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Native American Legends

Origin of the Saguaro and Palo Verde Cacti

A Pima Legend

Once upon a time an old Indian woman had two grandchildren. Every day she ground wheat and corn between the grinding stones to make porridge for them.

One day as she put the water-olla on the fire outside the house to heat the water, she told the children not to quarrel because they might upset the olla. But the children began to quarrel. They upset the olla and spilled the water and their grandmother spanked them.

Then the children were angry and ran away. They ran far away over the mountains. The grandmother heard them whistling and she ran after them and followed them from place to place. but she could not catch up with them.

At last the older boy said, "I will turn into a saguaro, so that I shall live forever and bear fruit every summer."

The younger said, "Then I will turn into a palo verde and stand there forever. These mountains are so bare and have nothing on them but rocks, I will make them green."

The old woman heard the cactus whistling and recognized the voice of her grandson. So she went up to it and tried to take the prickly thing into her arms, but the thorns killed her.

That is how the saguaro and the palo verde came to be on the mountains and the desert.

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