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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 leaf whips.

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 circle.

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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