Ho’ok

This is the story Ho’ok or Haw-awk (as it is written in this story), a girl who was born to the Gila River Pima before the arrival of the Europeans. It is an extraordinary story of a child born very tall, with claw-like hands and the feet of a wild animal. This is the complete story as printed in the 1911 book aw-aw-tam Indian nights written by J. William Lloyd. The book is a collection of rare Pima folk stories told by Comalk-Hawk-Kih, or Thin Buckskin who at the time was the last of the see-nee-yah-kum; or professional traditionalists. The stories were translated by Thin Buckskin’s grand nephew Edward Hubert Wood over a period of four days and great care was taken to be as accurate as possible. If it wasn’t for Edward Wood’s thoughtfulness to preserve the stories of his people this history most certainly would have been lost to history.

 

Aside from being a great piece of local history, my interest in this story is that it deals with the subject matter of giants, and as usual, a cannibalistic giant at that. The story takes place east of Phoenix on the Gila River Indian reservation in a time not defined, however judging by the content of the material I estimate the time placed just prior to European contact. Once again, we see that the presence of giants is so profound in the Native American culture that they have been woven into their stories to become part of their oral history.

 

 

The Story of Ho’ok

What follows is the original (unedited) story as told by tribal elder Comalk-Hawk-Kih (Thin Buckskin) in 1911

 

AND when Dthas Seeven had gotten better he meditated on what had happened to him, and studied out that Seeollstchewadack-Seeven was the cause of his trouble, and planned how to get the better of him.

Now the Indians have a game of football in which the ball is not kicked but lifted and thrown a good ways by the foot, and Dthas Seeven made such a ball, and sent a young man to play it in the direction of the city of Seeollstchewadack Seeven. And the young man did so, and as he kept the ball going on it came to the feet of a young girl, who, when she saw the ball, picked it up and hid it under the square of cloth which Indian girls wear.

And the young man came up and asked her if she had seen the ball, and she answered no, she had not seen it, and she kept on denying it, so at last he turned back and said he might as well go home as he no longer had a ball to play with. But he had not gone far before the girl called to him: “Are you not coming back to get your ball?” And he went back to her, and she tried to find the ball, but could not.

But the ball was not lost, but it had bewitched her.

 

And after a time this girl had a baby, a tall baby, with claws on its hands and feet like a wild animal.

And the people did not know what this meant,

and they asked Toehahvs, and Toehahvs knew because this had been prophesied of old time. And Toehahvs said: “She is Haw-awk.”

And Hawawk grew and became able to crawl, but people were afraid of handling her because of the scratching of her claws. Only her relatives could safely handle her. And as she grew older, still, she would sometimes see other children and wish to play with them, but in a short time they would get scratched by her in her gambols and would run home crying and leave her alone. And it got so that when the children saw her coming they would tell each other and run home and she could get none of them to play with her.

She claimed Ee-ee-toy as her uncle, and when he had been rabbit-hunting and came in with game she would run and call him “uncle!” and try and get the rabbits away from him; and when he cleaned the rabbits and threw away the entrails she would run and devour them, and the bones of the rabbits the people threw away after the feasts she would eat, too.

And when Hawawk grew older she would sometimes complain to Ee-ee-toy if he came in without game. “Why is it you sometimes come in without rabbits?” she would say, “And why do you not kill a great many?” And he would reply: “It is not possible to kill a great many, for they run very fast and are very hard to shoot with a bow and arrow.” “Let me go with you,” she would say, “and I will kill a great many.”

 

But he would tell her: “You are a girl, and it is not your place to go hunting. If you were a boy it would be, but as it is you cannot go.”

And she kept on begging in this way, and he kept on refusing, she saying that she could kill a great many, and he saying that only a man or a boy could shoot many rabbits, because they ran so fast.

But as she grew older still she began to follow the hunters, and when the hunting began she would be in the crowd, but she tried to keep out of her uncle’s way so that he would not see her. And sometimes when she would thus be following the hunt a rabbit would run in her direction, and she would run fast and jump on it and kill it, and eat it right there; and after a while she could do this oftener and caught a good many; and she would eat all she wanted as she caught them, and the others she gave to her uncle, Ee-ee-toy, to carry home. And Ee-ee-toy came to like to have her with him because of the game she could get. But after a time she did not come home anymore, but staid out in the bushes, living on the game she could get. But when the hunters came out, she would still join them and after killing and eating all she wanted she would give the rest of her kill to her uncle, as before.

And so she contrived to live in the wild places, like a wild-cat, and in time became able to kill deer, antelopes, and all big game, and yet being part human she would tan buckskin like a woman

and do all that a woman needs to do.

 

 

And she found a cave in the mountain which is called Taht-kum, where she lived, and that cave can be seen now and is still called Hawawk’s Cave.

But she had been born near where the ruins of Casa Grande now are and claimed that vahahkkee for her own. And when she knew a baby had been born there she would go to the mother and say, “I want to see my grandchild,” But if the mother let her take the baby she would put it over her shoulder, into her gyih-haw, and run to her cave, and put the baby into a mortar, and pound it up and eat it. And she got all the babies she could in this way; and later on she grew bolder and would find the larger children, where thy were at play, and would carry them off to eat them. And now she let all the rabbits and such game go, and lived only on the children she caught, for a long time.

And Ee-ee-toy told the people what to do in this great trouble. He told them to roast a big lot of pumpkin seeds and to go into their houses and keep still. And when the people had roasted the pumpkin seeds and gone into their houses, Ee-ee-toy came around and stopped up the door of every house with bushes, and plastered clay over the bushes as the Awawtam still do when they go away from home.

After a time Hawawk came around, and stood near the houses, and listened, and heard the people cracking the pumpkin seeds inside.

 

 

 

And she said:. “Where are all my grandchildren? They must have been gone for a long time, for I do not see any tracks, nor hear any voices, and I hear only the rats eating the seeds in the empty houses.”

And she came several times, and saw no one, and really believed the people had gone entirely away. And for a while she did not come any more, but after a time she was one day running by the village and she saw some children playing. And she caught two and ran with them to her cave, And from that day she went on stealing children as before.

And Ee-ee-toy made him a rattle, out of a wild gourd, and went and lay on the trail on which Hawawk usually came, and changed himself into the little animal called “Kaw-awts.” And when Hawawk came along she poked him with a stick of her gyih-haw and said. “Here is a little kawawts. He must be my pet.” And then Ee-ee-toy jumped up and shook his rattle at her, and frightened her so that she ran home. And then Ee-ee-toy made rattles for all the children in that place and when they saw Hawawk coming they would shake their rattles at her and scare her back again.

But after a while Hawawk became used to the rattles and ceased to fear them, and even while they were shaking she would run and carry some of the children off.

 

 

And one day two little boys were hunting doves

after the manner of the country. They had a little kee of willows, and a hole inside in the sand where they sat, and outside a stick stuck up for the doves to light on. And when the doves came they would shoot them with their bows and arrows. And while they were doing this they saw Hawawk coming. And they said “What shall we do! Hawawk is coming and will eat us up.”

And they lay down in the hole in the sand and covered themselves with the dove’s feathers. And Hawawk came and said: “Where are my grandchildren! Some of them have been here very lately.” And she went all around and looked for their tracks, but could find none leading away from the place. And she came back again to the kee, and while she was looking in a wind came and swept away all the dove-feathers, and she sprang in and caught up the two boys and put them in her gyih-haw and started off.

And as she went along the boys said: “Grandmother, we like flat stones to play with. Won’t you give us all the flat stones you can find?” And Hawawk picked up all the flat stones she came to and put them one by one over her shoulder into the basket.

And the boys said, again, after the basket began to get heavy, “Grandmother, we like to go under limbs of trees. Go under all the low limbs of trees you can to please us.” And Hawawk went under a low tree, and one of the boys caught hold of the limb and hung there till

she had gone on. And Hawawk went under another tree, and the other boy caught hold of a limb and staid there. But because of the flat stones she kept putting into her gyih-haw Hawawk did not notice this. And when she got to her cave and emptied her basket there were no boys there.

And when Hawawk saw this she turned back and found the tracks of the boys, and ran, following after them, and caught up with them just before they got to their village. And she would have caught them there, and carried them off again, but the boys had gathered some of the fine thorns of a cactus, and when Hawawk came near they held them up and let them blow with the wind into her face.

And they stuck in her eyes, and hurt them, and she began to rub her eyes, Which made them hurt worse so that she could not see them, and then the boys ran home and thus saved their lives.

After that she went to another place called Vahf-kee-wohlt-kih, or the Notched Cliffs, and staid around there and ate the children, and then she moved to another place, the old name of which is now forgotten, but it is called, now, Stchew-a-dack Vah-veeuh, or the Green Well. And there, too, she killed the children.

 

 

And the people called on Ee-ee-toy to help them, and Ee-ee-toy said, “I will kill her at once!”

And Ee-ee-toy, being her relative, went to her home and said: “Your grandchildren want some

amusement and are going to have dances now every night and would like you to come.”

And she replied: “You know very well I do not care for such things. I do not care to come.”

And Ee-ee-toy returned and told the people she did not care to come to their dances, tho he had invited her, but he would think of some other way to get her to come where they were, that they might kill her.

And he went a second time, and told her the people were going to sing the Hwah-guff-san-nuh-kotch Nyuee, or Basket Drumming Song, and wanted her to come. But she said: “I have heard of that song, but I do not care to hear it. I care nothing for such things, and I will not come.”

So Ee-ee-toy returned and told of his second failure, but promised he would try again. And in the morning he went to her and said: “Your grand-children are going to sing the song Haw-hawf-kuh Nyuee or Dance of the Bone-trimmed Dresses Song and they want you to come. “But she said: “I do not care for this song, either, and I will not come.”

And Ee-ee-toy told of his third failure, but promised the people he would try once more. and when the morning came he went to Hawawk and said: “Your grandchildren are going to dance tonight to the song which is called See-coll-cod-dha-kotch Nyuee,” (which is a sort of ring dance with the dancers in a circle with joined hands) “and they want you to come.”

And she said: “That is what I like. I will come to that. When is it going to be?”

And he said: “It will be this very night.”

And he went and told the people she was coming and they must be ready for her.

Hawawk got ready in the early evening and dressed herself in a skirt of soft buckskin. And over this she placed an over skirt of deerskin, fringed with long cut fringes with deer-hoofs at the ends to rattle. And then she ran to the dancing place; and the people could hear her a long way off, rattling, as she came. And they were already dancing when she arrived there, and she went and joined hands with Ee-ee-toy.

And Hawawk was a great smoker, and Ee-ee-toy made cigarettes for her that had something in them that would make folks sleep. And he smoked these himself, a little, to assure her, but cautiously and moderately, not inhaling the smoke, but she inhaled the smoke, and before the four nights were up she was so sleepy that the people were dragging her around as they danced, and then she got so fast asleep that Ee-ee-toy carried her on his shoulder.

And all the time they were dancing they were moving across country, and getting nearer the cave where she lived, and other people at the same time were ahead of them carrying lots of wood to her cave, And when they arrived at her cave in the mountain of Tahtkum they laid he sleeping body down inside, and placed the wood in the cave between her and the door, filling it all to the entrance, which they closed with four hurdles, such as the people fasten their doors with, so that she could not run out.

And then they set the wood on fire, and it burned fiercely, and when the fire reached Hawawk she waked and cried out. “My grandchildren, what have I done that you should treat me this way!”

And the fire hurt her so that she jumped up and down with pain, and her head struck the ceiling of the cave and split the rock. And when the people saw it they called to Ee-ee-toy, and he went and put his foot over the crack, and sealed it up, and you may see the track of his foot there to this day.

But Ee-ee-toy was not quick enough, and her soul escaped through the crack.

And then for a while the people had peace, but in time her soul turned into a green hawk, and this hawk killed the people, but did not eat them.

And this made the people great trouble, but one day a woman was making pottery and she had just taken one pot out of the fire and left another one in the furnace, on its side, when this hawk saw her and came swooping down from high in the air to kill her, but missed her, and went into the hot pot in the fire, and so was burned up and destroyed.

 

 

And one day they boiled greens in that pot, the greens called choo-hook-yuh, and the greens boiled so hard that they boiled over, and splashed around and killed people. And they boiled all day and stopped at night, and at daybreak began again to boil, and this they did for a long time; boiling by day and stopping at night.

And the people sent for Toehahvs who lived in the east, and Gee-ah-duk Seeven, or Strong Bow Chief, who lived where is now the ruin of Aw-awt-kum Vah-ahk-kee, to kill the pot for them.

And when they arrived Gee-ah-duk Seeven inquired if the pot slept. And the people said. “Yes, it sleeps all night.” Then said Gee-ah-duk Seeven, “We will get up very early, before the pot wakes, and then we will kill it.”

But Toehahvs said; “That is not right, to go and kill it at night. I am not like a jealous woman who goes and fights her rival in the darkness. I am not a woman, I am a man!”

And Toehahvs said to Gee-ah-duk Seeven: “I will go in the morning to attack the pot and I want you to go on the other side, and if the pot throws its fluid at me, so that I cannot conquer it, then do you run up on the other side and smash it.”

Then Toehahvs took his shield and his club, in the morning, and went to attack the pot. But the pot saw him, and, although he held up his shield, it boiled over, and threw the boiling choo-hook-yuh so high and far that some of it fell on Toehahvs’ back and scalded it. And Toehahvs had to give back a little. But at that moment

Gee-ah-duk Seeven ran in on the other side and smashed the pot.

And there was an old man with an orphan grandson, living near there, and when the pot was smashed these came to the spot and ate up the choohookyuh. And at once they were turned into bears, the old man into a black bear, the boy into a brown bear.

And these bears also killed people, and tho the people tried to kill them, for a long time they could not do so. When they shot arrows at the bears, the bears would catch them and break them up. And so the people had to study out other ways to get the better of them. There is a kind of palm-tree, called o-nook, which has balls where the branches come out, and the people burned the trees to get these balls, and threw them at the bears. And the bears caught the balls, and fought and wrestled with them, and while their attention was taken by these balls the people shot arrows at them and killed them.

And thus ended forever the evil power of Hawawk.

 

Thoughts

I find this account truly amazing and while reading this story a few things jumped out at me.

 

First and most obvious I couldn’t help but think of the biblical equivalent.

Matthew 8:32 And he said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters.

Only in the story of Ho’ok the evil spirit is born into Ho’ok as a giant, much the same way the evil Nephilim were born into their bodies. Upon her death the spirit escapes and take refuge in a green hawk only to continue killing people. Then the spirit found it’s way into a pot of greens wherein the pot became possessed and tormented the people of the village. After a medicine man vanquishes the pot the spirit harbors its self in the cooked greens which are in turn eaten by an old man and his orphaned grandson who are turned into bears. The bears go on living for years killing more people and are eventually killed by being tricked and shot with arrows. It is only then that the evil power of Ho’ok finally ends. Note, it doesn’t say that the spirit dies.

 

Second. Ho’ok refers to the children she eats as her “grandchildren.” It stands to reason that in turn she was referred to as Grand-mother; a title not only used to denote family relationship but just as often used as a title to signify that the person was elderly and deserving of respect. I have even encountered on occasion this title bestowed upon an exceptionally wise or able young person who was beyond his/her years in understanding. It is obvious that she was not particularly wise or deserving of the respect of her tribe, which means that she was more than likely quite old. The Nephilim of the Bible, as well as all other stories of giants found across the world, have these creatures living well past the life expectancy of humans. Another hint as to her age is that she had eaten all the large game in the area and had moved on to cannibalizing the children. How long would it take for one person to hunt out all local game? Quite a while I’m figuring.

 

Third. Ee-ee-toy, or Brother Elder. Ee-ee-toy in the story is obviously the hero figure. Most every tribe had a hero figure which made regular appearances and usually saved the day. These heroes, while not always pure, were not evil, and always saved the people from certain demise. It is Ee-ee-toy who understands what is going on while the others do not and possesses the power to put an end to the evil. It is Ee-ee-toy who goes to her cave and invites her to the dance. This story has Ee-ee-toy carrying Ho’ok on his shoulder at one point back to her cave. In the next scene, it has him placing his foot over the mouth of the burning cave in order to keep Ho’ok from escaping. It would seem that Ee-ee-toy is a man of great proportion possessing both great ability and wisdom. Other Pima stories claim that Ee-ee-toy “has the power of the winds and all the animals” and that “he knows all that is going on in the mountains and in the sky.” Interestingly enough it is Ho’ok who chooses Ee-ee-toy as her uncle. Is this because they were similar in other respects? It is obvious that Ee-ee-toy is more than just a man, it is also obvious that Ho’ok is not completely human. Is the story alluding to something else? Was Ho’ok some form of half-breed who shared similar genetic code with Ee-ee-toy? Perhaps that is why he took her under his wing and raised her in spite of her violent ways and non-human form. Perhaps that is also the reason he eventually organized her demise.

 

Many theologians believe that the Nephilim, (offspring of the fallen angels and humans) were intrinsically evil and were, in fact, the physical vessels which harbored the spirits of the demons of old in their incarnation here on earth. The Bible refers to them a Nephilim while in the middle east they are referred to as the Jin. While I’m not drawing a direct correlation between indigenous peoples’ stories of North America and biblical text, I can state that after studying this subject for over two decades certain things become obvious in the pervasiveness of this type of material. Patterns emerge from these ancient texts, and after sifting through the local flavor many of them are simply the same story, only told from unique and different regional perspectives. The flood story is a great example of this. Almost without fail, every culture on earth has one. In my opinion, this is the reason Christianity, for better and worse spread at the rate it did across the globe during European expansion. And while not everyone willingly embraced Christianity, many did, as these Christians carried with them new technologies, skills, tools, crops, and spices, as well as a book which held in its pages many of the same stories these less technologically advanced people also harbored. In short, in many cases, Christianity was an easy sell.

 

Nearby Accounts of Giants

We can see from numerous other accounts and native stories of this time period that other tribes also occasionally bore children of great stature that were not quite fully human but instead mixed with another species of bipedal humanoid. The story of Queho comes to mind first. Queho was witnessed to be a giant figure of mixed blood with two rows of teeth. His mother a Native American and his father unknown. Corrupted early on by alcohol he roamed the southern NV deserts his entire life as an outcast. Queho’s bones were found in a cave not far from the Hoover Dam during its construction and were identified by the double rows of teeth. There are many trusted stories attesting to Queho’s life. Then there’s the story of the Paiute people killing off the last of the cannibalistic giants in north-western Nevada just before the arrival of the Europeans, the skulls of those giants which were found by guano miners and later put on display. Unfortunately, most of the artifacts were lost in a fire and only one skull remains. It was recently confirmed this it is currently being held at the Humbolt Museum, Winnemucca. It is also recorded that the Spanish witnessed and documented people of great stature-upwards of 7 to 10 feet- here in the Americas on their first voyages, the records which are readily available for those willing to search them out.

 

Unlike many of the native American stories made up to instill lessons in the young, I believe the story of Ho’ok is based very much in actual events that occurred in the Sacaton area along the banks of the Gila River. Although this story becomes fanciful at times and for people unfamiliar with native storytelling it may be hard to follow, it was recited in the traditional style of indigenous people. That is, it interweaves other lessons and believed truths of their people into the subject matter. Whats more, there is an ancient geoglyph in the Sacaton area which depicts Ho’ok, the children predated upon, and the man who killed her. This geoglyph rests at the bottom of a cliff, etched out of the desert floor, not unlike the geoglyphs found in the Blythe area. In the cliff above is the cave where Ho’ok is said to have lived and died. Tribal elders say their ancestors etched the glyph into the desert floor in remembrance of the events that took place there.

Cory Daniel is a professional certified interpretive guide and writer/researcher who currently lives in the Valley of the Sun.

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