The following column was published by the newspaper El Imparcial (In Spanish) on Friday, October 8, 1937 in the EDITORIAL PAGE, and is a window into the past about what has been written about us Opatas and other Indigenous Nations of the region:
By Dr. Arego
An article by Prof. Manuel Sandomingo, in “La Opinion,” September 24 motivates these lines.
It is titled “The Opata Tribe” and says: “… in 1931 there was not a single opata that could be explained in their language, being able to assure that it has ceased to exist as an ethnic group … in Sonora, the first Spaniards surprised Indians who poisoned a pool of water for deer, to make provision of skins and winter clothes, according to Gomara.”
Without controversy, Prof. Sandomingo will forgive us the warning: The tribe has not ceased to exist as an ethnic group. Here in Arizona there are thousands of opatas, towns and villages that speak and write their dialect: in Florence, Zacaton and Coolidge.
That they “poisoned a puddle” is as fantastic as the fact that Sonora owes its name to the fact that the Indians could not use the word — lady — because they did not speak their language. The ñ, as it sounds in Spanish. It is a gala of dialects. “Baijqui zuñi” the last of the three calls to MISA. There is the “zuñi” tribe and the word also means bell, sound.
Neither tribe nor Apaches poisoned puddles, nor for beasts, much less to kill deer.
The water, gift of the Great Spirit, God, is sacred to them. Their food and their water, we can take them without fear, no matter the tribe. They poisoned their arrows against a tenacious enemy, but not for hunting. They do not leave a deer or wounded animal in the field; by law, under very severe penalties. If the SERIS ever killed white people, it was that they left wounded deer. At the time of pregnancy, they do not kill females. In August, they have their “deer party” barbecue of all those who can capture, with art, running it on foot, or with stones, without firing a shot. So much care for hunting.
The years that the calving is scarce, they know certain herbs that they put in the waters to attract the deer; and others to heal the belly of the females and obtain offspring. This perhaps Gomara saw and the Indians told him — poison — to kick him off. their hunting laws are very harsh and well observed.
Upon arrival of the Spaniards, all the tribes knew much about the laws of Moses and many Indians still do not eat the forbidden meat or pork, or wear a fur poisoned animal. They had a transcript of the Gospels and by tradition, they waited for the conquerors. Thus they accepted those Holy Missionaries to whose devotion the conquest was due, rather than to the adventurous weapons. Say it if not, that amazing trait of aboriginal nobility: the victorious Indians, initiated peace treaties with the brave Hurdaide to feed their fiercely defeated legions and save them from going to perish. . .!
Ay. . . and what a painful lesson the unsuspecting Indians received in exchange for such an act of nobility and unprecedented heroism. . .! Nothing less than the productive slaughter of OTANCAHUI, baptized the place with this name that means “where the bones are whitened like salt” by the Indians, as a sad indelible memory. . . !
And we accuse them of a felony when we have not given them other lessons. . .! Eternally, we have always been the first to break the peace treaties!
There is in Arizona the “Hieroglyphic Canyon” with millions and millions of signs in cliffs and basalts, which, according to some scholars, date up to 40 thousand years. The data seems exaggerated to us. And there, the “Newspaper Rock” so called for the regularity and symmetry of its writings, like printed columns, before which the most notable archaeologists and men of science have crashed. without deciphering the slightest bit of such a remote civilization, or even guessing its purposes and conflicts, even perhaps with very different configuration and physical geography.
For us, this is nothing but their Code, their Fundamental Law, which was their HISTORY, for them sacred; to which kings and vassals were linked; dominators and tributaries. There are registered the signs of all the tribes, including the SERIS of Sonora. Soon “Big House” Opata construction, will appear today in ruins in Arizona. And apart from “Jose Rafael Campoy, a Great Sonorense” a clear precursor of our Independence.
We know Bancroft, Velázquez and others, but we have not read the history of the Seris, for themselves; sad and painful narration drawn on the rocks and cliffs of the coast, from Isla Tiburon to the delta of the Colorado River. It speaks of the white predation in its desolate domain. Of a prodigious odyssey from distant unknown countries; down impossible roads through regions that have now disappeared. Dirty and weathered to the unbelievable, he and his hut reek of fish and moth-eaten leather, sadder and brooding, preserves the legend of a better past. Everlasting victim, the surrounding ranchers, more guilty than him, cry out to the government for the extermination of the tribe when they kill a stolen cattle! And the SERI is being extinguished by leaps and bounds — deliberately suicidal — says an American writer who studied it — consumed by inexorable tribal consumption — he adds. There is only one way to save it – we say: the Church, through Catholic missionaries.
Unlettered Indian, leads many points with the alphabet of the idea, open to him the book of nature that we do not even spell it, foolish. In Caborca, Sonora, it is notorious how an Indian set fire to the house occupied by filibusters in 1857, with incendiary arrows, fired by parable from behind the temple, which determined the triumph! Oh . . God, who reveals these things to the humble illiterate, hidden from the wise and learned!
If there is no reflection, a little more exactness, in terms of justice, so as not to hurt ourselves: Sonora will continue without HISTORY. . .
Finding this piece of history would not have been possible without the open digital repository “Arizona Memory Project”.
-Gomara: Francisco López de Gómara
-Hurdaide: Captian Hurdaide (1616s).