Thursday, August 30, 2012

Bringing Tyuonyi’s Past Alive

By Adolph Bandelier

Here are some excerpts from the first and last chapters of The Delight Makers:
The Keres of Cochiti declare that the tribe to which they belong, occupied, many centuries before the first coming of the Europeans to New Mexico, the cluster of cave-dwellings, visible at this day although abandoned and in ruins, in that romantic and picturesquely secluded gorge called in the Keres dialect Tyuonyi, and in Spanish “El Rito de los Frijoles” [“bean creek”].

These ruins, inside as well as outside the northern walls of the cañon of the Rito, bear testimony to the tradition still current among the Keres Indians of New Mexico that the Rito, or Tyuonyi, was once inhabited by people of their kind, nay, even of their own stock. But the time when those people wooed and wed, lived and died, in that secluded vale is past long, long ago. Centuries previous to the advent of the Spaniards, the Rito was already deserted. Nothing remains but the ruins of former abodes and the memory of their inhabitants among their descendants. These ancient people of the Rito are the actors in the story which is now to be told; the stage in the main is the Rito itself. . . . 


“To ima satyumishe,—‘come hither,my brother,’” another voice replied in the same dialect, adding, “see what a big fish I have caught.” 

It sounded as though this second voice had issued from the very waters of the streamlet.

Pine boughs rustled, branches bent, and leaves shook. A step scarcely audible was followed by a noiseless leap. On a boulder around which flowed streams of limpid water there alighted a young Indian. . . .

After twenty-one long and it may be tedious chapters, no apology is required for a short one in conclusion. I cannot take leave of the reader, however, without having made in his company a brief excursion through a portion of New Mexico in the direction of the Rito de los Frijoles.

It is a bare, bleak spot, in the centre of the opening we see the fairly preserved ruins of an abandoned Indian pueblo. . . .

Over and through the ruins are scattered the usual vestiges of primitive arts and industry,—pottery fragments and arrow-heads. Seldom do we meet with a stone hammer, whereas grinding slabs and grinders are frequent, though for the most part scattered and broken. We are on sacred ground in this crumbling enclosure. But who knows that we are not on magic ground also?

We might make an experiment. Let us suffer ourselves to be blindfolded, and then turn around three times from left to right. One, two, three! The bandage is removed. What can we see?

Nothing strange at first [but] a change has taken place in our immediate vicinity, a transformation on the spot where stood the ruin. The crumbling walls and heaps of rubbish are gone, and in their place newly built foundations are emerging from the ground; heaps of stone, partly broken, are scattered about; and where a moment ago we were the only living souls, now Indians move to and fro, busily engaging.

Some of them are breaking the stones into convenient size. The women are laying these in mortar made of the soil from the mesa, common adobe. We are witnessing the beginning of the construction of a small village. Farther down, on the edge of the timber, smoke arises; there the builders of this new pueblo dwell in huts while their house of stone is growing to completion. It is the month of May, and only the nights are cool.

These builders we easily recognize. They are the fugitives from the Rito.

And now we have, though in a trance, seen the further fate of those whose sad career has filled the pages of this story. We may be blindfolded again, turned about right to left; and when the bandage is taken from our eyes the landscape is as before, silent and grand. The ruins are in position again; an eagle soars on high.

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