Read CHAPTER XIV of Through Our Unknown Southwest , free online book, by Agnes C. Laut, on


If someone should tell you of a second Grand Canyon gashed through wine-colored rocks in the purple light peculiar to the uplands of very high mountains-a second Grand Canyon, where lived a race of little men not three feet tall, where wild turkeys were domesticated as household birds and every man’s door was in the roof and his doorstep a ladder that he carried up after him-you would think it pure imagination, wouldn’t you? The Lilliputians away out in “Gulliver’s Travels,” or something like that? And if your narrator went on about magicians who danced with live rattlesnakes hanging from their teeth and belted about their waists, and played with live fire without being burned, and walked up the faces of precipices as a fly walks up a wall-you would think him rehearsing some Robinson Crusoe tale about two generations too late to be believed.

Yet there is a second Grand Canyon not a stone’s throw from everyday tourist travel, wilder in game life and rock formation if not so large, with prehistoric caves on its precipice walls where sleeps a race of little mummied men behind doors and windows barely large enough to admit a half-grown white child. Who were they? No one knows. When did they live? So long ago that they were cave men, stone age men; so long ago that neither history nor tradition has the faintest echo of their existence. Where did they live? No, it was not Europe, Asia, Africa or Australia. If it were, we would know about them. As it happens, this second Grand Canyon is only in plain, nearby, home-staying America; so when boys of the Forest Service pulled Little Zeke out of his gypsum and pumice stone dust and measured him up and found him only twenty-three inches long, though the hair sticking to the skull was gray and the teeth were those of an adult-as it happened in only matter-of-fact, commonplace America, poor Little Zeke couldn’t get shelter. They trounced his little dry bones round Silver City, New Mexico, for a few months. Then they boxed him up and shipped him away to be stored out of sight in the cellars of the Smithsonian, at Washington. As Zeke has been asleep since the Ice Age, or about ten to eight thousand years B. C., it doesn’t make very much difference to him; but one wonders what in the world New Mexico was doing allowing one of the most wonderful specimens of a prehistoric dwarf race ever found to be shipped out of the country.

It was in the Gila Canyon that the Forestry Service boys found him. By some chance, they at once dubbed the little mummy “Zeke.” The Gila is a typical box-canyon, walled as a tunnel, colored in fire tints like the Grand Canyon, literally terraced and honeycombed with the cave dwellings of a prehistoric race. It lies some fifty miles as the crow flies from Silver City; but the way the crow flies and the way man travels are an altogether different story in the wild lands of the Gila Mountains. You’ll have to make the most of the way on horseback with tents for hotels, or better still the stars for a roof. Besides, what does it matter when or how the little scrub of a twenty-three-inch man lived anyway? We moderns of evolutionary smattering have our own ideas of how cave men dwelt; and we don’t want those ideas disturbed. The cave men-ask Jack London if you don’t believe it-were hairy monsters, not quite tailless, just cotton-tail-rabbity in their caudal appendage-hairy monsters, who munched raw beef and dragged women by the hair of the head to pitch-black, dark as night, smoke-begrimed caves. That is the way they got their wives. (Perhaps, if Little Zeke could speak, he would think he ought to sue moderns for libel. He might think that our “blond-beast” theories are a reflex of our own civilization. He might smile through his grinning jaws.)

Anyway, there lies Little Zeke, a long time asleep, wrapped in cerements of fine woven cloth with fluffy-ruffles and fol-de-rols of woven blue jay and bluebird and hummingbird feathers round his neck. Zeke’s people understood weaving. Also Zeke wears on his feet sandals of yucca fiber and matting. I don’t know what our ancestors wore-according to evolutionists, it may have been hair and monkey pads. So if you understood as much about Zeke’s history as you do about the Pyramids, you’d settle some of the biggest disputes in theology and ethnology and anthropology and a lot of other “ologies,” which have something more or less to do with the salvation and damnation of the soul.

How is it known that Zeke is a type of a race, and not a freak specimen of a dwarf? Because other like specimens have been found in the same area in the last ten years; and because the windows and the doors of the cave dwellings of the Gila would not admit anything but a dwarf race. They may not all have been twenty-four and thirty-six and forty inches; but no specimens the size of the mummies in other prehistoric dwellings have been found in the Gila. For instance, down at Casa Grande, they found skeletons buried in the gypsum dust of back chambers; but these skeletons were six-footers, and the roofs of the Casa Grande chambers were for tall men. Up in the Frijoles cave dwellings, they have dug out of the tufa dust of ten centuries bodies swathed in woven cloth; but these bodies are of a modern race five or six feet tall. You have only to look at Zeke to know that he is not, as we understand the word, an Indian. Was he an ancestor of the Aztecs or the Toltecs?

Though you cannot go out to the Gila by motor to a luxurious hotel, there are compensations. You will see a type of life unique and picturesque as in the Old World-countless flocks of sheep herded by soft-voiced péons. It is the only section yet left in the West where freighters with double teams and riders with bull whips wind in and out of the narrow canyons with their long lines of tented wagons. It is still a land where game is plentiful as in the old days, trout and turkey and grouse and deer and bear and mountain lion, and even bighorn, though the last named are under protection of closed season just now. I’m always afraid to tell an Easterner or town dweller of the hunt of these old trappers of the box canyons; but as many as thirteen bear have been killed on the Gila in three weeks. The altitude of the trail from Silver City to the Gila runs from 6,000 to 9,150 feet. When you have told that to a Westerner, you don’t need to tell anything else. It means burros for pack animals. In the Southwest it means forests of huge yellow pines, open upland like a park, warm, clear days, cool nights, and though in the desert, none of the heat nor the dust of the desert.

It is the ideal land for tuberculosis, though all invalids should be examined as to heart action before attempting any altitude over 4,000 feet. And the Southwest has worked out an ideal system of treatment for tuberculosis patients. They are no longer housed in stuffy hotels and air tight, super-heated sanitariums. Each sanitarium is now a tent city-portable houses or tents floored and boarded halfway up, with the upper half of the wall a curtain window, and a little stove in each tent. Each patient has, if he wants it, a little hospital all to himself. There is a central dining-room. There is also a dispensary. In some cases, there are church and amusement hall. Where means permit it, a family may have a little tent city all to itself; and they don’t call the tent city a sanitarium. They call it “Sun Mount,” or “Happy Canyon,” or some other such name. The percentage of recoveries is wonderful; but the point is, the invalids must come in time. Wherever you go along the borders of Old and New Mexico searching for prehistoric ruins, you come on these tent cities.

Where can one see these cliff and cave dwellings of a prehistoric dwarf? Please note the points. Cliff and cave dwellings are not the same. Cliff dwellings are houses made by building up the front of a natural arch. This front wall was either in stone or sun-baked adobe. Cave dwellings are houses hollowed out of the solid rock, a feat not so difficult as it sounds when you consider the rock is only soft pumice or tufa, that yields to scraping more readily than bath brick or soft lime. The cliff dwellings are usually only one story. The cave dwellings may run five stories up inside the rock, natural stone steps leading from tier to tier of the rooms, and tiny porthole windows looking down precipices 500 to 1,000 feet. The cliff dwellings are mostly entered by narrow trails leading along the ledge of a precipice sheer as a wall. The first story of the cave dwellings was entered by a light ladder, which the owner could draw up after him. Remember it was the Stone Age: no metals, no firearms, no battering rams, nor devices for throwing projectiles. A man with a rock in his hand in the doorway of either type of dwelling could swiftly and deftly and politely speed the parting guest with a brickbat on his head. Similar types of pottery and shell ornament are found in both sorts of dwellings; but I have never seen any cliff dwellings with evidences of such religious ceremony as in the cave houses. Perhaps the difference between cliff folk and cave folk would be best expressed by saying that the cliff people were to ancient life what the East Side is to us: the cave people what upper Fifth Avenue represents. One the riff-raff, the weak, the poor, driven to the wall; the other, the strong, the secure and defended.

You go to one section of ruins, and you come to certain definite conclusions. Then you go on to another group of ruins; and every one of your conclusions is reversed. For instance, what drove these races out? What utterly extinguished their civilization so that not a vestige, not an echo of a tradition exists of their history? Scientists go up to the Rio Grande in New Mexico, see evidence of ancient irrigation ditches, of receding springs and decreasing waters; and they at once pronounce-desiccation. The earth is burning up at the rate of an inch or two of water in a century; moisture is receding toward the Poles as it has in Mars, till Mars is mostly arid, sun-parched desert round its middle and ice round the Poles. Good! When you look down from the cliff dwellings of Walnut Canyon, near Flagstaff, that explanation seems to hold good. There certainly must have been water once at the bottom of this rocky box-canyon. When the water sank below the level of the springs, the people had to move out. Very well! You come on down to the cave dwellings of the Gila. The bottom falls out of your explanation, for there is a perpetual gush of water down these rock walls from unfailing mountain springs. Why, then, did the race of little people move out? What wiped them out? Why they moved in one can easily understand. The box canyons are so narrow that half a dozen pigmy boys deft with a sling and stones could keep out an army of enemies. The houses were so built that a child could defend the doorway with a club; and where the houses have long hallways and stairs as in Casa Grande, the passages are so narrow as to compel an enemy to wiggle sideways; and one can guess the inmates would not be idle while the venturesome intruder was wedging himself along. Also, the bottoms of these box-canyons afforded ideal corn fields. The central stream permitted easy irrigation on each side by tapping the waterfall higher up; and the wash of the silt of centuries ensured fertility to men, whose plowing must have been accomplished by the shoulder blade of a deer used as a hoe.

Modern pueblo Indians claim to be descendants of these prehistoric dwarf races. So are we descendants of Adam; but we don’t call him our uncle; and if he had a say, he might disown us. Anyway, how have modern descendants of the dwarf types developed into six-foot modern Pimas and Papagoes? It is said the Navajo and Apache came originally from Athabasca stock. Maybe; but the Pimas and Papagoes claim their Garden of Eden right in the Southwest. They call their Garden of Eden by the picturesque name of “Morning Glow.”

How reach the caves of the dwarf race?

To the Gila group, you must go by way of Silver City; and better go in with Forest Service men, for this is the Gila National Forest and the men know the trails. You will find ranch houses near, where you can secure board and room for from $1.50 to $2 a day. The “room” may be a boarded up tent; but that is all the better. Or you may take your own blanket and sleep in the caves. Perfectly safe-believe me, I have fared all these ways-when you have nearly broken your neck climbing up a precipice to a sheltered cave room, you need not fear being followed. The caves are clean as if kalsomined from centuries and centuries of wash and wind. You may hear the wolves bark-bark-bark under your pillowed doorway all night; but wolves don’t climb up 600-foot precipice walls. Also if it is cold in the caves, you will find in the corner of nearly all, a small, high fireplace, where the glow of a few burning juniper sticks will drive out the chill.

What did they eat and how did they live, these ancient people, who wore fine woven cloth at an era when Aryan races wore skins? Like all desert races, they were not great meat eaters; and the probabilities are that fish were tabooed. You find remains of game in the caves, but these are chiefly feather decorations, prayer plumes to waft petitions to the gods, or bones used as tools. On the other hand, there is abundance of dried corn in the caves, of gourds and squash seeds; and every cave has a metate, or grinding stone. In many of the caves, there are alcoves in the solid wall, where meal was stored; and of water jars, urns, ollas, there are remnants and whole pieces galore. It is thought these people used not only yucca fiber for weaving, but some species of hemp and cotton; for there are tatters and strips of what might have been cotton or linen. You see it wrapped round the bodies of the mummies and come on it in the accumulation of volcanic ash.

Near many of the ruins is a huge empty basin or pit, which must have been used as a reservoir in which waters were impounded during siege of war. Like conies of the rocks, or beehives of modern skyscrapers, these denizens lived. The most of the mummies have been found in sealed up chambers at the backs of the main houses; but these could hardly have been general burying places, for comparatively few mummies have yet been found. Who, then, were these dwarf mummies, placed in sealed vaults to the rear of the Gila caves? Perhaps a favorite father, brother, or sister; perhaps a governor of the tribe, who perished during siege and could not be taken out to the common burial ground.

Picture to yourself a precipice face from 300 to 700 feet high, literally punctured with tiny porthole windows and doll house open cave doors. It is sunset. The rocks of these box-canyons in the Southwest are of a peculiar wine-colored red and golden ocher, or else dead gray and gypsum white. Owing to the great altitude-some of the ruins are 9,000 feet above sea level, 1,000 above valley bottom-the atmosphere has that curious quality of splitting white light into its seven prismatic hues. Artists of the Southwestern School account for this by the fact of desert dust being a silt fine as flour, which acts like crystal or glass in splitting the rays of white light into its prismatic colors; but this hardly explains these high box-canyons, for there is no dust here. My own theory (please note, it is only a theory and may be quite wrong) is that the air is so rare at altitudes above 6,000 feet, so rare and pure that it splits light up, if not in seven prismatic colors, then in elementary colors that give the reds and purples and fire tints predominance. Anyway, at sunset and sunrise, these box-canyons literally swim in a glory of lavender and purple and fiery reds. You almost fancy it is a fire where you can dip your hand and not be burned; a sea in which spirits, not bodies, swim and move and have their being; a sea of fiery rainbow colors.

The sunset fades. The shadows come down like invisible wings. The twilight deepens. The stars prick through the indigo blue of a desert sky like lighted candles; and there flames up in the doorway of cavern window and door the deep red of juniper and cedar log glow in the fireplaces at the corner of each room. The mourning dove utters his plaintive wail. You hear the yap-yap of fox and coyote far up among the big timbers between you and the snows. Then a gong rings. (Gong? In a metal-less age? Yes, the gong is a flint bar struck by the priest with a bone clapper.) The dancers come down out of the caves to the dancing floors in the middle of the narrow canyon. You can see the dancing rings yet, where the feet of a thousand years have beaten the raw earth hard. Men only dance. These are not sex dances. They are dances of thanks to the gods for the harvest home of corn; or for victory. The gong ceases clapping. The campfires that scent the canyon with juniper smells, flicker and fade and die. The rhythmic beat of the feet that dance ceases and fades in the darkness.

That was ten thousand years agone. Where are the races that danced to the beat of the priest’s clapper gong?

I wakened one morning in one of the Frijoles caves to the mournful wail of the turtle dove; and there came back that old prophecy-it used to give me cold shivers down my spine as a child-that the habitat of the races who fear not God shall be the haunt of bittern and hoot owl and bat and fox.

I don’t know what reason there is for it, neither do the Indians of the Southwest know; but Casa Grande, the Great House, or the Place of the Morning Glow, is to them the Garden of Eden of their race traditions; the scene of their mythical “golden age,” when there were no Apaches raiding the crops, nor white men stealing land away; when life was a perpetual Happy Hunting Ground, only the hunters didn’t kill, and all animals could talk, and the Desert was an antelope plain knee-deep in pasturage and flowers, and the springs were all full of running water.

Casa Grande is undoubtedly the oldest of all the prehistoric ruins in the United States. It lies some eighteen to twenty-five miles, according to the road you follow, south of the station called by that name on the Southern Pacific Railroad. It isn’t supposed to rain in the desert after the two summer months, nor to blow dust storms after March; but it was blowing a dust storm to knock you off your feet when I reached Casa Grande early in October; and a day later the rain was falling in floods. The drive can be made with ease in an afternoon; but better give yourself two days, and stay out for a night at the tents of Mr. Pinkey, the Government Custodian of the ruins.

The ruin itself has been set aside as a perpetual monument. You drive out over a low mesa of rolling mesquite and greasewood and cactus, where the giant suaharo stands like a columned ghost of centuries of bygone ages.

“How old are they?” I asked my driver, as we passed a huge cactus high as a house and twisted in contortions as if in pain. From tip to root, the great trunk was literally pitted with the holes pecked through by little desert birds for water.

“Oh, centuries and centuries old,” he said; “and the queer part is that in this section of the mesa water is sixty feet below the surface. Their roots don’t go down sixty feet. Where do they get the water? I guess the bark acts as cement or rubber preventing evaporation. The spines keep the desert animals off, and during the rainy season the cactus drinks up all the water he’s going to need for the year, and stores it up in that big tank reservoir of his. But his time is up round these parts; settlers have homesteaded all round here for twenty-five miles, and next time you come back we’ll have orange groves and pecan orchards.”

Far as you could look were the little adobe houses and white tents of the pioneers, stretching barb wire lines round 160-acre patches of mesquite with a faith to put Moses to shame when he struck the rock for a spring. These settlers have to bore down the sixty feet to water level with very inadequate tools; and you see little burros chasing homemade windlasses round and round, to pump up water. It looks like “the faith that lays it down and dies.” Slow, hard sledding is this kind of farming, but it is this kind of dauntless faith that made Phoenix and made Yuma and made Imperial Valley. Twenty years ago, you could squat on Imperial Valley Land. To-day it costs $1,000 an acre and yields high percentage on that investment. To-day you can buy Casa Grande lands from $5 to $25 an acre. Wait till the water is turned in the ditch, and it will not seem such tedious work. If you want to know just how hard and lonely it is, drive past the homesteads just at nightfall as I did. The white tent stands in the middle of a barb wire fence strung along juniper poles and cedar shakes; no house, no stable, no buildings of any sort. The horses are staked out. A woman is cooking a meal above the chip fire. A lantern hangs on a bush in front of the tent flap. Miles ahead you see another lantern gleam and swing, and dimly discern the outlines of another tent-the homesteader’s nearest neighbor. Just now Casa Grande town boasts 400 people housed chiefly in one story adobe dwellings. Come in five years, and Casa Grande will be boasting her ten and twenty thousand people. Like mushrooms overnight, the little towns spring up on irrigation lands.

You catch the first glimpse of the ruins about eighteen miles out-a red roof put on by the Government, then a huge, square, four story mass of ruins surrounded by broken walls, with remnants of big elevated courtyards, and four or five other compounds the size of this central house, like the bastions at the four corners of a large, old-fashioned walled fort. The walls are adobe of tremendous thickness-six feet in the house or temple part, from one to three in the stockade-a thickness that in an age of only stone weapons must have been impenetrable. The doors are so very low as to compel a person of ordinary height to bend almost double to enter; and the supposition is this was to prevent the entrance of an enemy and give the doorkeeper a chance to eject unwelcome visitors. Once inside, the ceilings are high, timbered with vigas of cedar strengthened by heavier logs that must have been carried in a horseless age a hundred miles from the mountains. The house is laid out on rectangular lines, and the halls straight enough but so narrow as to compel passage sidewise. In every room is a feature that has puzzled scientists both here and in the cave dwellings. Doors were, of course, open squares off the halls or other rooms; but in addition to these openings, you will find close to the floor of each room, little round “cat holes,” one or two or three of them, big enough for a beam but without a beam. In the cave dwellings these little round holes through walls four or five feet thick are frequently on the side of the room opposite the fireplace. Fewkes and others think they may have been ventilator shafts to keep the smoke from blowing back in the room, but in Casa Grande they are in rooms where there is no fireplace. Others think they were whispering tubes, for use in time of war or religious ceremony; but in a house of open doors, would it not have been as simple to call through the opening? Yet another explanation is that they were for drainage purpose, the cave man’s first rude attempt at modern plumbing; but that explanation falls down, too; for these openings don’t drain in any regular direction. Such a structure as Casa Grande must have housed a whole tribe in time of religious festival or war; so you come back to the explanation of ventilator shafts.

The ceilings of Casa Grande are extraordinarily high; and bodies found buried in sealed up chambers behind the ruins of the other compounds are five or six feet long, showing this was no dwarf race. The rooms do not run off rectangular halls as our rooms do. You tumble down stone steps through a passage so narrow as to catch your shoulders into a room deep and narrow as a grave. Then you crack your head going up other steps off this room to another compartment. Bodies found at Casa Grande lie flat, headed to the east. Bodies found in the caves are trussed up knees to chin, but as usual the bodies found at Casa Grande have been shipped away East to be stored in cellars instead of being left carefully glassed over, where they were found.

Lower altitude, or the great age, or the quality of the clays, may account for the peculiarly rich shades of the pottery found at Casa Grande. The purples and reds and browns are tinged an almost iridescent green. Running back from the Great House is a heavy wall as of a former courtyard. Backing and flanking the walls appear to have been other houses, smaller but built in the same fashion as Casa Grande. Stand on these ruined walls, or in the doorway of the Great House, and you can see that five such big houses have once existed in this compound. Two or three curious features mark Casa Grande. Inside what must have been the main court of the compound are elevated earthen stages or platforms three to six feet high, solid mounds. Were these the foundations of other Great Houses, or platforms for the religious theatricals and cérémonials which enter so largely into the lives of Southwestern Indians? At one place is the dry bed of a very ancient reservoir; but how was water conveyed to this big community well? The river is two miles away, and no spring is visible here. Though you can see the footpath of sandaled feet worn in the very rocks of eternity, an irrigation ditch has not yet been located. This, however, proves nothing; for the sand storms of a single year would bury the springs four feet deep. A truer indication of the great age of the reservoir is the old tree growing up out of the center; and that brings up the question how we know the age of these ancient ruins-that is, the age within a hundred years or so. Ask settlers round how old Casa Grande is; and they will tell you five or six hundred years. Yet on the very face of things, Casa Grande must be thousands of years older than the other ruins of the Southwest.


First as to historic records: did Coronado see Casa Grande in 1540, when he marched north across the country? He records seeing an ancient Great House, where Indians dwelt. Bandelier, Fewkes and a dozen others who have identified his itinerary, say this was not Casa Grande. Even by 1540, Casa Grande was an abandoned ruin. Kino, the great Jesuit, was the first white man known to have visited the Great House; and he gathered the Pimas and Papagoes about and said mass there about 1694. What a weird scene it must have been-the Sacaton Mountains glimmering in the clear morning light; the shy Indians in gaudy tunics and yucca fiber pantaloons crowding sideways through the halls to watch what to them must have been the gorgeous vestments of the priest. Then followed the elevation of the host, the bowing of the heads, the raising of the standard of the Cross; and a new era, that has not boded well for the Pimas and Papagoes, was ushered in. Then the Indians scattered to their antelope plains and to the mountains; and the priest went on to the Mission of San Xavier del Bac.

The Jesuits suffered expulsion, and Garcez, the Franciscan, came in 1775, and also held mass in Casa Grande. Garcez says that it was a tradition among the Moki of the northern desert that they had originally come from the south, from the Morning Glow of Casa Grande, and that they had inhabited the box-canyons of the Gila in the days when they were “a little people.” This establishes Casa Grande as prior to the cave dwellings of the Gila or Frijoles; and the cave dwellings were practically contemporaneous with the Stone Age and the last centuries of the Ice Age. Now, the cave dwellings had been abandoned for centuries before the Spaniards came. This puts the cave age contemporaneous with or prior to the Christian era.

In the very center of the Casa Grande reservoir, across the doorways of caves in Frijoles Canyon, grew trees that have taken centuries to come to maturity.

The Indian tradition is that soon after a very great flood of turbulent waters, in the days when the Desert was knee-deep in grass, the Indian Gods came from the Underworld to dwell in Casa Grande. (Not so very different from theories of evolution and transmigration, is it?) The people waxed so numerous that they split off in two great families. One migrated to the south-the Pimas, the Papagoes, the Maricopas; the others crossed the mountains to the north-the Zunis, the Mokis, the Hopis.

Yet another proof of the great antiquity is in the language. Between Papago and Moki tongue is not the faintest resemblance. Now if you trace the English language back to the days of Chaucer, you know that it is still English. If you trace it back to 55 B. C. when the Roman and Saxon conquerors came, there are still words you recognize-thane, serf, Thor, Woden, moors, borough, etc. That is, you can trace resemblances in language back 1,900 years. You find no similarity in dialects between Pima and Moki, and very few similarities in physical conformation. The only likenesses are in types of structure in ancient houses, and in arts and crafts. Both people build tiered houses. Both people make wonderful pottery and are fine weavers, Moki of blankets and Pima of baskets; and both people ascribe the art of weaving to lessons learned from their goddess, the Spider Maid.

There are few fireplaces among the ancient dwellings of the Pimas and Papagoes, but lots of fire pits-sipapus-where the spirits of the Gods came through from the Underworld. Dancing floors, may pole rings, abound among the cave dwellings: mounds and platforms and courts among the Casa Grande ruins. The sun and the serpent were favored symbols to both people, a fact which is easily understood in a cloudless land, where serpents signified nearness of water springs, the greatest need of the people. You can see among the cave dwellings where earthquakes have tumbled down whole masses of front rooms; and both Moki and Papago have traditions of “the heavens raining fire.”

It has been suggested by scientists that the cliffs were cities of refuge in times of war, the caves and Great Houses were permanent dwellings. This is inferred because there were no kivas or temples among the cliff ruins, and many exist among the caves and Great Houses. Cushing and Hough and I think two or three others regard Casa Grande as a temple or great community house, where the tribes of the Southwest repaired semi-annually for their religious ceremonies and theatricals.

We moderns express our emotions through the rhythm of song, of dance, of orchestra, of play, of opera, of art. The Indian had his pictographs on the rocks for art, and his pottery and weaving to express his craftsmanship; but the rest of his artistic nature was expressed chiefly by religious ceremonial or theatrical dance, similar to the old miracle plays of the Middle Ages. For instance, the Indians have not only a tradition of a great flood, but of a maiden who was drawn from the Underworld by her lover playing a flute; and the Flute Clans celebrate this by their flute dance. The yearly cleansing of the springs was as great a religious ceremony as the Israelites’ cleansing of personal impurity. Each family belonged to a clan, and each clan had a religious lodge, secret as any modern fraternal order.

The mask dances of the Southwest are much misunderstood by white people. We see in them only what is grotesque or perhaps obscene. Yet the spirits of evil and the spirits of goodness are represented under the Indian’s masked dances, just as the old miracle plays represented Faith, Hope, Charity, Lust, Greed, etc. There is the Bird Dance representing the gyrations of hummingbird, mocking-bird, quail, eagle, vulture. There is the dance of the “mud-heads.” Have we no “mud-heads” befuddling life at every turn of the way? There is the dance of the gluttons and the monsters. Have we no unaccountable monsters in modern life? Read the record of a single day’s crime; and ask yourself what mad motive tempted humans to such certain disaster. We explain a whole rigmarole of motives and inheritance and environment. The Indian shows it up by his dance of the monsters.

Perhaps one of the most beautiful cérémonials is the corn dance. Picture to yourself the kivas crowded with spectators. The priests come down bearing blankets in a circle. The blanket circle surrounds the altar fire. The audience sits breathless in the dark. Musicians strike up a beating on the stone gong. A flute player trills his air. The blankets drop. In the flare of the altar fire is seen a field of corn, round which the actors dance. The priests rise. The blankets hide the fire. It is the Indian curtain drop. When you look again, there is neither pageant of dancers, nor field of corn. So the play goes on-a dozen acts typifying a dozen scenes in a single night.

Good counsel, too, they gave in those miracle plays and ceremonial dances. “If wounded in battle, don’t cry out like a child. Pull out the arrow. Slip off and die with silence in the throat.” “When you go to the hunt, travel with a light blanket.” We talk of getting back to Mother Earth. The Indian chants endless songs to the wonder of the Great Earth Magician, creator of life and crops. Fire, too, plays a mysterious part in all theories of life creation; and this, too, is the subject of a dance.

Then came dark days. Tribes from the far Athabasca came down like the Vandals of Europe-Navajo and Apache, relentless warriors. From Great Houses the people of the Southwest retired to cliffs and caves. When the Spaniards came with firearms and horses, the situation was almost one of extermination for the sedentary Indians; and they retired to such heights as the high mesas of the Tusayan Desert. Whether when white man stopped raid by the warlike tribes, it was better or worse for the peaceful Pima and Papago and Moki, it is hard to say; for the white man began to take the Indian’s water and the Indian’s land. It’s a story of slow tragedy here. In the days of the overland rush to California, when every foot of the trail was beset by Apache and Navajo, it was the Pima and Papago offered shelter and protection to the white overlander. What does the Indian know of “prior rights” in filing for water? Have not these waters been his since the days of his forefathers, when men came with their families from the Morning Glow to the box-canyons of the Gila and Frijoles? If prior rights mean anything, has not the Pima prior rights by ten thousand years? But the Pima has not a little slip of government paper called a deed. The big irrigation companies have tapped the streams above the Indian Reserve; and the waters have been diverted. They don’t come to the Indians any more. All the Indian gets is the overflow of the torrential rains-that only brings the alkali wash to the surface of the land and does not flush it off. The Pima can no longer raise crops. Slowly and very surely, he is being reduced to starvation in a country overflowing with plenty, in a country which has taken his land and his waters, in a country whose people he loyally protected as they crossed the continent to California.

What are the American people going to do about it? Nothing, of course. When the wrong has been done and the tribe reduced to extermination by inches of starvation, some muckraker will rise and write an article about it, or some ethnologist a brochure about an exterminated people. Meantime, the children of the Pimas and Papagoes have not enough to eat owing to the white man taking all their water. They are the people of “the Golden Age,” “the Morning Glow.”

We drove back from Casa Grande by starlight over the antelope plains. I looked back to the crumbling ruins of the Great House, and its five compounds, where the men and women and children of the Morning Glow came to dance and worship according to all the light they had. Its falling walls and dim traditions and fading outlines seemed typical of the passing of the race. Why does one people pass and another come?

Christians say that those who fear not God, shall pass away from the memory of men, forever.

Evolutionists say that those who are not fit, shall not survive.

The Spaniard of the Southwest shrugs his gay shoulders under a tilted sombrero hat, and says Quién sabe? “Who knows?”