mix their meal with chamber-lye for these feslive occa-
sions ; but I did not know that till I talked with Mormons who had
visited them.

The piece de resistance was the hinder half of a very fat young dog,
well cooked, that animal being the favorite food of the Moquis. It is
subject to greater extremes than beef; the meat of an old, lean dog is
very tough, and that of a fat, young puppy, very tender. I took from
my own store a box of sardines, and Misiamtewah was prevailed upon
to eat one ; but Chino and the rest rejected them with horror.
There's gastronomic prejudice for you! This man is sweet on dog,
and rejects a sardine with abhorrence. My Eastern friends take sar-
dines with avidity, but their gorge rises at the thought of dog, while
my catholic stomach takes dog and sardine with equal impartiality.
Parched corn completed the bill of fare, with beverage of goat's milk.
Both the Moquis and Navajoes never use it until heated almost to the
boiling point ; but after one cup of this, I requested and was served
with mine cold. The stove, ingeniously constructed of flat stones, is
either on the ground just beside the door, or on the roof, of the first
story, by the door of the second.

With my Navajo guide and Chino's son, we formed a very pleasant
party of six, and had quite a social time. The second interpreter
informed me that he went to Prescott with Melicanoes and Mesh-
icanoes, and that they named him it was probably in sport
Jesus Papa (Hay-soos Pahpah.) He was much more communicative
than Misiamtewah, and had a very fair idea of the Americans. To
these simple people I represented in person all the dignity of that
great nation, of whom such wonderful reports had reached them.
And here I must own to a little deceit. They were at first very in-
quisitive as to my business, and could not imagine why a white man
should be making such a long trip with only Indians for companions.
Savage people can rarely understand that intelligent curiosity which

Online LibraryJ. H. (John Hanson) BeadleWestern wilds and the men who redeem them : an authentic narrative embracing an account of seven years travel and adventure in the far West ... → online text (page 27 of 62)