Native American Legends
A Katcina race contest between the Walpi and the Oraibi
A Hopi Legend
Halíksai! In Wálpi the people were living, but at
the place where the old village stood before the people had moved
on the mesa. And in Oraíbi the people were also living. The
Wálpi always had races west of the village in the valley
for practice. When they had become strong, they said: ''Let us go
to Oraíbi and race there, because they are not strong and
nimble." One time they had a Katcina race in Wálpi again,
as they used to have frequently. One of the Oraíbi youths
who had a friend in Wálpi went to visit his friend on that
day, though he had not heard about there being a race there. As
the Katcinas were coming towards evening his friend said to the
Oraíbi youth, that he should stay all night and see the Katcinas,
and then go home in the morning. So the Oraíbi youth remained
for the Katcina race.
They did not come until towards evening. When they had arrived
on the plaza the Kóyemsis challenged the young men of the
village to come and race with the Katcinas. The Oraíbi youth
enjoyed seeing the race, but he was somewhat timid and afraid to
participate in the race. When the race was over the young men of
the village had long races yet down in the valley, but they said
to one another, that no one should tell the Oraíbi youth
that they intended to go there and race with the Oraíbi.
In the evening, however, the friend of this young man told him that
the Wálpi had been practicing and that they intended to come
to Oraíbi and race with the Oraíbi youths. He added
that they should also practice in Oraíbi for this coming
contest, and said that these Wálpi were braggarts and not
so strong as they said they were. When he had told him this they
retired for the night.
Early the next morning, before he had eaten a morning meal, the
Oraíbi youth returned to his village, running very fast.
When he arrived there he told the crier to make an announcement.
The latter announced that the youths of the village should assemble
on the plaza, as a certain youth had something to communicate to
them. Hereupon the young men assembled on the plaza and asked the
young man what he had to tell them. He said that he had been in
Wálpi, that they had Katcina races there and practiced running,
and that they were going to come over here to race with them, so
they should now go and practice running and thus become strong.
"Let us race here north of the village," he added. "They
were going to come here without informing us, but my friend there
told me about it."
So they assembled at Hohóyahki, north of the village, and
there had two races. "Let us stop now," they said to each
other; "if we race too long one gets tired and does not recover
from his fatigue." Thus they practiced for four days. On the
fifth day the Wálpi came. They did not know, however, that
the Oraíbi had heard about their coming. When the Wálpi
arrived at the spring K'eqö'chmovi, east of Oraíbi,
where there were then no houses, they dressed up at that spring
so that the Oraíbi should not find out so soon, but the Oraíbi
had noticed them. When they had dressed up they ran towards the
village, following a trail straight up towards the Katcínkihu
Kuwáwaima. Here they gathered and Stopped for a little while
and then ran towards the village.
The people of the village, though they had known of their coming,
acted as if they had not seen them. Two of the Katcinas were Kóyemsis
who carried gifts in the form of comíviki, roasted sweet
corn ears, etc. When they had arrived at the plaza one of the older
Oraíbi went to them and asked: "Have you come? Have
you arrived?" "Yes," the Kóyemsis replied.
"On what account did you come?" they were asked. "Yes,"
the Kóyemsis said, "we have come to contend with your
young men in a race." Hereupon the old man asked the Oraíbi
youths to descend from the houses and race with these Katcinas.
Immediately a large number of the young men came down, laid off
their clothes, and raced with the Katcinas. As so many entered the
race the Katcinas were soon tired. They did not capture one Oraíbi
racer, did not even get near enough to strike him with their yucca
When they were through racing they had not caught a single Oraíbi
youth, and the Oraíbi had won from them all the presents.
The Katcinas were very tired. The man who had received them on the
plaza gave them at least some prayer-meal, whereupon they returned
to the Katcina house south of the village, where they laid off their
costumes. They then again met the Oraíbi men to race with
them west of the village. "You have beaten us," they said
to the Oraíbi, "if we do not win in this race then we
shall indeed be very much dejected." They then descended from
the village on the west side, ran towards Mûmû'shvavi,
from there south-westward, then south around the mesa point, and
ascended the mesa from the east side, thus describing a very large
The Wálpi again could not overtake the Oraíbi and
when they got to K'eqö'chmovi, the Wálpi were very tired
and gave up the race. The two Kóyemsis who were a little
older than the others and were not quite so tired went up to the
Katcina house and got the costumes of the Wálpi, whereupon
the Wálpi all returned, very much in despair. They went very
slowly and were very quiet. "The Oraíbi," they
said among themselves, "are very strong." It was early
in the morning when one after the other arrived at Wálpi,
some of them being so tired that they had fallen far behind. They
agreed that they should not go and race with the Oraíbi again.
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