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The flood on Superstition Mountain

A Pima Legend

In the state of Arizona, the Pima Indian tribe declares that the father of all men and animals was Great Butterfly--Cherwit Make, meaning the Earth- Maker.

One day long ago, Great Butterfly fluttered down from the clouds to the Blue Cliffs, where two rivers met, later called the Verde and Salt rivers. There he made man from his own sweat.

From that day on the people multiplied, but in time they grew selfish and quarrelsome. Earth-Maker became annoyed with their behavior and decided it might be best to drown all of them.

But first, he thought to warn them through the voices of the winds.

"People of the Pima tribe," called North Wind. "Sky Spirit warns you to be honest with one another and to live in peace from now on."

Suha, Shaman of the Pimas, interpreted to the people what North Wind had warned them about.

"What a fool you are, Suha, to listen to the voices of the winds," taunted his tribesmen.

On the next night, the same warning from Earth-Maker was repeated by East Wind, who added, "Chief Sky Spirit warns that all of you will be destroyed by floods if you do not live nobler lives."

Again, the Pimas mocked the winds and ignored their warnings. Next night, West Wind spoke, "Reform, people of the Pimas, or your evil ways will destroy you."

Then South Wind breathed into Suha's ear, "Suha, you and your good wife are the only people worth saving. Go and make a large, hollow ball of spruce gum in which you and your wife can live a long as the coming flood will last."

Because Suha and his wife believed the warnings and were obedient, they set to work immediately on a high hill, gathering spruce gum and shaping it into a large hollow ball. They stocked it with plenty of nuts, acorns, water, and bear and deer meats.

Near the appointed time, Suha and his good wife looked down sadly upon the lovely green valley. They heard the songs of the harvesters. They sighed to think of the beauty about them that would be destroyed when the flood came because of the people's selfishness. Suddenly, a bright lightning flash and loud thunder rocked the Blue Cliffs. It was a signal for the flood to begin.

Suha and his wife went into the gum-ball ark and closed the door tightly. Swirling, dark clouds surrounded them. Torrents of rain poured down everywhere. For many days, the ark rolled and tossed about on the deepening sea.

After many, many moons, the downpour of rain stopped. The ark settled upon the land again, high on a mountaintop. Suha opened the door and stepped forth to see a tuna cactus growing near his feet. He and his wife ate some of the red fruit of the cactus plant. Below them, they saw water everywhere.

That night they retired again to the ark. They must have slept a very long time, because when they awoke the water had disappeared, the valleys were green, and the bird songs rang forth again.

Suha and his wife descended from Superstition Mountain, a name later given to the mountain upon which the ark had landed. They went down into the fertile valley and lived there for a thousand years. The forthcoming people prospered, becoming known as the Pima tribe.

These Pimas later believed a story that an evil one named Hauk lived behind Superstition Mountain. He was also called the "Devil of Superstition Mountain" because he tried to steal daughters from the Pimas.

One day, Hauk secretly descended into Pima valley, where the women were busy weaving. He stole one of Suha's daughters. Suha followed Hauk to his home behind Superstition Mountain, where he observed his daughter treated as a servant-girl by Hauk.

Suha poisoned the cactus wine that his daughter served Hauk. When he drank it, Hauk died instantly. After that the world seemed less wicked, but always the Pimas feared that Hauk's evil spirit still lurked behind Superstition Mountain.

Suha, Shaman and inspired leader of the Pima tribe, taught his people to build adobe houses, to dig gardens with bones and stones, to irrigate their lands from the rivers; to raise sheep, horses, and cattle, and, above all, to live in peace with one another.

On his dying day, Suha gathered his people and foretold:

"If you ever grow arrogant with wealth, if you ever become covetous of others' lands, if you ever make war for gain, if you ever disgrace yourselves before Chief of the Sky Spirits--another flood will come upon you.

"If that happens again, bad persons will never be saved; only good persons will eventually live with the Sun-God."

Since that time, Pimas have believed Suha's prophecies; and they never, never go onto Superstition Mountain.

But their people love to tell the story of why and how the gum- ball ark landed on Superstition Mountain, saving Suha and his good wife, who became the beloved ancestors of their large and important Pima Tribe.

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