National Geographic : 1948 May
Land of the Havasupai from Mr. Guthrie giving the desired informa tion. Cooking Done Out of Doors Cooking and much of the other household life of the canyon dwellers are carried on out doors. I had hoped the clay pot and coiled or twined baskets might still be in use, but I was too late. Modern sheepherder or small iron stoves and well-built stone fireplaces seemed to be in vogue. Metal pots and pans had supplanted the pottery and baskets; and aluminum and porcelain kitchenware littered the campfire area. Some older women still do make the fine baskets, which may be purchased at the Agency, and parching trays are used in pre paring some foods (page 673). The staple corn is ground with a mano on a metate or pounded with a stone pestle. Despite the dearth of cattle, strips of beef and venison were hanging from fence posts near the hogans. The meat is first sliced and cured by drying, and then pounded be tween stones for softening before cooking. Hanging over a fence near Flynn Wesco gomie's house was one of the finely tanned deer hides for which the Havasupai are famous. Hunting, a secondary occupation with the men, is carried on primarily in win ter, when the fields lie dormant and fresh snow makes the animals easier to track. The deer or antelope skin is first dried and dehaired. After being soaked in the stream overnight, it is twisted on a stick until dry again, and finally it is tanned with a prepa ration of the animal's brain and marrow. Throughout the process the skin is kept im maculately clean and white. These expertly tanned hides and skins are main items of trade for the Havasupai, and visiting tribes enthusiastically barter for them. Every morning the Havasupai men and women were busy in their fields, often with several babies propped up near by as an in terested audience. Today, as in the past, they are outstanding farmers. They thoroughly irrigate and plant the 175 acres of arable bot tom lands in corn, beans, and squash, their staple crops. Delicious peaches, apricots, melons, and figs are grown also in the neat orchards below their farmlands. At present the Havasupai maintain two dams for irrigation purposes, one above the village and a second in the dwelling area. The main irrigation ditches are one or two feet deep and perhaps three feet wide (Plate V). Smaller connecting ditches divert water to the fields, which are laid out in a simple pattern to facilitate irrigation to all sections. Joe's fields bordered the trail across from my quarters, and I would find him there soon after sunup every morning, engaged in turn ing the soil or clearing his irrigation ditches with his modern hoe and shovel. The fields are usually irrigated two days before planting is begun. A small digging or planting stick is used for the latter, and the seeds are evenly spaced along neat parallel rows. The corn ripens in about four months, though it may be picked and used in any stage of ripeness. Looking up at the canyon walls behind Joe's fields, I wondered about the frequency of floods in this deep gorge, which drains such a vast area of the rim above. "There have been several bad ones," Mr. Guthrie told me, "but no other so disastrous as the flood in 1911." In that year a rim-to-rim wall of water 40 feet high washed away the Agency buildings. The terrified Indians took to the cliffsides as the onrushing water, spurred by melting snows and cloudbursts on the plateau above, swept down the canyon, washing away their dams, orchards, and homes. After the deluge the Havasupai returned to their canyon paradise, rebuilt dams and irrigation ditches, replanted crops, and built new homes. But the older members of the tribe shudder to think of this catastrophe and doubtless still have some uneasy moments during the thawing and rainy seasons. Havasupai Once Migratory For centuries the Havasupai followed a migratory life. During the winter they lived up on the plateau of the canyon rim where they had abundant water and firewood and could readily gather seeds and track deer, antelope, rabbits, and squirrels in the snow. They lived in snug huts nestled among the cedar groves for protection against the weather. In cliff caches they kept stores of corn. In spring, as the snows melted, they re turned to the village in the canyon and began their April crop planting. This semiannual migration has become vir tually a thing of the past. Required school attendance for children is one obstacle. The service flag that hangs in the post office bears 11 white stars for the Supai men who served during the war; and the influences of the war and modern civilization are felt increasingly in this remote canyon. Some younger men now even leave the vil lage with their families to seek employment at the tourist centers on the rim or in towns near by, though for generations no Havasupai would have thought of leaving his fields to work for the white man above.