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CITY IN CANYON.

A STRANGE SETTLEMENT,

As strange as the tales of the children's wonder books is the story of a wild tribe of Indians in 'Northern Arizona buried deep in a great canyon, which Leslie Spier, a representative of the American Museum of Natural History, has just visited. He descended 3000 ft. of steep, sheer rock surface, and was there received by the tribe as a special ambassador from another world. He spent a month and a-half in what was* an almost undiscovered country. This little tribe is the Havasupai Indians. They are intermediates, having characteristics of other tribes wellknown to Indian students—the Pueblos, Plateau people, and Mohaves, but entirely individual, forming in a great chasm 3000 ft. deep a self-supporting community, producing everything for its own needs.

The only entrance to the canyon is by a precipitous trail, the rocks forming great 100 ft. steps, the final 500 ft. being down a verticle wall on which the visitor has the appearance of a fly. This difficulty of entrance for years prevented the visit of friends and foes, and has kept the people a lost tribe. The youngest man in the tribe can re,member the day when the first white man was seen, and less than 10 years ago the Havasupais were using stone heads for their hunting arrows and stone implements in their different occupations. More recently a few of their younger men have gone up to the upper earth's surface to work as cowboys, and through them they have traded with the other Indian tribes, but the nearest trader's store is 120 miles from them across a nearly waterless'desert. The first which seems to have been heard of this" isolated tribe was about the time the United States was signing its declaration of independence in 11775-1776, and a Spanish missionary, I Father Garces, travelling through the country converting the Indians with the courage and energy of his kind,.not stopped by the difficulties of the way,discovered this hidden people. . In his diary which has been published he states simply that the road by which he reached them was difficult.

On the top of the plateau ■. from which one descends to the Havasupais there is a country of pine forests. Going down one passes through the arid regions, and on reaching the bottom of the canyon finds a fertile oasis with willow and cottonwood trees, fruit trees, including the fig, with great fields of corn, beans, and squash. Wild seeds and cactus come from the mountains ; there are wild deer, antelope, mountain sheep, "and turkeys—everything needed to support the tribe.

The entire settlement comprises 175 members now, and there have never been more than 250.*. There is a scarcity of women between 29; and 40,- and a number of widowers with children. There are 38. camps or family groups with several houses in each. The women are well treated, though as a rule the men and the children eat first, and the women last, taking what is left. There 'is, however, plenty of food for everybody. \ The men and the women both work in the fields, but things > grow almost spontaneously. The early hours of the day are, given to farm work, and the men work very hard. Tlie women work more continuously than the men, as they are the cooks, but they are not overworked. The men hunt a little, not -much,'' trade a little-with other;./ tribes, and the women make baskets— that iy, a sort of fancy work of, theirs, —and both the men and .women gamble- in a sort of fantan played with native dice. They pl^,y for different ar- ( tides, and also they use some money,: having a little from cowboys. They have no regular use for it among themselves.

It was Mother Nature who took the first important step towards putting the Havasupais on the map some years before the American Museum concluded to hunt them up. Tlie canyon in winch the tribe lives drains thousands of miles of country. The first of January, 1910, it snowed for four days, it rained for four days, then the weather became very mild, and apparently all the snow on the heights above melted and poured into the valley. The water' poured, over the rocks in great sheets, and what in summer was a beautiful oasis became a great flood of water. The Supais, strange to say, although the flood came at night, were able to save their lives by climbing into caves in the cliffs, only one old Wind woman, who cqu'ld not find her way out of a hut, being lost. Everything else went, all the trees, even the soil for the crons was washed away. Then it occurred to the tribe to go to the highlands, where they took in a very few ideas from the outside world, and Uncle Sam began not very strenuous efforts in their behalf.

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Permanent link to this item

http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/AG19190408.2.9

Bibliographic details

CITY IN CANYON., Ashburton Guardian, Volume XXXIX, Issue 9581, 8 April 1919

Word Count
815

CITY IN CANYON. Ashburton Guardian, Volume XXXIX, Issue 9581, 8 April 1919

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