Colorado

Story & Trivia

Along the Colorado River many indigenous American tribes existed from ancient times. The Colorado plays a role in every one of their mythologies, and tribes have different names for the river.

Hopi
The Hopi people believe that the Earth was mother and the Sky father. The father is represented by Tawa the Sun, and the mother by a spider.

Spider Woman

All the ‘above’ and its magic belonged to Tawa and the ‘below’ and its magic to Spider-woman. There were no other creatures. Then they slowly created other Gods to share their work. Once, they had a thought to place Earth between the ‘above’ and ‘below’. Earth just had endless waters. Together they sat and made magic songs, where they sang of how Tawa would be life giver and Spider-woman would nourish all life on Earth.

Tawa had many strange forms in his imagination. When Spider-woman heard this, she said the strange things should appear. Taking up some clay, she fashioned every one of his thoughts and placed them upon the ground.

They then decided these forms could not be left unmoving. They needed spirit. Deciding to make strong magic, they laid a fleecy blanket over it and began. Then they made two creatures to rule over them. This man and woman were fashioned after themselves. When they continued to lie listless, Spider-woman gathered them all in her arms. Tawa bent over her them with his glowing gaze. Together they sang the Song of Life and soon all the creatures were alive.

Then Tawa said he would place his glowing gaze upon the endless waters which dried to form land. He would visit once every day to shed light.

Spider-woman divided all the creatures and gave them names. Then she led them out of the four underworlds, up unto where land had formed. The way out of the underworlds was through a sipapu which was at the lowest point in the Pisisbaiya or the Colorado River as they called it. Once they came, the mocking bird which had left earlier distributed languages and the creatures all went in different directions.

The Turkey had pushed on ahead and wherever its tail feathers had touched, the dark bends in the Colorado River gorge stayed forever.

And that is how the Earth was created.

Note: There are variations available in this myth.

Mojave
The Colorado River or the Myahaim-tšumême as they call it is central to the culture of the Mojave (say mo-ha-vee) indigenous Americans. They sing a song about the creation of the river.

For them, the earth was flat, wet and soft at the beginning of the World. The sky was man and earth, a woman. Their first born was killed. Mastamho, their second son, plunged his sun-staff into the ground four times and the water, water fowl, fish and birds gushed out. On a great journey down to the Ocean he makes the mountains and gorges, as he teaches the Mojave to use his creation.

This journey was led by Yellak or goose, which was the first to come with the water. In a while Mastmho put his staff into the water and stirred it up. Out came a boat into which he stepped. He rode the boat on its side and flat, thereby creating the narrow and broad gorges of the Grand Canyon. He created a mountain Avikwame, and then made it grow taller. Once the mud dried, he made his home on top. Gathering all the singers on top, he created the first bid songs, very important to the Mojave.

Meanwhile Yellak had led the waters and had taught the birds to fly. Later on the journey he spread his wings to stop the water and died. The river did not know where to go. Halykupa or grebe took his place and led. The body of Yellak turned into water creatures. Now Halykupa had to lead the river to the Ocean. All the creatures obeyed except the Gnatcatcher and the Condor.

The Gnatcatcher claimed the land on both sides for the Mojave people. As the river flowed on, the beaver stopped the waters and challenged the grebe to lead. The grebe went sideway and back four times and this is where the river zig-zags.

More creature sprouted wings, became birds and flew away. Crossing the beaver, they were near the Sea. Many creatures were eager to race ahead of the river. They could smell the salt. But, Halykupa and two other birds wanted to return to the place claimed for the Mojaves. Once the river flowed into the sea the three returned. One of the birds picked up shells before leaving.

When they flew up, wanting to land on Avikwame, the bird with the shells lands in the Gnatcatcher country. When he crashed the shells broke and that is why the soil there is white, it is said. The other two go on to Avikwame where they met Mastamho, who asked them all to fly far and near. As his work was over, he too turned into an eagle and flew away. When Halykupa took off the mountain, but could not fly. He landed in the river and that is where the grebe lives.

The Mojave have historically lived here. European exploitation has limited the indigenous people to land on “reservations” where they have been trying to maintain the older lifestyle with respect to the Colorado River.

Trivia

1.    The Colorado River is sourced by the Rocky Mountains.
2.    It used to be called the Grand River.
3.    The river is the source of water for almost all of Southern Nevada, a state in the US.
4.    Canals and aqueducts that have been built along the Colorado supply water to California.
5.    There are laws around the uses and distribution of the waters of the Colorado.
6.    The river empties into the Gulf of California located in Mexico.
7.    The Colorado is the major river of southwestern United States.
8.    The Hoover Dam, a historic landmark of America that creates Lake Mead, is on the Colorado River.
9.    The river is very popular for its whitewater rafting.
10.    Apart from canals and aqueducts, the Colorado River has an irragation system and is a huge supplier of drinking water.

 

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