Native American Legends
The legend of Eagleman
A Pima Legend
It was on a summer morning in the days before Se-eh-ha lost the
love of the River People. Just as the sun came over the eastern
hills, the Chief of Cactus Village stood on his brush arbor and
shouted, "My people! The gods have favored us. We have stored
enough food to last all winter. Our families are well fed. Tomorrow
at dawn the warriors will go on a rabbit drive. Each man must have
four arrows. Get busy and repair your weapons."
The day was a busy one for the people. The men joked with one another
and the village hummed with excitement. The women were busy roasting
wheat, grinding it fine on their metates (stone grinders). Pinole
would be good to take on the rabbit drive.
Tall Flowers, a beautiful maiden, took the children to clean gourds
at the spring.
"Fill the gourds with fresh water," she said. The children
all loved Tall Flowers and willingly obeyed her. Everyone worked
for this special day.
Before sunrise the hunters departed for their usual hunting grounds
near Gagaurke-Slanting Mountain-or Superstition Mountain as we know
Suddenly a young brave whose name was Hick-vick (Woodpecker), cried,
"I have only two arrows instead of four."
"Go home and get the rest of your arrows," ordered the
Chief. "We'll wait for you in the shade of this mesquite tree."
Hick-vick ran back to the village. When he reached the spring near
Slanting Mountain, he stopped to get a cool drink of water. He was
surprised to hear a woman's voice.
"I have some good pinole in this bowl. Please drink it, you
look hungry." The young brave eagerly drank the pinole. Every
swallow caused little pin feathers to come out all over his body.
"What is happening to me? I feel so strange," wailed
Hick-vick. Soon he was changed into a huge eagle.
"Ha, ha, ha," laughed the old witch. "I mixed ground
eagle feathers in the pinole. Hereafter you will be Eagleman."
In the meantime the hunters waited for Hick-vick to return. The
Chief grew impatient.
"What is keeping the boy?"
He sent a runner to find out what was detaining him.
The runner started at once. When he reached Slanting Mountain,
he saw a large eagle sitting by the spring. The eagle had the head
of Hick-vick but his body, wings, and talons were those of a huge
Immediately the runner returned to tell the hunters his discovery.
"Hick-vick has been changed to a big eagle. I saw an ugly
old woman running to the mountain. She was carrying a bowl,"
related the runner.
The Chief sadly nodded his head and recalled past events. He told
the young braves about the legend.
"Once the witch was a beautiful maiden. But she was proud
and disobeyed her parents; the gods changed her into an ugly old
witch. She lives in a cave on the side of Slanting Mountain, and
now and then she comes out to bewitch someone," explained the
Chief. "It means the gods are angry. Let us return to our village
When they passed near the spring they found Eagleman sitting with
his bow and two arrows. The hunters aimed their sharp arrows at
the bird, but he deftly caught the arrows with his talons. He flew
to a palo verde tree and alighted on one of the branches, which
broke under his heavy body. Then he flew away. When the hunters
saw this they decided there was nothing to do but to return home
and warn their people.
Eagleman flew over the land until he found a big cave near the
top of a high cliff. There he made his home and hunted for game
to satisfy his great appetite.
When all the game was gone, Eagleman started to kill the people
of Cactus Village. Those who escaped him lived in fear and anxiety.
One day Eagleman swooped down on the home of Tall Flowers and carried
her away to make her his bride. The people heard her cries for help,
but were powerless to help her. The village of Cactus went into
mourning for their beloved daughter. The Chief and his counselors
held meetings to find a way to kill Eagleman.
"He'll wipe out the whole tribe," reasoned the Chief.
Tall Flowers' uncle remembered Elder Brother, a wise old man. "He'll
The next day a young runner went to the home of Elder Brother on
top of Greasy Mountain (South Mountain). He returned with distressing
words. "Elder Brother is not there. His house is deserted."
The people were deeply disappointed. Every so often someone would
go to see if Elder Brother had returned to his house, only to find
it still empty.
Finally, after a year, only a small number of the tribe remained
alive in Cactus Village. A runner went again to Elder Brother's
home and was relieved to find him there at last.
"Elder Brother, I've been told to come and ask you to help
us," explained the runner.
"What's the trouble?" asked Elder Brother.
"Eagleman has been killing our people and we're unable to
"Go home and tell your people I'll come after four days have
passed," said Elder Brother.
The runner returned to his village and told the Chief that Elder
Brother would not come to their aid for another four days. It was
discouraging news. During those days Eagleman made his regular raids
At last the four days passed, and Elder Brother came to the village
to give help to the people. The warriors went with Elder Brother
to show him the high cliff where Eagleman lived.
When they arrived, Elder Brother took out some stakes cut from
very hard wood. He drove the first stake into the side of the cliff,
using his stone axe.
"Before I climb the cliff I want to ask you to return to your
village and tell the people to watch my mountain home. If they see
white clouds floating over Greasy Mountain, it is a sign I have
killed Eagleman. But if black clouds appear you will know I've been
killed by Eagleman," said Elder Brother.
Elder Brother slowly ascended the high cliff, driving the hard
stakes and using them as an isk-liff (ladder). It was a slow, difficult
climb, but Elder Brother was used to all kinds of hardships. Besides,
he wanted to help the people.
When he reached the top of the cliff he found the cave, the home
of Eagleman. Cautiously he peered into the dark cave, shading his
eyes with his hands so as to see clearly.
A small cry came from the dark cave. It was the glad cry of Tall
"My Elder Brother, you ought not to have come. It's risky,"
sobbed Tall Flowers.
"I'll risk my life to save you, Tall Flowers. Stop your crying
and tell me, when does Eagleman come home?"
"He generally gets home at noon," answered Tall Flowers,
drying her eyes.
They quickly decided what course of action to take, for time was
"But the child will reveal your presence. He's very much like
his father and takes great delight in killing the helpless little
insects around here."
"Don't worry. I'll be safe." Elder Brother took some
ashes from the fireplace and made a mark across the child's mouth,
rendering him unintelligible. In the distance they heard a great
noise like peals of thunder. Eagleman was on his way home. Elder
Brother quickly changed himself into a little fly and hid under
a corpse which was in one part of the cave.
When Eagleman arrived he dumped his load on top of the corpse,
hiding Elder Brother more securely. His little son ran to his father
and exclaimed, "A-pa- pa Chu-vich! A-pa-pa Chu-vich!"
"What is the boy trying to tell me? I command you, Tall Flowers,
to tell me."
"There is nothing to tell. No one ever comes here, as you
"But someone is here." Eagleman searched the cave for
any living creature but did not find anyone. He sat down and ate
his meal. Afterwards he put his head on Tall Flowers' lap and took
Tall Flowers sang a soft lullaby, whistling after each stanza.
Eagleman heard and asked sleepily, "Why do you sing and whistle?"
"Because I'm so happy to see you bring home plenty of meat.
Eagleman finally went into a deep sleep and did not hear Tall Flowers'
Elder Brother came out very quietly. With his stone axe he gave
Eagleman a hard blow on his head, killing him instantly. The child
met the same treatment. Elder Brother knew it was not a nice thing
to do, but the people's safety was his first concern, and he wanted
to make certain of their safety forever. He cut off the eagle's
head and threw it to the east, and his body he tossed to the west.
Tall Flowers buried her face against the cliff outside the cave.
Her heart was badly torn but she, too, felt that the safety of her
people came first. So she leaned against the hard cliff to give
Elder Brother came out after he had made sure his task was completed.
As he started to help Tall Flowers climb down the ladder of stakes,
the cliff swayed back and forth. Eagleman's power was felt even
When the rocking of the cliff stopped, Tall Flowers and Elder Brother
descended. Her uncle welcomed her joyously and took her home.
Meanwhile, the people patiently watched the mountain home of their
Elder Brother. Their hearts were glad when they saw white clouds
floating over Greasy Mountain. Eagleman was destroyed at last!
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