Songs Of The Papago Side B

Recorded and Edited by Frances Densmore
Folk Music Of The United States Issued from the Collections of the Archive of American Folk Song L31

Play song


Performed by


Native Words




It is the belief of the Papago that major illnesses are caused by what might be termed psychic causes. These are of several sorts and there are medicine men who treat each. The sick person does not decide to whom he will go for treatment. Instead he must go to certain men who send him to the medicine men whom they consider best fitted to treat him. If his condition does not improve they send him to another. Songs are connected with various forms of illness and are the property of the medicine men who treat those illnesses. Material remedies are not always used. Certain illnesses are attributed to the action of "bad medicine men," others to spirit animals or birds, and others to spirits of the dead while some are supposed to be caused by accidents or injuries. For some injuries a cure is provided by a spirit animal or bird of the sort that caused the injury. Fifty songs used in the treatment of the sick were recorded by only four are presented.

Jose Panco, who recorded this and the song next following said he is using them at the present time (1920) in treating persons suffering from "deer sickness." They are part of a series of five such songs that he received from his grandfather who told him of their origin. The story and the nature of the ailment are not of present interest.

The village mentioned in the first song is that in which the songs originated. The song is a gentle, pleasing melody which would be acceptable to a sick person. These songs are in pairs, or "parts," each having the same melody but the words being different.
Part I: Sandy Loam Fields, on top of those lands Elder Brother stands and sings.
Over our heads the clouds are seen, downy white feathers gathered in a bunch.

Part II: After hearing these songs the women gather on Sandy Loam Fields,
Their heads decorated with clouds of feathers.
Out Of The Mountains Jose Panco That bird comes out back of Frong Mountain,
It stretches its arms trying to reach Cokwigan Mountains (in Mexico).
Song To A Little Yellow Wasp Rafael Mendez In the country of the Papago there lives a wasp that makes a small, straight hole in the sand. In the words of the following song a snake speaks to a wasp that is digging its hole in front of him and throwing the dust in his eyes. This is one of the "rattlesnake medicine songs" that was sung with a certain degree of loudness. Little yellow wasp, you throw dirt in my eyes.
I do not know what to do with you.
All I can do is to make a long-drawn breath, hoping you will die in four days.
Song Of The Dawn Rafael Mendez It was the belief of the Papago that illnesses might be caused by the spirits of Apache killed in war or by spirits of dead Papago. Songs were given by the spirits for the treatment of these illnesses which appear to have been nervous in character. Like the song next preceding, this was recorded by Rafael Mendez at Vomari. It has been a long time since the light began to show, my brother,
Just look, my brother,
Toward us the bows are brightening (referring to shafts of light above their heads like long bows).
White Mountain Birds Were Singing Victoria DREAM SONGS

Songs received in dreams are generally for aid in some undertaking, such as treating the sick, or in war, or the hunt. An interesting contrast was found in a series of eight songs recorded by Victoria, and aged man living at Sells. With two exceptions he received them in dreams during a period of many years and they are concerning his wanderings during the dreams. The singer said that he learned the next dream song from him mother.
White mountain birds were singing sweetly in the east,
It sounded like thunders where he was sitting.
A Black Crow Victoria The next dream song, also recorded by Victoria, is one of the most pleasing melodies recorded among the Papago. Its movement is free and graceful, and it has a compass of ten tones. A crow came down from above to this earth,
A black crow came down from above to this earth,
He was jumping on me.
Song Concerning A Wounded Apache Rafael Mendez WAR SONGS

The ancient tribal enemy of the Papago was the Apache. Many songs of the warpath were recorded by Sivariano Garcia, of San Xavier. The next song concerns an incident that took place in the wars with the Apache. A member of that tribe was wounded and tried to escape. He staggered and fell, rose and staggered a little farther, and finally the Papago killed him before he reached the ground. Rafael Mendez asked that several singers join him in recording this song. One singer gave the "yells" that would have been given by a woman. The renditions containing the "yells" are not presented. The song had two sets of words, one of which appeared to be spoken by the wounded Apache and the other by the pursuing Papago.
(First set of words, supposed to be spoken by the Apache)

Near sunset time I fall down,
Near sunset time I fall down,
I am going almost like a drunken man.

(Second set of words, supposed to be spoken by the Papago)

It is toward evening (yell), he falls (yell),
It is toward evening,
He falls, he staggers like a drunken man (yell).
The Little Captive Children Victoria When the returning warriors approached the village they were met by the women, who received the trophies they had brought. Captives as well as scalps were brought by the returning warriors and the next song is concerning children taken captive among the Apache. The melody has a dignity and pathos that are worthy of consideration. Men shouting "brother," men shouting "brother,"
Among the mountains they have taken little Apache children where the sun went down in sorrow,
All women, what shall we do to realize this?
The Eagle Is Talking Sivariano Garcia The time required for the purification of Papago who had killed Apache was 16 days, the period being divided into four equal parts. In the evening of the sixteenth day the warriors bathed, braided their hair, painted their bodies and went to the victory dance which lasted four days and was characterized by the final disposal of the Apache scalps. A dance performed at this time was called the Wind dance. Four of its songs were recorded by Sivariano Garcia, only the fourth being presented. The eagle is on the highest point of rocks,
He is talking,
I was walking below and I heard the sound echo among the rocks.
We Must Run Mattias Hendricks SONG OF THE KICKING-BALL RACE

The principal athletic contests of the Papago were the kicking-ball races in which each contestant kicked a wooden ball before him. The song of a medicine man to bring success in the game is not presented. Only two men ran at a time. There is a tradition that a certain man wanted to be a good racer and practiced running every day, as soon as the sun rose. One morning he met something on the road that said, "I will give you a song and perhaps if you sing this song you will win a race." The man learned the song, sang it, and won the race. He wore a feather of the blue hawk in his headband before he received the song and believed it helped him in obtaining the song. This is his song.
Now be ready, my poor brother, and we will start to run,
Now before us our nice ball goes far,
After it we run,
No matter what kid of ground there is,
We must run over it.
I Met A Mexican Juana Maria MISCELLANEOUS

The closing song of the series is somewhat humorous in character and is one of the few Papago songs recorded by a woman. The melody contains an unusual variety of intervals.
While I was running I met a Mexican who said,
"How do you do?"
While I was running I met a Mexican with a long beard who said,
"How do you do?"