H is a Caucasian-Native-American male originally from Tucson, Arizona. H is currently a corporate manager based in Austin, Texas.
H performed this folklore while visiting LA on a business trip. I met H in Downtown LA for lunch in order to collect folklore he had previously agreed to perform for me. The following is the second of two stories he provided. H first heard the following story from his grandfather.
H: Another legend is of the owl. The Apaches have nothing to do with owls, they see them as the night creature and if you see an owl, you run, my Grandfather would stop if we saw an owl and the trip would be over. The big owl in the Apache stories was evil, he was a giant. Sometimes he was man-like. They were able to paralyze humans with their stare or they could cry and everyone who heard it it was like thunder, and it would cause you to stop, uh, some owls were seen as cannibals and they would eat children, and so you avoided them. The Apaches claimed that the big owl was the sun of the sun, and.. when he was slain, his body hit the earth and his feathers flew off in every direction and those feathers transformed the owl that now live in the forest. And if you saw an owl, you turned and went home.
Reflection: Owls in Apache culture appear to have the same negative connotations that crows have in European culture. As far as I know, crows are not perceived the same way in Apache culture, so I find it interesting that their culture happens to consider the owl, a different type of bird, an evil portent. Based on H’s detail that owls in Apache legend have the power to paralyze people with their cries, there appears to be a direct link between how unsettling or intimidating a bird sounds and how it is perceived across European and Native American cultures. The deep “hoots” of an owl are an evil omen just as the harsh “caws” of a crow are associated with death in European culture.
H is a 50-year-old Caucasian-Native-American male originally from Tucson, Arizona. H is currently a corporate manager based in Austin, Texas.
H performed this folklore while visiting LA on a business trip. I met H in Downtown LA for lunch in order to collect folklore he had previously agreed to perform for me. The following is the first of two stories he provided.
H: This is a story of the Salt River, as told by my Grandfather, a member of the White Mountain Apache Tribe. The Apaches did not call themselves Apache. The called themselves “Dene,” or “people.” The term Apache comes from the Zuni for “Apachu” or “the enemy.” Well the Apaches were raiders and warriors, but overtime they settled in Northern Arizona in the Mogollon Rim.. and led peaceful lives.. hunting, fishing.. and living off the land. They battled the Spaniards, and then ultimately the Calvary.. And the government came in and took their land, they acquiesced and lived on the reservation. And the treaty they signed so they could stay on the reservation as long as the grass grew and the rivers ran.. One group of Apache’s however, refused to sign the treaties. And they lived in a basin. The Apaches called them “Tonto,” or “fools” for continuing to fight. That basin the “Tonto Basin,” is ultimately where the Salt River is. The creek that was found was named “Tonto Creek,” but ultimately became the Salt River. As the Calvary tried to capture their chief, Del Shay, they were unable to do so. They fought fiercely, they tried to shoot him, and poison him. But ultimately, the Federal Government gave a few silver dollars to one of Del Shay’s nephews, to kill him. And they went into town-camp, took his head, and brought it back to the Calvary. His wife it is said, cried for a hundred days and her tears filled the river of the Tonto Basin and turned it salty. And forevermore, the Tonto Basin river remains salty from her tears with the Calvary capturing her people and killing her husband.
Reflection: I was impressed with H’s telling of this creation myth, as I could tell he had the whole story well-memorized and rehearsed. I was also able to gain a greater appreciation for the Salt River, a body of water with great significance where I grew up in Arizona. The way the story links American violence against the Apache and a permanent change to the landscape (Tonto Basin becoming forever salty) appears to be a symbolic microcosm of how American atrocities against the Native Americans wrought irrevocable consequences for all their land and people.
The informant is a 67-year-old Mexican-American woman who is a reverend. She is known for tailoring wedding receptions to couples from different cultural backgrounds, and in her words “taking old traditions and giving them new meaning.” Many consider her to be the “guru of new wedding traditions.”
While out to breakfast while the informant was visiting me in Los Angeles, I asked her to describe a ritual or tradition that was commonly incorporated in weddings where either the bride or groom has an American Indian cultural background. She described a ritual called “the tying of the hands.”
“The tying of the hands is a lovely tradition. The families provide a traditional rope, which sometimes has a strip of material representing their tribe. I bind the couples’ hands together with the rope, and so they vow to be seen by the community as one. Usually the couple likes me to follow this by saying the Apache blessing. Christians, and secular weddings seem to like it as well. The start of it goes, ‘Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter for the other. Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth to the other. Now there will be no loneliness, for each of you will be companion to the other. Now you are two persons, but there is only one life before you.’”
While the Apache blessing is rooted in American Indian tradition and the tying of the knot may incorporate a bride or groom’s tribal heritage, the combination of the two can be used for a wedding ceremony between two individuals of any background. The Apache blessing in particular is extremely transferrable because it makes no reference to God or any higher power, instead focusing solely on the positive, heartwarming implications of marriage for the bride and the groom. The tying of the hands serves as a physical representation of the couple’s union, followed by the description of the details of this union in the blessing.