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Texas Technological College Bulletin
Vonl. XII, No. 1, January, 1936
STU'DIIES OF THE YAQUI INDIANS
OF SONORA, M;EXICO
W. C. HOLDEN
Profersor of History anid Anthropolgyy
Director of Archaeological Hesearch
Texas Technological College
C. C. SELTZER
R. A. STUDHALTER
Professolr of Biology
TeXas Technological Collteg
C. J. WAGNER
Chief of Staff
Wes~t TexaS Hospital
W. G. McMILLAN
Pl BrLSHED) BY
TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE
Issued monthly by the College and entered as second-class matter
December 24, 1924, at the Post Office at Lubbock, Texas,
under the Act of August 24, 1912.
TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE
~1 Ii i
UNIVERSITY OF FlZ L RI Au
STUDIES OF THE YAQUI INDIANS
The following studies of the Yaqui Indians are by no means
exhaustive, and the members of the expedition are fully aware that
more remains to be said on the various subjects treated by them
than they have included in these reports. The various papers, with
the exception of Dr. Seltzer's, have been written with the layman
in view rather than the professional anthropologist.
We wish to expr~ess our appreciation to the civil and military
officials of the Republic of Mexico for their kindness and coopera-
tion in making the expedition possible: to Mr. Rambn Betata,
Director General of Statistics, for his friendly interest; to Mr. Jose:
Reygadas Vertiz, Head of Ihe Departments of Monuments, for
giving us permission to make ethnological studies among the Yaquis;
to Manuel Mascarenas, Jr., Chief of Customs at Nogales, Sonora,
for extending to us the "courtesy of the port", both on entering and
leaving Mexico; to General Jesus Gutierrez Cazares, Lt. Colonel
Francisco Salcedo, and Lt. Colonel Natividad Jacome, Mexican
officers in the Yaq~ui region of Sonora, for military assistance and
courtesies; to Jose Miranda, Yaqui governor of Torin, and the
other Yaqui chiefs at Vicam and Torin for their friendly coopera-
tion; and to Ram6n Torry, our Yaqui interpreter, for his faithful
service and personal loyalty to the members of the staff.
For financial support and contribution of supplies we are in-
clebted to the Rotary Club of Lubbock, the Kiwanis Club of Lub-
bock, the West Texas Chamber of Commerce, the Lubbock Ava-
lanche, the Amarillo Clobe Newus, Davis and Humphrey Whole-
sale Grocery Company of Lubbock, Swift and Company of Lub-
bock, Western Windmill Company of Lubbock, J. A. Folger and
Company of Kansas City and San Francisco, Texas Power and
Light Company, Mr. John W. Carpenter of Dallas, Mr. Spencer
Wells of Lubbock, and to many other organizations and individ-
We wish to thank Mrs. R. A. Studhalter, Mrs. W. C. Hol-
den, Professor Gus L. Ford, and Professor C. D. Eaves for taking
over the routine college work of two members of the staff while
those individuals were on the expedition. We are indebted to
Miss Elizabeth Howard West for having read the several manu-
W. C. Holden
Director of the Yaqui Expedition
TABLE OF CONTENTS
by William Curry Holden 13
2. Marriage, Child Rearing, and Education
by William Curry Holden 25
3. La Fiesta De Cloria
by William Curry Holden .34
4. Yaqui Funerals
by William Curry Holden .55
5. Household Economy
by William Curry Holden ..... 67
S6. Yaqui Architecture
by William Garrett McMillan. 72
7. Medical Practices of the Yaquis
by Charles John Wagner ..,... 79
8. Physical Characteristics of the Yaqui Indians
by Carl Coleman Seltzer ..... ..__ ...... 91
9. Yaqui Agriculture
by Richard Arthur Studhalter .. ........... ........... .114
Appendices ..... 26
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Plate 1 ., 15
Plate 2 ,,, ........ 17
Plate 3 23
Plate 4 29
Plate 5 35...... B
Plate 6 47
Plate 7 5 , 7
Plate 8 73
Plate 9 .75
Plate 10 .. 77
Plate 11 ,81
Plate 12 .......... 87
Plate 13 93
Plate 14 .... 135
Plate 15 . .. .. .1 11
STUDIES OF THE YAQUI INDIANS
William Curry Holden, Director
Our active interest in the Yaqui Indians began in the spring
of 1933. Through Miss Yone Stone of Lubbock we met Mr.
Ivan Williams, an immigration officer from Marfa, Texas. Mr.
Williams for several years had been closely associated with
group of Yaqui refugees at Tucson, Arizona. During a period of
Yaqui hostilities in 1926 this group had been driven across the
border by a superior Mexican force. Mr. Williams befriended the
refugees and in time won their confidence. They elected him an
honorary chief and gave him a chief's staff and feather bonnet.
By talking with the old men, Williams learned that Yaquis
had long kept a "history" of their tribe handed down by word of
mouth. He asked "General" Guadalupe Flores, chief of the
refugees, to send word down to the chiefs of the Yaqui villages on
the Rio Yaqui in Sonora requesting them to have some of their
history written down and sent to Tucson. There is constant com-
munication between the Arizona Yaquis and the Yaquis of Sonora.
Runners slip back and forth over secret trails between the Bacatete
Mountains and the border. The Sonora chiefs decided to sup-
ply the "history." They directed one of their tribe who could
operate a typewriter to write the tribal traditions as clictated by the
old men. The scribe wrote a few episodes and attempted to send
them to Arizona through the Mexican mails. The Mexicans in-
tercepted the letters, and the Yaquis tried another plan. They
typed a chapter on cloth, sewed it in the lining of a shirt, put the
shirt on a runner who carried it over the secret trails to Tucson.
Williams said that every few weeks a runner would arrive at Tuc-
son with a "shirt full of history". It was written in Yaqui. "Gen-
eral" Flores would translate it into Spanish, and Williams in turn
would translate it into English. In all there were about 8,000
words of it.
Five months later Mr. Williams was kind enough to let us see
the account. It was mostly a sketchy account of the tribal wars
with the Mexicans since 174r0. It occurred to us that if we could
get to the old men on the Rio Yaqui we could possibly draw from
them additional information.
Williams had visited the eight villages on the Rio Yaqui in
1929, and had become a close friend of Jesus Munguia, at that
time chief of all the villages. Munguia had since urged Williams
to visit the Yaquis again and bring his friends if he wished. An
opportunity to enter the Yaqui country as "Williams' friends"
caused us to start planning an expedition.
The matter of financing an expedition in 1933 was a serious
one. The depression was at its worst, many banks were closed,
and funds of foundations for scientific work had been greatly de-
TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
creased through the stock market collapse. Finally, we worked
out a plan to finance the expedition locally. President Bradford
Knapp and the Board of Directors of Texas Technological Col-
lege enthusiastically approved of the project. The Avalanche-
Journal undertook to sponsor the campaign. Service clubs, busi-
ness firms, and the West Texas Chamber of Commerce contributed
more readily than we anticipated.
The director of the expedition, accompanied by his wife, went
to Mexico City during the Christmas holidays, 1933, and secured
not only permission, but the cooperation of the Mexican government.
Mexican officials listened to our story and became quite interested
in our proposed expedition. They frankly admitted that the
Yaquis had been terribly abused by the Spanish government and
by the Mexican government until a few years ago. Porfirio Diaz
had tried to exterminate them. At the present the government
seems to want to do the right thing by the Yaquis.
During January and February of 1934 we organized our ex-
pedition. We wished to make historical, physical anthropological,
archaeological, ethnological, ethnobotanical, herpetoslogical, orni-
thological, and medical investigations. To this end Harvard Uni-
versity attached to our staff a physical anthropologist, Dr. Carl
Coleman Seltzer, student of Dr. E. A. Hooton. Dr. Richard A.
Studhalter, head of the Department of Biology, Texas Technologi-
cal College, accepted our invitation to go as ethnobotanist. Dr.
Charles J. Wagner, chief of staff of the West Texas Hospital, was
selected to care for the health of the party and investigate Yaqui
diseases. To William G. McMillan of Lubbock was entrusted
the study of wild life. Charles A. Guy, editor and publisher of
the Avalanche-]ournal, was to assist in recording data. Bennie
McWilliams, a Technological College student, was added as cook
and assistant archaeologist. At the last moment the expedition
decided to take along Ross Edwards and Frank Maddox of Lub-
back as outdoor men and camp assistants. We were desirous to
add a geologist, but we had been repeatedly told by persons who
knew that the Yaquis are jealously guarding their minerals and
that one man examining rocks and geological structures would
jeopardize the entire expedition.
Our party left Lubbock March 1, travelling in two cars and
a heavily loaded truck. That night we camped at Van Horn
where we had a long interview with Mr. Williams. We had hop-
ed to take him with us, but he was unable to get a leave at the
time. He had already written "General" Flores that we were
coming by way of Tucson and had asked him to give us a letter
to Jesus Munguia.
When we arrived at Tucson, Flores was expecting us. We
camped from Saturday until Monday in the center of Pascua vil-
lage where we got considerable information from Flores and others
concerning conditions in the Yaqui country. Flores spent the
most of Sunday preparing a letter for us to take to Munguia.
STUDIES OF THE YAQUI INDIANS
At Nogales the Mexican immigration and customs officials
gave us every consideration. Our letters from the government at
Mexico City had the desired effect. The chief of the customs serv-
ice extended us "the courtesy of the port", kept the custom house
open three quarters of an hour overtime in order that we might not
lose an hour's driving, did not inspect a thing we had, and gave us
a letter to keep any one else from inspecting us along the road.
Our route took us to Hermosillo, Guaymas, and then east into
the Yaqui country. We stayed a week at Vicam and three weeks
at Torin from which place we made short visits to Potam and. Con-
The Rio Yaqui rises in southern Arizona, flows south ap-
proximately 300 miles and then turns west some 90 miles into the
Gulf of California. The eight historic Yaqui villages were scat-
tered at more or less equal intervals along the lower 90 mile stretch
of the river which extended from east to west. The country on
either side of the river from ten to twelve miles is low and flat, and
of a sedimentary, sandy loam, covered with a dense growth of
mesquite trees and cacti. A few isolated, rugged hills with eleva-
tions from 100 to 200 feet are scattered between the river and the
Bacatete Mountains to the north. Occasionally there will be
hundreds of acres of cholla so thick neither man nor horse can pene-
trate the thickets. Organ pipe cacti and sahuaras of great size
are plentiful. All the vegetation is of a semi-desert nature. There
is little rain in the region from October until June, and none too
much from June to October.
Dr. Studhalter made observations of the temperature of the
region. He reports: "The temperature is hot in summer, and frosts
are rare in winter. At Vicam and Torin, from March 8 to April
3, 1934, temperature records were taken each day, when possible,
at about 8 A. M., at noon and again at 6 P. M. The morning
temperatures ranged from 500 to 68o F., with a mean of 580. At
noon, the range was found to be from 75o to 93o F., with a mean of
82o. The mean late afternoon record was 77o F., with a range
from 690 to 870. During the same period, the morning relative
humidity ranged from 25 to 71 p. c. with a mean of 45 p. c. At
noon the range was from 22 to 51 p. c.,with a mean of 35 p. c.;
and in the late afternoon, from 22 to 50 p. c., with a mean of 36 p.
c. Little variation was found in barometric pressure during the day,
or from day to day."
Some fifteen miles north of the Rio Yaqui are the Bacatete
Mountains, which extend about twenty-five miles east and west and
about sixty north and south. Passes into the mountains are few,
ITne historic villages from west to east were Belem (Mule Deer).
Huir~is, Rajum, Potam (Pocket Gopher), Vicam (Arrowhead), Torin
(Big Mouse), Bacum (Water Hole), and Cocorit (Chili Pepper).
10 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
difficult and easily guarded from above. Ten men in the moun-
tains can defend the passes against hundreds below by rolling rocks
clown on them. The Yaquis have from time immemorial held
these mountains and are still holding them today. They will ney-
er be completely conquered so long as they continue to occupy them.
Dr. Alex Hrdliaka visited four of the Yaqui villages in 1902.2
He reported approximately 20,000 Yaquis living in the eight vil-
lages at the time. Dr. E. L. Hewitt was in the vicinity in 1906,
but as yet has not published his observations. Today there are
approximately 2600 Yaquis living in five villages. Extending from
east to west, are Consica, Torin, Vicam (Old Vicam), and Potam.
A remnant of the Cocorit Indians are located at the railroad town
The Yaquis of Agua Berde are defiant of all Mexican author-
ity. They control the mountains and live mostly by stealing and by
raiding outlying Mexican settlements. The Yaquis in the four
river villages present a unique political situation. Six years ago
the Mexican government changed its policy toward them. The gov-
ernment made a treaty with the Yaquis whereby each man would
became technically a member of the Mexican army and receive for-
ty-two pesos a month. Officers were to be paid on the same scale
as Mexican officers. In this way the men of the river villages be-
came a part of the army. However, they do not drill and do not
take orders from the regular Mexican officers. In each village
there are two garrisons, one Mexican, one Yaqui. They are paid
by the same government, but spend their days watching each other.
At night they mount guard against each other. There is a sort
of invisible boundary line between them. The relations between
the Yaqui chiefs and the Mexican officers are diplomatic.
We were not able to make contact with Jesus Munguia. He
refused to comply with the last treaty between the Yaquis and th~e
Mexican government. For the past five years he has been the
chief of the Mountain Yaquis. As we were under the constant
surveillance of the Mexican army we had no opportunity to arrange
a meeting with Munguia. The mountain Yaquis are regarded by
the Mexican government as outlaws and are shot on sight. The
army guards the lower ends of the passes in an effort to prevent
communication between the mountain Yaquis and those in the river
villages. We ascertained, however, that the two groups have an
understanding between them, and that the river Yaquis help to sup-
port the mountain people.
Our ethnological work during our first expedition was handi-
capped by the lack of adequate interpreters. At Tucson we had
nHrdli~ka, Ales, "Notes on the Indians of Sonora". Amlerican
Anthropologist, 6:51--89, 1904.
Hrdliaka, Ales, "Physiological and Medical Observations among tthe~
Indians of Southwestern United States." Bureau of Amlerican Eh
nology Bulletin 34, 1908.
STUDIES OF THE YAQUI INDIANS 11
been told by Flores that we could find Yaquis at the villages who
spoke English. Several days of searching in the four villages re-
vealed one such man, Ram6n Torry, and his knowledge of English
was scant. He had gone to school in Tueson and had reached
the third grade. Because of lack of an adequate interpreter we
decided to confine the ethnological work to material culture and
such phases of social culture as we might get by observation.
In September, 1934, three members of the first expedition, ac-
companied by Dr. Charles B. Qualia, head of the Foreign Lang-
uage Department of Texas Technological College, as interpreter,
made a second expedition to the Yaqui country. Dr. Studhalter
went along to observe the fall agricultural crops and methods of
harvesting. Dr. Wagner wished to continue his medical studies.
With a competent interpreter we were desirous of investigating more
thoroughly the social ethnology of t11e Yaquis. Dr. Qualia prov-
ed to be an excellent interpreter. He had been reared on the Mex-
ican border and was familiar with the folk ways of Mexico. Furth-
ermore his skill in framing questions and his ability to draw inform-
ation from the Yaquis without the use of "lead questions" were
comparable to those of a professional ethnologist. All our time
during the second expedition was spent at Torin. We already
had the confidence of the people at that village and we thought it
best to concentrate our efforts there.
Perhaps our greatest single achievement was the contacts we
made at Torin. Because of a series of fortunate incidents we made
as much headway getting the confidence and cooperation of the
people as we might have made in many months or years. We hope
to make other expeditions in the future. If we do, we feel that
we shall receive a genuine welcome, especially at Torin.
The expedition secured 144 museum specimens, 71 for Pea-
body Museum at Harvard and 73 for the Plains Museum Society
at Texas Technological College. The two collections are for the
most part duplicates and represent fairly well the articles used by
the modern Yaqui. In addition a small collection of botanical
specimens was made.
Dr. Wagner and Dr. Studbalter took approximately 600 pic-
tures. Dr. Seltzer, in addition to photographing the 100 individuals
whose measurements he took, made over 100 pictures dealing with
Yaqui life. Dr. Wagner took 1200 feet of movie film. Mr. Mc-
Millan made numerous sketches, some of which are given in Plates
8, 9, I 0.
STUDIES OF THE YAQUI INDIANS 13
William Curry Holden
The political system of the Yaquis is simple, definite, and
effective. Each village has a governor elected for one year.
About December 10 of each year the people, both men and women,
of each village, gather for the election. The attendance at the
election is compulsory. The army chief sends out details to bring
in all truants. The proceedings are extremely informal. By
agreement the people try to arrive at a selection. It sometimes re-
quires a week of consultation to do this. When a decision has been
reached, a committee waits on the one selected and informs him
that he has been chosen. It seems to be a universal custom for no
one to seek an office. When one is elected he usually pleads with
the committee to choose another. The committee reasons with
him and tells him that it is his duty to take the office. There is
no getting out of it. We were told of instances where the one
chosen was whipped until he accepted the place.
The functions of the governor are many and varied,--execu-
tive, diplomatic, legislative, judicial, social, and religious'. As
an executive, he takes the initiative in the enforcement of tribal cus-
tom, which has the force of law. In his diplomatic capacity he
speaks for the village in all negotiations with the other villages. Al-
though the Mexican government does not technically recognize
Yaqui autonomy to any degree, as a practical matter of administra-
tion it does recognize Yaqui autonomy in a quasi sense, and inter-
feres with Yaqui affairs as little as possible. When the command-
ant of a Mexican garrison in a Yaqui village wishes something of
the Yaquis, he sends for the governor and treats with him instead
of issuing a military order as is usual in dealing with people under
military rule. When measures are to be deliberated upon and policies
formed the governor calls the men of the village together, and acts
as a presiding officer when the matter is being discussed. He acts
as a judge in both civil and criminal matters. In social affairs,
the people of the village wait for the governor to take the lead. In
all religious services the governor, assistant governors, ex-governors,
and ex-assistant governors constitute an order or group with special
lIt is to be remembered that the Yaqui makes no differentiation in
governmental functions. To him the governor is an elected chief. He
often refers to the governor and assistant governors as "los jefes" (the
chiefs). In short the Yaqui makes only one classification in the fune-
tions of government wherein we make several. It is for the purpose
of analysis that I apply our governmental terminology to the Yaqui
system. The Yaqui himself would be confused by it.
14 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
There are four assistant governors elected in the same way and
at the same time as the governor. They are designated as second
governor, third governor, fourth governor, and fifth governor. Their
functions are largely advisory. They constitute a sort of cabinet
without individual portfolios so far as executive, diplomatic, legis-
lative, social, and religious affairs are concerned. When judicial
matters are at hand they, in conjunction with the governor, con-
stitute a court. The duties of the fifth governor differ somewhat
from those of the other three assistant governors. He is a sort of
bailiff, sergeant at arms, or constable for the governor. As a
badge of office he carries a rawhide whip tied around his waist.
The whip is not altogether an insignia but also an implement of
punishment. On occasion he lays it lustily upon the bare backs of
The governor, second governor, third governor, and fourth
governor carry batons as insignia of office. The baton of the gov-
ernor is approximately thirty-two inches long, while those of the
first three assistant governors are approximately twenty-six inches
long. Each of them has a silver head on one end and an iron
point on the other. The purpose of the point is to enable the gov-
ernor or assistant governors to stick the baton in the ground. When
during Lent one of these officials arrives at the council house for any
official purpose he sticks his baton in the ground before the little
wooden cross in front of the council house. When one sees the
batons of the governors thus sticking in the ground, he knows that
some governmental affairs are in progress.
Each village has a council which deliberates upon policies of
community concern. It is a loosely constituted group. The Yaquis
themselves are scarcely aware of its existence. When we asked
one of them whether each village had a council we usually got a
negative answer. Observation convinced us, however, that all
matters of a deliberative nature are discussed by the mature men
of influence at the council house until a general agreement is
reached. Sometimes the discussion may last for days. There is
no definite organization except that the governor directs the discus-
sion. The extent to which each man participates is usually in di-
rect proportion to his influence. It is customary for the old men
to talk and the young men to listen. We never heard a young
man under thirty speak out in council meeting. The young men
are always there, but they keep at a respectful distance on the out-
skirts of the group. The average Yaqui puts in more time at the
council house than anywhere else, barring the time he spends at
Courtesy of the Texas Archaeological and Paleontological Society.
1. The plumed dancers clan.
2. A Yaqui ceremony, naked Indian represents the Christus.
3. Yaqui funeral, devil-chaser in the foreground.
16 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
home. If there is anything to deliberate upon he either talks and
spits or listens and spits. If there is not anything to deliberate
about, he merely spits.
The governor and assistant governors constitute a court with
jurisdiction over all cases, civil and criminal, except murder. Civil
cases pertain mostly to probate matters, questions on boundaries and
ownership, and domestic differences. Criminal cases consist for the
most part of thievery and of intoxication during the period of Lent.
Intoxication during the rest of the year is not considered a crime,
and is even regarded by some as an obligation. Fighting, as long
as only fists are used, is considered a private matter and no notice
is taken of it. In case of thievery the accused is brought before
the governors. They investigate to ascertain whether or not he is
guilty. If it is the first offense of the accused, he is made to re-
turn the goods. If it is the second offense of the accused, he is
made to return the goods and is given six lashes by the fifth govern-
or. For each additional offense he is given six lashes. If the
culprit is penitent and prays to God for forgiveness, some of the
lashes may be remitted, If the thief has already disposed of the
stolen goods he is made to pay the rightful owner the value of the
goods as determined by the governors and is given lashes according
to what offense it is.
Before the fifth governor begins lashing a wrongdoer he has
the offender remove his shirt. T`he fifth governor makes the sign
of the cross on his back and then lays on the whip. When the
lashing is over a ceremonial question is asked the one who has been
"Why have you been beaten?"
"Because I have stolen a horse." (Or whatever it was.)
'Whose fault is it?"
We were told that it is rare for a person to commit a second
The Yaquis have no jails. Incarceration is not their idea of
punishment. In fact, they have only three forms of punishment,-
admonition, lashing, and death.
All the Yaqui villages have a central governmental organiza-
tion in the form of (1) a council and (2) a chief. The council is
a primary convention and is as purely democratic as the primary
conventions of Switzerland. It is composed of every man and
woman of the eight traditional villages. They do not all attend,
but it is their privilege to go. The council convenes at irregular
Courtesy of the Texas Archaeological and Paleontological Society.
4. Interior of Yaqui rooms showing horizontal bamboo weave.
5. A Yaqui kitchen,
6. An arbor in front of a Yaqui house.
18 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
intervals for two purposes, (1) to elect a chief or (2) to act as a
court to try capital offenses. It has been customary, as long as
the oldest men can remember, for the council to meet at Vicam,
which is the most centrally located village. When occasion for a
meeting arises, word is sent to all the villages for the people to meet
at Vicam on a specified date. Those in the outlying villages leave
home the day before. The most of them, men, women, children,
and dogs, go on foot along trails ankle cleep in dust. A few ricle
horseback. They all carry sufficient food to last several days. It
will probably be needed before the convention is over.
If it is the purpose of the council to elect a chief, the governors
of the various villages form a caucus. They go over the available
men for the position until they find someone on whom they can all
agree. This stage of the selection amounts practically to a unani-
mous agreement. Then the governors go to the delegations from
their respective villages and ask for approval of: the choice. No vote
is taken. If any person opposes the candidate he says so. If
there is no opposition, the governor reports to the caucus that his
people are agreeable. If no opposition comes from any of the
villages, the caucus waits on the one selected and informs him that
he is the choice of the people for chief of the eight villages. It is
customary for him to decline the position. This disinclination may
be sincere or it may be in some cases a mere matter of form. The
members of the caucus reason with him until be accepts. There is
no side-stepping the will of the people among the Yaquis. The
term of office is for life. The average chief is in his fifties or six-
ties when elected. Unless he is captured or killed by the Mexi-
cans, as has been the case, his term usually lasts for ten to twenty
At the present time there is a dual chieftanship which is con-
fusing even to the Yaquis themselves. The real chief is Louis
Mlatos who is now in his seventies and who has held the office for
twenty years. For the past five years he has been in the mountains,
a fugitive from the Mexican government. He refused to be recon-
structed and accept the present status of the village Yaquis. He is
still regarded as the lawful chief by a large majority of the people
in the villages.
The Mexican government, at the time Matos was driven into
the mountains because he would not conform to the terms of the
treaty of 1929, arbitrarily designated Pluma Blanca of Consica as
chief of the Yaquis. Up to that time he had been a minor official
in the village of Consica. His selection by the government was due
to his pro-Mexican leanings and to the fact that he spoke Spanish
fairly well. All government dealings are through Pluma Blanca.
The Yaquis do not recognize him except as a matter of convenience
in their negotiations with the government.
The second function of the council is judicial. When a capi-
tal crime is committed the chief sends runners to all the villages
asking the people to assemble at Vicam. A crime is considered as
STUDIES OF THE YAQUI INDIANS 19
such only when perpetrated by one Yaqui against another Yaqui.
The chief presides and all the people, men and women, constitute
the jury. The accused may speak for himself or select someone to
speak for him. During the trial his hands and feet are tied, and
he is kept under guard. The verdict is reached by a sort of mass
agreement. With a less orderly procedure it would be called mob
agreement. Within the memories of the old men still living, no
mass jury has ever failed to convict a person accused of murder.
The penalty in such a case is death.
Yaqui justice is as swift as it is sure. There are no appeals,
no reversals, no delays, no legal stallings, no jailbreaks, and no
escapes. The sentence is carried out the next morning after the
verdict is reached. The night before the execution is devoted to
the condemned man's funeral. He has the compensating satisfac-
tion of witnessing his own funeral, or the most of it at least. From
the time the sentence is pronounced he is treated as a dead person.
The devil-chasers mount guard over him and keep the evil spirits
away. Chants and prayers are said, the people feast, and fire
crackers are shot. One of the most impressive parts of the cere-
many is a collection taken up for the condemned man's family. A
tin plate is placed before the altar in the church, and while the
accused looks on, the people file past and drop in money for the
widow, or for his mother, as the case may be. In the morning he
is placed before the large cross in front of the church at Vicam, and
promptly at eight o'clock a firing squad fires. The lieutenant thenl
goes forward and shoots the fallen man through the head with his
pistol. The funeral ceremony is already over except the actual
burial which requires but a few minutes. He is covered up and
the people are dispersing before he is cold.3
Yaqui trials for capital crimes are becoming more and more
rare in the river villages. There have been few within the past five
years. When such a crime is committed now, the Mexican army
officers, if they learn of it, attempt to have the accused apprehend-
ed and tried under Mexican law. Governor Miranda of Torin,
however, told us that the Yaquis will try desperately to keep the
8The following account of a Yaqui murder trial was given us by a
Mexican who claimed that it was told to him by an old Yaqui woman.
We were unable to get the story verified by any of the old Yaqui men,
but it is worth repeating. One Yaqui killed another. The murderer
was arrested and tried by the general council of all the villages and
found guilty. But the execution, instead of following the usual custom,
was postponed for eight days. During this time the condemned one
was given the best food and everything else that he wanted. Each day
the people took him to church and prayed for his soul. On the last
night his funeral service was held. Early on the morning of the eighth
day he was taken to the cemetery w~her~e he witnessed the digging of
his grave. At eight o'clock he was placed before the large cross in
front of the church and shot by eight soldiers with eight bullets. The
shooting was officially watched by eight women, madrinas. There
were onl bullet and one woman for each of the eight villages. Then
the body was buried by the women.
20 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
affair concealed from the Mexican military in order that they may
try the case according to their ancient custom. The mountain
Yaquis still continue tribal judicial procedure without Mexican in-
The Yaquis pay no taxes to the Mexican government; nor
do they levy any local taxes upon themselves. Community enter-
prises, such as fiestas or collections for charity, are financed by free
will offerings. The payment of taxes is not included among the
worries of the Yaqui. We were told that there is no word for tax-
ation in the Yaqui language.
Under Mexican influence the military society no doubt has
undergone a change. The village war chief has been replaced by
a caplian, a feniente, sargeants, and corporals. The warriors are
now soldados. The most of the members of this society technically
belong to the Mexican army; some, however, are not paid by the
Mexican government because they did not sign the government
rolls at the time of the treaty. On the other hand there are men,
not in this organization, who receive pay. The average man of
the society going about his everyday routine is a walking arsenal.
Around his waist is a cartridge belt filled with cartridges. At his
hip bangs a cocked semi-automatic -pistol. Inside his belt behind
his left hip is a long knife used both for hunting and for hombres.
Over his right shoulder hangs a repeating rifle which may range
anywhere from a 30-30 to 45 calibre. Most of his arms are of
American make. The military society never drills. Its main func-
tion, it seems, is to march in the numerous funeral and religious pro-
Most spectacular on ceremonial occasions is the devil-chasers'
society.l We gave them the name because it so aptly describes
their functions. They call themselves the Fariseos. Such a name
attests to the adaptability of the early padres. They found the
devil-chasing organizations among the Yaquis, and being unable
to abolish the orders, took them over and made them actors in the
miracle plays, which to the Indians became synonymous with Chris-
tianity. Their business in pre-Columbian, pagan days was to
chase devils, and so it is today.
Mexican influence has been felt in the organization of the
devil-chasers' society. At the head is a capitan, more generally
known as "el jefe". As a badge of office he carries a spear. Next
in order comes a teniente, who has a horse-hair rope over his
shoulder, and he carries a sword with the point upward. He is
followed by four cabos (corporals) who have wooden swords which
they carry point downward. Next come a flutist and a drummer.
These are followed by devil-chasers whose status is comparable to
'The Yaqui word for devil-chaser is chapayecam.
STUDIES OF THE YAQUI INDIANS 21
that of privates. Of great importance is another official without
military title, Pilato. Because of his dres -and the role he played,
he is sometimes called Death, a part he represented, no doubt,
before the Spaniards came. Membership is optional, yet "once a
member always a member." Men usually join the society in ful-
fillment of a vow taken in some crisis. For instance, if a Yaqui is
deathly sick, he promises God that if he be permitted to get well
he will join the devil-chasers. If he does recover, he assumes that
God has accepted his offer, and becomes a devil-chaser.
Closely associated with the devil-chasers are the caballeros, an-
other religious society. There were eleven of them at Torin; how-
ever, they have no fixed number. Their chief is a capitan and for
a badge of office he carries a large wooden sword; there are three
cabas with wooden swords, and five knights with wooden lances.
The officers ride horses in the processions while the knights walk.
The officers are elected for life by the society. Membership in the
society is acquired in the same way as in the devil-chasers.
The group called matachines, or plume-dancers, is a religious
society. In personnel, organization and activity, it has been little
influenced by Christian, Spanish, or Mexican influence. The or-
ganization is under the sole direction of a monoja, or chief. Mem-
bership is for life and is acquired when the boys are very young,
often as babies. If a boy becomes seriously ill, for instance, his
mother promises him to the malachines if God permits him to live.
There are fourteen members in the society at Torin, their ages
ranging from nine to seventy. They wear on their heads tall co-
ronas from the top of which flow colored paper streamers. These
no doubt were once feathers of brilliant bues. In their right hands
they carry gourd rattles and in their left plumes of chicken feathers.
These were in ancient times parrot feathers, perhaps.
Another group of dancers is the pascolas. Their organization
is loose, and membership is optional. Individuals join or withdraw
when they wish. The group is composed of three or four dancers
and a half dozen musicians. A deer-dancer is usually associated
with them. Unlike the matachines, the chief function of the pas-
colas is to entertain. They alternate dancing with "wise-crackinlg"
at funerals, religious fiestas, wedding fiestas, and christening fiestas.
Associated with the church are three societies usually found in
a Catholic parish, one for men, and two for women. The men's
order, the Society of Saint Ignatius, is headed by a gobernador, or
beadle. Saint Ignatius is the patron saint of Torin. There are
three maestros who conduct services when the regular Catholic
priest is not present. This is most of the time as the priest comes
ZFor an account of the dress of various members of the devil-chas-
ers' society, see chapter on Fiesta de Gloria.
Ralph L. Beals in collaboration with Elsie Clews Parsons in a
article, "The Sacred. Clowns of the Pueblo and Mayo-Yaqui Indians",
American Anthropologist, Vol. 36, No. 4, October-December, 1934, gives
a more detailed account of the devil-chasers.
22 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
through only once or twice a year. Next is the sacristan, or te-
machi, who rings the bells, lights candles, and acts as head janitar.
He is assisted by two or three understudies. Several altar boys
comprise the remainder of the group.
The older women have a society called in Yaqui qui yoste.
It is the Society of the Virgin of Loretta or the Society of Our
Lady of Loretta. The group cares for the images, does various
tasks, usually done by women's church societies, and carries images
of the saints in the numerous processions.
The younger women and girls have a society known as the
"Children of Mary". They assist at work around the church, pre-
pare for the various services, and take orders generally from the
older women. On one occasion in the Fiesta de Gloria they carry
the image of Mary in her search for the risen Jesus.
The choir can scarcely be said to be an organization. It is
composed of any number of women, and is closely associated with
the maestr-os. They sing the responses and chants for all services.
All the seven last named organizations have to do more or less
with religion. In fact, the Yaquis are extremely religious. They
do everything religiously, even their drinking. When they shoot
Mexicans, they do it religiously. A considerable part of their
time is devoted to religious activities. Their religion is a mixture of
Catholicism and paganism, a Christian theme largely observed
with pagan ritual. Their churches combine the elements of Chris-
tian temple and pagan shrine. They are made of poles and car-
rizo somewhat after the manner of our old-fashioned brush arbors.
The services are conducted almost entirely by the beadle and the
maestros. These wear no vestments, but dress in blue denim and
sandals like the other men. Training for these positions is got by
the apprentice method. The maestros do no preaching, but lead
the endless prayers and chants.
Religious observances consist for the most part of pageantry
and miracle plays. The Yaquis possess a keen sense of the dra-
matic. Their religious fiestas consist of a series of dramatic epi-
sodes in which Biblical and pagan characters are impersonated.
They observe six general fiestas in the course of the year and one
local fiesta in honor of the individual saint of each village. Of the
general fiestas, the eve of Saint John's Day is given over to social
festivities, and Saint John's Day proper, June 24, to religious cere-
monies. Saint Francis' Day on September 24 is observed with re-
Courtesy of the Texas Archaeological and Paleontological Society.
7. Yaqui slingshot, rawhide thong for wood carrying, rawhide lariat,
stool, gourd nursing bottle, tortilla basket, sandals, whisk broom and
6. Yaqui musical instruments.
9. Cooking utensils, two wooden spoons, wooden bowl, and earthen
ii : m
24 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
ligious processions and services. A similar observance takes place
the day of the Conception on December 8, and another on the Day
of the Virgin of Guadalupe, December 12. The celebration of
Christmas lasts a week. The most important of all is the Fiesta de
Gloria at Easter.
During the observance of Lent, Yaquis observe an impressive
ceremony each evening just at dusk. A drummer goes out from
the council house of each village, stands before the cross in front
of the council house, and beats a continuous roll for several minutes.
Then he faces in each of the four directions making a sort of cur-
tesy by placing the toe of one foot just behind the heel of the other.
While he is beating the drum all men within hearing place their
hats on the ground in front of them and stand at attention facing
the drummer until the ceremony is over. The Yaquis explained
to us that this was a sort of silent prayer. Since the use of the
drum and the facing in four directions are pagan practices we sur-
mised that the early Catholic missionaries took over an ancient na-
tive ceremony and adapted it as a sort of vesper service
Yaquis observe certain Christian practices of fasting. They
never eat meat on Friday; and during Holy Week they eat no
meat on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday.
A widespread belief in ghosts prevails among the Yaquis.
Practically every adult person has had one or more "experiences"
with a ghost. These "experiences" are not hard to come by, for
the men especially, as the most of them imbibe more or less mescal
from time to time. The most realistic ghost story we got was from
the old temachi, or bell-ringer at the church. One night when he
was at the church alone ringing the bell about 9 o'clock, a ghost
came out of the church, passed near him, walked out about fifty
yards, and sat down on a rock. The old temachi got a good view
of him as he passed. He wore a long., black robe or coat. He had
a very large, white head, and a flat face. When we asked the old
man how long the gbost sat on the rock, he said he did not stay to
STUDIES OF THE YAQUI INDIANS
MARRIAGE, CHILD REARING, AND EDUCATION
William Curry Holden
The initiative in marriage negotiations rests in theory with the
mother of the boy. Considerable freedom is allowed young people
before marriage, and matches are often the result of understand-
ings between the boy and girl in question. But it is for the mother
of the boy to make the first public move. 1 he clegree to which a
mother follows the wishes of her son as to choice of the girl depends
upon the dominating nature of the, mother and the acquiescing na-
ture of the son. Qualities in their prospective daughters-in-law
which all Yaqui mothers rate foremost are health, vitality, robust-
ness, and industry. The most desirable girl is heavy set, strong
limbed and strong backed, large hipped, and heavy breasted. Such
physical qualities are almost indispensable to fit the bride for the
strenuous life of a Yaqui wife and mother. The slender, Ameri-
can, boyish type of girl would never be selected by a Yaqui mother.
Theoretically, the mother takes the step in match-making by
first deciding on a girl and then taking the matter up wilth her son
and husband. If all these parties are favorable, the boy's mother
makes a date with the parents of the girl to discuss the matter. The
meeting of the four parents takes place at the home of the girl.
The visiting parents ask for the girl for their daughter, saying they
will treat her well and respect her. If the girl's parents object to
the match they veto the proposal, and that is the end of it unless
there is a tremendous infatuation between the young couple. Their
only recourse is to run away and begin living together in a com-
mon law relationship, a thing which is occasionally clone. The us-
ual rule is, however, for the girl's parents to agree. The engage-
ment is manifested by the boy's presenting the girl with a wedding
dress. This is usually made by his mother and sisters.
The wedding takes place at the Yaqui church the next time
the priest comes through. Inasmuch as he comes only once or twice
a year, there may be several weddings at the same time. The cere-
mony takes place between eight and nine in the morning. It is the
usual Catholic ceremony. After it is over the Yaqui maestro
draws the couple aside and gives them advise. He tells them to
love each other, to be faithful, and to respect their parents. Then
he gives special allegorical admonitions to the boy. The world is
full of pitfalls. First, he must avoid water (the evils of drink);
second, he must beware of iron (not indulge in needless fightings);
and hird, he must shun darkness (nrot stray from the good faith).
In addition he tells thle giri net: to look to the right or the left when
she 'goes out, for thy ~devil is hi'rking about a'nc: wil! tempt her. Fail-
26 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
ure to observe any of the above admonitions will bring unhappiness.
The bride and bridegroom swear to heed the advice by the holy
cross which they make with thumb and forefinger.
The newlyweds, with their families and friends, then proceed
to the home of the boy's parents where preparations have been made
for an all-day fiesta. The bride wears the wedding dress until
noon, when she takes it off and puts it away. It is kept until her
death. If she has not grown too stout, it is her burial gown. If she
is too large for it, it is rolled into a bundle and placed under her
head "so that God can see what she was married in." After she
takes off her wedding dress on her wedding day, the bride helps with
the cooking and serving of food for the assembled crowd, beans,
tortillas, stew of wild meat, and black, vile coffee. The musicians
and pascolas are there to dance. There is plenty of mescal. IVost
of the men and boys partake of it in varying amounts. Some of
them will become thoroughly drunk. There may be quarrels and
fist fights. The party breaks up in the late afternoon, and the
guests able to travel go home. Those who have become complete-
ly intoxicated will lie in the dust in the yard or in the road, de-
pending upon where they happened to fall over, until they regain
consciousness in the night or next morning. Then they stagger on
home with bleared eyes and bursting heads.
It is customary for the couple to live at the house of the boy's
parents. If the boy is enterprizing he has built a new bamboo room
near or attached to the house of the family. It is most likely, how-
ever, that he has not gone to this trouble. In this case, they are
assigned a corner of a room already occupied by several members
of the family. There is little privacy in a Yaqui household. The
bride assumes her share of the women's work, and begins her mono-
tonous career of grinding corn, cooking tortillas, carrying wood and
water, and raising babies.
Due to the influence of the Catholic church, monogamy pre-
vails among the Yaquis today. There is little doubt, however, that
before the advent among them of Chrisitanity they were polygam-
ists. One evidence of this is to be found in the calmness with
which they, religious as they are, view irregular unions of a
polygamous character. We shall give an example. Juan Ser-
rano is between forty-five and fifty. He stays drunk most of the
time except during a holy fiesta. He is very religious, and takes
an important part in all religious ceremonies and funerals. His
home is a veritable harem. We had occasion to be in his house
often and tried to unravel the relationship of his various women.
None of them was "his lawfully wedded wife." That individual
had left him years ago. "She went off with another man:". The
oldest woman in his harem, whom we shall call wife Number 1,
was about the same age as Juan, between forty-five and fifty She
was the lawful wife of a friend' of. Jitan's.. The friend hao gone
to Arizona ten or twelve yeal before anddhad "loaned" her to
Juan. She had a daughter when Juan'"Lborrowed" her, and she
STUDIES OF THE YAQUI INDIANS 27
bas s:nce had six children by Juan. These children are all girls
except the last one, a boy about two years old, whom Juan war-
ships. Wife Number 2 was a young women not over twenty. She
had two babies by Juan. The older is dead, and the second, a
boy six months old, was sick when we saw it. It probably did not
liv-e. Wife Number 3 wvas the daughter of wife Number 1. She
was a full-breasted, sleek-rkinned, sensuous girl of sixteen. At the
time we were there last she wyas some eight months advancecl wi.h
child. There was another young woman in the household, a "cous-
in" of Number 3, wYhose position we could not make out, but it is
probable that she served as wife Number 4 to Juan. All the wom-
en lived together in harmony and amicability under the supervision
of the oldest one.
Juan's polygamy is tolerated by the community. There is
no doubt a certain amount of gossip going around, but neither Juan
nor any of his numerous family are ostracized socially. All of the
various wives participate in the religious and social life of the vil-
lige,-a condition which indicates to some degree that the Yaqui
people have traditionally been accustomed to plural wives.
The Yaquis are much more exacting in their rules pertaining
to exogamy than to those relating to managamy. Public opinion
does not permit incest. There is no evidence today that exagamy
among them is based on any kind of clan system, as is the case
with other Amer can Indian tribes. If such were ever the case the
practice has been dropped. No one can marry hfs blood kin.
The degree to which prohibitions are placed upon blood relat on-
ships is vague. It evidently extends beyond first cousirs. The
practice of incest is looked upon as very low and beastly. Ary
one guilty of it is regarded as an animal, and superstition has i!
that he may even turn into an animal. He has the same political
status as an outlaw has in our country,-one outside of the law,
and it is no crime for any citizen to kill him.
Interracial marriages are opposed by the Yaquis. Their op-
position to intermarrying with the Mexicans is augmented to some
extent by racial hatred but it is basically religious. They look
with disfavor upon their young people's marrying Anglo-Ameri-
cans. They believe that the Yaquis will be segregated in heaven,
and if one marries outside the tribe he will be separated from his
people in the next world. In the villages where the social prac-
tices are still regulated by tribal tradition and opinion there ij
practically no intermarrying with the Mexicans. The force of tri-
bal customs breaks clown, however, when young men leave the vil-
lages to work in Mexican or American communities. A Yaqui
youth an a ranch in northern Sonora is likely to marry a Mexican
girl. If he does he is lost to the tribe and is absorbed into the
Mexican race. We could find no instance where a young man
had returned to the villages bringing a Mexican wife with him.
Divorce theoretically does not exist among the Yaquis, but in
reality it is quite prevalent. Here again we find the ancient cus-
28 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
toms of the people hanging on in sharp conflict with the more recent
mandates of the Catholic church. As in most other American In-
dian tribes, divorce no doubt was easy among the Yaquis prior to
the seventeenth century. Then came the padres with their teach-
ing of monogamy and no divorces. Today a Yaqui cannot obtain,
either from the tribal authorities or otherwise, a lawful divorce.
But the church does not prohibit a man or woman from forsaking
his or her lawful spouse and taking up with another. Our inquiry
indicated that at least fifteen percent of the adults having families
are now living under such conditions. No social stigma is attach-
ed to the practice, and the children are christened by the church
without any questions as to their legitimate status.
The Yaquis are quite frank in their conversation on matters
pertaining to sex. Both men and women answered questions and
volunteered comments without embarrassment in the presence of their
families and neighbors. Sex relations is common among unmarried
people and adultery to some extent among married persons. If
the relations of young unmarried persons become known, they are
given a good lecture by the old people. Such reproof is a matter
of form and is not taken too seriously. Women seemed to be more
unfaithful than men and with physiological cause, perhaps. From
all appearances, Yaqui women as a whole are highly sexecl. We
were told there are a few "professional" prostitutes among them.
The customary price is a peso, or a piece of cheap jewelry, or a
dress. Such women are the object of considerable gossip, but are
not socially ostracized.
Yaquis love children. They simply cannot have too many.
Because of the high infant mortality rate they must bring many of
them into the world in order to have a few reach maturity. The
bearing of children is the main interest and pleasure of a Yaqui
woman. With her, pregnancy is a pleasure because she experi-
ences its stimulating and exalting effects and little of the nausea
and illness so common with white women.
Pregnancy is a condition of which Yaqui women are not
ashamed. On the contrary they are proud of it. They laugh and
make jokes about it with their friends and neighbors, men as well
as women. The only precautions which a Yaqui woman seems
to take while carrying a child is in not lifting heavy objects. De-
Courtesy of the Texas Archaeological and Paleontological Society.
10. Plume, corona, and gourd rattle of a plumed dancer.
11. Left to right, bamboo flute, a whirling device for twisting horse
hair into strands, arrow with wooden point, notched music stick, smooth
12. Deer dancer's mask.
rof r I ~
I ~ I r I
~irc r rl
It tlTir I
30 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
livery requires from three hours to three days, the most of the
cases being less than six hours. Caesarian operations are unknown
to them If a mather is not delivered in the natural way she dies.
Little trouble is encountered in childbirth by Yaqui women, how-
ever, as they characteristically have large pelvic areas and unusual
vitality. As a rule a woman is attended in delivery by a mid-
wife only. In same cases the medicine man gives the assistance.
Occasionally women wait on themselves. We talked with one
woman who had had three children. With two of them she waited
entirely on herself. In one case she had cut the card too short and
the child blecl to death. The woman is usually in a kneeling posi-
tion when the birth occurs. The placenta comes out promptly, sel-
daom longer than fifteen minutes after the birth. It is buried in ash-
e~s or placed in the top of a tree, for Yaquis believe that if it is
not clisposed of properly it will cause trouble when the next child
is born. The mother usually rests on a mat from two to five days.
Then she gets up and goes about her duties. A few women never
go to bed at all. However, they all observe a forty day period of
The baby, immediately after birth, is given a calendric
name, washed in tepid water, and dressed. The calenclric name
is used until after the christening. The baby is nursed by some
other woman for six to seven days, as the mother's milk is not
thought to be good for it during this period. Meanwh:1e, the
mother drains her breasts by massaging. When ten to twelve days
old the child is taken to the church where it is baptized and chris-
tened by the maestro. It is given the name of a godfather or god-
mother, in either case a good friend, an bueno amigo. of the par-
ents. After the christening the family with a number of invited
guests return home and celebrate the occasion with a fiesta, in-
cluding a dinner and more or less mescal. At the end of the fiesia
all the guests shake hands with the father three times, congratulat-
ing him upon his achievement.
Mothers nurse their children until they are from two to four
years of age. We saw one women nursing a child five years old.
This custom of nursing children for long durations is one of the
saving graces of Yaqui child-rearing and helps to reduce the ap-
palingly high infant mortality rate. The onlly milk Yaqui child-
ren ever get is from their mothers. The women have large breasts
which produce an unusual amount of milk. Occasions have been
noted where a woman would be nursing a baby a few months old,
a child of two, and a child of four, all at the same time. On such
occasions the mother would give the baby its fill first and divide
the surplus between the other two.
The child is not more than six months old before the mother
starts supplementing its milk with mashed beans, tortilla crumbs,
and even green corn, if in season. "Stamach trouble" follows ancl
a considerable percentage of Yaqui babies die of intestinal disor-
STUDIES OF THE YAQUI INDIANS
ders before they are two years old. Without a good supply of
mother's milk the percentage would no doubt be much higher.
At home Yaqui boys seldom wear clothes up to three or four
years of age except during the winter. When away from home at
a flesia or church they wear a short, plain dress or a tiny pair of
overalls and shirt. Girls are never permitted to go naked. Up to
the age of two children wear a peculiar kind of diaper. It con-
sists of a string around the thighs, with a rag, which runs between
the legs and tucks under the thigh string back and front. The rag
is seldom changed.
A boy's education is simple. He is called in occasionally
by his parents and given instruction in how to greet people, in
respect for his elders or juniors, general conduct, and behavior at
ceremonies. Membership in a society is optional. He is taught to
hunt with bow and arrow and with a slingshot. He absorbs from
his elders a considerable knowledge of woodcraft. The chances
are that he will not go to school. Only about one boy out of ten
ever learns to read or write. The reason for his illiteracy lies with
his elders. The old men are opposed to the Mexican schools.
They well know that the best way for the government to break
down Yaqui resistance is to get the Yaqui children into Mexican
schools, under Mexican teachers. The old men have so far man-
aged to prevent the most of the children's attending school. The
government maintains a school in each village but only a handful
of Yaqui children ever attend. When asked why they did not
send their children to school, fathers gave various reasons. It was
too expensive to buy clothes, pencils and paper, or they needed
their children at home. Such trumped-up excuses were easy to see
through. They feared the Mexicanizing influence of the schools.
At Torin out of a scholastic population of approximately a
hundred only eight Yaqui children attend school. The governors
agreed to permit these to attend provided a Yaqui man who spoke
both Yaqui and Spanish should stay in the school room and trans-
late what the Mexican teacher said into Yaqui. This is a safe-
guard calculated to offset to some degree the Mexicanizing influ-
ence of the school. Consequently, the Yaqui man, without pay,
stays as faithfully in the school room as the Mexican teacher.
The training of Yaqui girls is given by their mothers. Edu-
cation for the main purpose of their lives, child bearing and rear-
ing, begins early. One is scarcely five or six before she is helping
to care for a younger member of the family. By the time she is
seven she can carry a baby on her back, and balance a two-
gallon bucket of water on her head with ease. Long before she
is old enough to marry she knows how to carry wood and water,
to grind corn into meal, to mix the dough, to pat out and cook for-
lilllas, and to beat out clothes at a waterhole in the river.
Yaqui children are shy, reserved, and well behaved. When
32 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
strangers are about the place, the little ones cling to their mothers,
their big dark eyes riveted on the visitors. Small boys who stay
constantly in the fields during the growing season to scare away
the birds and devastating animals are as shy as their sisters at home.
If they see you before you see them they will hide an~d watch you
like a hawk as long as you are in sight If you ccme on them un-
awares they immediately have business on the other side of the field
and glide off so easily that they leave you wondering how they
did it. One day we were passing a field in a car. A boy some
fifty yards from the road had a bow and arrow. We decided to
stop and attempt to purchase them. We called to the boy just as
he was taking aim at an imaginary rabbit, in the opposite d r~e
tion. He shot his arrow as far as he could and then ran after it.
He shot again in the same direction and chased on after his arrow,
a neat trick, we thought, of getting away frcm us.
Yaqui parents seem to have a sincere affect:0n for their child-
ren. Two instances are typical. On~e day Dr. Wagner found a
baby taking water from a gourd "nursing bottle". The Doctor
decided we must have the "bottle" for our museum collection. He
offered the mother a half peso for it. She refused and said the
"bottle" belonged to the baby and she would not sell it. A peso.
Two pesos. No, it belonged to the baby and was not for sale.
Then the Doctor changed his tact cs and o'fered brilliantly calcrecl
beads and cheap, flashy jewelry which a Yaqui woman finds hard
to resist. No, the gaurd was the baby's. Then the Doctor dug
deeper in a his packets and found a little red automobile. The
mother began to soften. She called the baby's father. They held
a lengthy consultation. Yaqui words flew fast. They agreed to
trade. The baby had rather have the little red automobile than
the battle. The toy had cost the Doctor a d me at a ten cent store.
It is to be noted here that the parents put the desires of the baby
forema~t. They refused two pesos for the gourd and took a toy
costing ten cents,--all because it would please the baby. Th 5
instance also emphasized the fact that the Yaquis are not as yet
commercially minded. They have practically no sense of monetary
values. While securing museum specimens we found they usually
took whatever we offered for an object. If they were willing to
part with an item, the price was not a considerat on. They would
sell a rawhide covered stool for fifty centavos as readily as for five
A second instance of fondness for children was noted at
the home of the village carpenter at Torin. The carpenter made
stcals and chairs which he traded to his neighbors for corn, bean,
and melons. For his grandchildren be had made a tiny chair, a crib
for the baby to stand in, and a little wagon. The carpenter was wi 1-
ing to sell us anything else on the place including his ceremonial
plume and headgear, for he was a member of the mlatachines, bu:
the children's things were not for sale.
Lees than ten percent of Yaqui men can read, and the num-
STUDIES OF THE YAQUI INDIANS 33
ber of women is even smaller. We visited in some fifty homes and
in only one did we find any kind of newspaper. This was in the
house of Lorenzo Espinosa, the most respected and influential man
in Vicam. There we found a dozen copies of the Excelsior, of
widely varying dates. From these Lorenzo gathered news of poli-
tical activities in Mexico. These items be told to his neighbors and
they in turn relayed them on until the news spread through the
different villages. Consequently, even illiterate Yaquis have some
idea of political trends in the nation.
34 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
LA FIESTA DE GLORIA
William Curry Holden
La Fiesta de Cloria is the longest and most important of
Yaqui ceremonies. It is the culmination of a series of observances
held throughout Lent. The ceremony upon which this account is
based was witnessed at 'Torin.' Beginning at eight o'clock on
Wednesday evening before Easter it lasts until noon Sunday.
Separate ceremonies are held in each of the five river villages in-
cluding Vicam "Switch". We were unable to learn whether the
Yaquis in the mountains observed La Gloria with a complete
ceremonial. It seemed customary for some of the mountain Yaqluis
to slip down to the river villages for the celebration.
The preparations for the Fiesta at Torin were under the
direction of a ]efe de la Fiesta, who on this occasion was the chief
of the devil-chasers' clan. On Tuesday and Wednesday mem-
bers of the devil-chasers' organization built an inclosure of bamboo
cane some fifty feet square surrounding a huge tree (S17, Plate
5).2 TOe Sides Of the inclosure were from twelve to fifteen feet
high, affording a very good wind-break. The entrance was on the
south side. The tree shaded most of the area which was used for
cooking. Women, children, and dogs were grouped about a half
dozen fires which were kept going continuously during the entire
time. Each day several young men detailed for the purpose
brought in huge wagon loads of seasoned mesquite wood for fuel.
Throughout Wednesday people were coming in from the
country. Practically all of them came on foot, the women carry-
ing on their heads the food they would need during the next four
days. They camped under trees or among the ruined walls of
Torin. A few families made wind-breaks of cottonwood boughs.
They needed to spend little time preparing their camps, however,
for they would be in them very little. The men would be at their
respective society's headquarters and the women would divide their
IErna Fergusson in article, "Yaqui Pascola" published in Mlexican
Life, April 1935, describes a Fiesta de Gloria which she witnessed
at Tlaxcala. The ceremony was performed by a group of Yaquis who
had been forcefully moved to the State of Morelos by Porfirio Diaz.
The Tlaxcala fiesta contains all the essential parts found in the Torin
ceremony. The sequence of events are not quite the same; for instance,
the devil-chasers, or Fariseos, burned their masks and wooden swords
at Torin on Saturday morning, while at Tlaxcala the burning took place
on Sunday morning.
ZPlot of the village of Torin. The crosses on the plot indicate
stations at which ceremonies was held. These are referred to in the
text as S1, S2, and so on.
Iii i~iJ I;-- L_
I Ij i B
F~ii t r
36 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
time between the church, marching in the numerous processions, and
the cooking inclosure. Sleep and rest would be had in snatches
when and where a lull came in the festivities.
In order to observe every phase of the ceremonies we divided
our party into four shifts, two persons to the shift. Working in
two and one-half hour watches day and night we took notes and
recorded the time at which everything took place. In order not
to make this report too long and monotonous we shall omit a con-
siderable part of the detail contained in the notes. Should anyone
desire to make a future study of the Fiesia de Gloria and wish to
draw a comparison, our field notes will be on file.
The fiesta was officially started with the beating of a drum
in front of the Yaqui garrison (Sl8, Plate 5) at 8:00 o'clock
Wednesday evening. Fifteen minutes later two candles were light-
ed on the altar of the church, and after another five minutes a third
and fourth candle were lighted, giving the altar a stage effect. At
8:25 the bells of the church were rung, and at the same time a drum
was beaten at the Yaqui garrison. The drum sounded again at
8:43 and the military society formed in front of the garrison in a
column of twos. These men marched to the church, entering from
the south, stood for a moment crossing themselves, marched out
again and around the church to the northeast corner, where they
built a fire at S22. This station remained the civil and military
societies' headquarters until the end of the fiesia.
The devil-chasers had planted their banner (a small red flag
with a white cross on it) at Sl5 in the afternoon. Throughout the
late afternoon and early evening the members had been arriving
with their paraphernalia under their arms. They planted their
wooden swords in the ground around the banner and placed their
masks on the swords. The evening was cool, and they started a
fire. The ringing of the church bells at 8:50 was the signal for
every devil-chaser to put on his paraphernalia--a blanket with a
slit in it for the head, a deer-hoof belt to confine it at the waist, and
cocoon-rattler anklets." Each man threw himself prone upon the
ground on his left side to put on his mask. This is customary for
putting on and removing masks. Each devil-chaser wears a small
wooden cross swung from his neck. Just before he pulls his mask
over his head he places the cross in his mouth where it remains un-
til be removes the mask. During this time he does not utter a word.
He communicates entirely by signals. Belonging to the devil-chas-
er society were ten members who wore black veils over their heads
and shoulders and who carried either painted wooden swords or
spears. These men were of higher rank than the ordinary devil-
chasers. If the latter might be compared to privates in the army,
aFor description of cocoon anklets see Frances Densmore's "Yuman
and Yaqui Music", Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin, 110, pps 155-
156. The cocoon has been identified as "Rothschildia jorulla." A similar
cocoon has been reported from Abilene, Texas, by Dr. Cyrus N. Ray.
STUDIES OF THE YAQUI INDIANS
the black-masked marvels would be as corporals or sergeants. The
dress of one of the black marvels was more elaborate than the oth-
ers. He was a tall man and wore a black felt hat. A black veil
reaching to the shoulders covered his head. From his shoulders
to his knees hung a long. black cape edged with yellow braid.
This man, an imposing and dramatic figure, was to impersonate
Pilate, King: Herod, Danger, and Death successively in the course
of the evening ceremonies.
The devil-chaser society formed into a column of twos. Fire
works were shot off at 9:27, and at 9:30 the clan started to the
church, marching to the tune of a bamboo flute. Entering the
church, the two lines separated, one going on the east side and one
on the west. Women and children had been arriving in small
groups for an hour. They sat flat on the ground in the center of
the church. Presently the governor, with the other three chiefs and
the military clan, returned and stood in three columns in the rear
of the church.
The next forty minutes were consumed in taking up a collec-
tion. A bamboo mat with a blanket on it was placed in front of
the altar. On the blanket was a pottery plate. On each side, re-
clining on his elbows, was a devil-chaser. One had a stuffed
bird, the other a stuffed squirrel. Apparently the bird and squirrel
took a great interest in the collection. They would look into the
plate and wag their heads in disappointment at the small amount
of money coming in. The contributors came in pairs, knelt before
the plate, crossed themselves, and made their offering. Most of
the men gave a peso; the women and children gave less. When
no more seemed forthcoming five men gathered around the mat to
count the money. When they had finished, one of them, an old
man, stood up and made a speech, He spoke inl~aqui, but we
gathered that he was talking about the collection. When he finally
dramatically announced the amount, 78 pesos, a chorus of Yaqui
"Amens" arose from the audience. An unusual amount it seemed;
it was to be used to pay the expenses of the fiesta. They would
use hundreds of candles, a quantity of flour and corn meal, and
two old steers that had been purchased for meat.
The mat was removed at 10:15, and a lay assistant to the
priest (known as maestro) began lighting candles on a special can-
cllestick in front of the altar. The maestro and women started a
chant and the devil-chasers gathered around the altar beating time
with their wooden swords. For the next hour and forty-five min-
utes chants and prayers alternated with the devil-chasers' beating
their sticks and an occasional drum-beat, with a few notes on the
flute. At 10:48 a maestro extinguished one of the candles. At
three to five minute intervals the other candles were put out one
at a time.
At I1:48 the church was in total darkness. Then came a
38 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
whipping ceremony. It started with someone's crowing like a roas-
ter. Men and women pulled their skirts up over their backs. For
seven minutes bedlam reigned. Worshippers whipped one another
on the bare backs with straps. They yelled, shrieked, cried, laugh-
ed, and screamed. The fat woman who led the chorus beat the
maestro lustily. At 11:55 candles were re-lighted. The people
knelt for a final prayer and the service was over. Exactly at mid-
night the devil-chasers left, followed by the governor's staff and
military society. As the people left the church they bellowed like
calves, barked like dogs, or screeched like owls. The candles were
allowed to burn out one by one. The last one flickered out at
12:35. The people spent the rest of the night lounging, some of
them sleeping, around their camp fires.
Activities were started Thursday morning at 5:55 with the
ringing of the church bells, eight slow, deep strokes followed by a
series of chimes. At 6:15 drumbeats came from the Yaqui garri-
son. At Sl5 and Sl4 respectively, where they had spent the latter
part of the night, were the devil-chasers and the mounted guard.
The latter had their standard planted under a huge tree. Only
eight of them, the older men, were actually mounted; horses not
in use were tied under the tree.
Between seven and eight women carried breakfast to the men
of the various groups. It consisted of tortillas and coffee. At 8:10
the drum at the Yaqui garrison was beaten again.
Several women gathered at the church. Some of them began
sweeping the dirt floor with brush brooms. Others were carrying
water in five-gallon cans on their heads from the waterholes in the
river. They sprinkled the floor and moistened the tops of the
At 8:42 a group of ten persons, eight of them women, arrived
with a corpse of a baby, which had died the night before of pneu-
monia. (See funeral number 4 in the chapter on funerals.) At
8:55 the bell ringer tolled the bells for the funeral. While the
grave was being dug and the other details cared for, no one took
any notice of the funeral except the little group which had come
with the body. Women kept on sweeping a few yards away; the
devil-chasers were sprawled on the ground near by; many persons
came and went as unconcerned as if there were no funeral within
a hundred miles.
In the meanwhile there was considerable bustle and activity
throughout the entire village. Two members of the military society
were sweeping the area around the Yaqui garrison with huge
brush brooms, causing clouds of dust to rise. Men and women
were cleaning the space around the cooking shelter at S17. Smoke
was rising from piles of burning trash. Several men were building
a bamboo arbor, some fourteen feet square, at Sl9. This was to
be used later in the day for a ceremonial feast. Women in the
compound at S17 had never stopped cooking, and throughout the
morning they were busy preparing an unusual variety of foods.
STUDIES OF THE YAQUI INDIANS 39
At 10:20 the maestros and the singers led by a very fat wom-
an whom we called "old High Pitch" started a chant in the
church, old High Pitch's voice drowning out the voices of the other
women. Ten minutes later the devil-chasers gathered at Sl5 and
began putting on their masks. At 10:37 a drum sounded and the
devil-chasers formed a double line. At 10:38 they began their
march to the church to the music of a flute, beating together their
wooden swords. Shortly before them, the governor's staff had ar-
rived and taken up their position in three lines near the rear of the
church. The governor's staff consisted of the assistant governors
and all ex-governors and ex-assistant governors. When the devil-
chasers arrived the two lines spread out, passed outside the gover-
nor's staff, and went near the front of the church. The governor
and the first three assistant governors, with blue sashes around their
shoulders, then left their places in the rear of the church and went
forward and stood to the left of the altar. Before the altar was
a statue of Christ surrounded by four sets of candles. The maestros
and singers were still chanting, and the devil-chasers beat their
swords rhythmically, rattled their anklets and occasionally their
deer-hoof belts by shaking their hips. At 10:43, Pilate and the
chief of the devil-chasers advanced to the altar, where they stood
silently for three minutes; then they returned to their places and
the chanting was resumed. At 10:50 the maestros and singers
knelt for two minutes while the old bell-ringer and his first assistant
shook rattling boards near the altar. Each board was about three
feet long and twelve inches wide; on each were three or four iron
rings about four inches in diameter, each ring attached with a single
staple in such a way that it would swing around freely when the
board was shaken; at the top of each board was a handhold.
When the board was shaken vigorously with a half rotating motion,
back and forth, the rings clapped loudly against the board, making
a great noise. The purpose of the rattling boards was not clear.
While the bell-ringers were shaking the boards and the maestros
and women were kneeling, the devil-chasers were jumping about,
clowning, and making a lot of horseplay.
At I 1:00 the clatter stopped, and there was responsive read-
ing by the maestros and singers, the maestros reading from prayer-
books and the women responding by rate. A silent prayer at I 1:04
was followed by a chant which ended at I1:08. The governor
and the three assistants left the place where they were standing at
the left of the altar and went back to the governor's staff at the
rear of the church. At I 1:12 the devil-chasers marched out to
the accompaniment of flute-playing to the east side of the chucrb
where they removed their masks and began to smoke cigarettes and
to rest,-but not for long. At I1i:20, they put on their masks and
scattered out around the village, one taking his place at each of the
crosses, stations I to 15 inclusive. Then the old bell-ringer brought
one of the rattle-boards and gave it to the devil-chaser stationed at
Sl. The board was carried around the village in relay fashion.
When the first board had got to the opposite side of the village the
40 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
bell-ringer started the second board. Around the village the
boards went clanging three times. It was a hot day; the men ran
fast; sweat rolled down their necks and saturated their heavy
serapes; not a dry thread was left. With their heads encased in
tight buckskin masks we wondered why they did not fall from ex-
haustion, but they did not. They were driving away evil spirits and
throwing their protecting influence around the village as their an-
cestors had done from time immemorial.
Meanwhile, the women who had charge of the ceremonial
property were dressing a two-foot statue of Christ in a red robe.
Around his neck they placed a horse-hair rope. Then they brought
out a three-foot statue of Mary and dressed her in white; the gar-
ments had beenl washed, starched and ironed. A statue of Mary
Magdalene, dressed in black, was brought out and placed on the
east side of the church towards the front. A crown of thorns was
placed on the head of Christ, and the statue was placed upon a lit-
The clapper-board relay ended at 11:40, and nine minutes
later a general procession of all the societies got under way. An
old man told us they "were going to look for Christ." They were
led by Death, alias Herod, who rode a beautiful white horse. The
horse's mane and tail were made festive with bows and streamers
of colored paper. He had been trained to lope no faster than an
ordinary horse can walk. While the societies marched around the
village looking for Christ in the red robe, the devil-chaser who re-
mained in the church held the horse-hair rope attached to Christ's
neck in one hand and wielded his long wooden sword with the oth-
er. He jumped around, shook his hips, and made passes through
the air with his sword.
At 11:58 the searchers returned to find Christ at the church
and they proceeded to make a great commotion over him. The gov-
ernor and the first three assistant governors then came forward,
picked up the litter on which the Christ rested, and started a new
procession. The devil-chaser holding the rope went along in front,
still holding the rope fast. Pilate rode in front of the group. By
his side, on foot, went one of the black-masked devil-chasers, and
behind them, the governors bearing the Christ. Flanking both
sides were the members of the military society in columns of twos,
each man fully armed. The mounted guardsmen were outside the
military columns, three horsemen on either side, each holding erect
his wooden spear or sword. The procession went around the vil-
lage, stopping briefly at each of the fourteen crosses. As they ap-
proached Sl8 they were met by the maestros and the singers, who
had remained at the church. The Christ was placed where he had
been before, the devil-chaser still holding the rope. The singers
and the governor's staff knelt for a prayer while the devil-chasers
and military guards stood in lines on the west and east sides of the
church. This part of the service was over at 12:23 and the mili-
tary guards and devil-chasers retired to the east sides of the church
STUDIES OF THE YAQUI INDIANS 41
where each devil-chaser stretched himself prone on the ground and
removed his mask. Each placed a bandana handkerchief over his
head to keep from taking cold. At 12:25 the governor's staff
marched out of the church and to its temporary headquarters at
S22. At 12:30 the altar men took the statue of the crucified
Christ from the main altar and placed it on a box in front of the
Christ with the red robe. The crucified Christ wore lace "draw-
ers" or "trousers" and a pink cape trimmed in yellow.
From 12:30 to 2:30 the members of the various societies stood
or sprawled about in the shade while their women brought them
tortillas in baskets and thick, black coffee in earthen pots. At
2:30 the devil-chasers bestirred themselves and began pulling up
the crosses in the cemetery and smoothing down the graves. This
rubbing out of the cemetery is an annual custom. After the fiesta
is over a few families of persons who have died in the last year or
two will come and put back the crosses and mounds, but the most
of them will not. The location and identity of the graves will be
lost, and sooner or later new graves will be dug into the old. The
reason for levelling the cemetery is that the area will be needed for
parades and dances during the next three days.
At 3:00 P. M. the devil-chaser society marched into the
church past the altar and out again. They passed through the vil-
lage, stopping at houses and temporary camps, returning to the
church at 3:45 with three women, very old and tottering. One
was almost bent double and hobbled along with a stick. In the
church the three old souls knelt for a few minutes before the altar,
and then they were escorted to the newly built arbor at Sl9, where
a ceremonial feast was to be held shortly in their honor.
Mats had been placed on the ground and on these the old
women were seated flat on the ground. The old bell-ringer, who
was the oldest man in the village, joined them. The arbor was
some fifty yards south of the entrance to the cooking compound at
Sil. Between the arbor, Sl?, and the entrance of the cooking
compound in a line facing east knelt the members of the societies.
The men took their positions according to rank, beginning with the
governor at the head of the line at Sl9. Pilate and the mounted
guardsmen, dismounted now, knelt in a line on the south side of the
arbor. The maestros and singers were seated to the east of the
The feast began with a large half-gourd of water being start-
ed along the line from the cooking enclosure. Each man pretended
to drink and passed it to the next man. The three old women and
the old man actually sipped the water and then handed the gourd
to the singers on the east. The singers partook of the water until
it was all gone. Then food began to be passed along the line, each
man in the line pretending, but none actually tasting, until the
earthen bowl reached the old people. They would take a bit and
pass the bowl on to the singers, who finished it. Bowl after bowl
came down the line, tortillas, beans, rice, garbanzos, stew of wild
42 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
meat, potatoes, stewed onions, and numerous pottery jars of coffee.
Each person, before actually tasting the food, made the sign of the
cross over it. At 4:40 the procession reformed and marched back
to the church, the old people going along. At 4:43 the various
societies went out of the church and a recess was in order.
At 5:42 the devil-chaser society marched back into the church
and stood along the aisles. They seemed to be waiting for some-
one, meanwhile engaging in a great deal of horseplay. More and
more women and children kept arriving. At 5:53 the three old
women, with white shawls on their heads, came through a door near
the front of the church. The devil-chasers then marched out with
the old women, the old man going with them. They circled the
village once and then the old women stopped at S2 and sat down.
The man followed the clevil-chasers to S20. This was an enclos-
ure some six feet in diameter which had been made by standing in
a circle of cottonwood boughs, seven to eight feet high. The old
man went into the enclosure and the devil-chasers marched back
to the church at a fast step. By this time the maestros, singers,
and about sixty women had moved out from the church to Sl. The
devil-chasers, led by the tall figure of Pilate, went into the church,
circled in front of the altar, out again, and back to S20. Three
times they did this, their pace getting faster and faster. The third
time they ran. We were unable to determine how the flute-player
could pipe his notes at such speed. The excitement of the specta-
tors increased with the cadence of the flute. The whole affair was
working up to an exciting climax. The third time they approached
the enclosure the devil-chasers threw themselves on the ground
around it, their feet pointing out. At a signal they instantly pulled
down the boughs. There stood the old man without clothing ex-
cept for a thin breech-cloth and a crown of mesquite thorns. His
body was emaciated, thin, and wrinkled, not unlike Mahatma
Chandi, and he bore a staff. The old man, representing Christ,
followed the devil-chasers back to Sl. As they passed S2 the
three old women with the white shawls, representing the Three
Marys, fell in behind. At S1, Christ spoke with Pilate. (Here
the thorns began to prick the old man and he had to readjust his
crown.) In the meanwhile the devil-chasers were taunting Christ
and the Marys.
The procession then moved into the church, where Christ
stood before the altar. Then it came out again and started on an-
other round of the village. A rope had been placed on Christ's
neck. Three devil-chasers ran in front holding the rope. The
other devil-chasers threw themselves on the ground, in a row, face
downward. As Christ passed he gave each a terrific wallop across
the back with his staff. After each had received his blow he ran
on ahead in leap-frog fashion and threw himself clown to take an-
other. So it went around the village. The old man ran swiftly,
notwithstanding the fact that he was near ninety. The various
societies ran behind, horsemen and all. On the return, Christ show-
STUDIES OF THE YAQUI INDIANS 45
ed either real or feigned fatigue and had to be helped along by
the Three Marys as he climbed the hill to the church. At 316 he
sat down and held a collection plate in his lap, while some of the
people contributed. We could not ascertain the purpose of the
The devil-chasers, military society, and horsemen made an-
other circuit of the village, going on a run, the flute-player givmng
the cadence. When they returned, the governor's staff marched into
the church from S22, brought out a canopy, and got ready for a
g-eneral procession. It got under way at 7:02. First went aman
with a black banner. Next was Pilate on his horse with a black-
masked devil-chaser beside him. They were followed by three al-
tar-boys with red dresses on. The middle one carried a cross, the
other two, candles in bamboo candlesticks. Next was the statue of
the crucified Christ carried by four governors. Over this statue was
a canopy supported on four bamboo poles and carried by four men.
Behind was the statue of the Christ in the red robe (the rope still
on his neck), carried by four men. Next came three little girls in
long white dresses, with paper wreaths on their heads and green
boughs in their hands. 'They were followed by statues of Mary,
Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, one behind the other.
Each was carried by four women, each woman wearing a long veil
and a red crown. Behind them came the maseiros and singers,
who in turn were followed by a crowd of women and children. The
procession was flanked on either side by the military society fully
armed. Outside rode the six horsemen. The devil-chasers in two
lines circled the entire group between each two of the sixteen cross-
es, one line going in a clockwise and the other in a counter-clock-
wise direction. The procession stopped for a chant in front of each
of the crosses. It returned to S16 on the side of the hill east of the
church just at sunset, making a colorful pageant. Back in the
church again, a chant lasted from 7:55 to 8:10, when the various
societies withdrew. The image of the Virgin Mary had been
placed a few feet in the rear of that of the crucified Christ, and a
devil- chaser guard placed over each image.
At 8:27 the devil-chaser guards over the two statues were
changed. An assistant sexton brought out a lighted candle and
placed it on the ground in front of the Virgin. An oil lamp was
lighted on the altar and three candles placed on either side of it.
For a while the maestros and singers chanted before the altar and
then retired to a room at the left of the altar. The church was
left to the images, the devil-chaser guards, a few stragglers who
came and went, and the two of us who were taking notes. The
devil-chasers thought they must furnish the entertainment for the
rest of us. T`hey fidgeted, scraped their feet on the ground, shook
the deer-toe belts on their hips, and carefully raked the devils off
the litters of the images. One devil-chaser let the other hold his
rope for a few minutes while he went to the cliff to the west to get
44 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
air and cough. He came back with a great deal of determination,
for he shook his rattles lustily and quickly went over his image to
see if any devils had taken advantage of his absence. There was
chanting in the room to the left of the altar at intermittent intervals.
The moon was so bright that we needed no other light in writing our
notes. The talking and laughter of the military guards and the
devil-chasers off duty around the campfires to the east of the church
gradually died down. At I 1:10 a black-shirt devil-chaser,
whose status in the society is somewhat like that of a corporal or
sergeant, brought in two fresh devil-chasers to relieve the old ones.
The black-shirt stood some ten feet away while the four of them
went carefully over the images to see that the images were properly
cleansed of devils. They had to be sure that the statues were
surrendered and received without taint or evil. This check over
took two minutes. At 11:15 an old man came from the room at
the left of the altar and muttered two sentences to each image. He
bowed forward a little, but did not remove his hat There were
three Yaqui stragglers in the church now. They conversed in low
tones. One of the devil-chasers accidently struck his image with
his sword. This necessitated a close examination to see if any
harm had been done. By this time the chanting had ceased to
the left of the altar. One of the devil-chasers made a noise caus-
ed by the emission of intestinal gas. The three visitors laughed.
One of them retorted with a double noise. There was laughter
from the camp fires to the east. Some one out there answered in
kind. The devil-chaser signaled back with two long and two
shorts. The other devil-chaser guard answered with a long and a
short. It began to dawn on us that they could control their noises.
Then there was a whole chorus,-here, there, longs, shorts, and
variations. This sort of amusement lasted twenty minutes and then
died down. We did not know whether this was due to the actors'
losing interest or their ability. Then things got very quiet except
for the antics of the devil-chaser guards. Snores came from the
room to the left of the altar. One of us went to the door and
peered in. Men and women were sprawled on the dirt floor in all
directions and positions. Occasionally a dog barked or a coyote
yelped in the distance. At 12:08 the guards were changed again.
One of the new ones was a natural clown. After a few moments
he discovered the two of us who were taking notes. Then he
started a show which lasted an hour. He made a stick-horse of
hlis long sword, fought duels with a host of imaginary devils, did a
variety of dances. He was especially good at a dance some-
what like a schottische. We were sorry to see him go off duty at
1:15. Nothing new happened during the rest of the night. The
guards were changed every hour or two.
By sunrise on Friday morning women were sweeping the
church floor and the yard and carrying water from the waterholes
in the river to sprinkle the ground. They carried the water in five-
gallon petroleum cans balanced on their heads. They filled the
STUDIES OF THE YAQUI INDIANS 45
cans within an inch "of the top, and with straight backs and easy
steps they went up the hill to the church without spilling a drop.
From 7:00 until 10:00 several men and women were busy re-
arranging the altars. A large black cross was placed on the main
altar. In the meanwhile the guards were taken away from the two
images. Christ was supposed to be dead now. At 10:10 three
women came in and started a chant. Soon the church was filling
with women and children. At 10:15 the devil-chaser society be-
gan to get ready for another day of marching. At 10:20 t hey
stomped into the church beating their swords together while their
flute-player fluted. The horsemen, eight of them this morning,
took their positions at the foot of the hill. At 10:32 the govern-
or's staff arrived just behind the military society. The maestros
had come out and chants lasted until 11:45. During this time the
entire crowd went to the altar two by two, knelt, and crossed them-
selves before the black cross. Then one maestro, avery old
Yaqui, came out with vestments on. These consisted of a white
gown with a black cap and mantle. He lifted the black cross
from the altar, and the old bell-ringer took his place beside him with
a smoking incense-burner. A procession was formed which mov-
ed to the south end of the churchyard and back. The women
placed their rebozas on the ground in front of the maestro in vest-
ments and the old bell-ringer so that they did not tread upon the
ground. With the cross back on the altar, a prayer lasted until
12:12. Then the various societies filed out and a recess started
which lasted until 4:10 P. M.
During the recess in the early afternoon all the crosses around
the village, except the large one in front of the church, had been
taken out, laid flat on the ground, and covered with green branches.
Over four of the crosses, at S3, S5, S7, and S10, bowers of cotton-
w\ood and mesquite branches had been erected to represent empty
At that time the boards with clappers on them were brought
out, and the devil-chasers repeated the relay of the day before
around the village. The various societies marched into the church
at 4:50. The devil-chasers and military guards immediately came
out and circled the village accompanied by the horsemen. When
they returned a general procession got under way. In front was
Pilate on his horse. Next came the altar-boys carrying a cross
and candles. They were followed by three maestros in vestments,
one carrying an incense-burner. Next was a bier, a frame cover-
ed with mosquito bars and paper flowers, borne by four men. These
men were dressed in white sheets, and hoods on which were red
crosses. Next, one behind the other, were images of the three
Marys. The military guards and horsemen were on each side,
and a multitude of women and children brought up the rear. The
devil-chasers, as usual, continually circled the entire group in both
directions. The procession stopped at the bower at S3. The bier
was placed under the bower. A maestro swung the incense-burner
46 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
in front of it, and another read a prayer. The bier was taken out
and the party proceeded on around the village, holding like cere-
monies at SS, S7, and S10. When the procession returned to the
church at 6:20, the bier was placed before the altar, and the con-
gregation went up in pairs, knelt before it, and crossed themselves.
At 7:20 another procession started around the village. It was
like the one just before sundown the previous evening except that
the two images of Christ were not there. They had got Christ buried
during the afternoon, so he could not be in this procession. The
governor carried the large black cross, and besicle him was the army
captain wearing a bonnet of feathers. By 8:00 they had return-
ed to the church and started a chant. At 8:05 the clevil-chasers
retired to the east side of the church and started practicing a five-
step dance. At 8:15 the governor's staff retired, but the singers
chanted on until 9:00. At 9:50 some devil-chasers ran around the
church three times with the clapper boards. Ten minutes later all the
societies returned and organized a double procession. Pilate, the
governor carrying the black cross, the altar-boys, the maestros, the
singers, the governor's staff, half of the devil-chasers, and half of
the military guards went along the usual route by S1, S2, S3, et
celera. The other group, consisting of four women carrying the
image of Mary, all the other women, and the other half of the
devil-chasers and military guards went in the opposite direction by
Sl6, Sl5, S14, Sl3, Sl2, et cetera. The two groups met at S7.
The governors held the cross in front of the bower. Two maestros
knelt before the cross swinging an incense-burner. There was a
prayer and chant. The other group came up and stopped some
fifteen feet away. Two women crawled on their knees to the
cross and waved an incense-lantern. The two maestros crawled
to the Virgin and clid the same. The processions then consolidat-
ed and returned to the church by way of stations 8, 9, 10, et celera.
Chants by the maestros and singers lasted until the next procession
at 11:35 P. M. During this time Pilate sat with downcast head
m a chair before the altar. The drummer of the clevil-chasers sat
on one sicle of him and the flute-player on the other. There were
fifty-six women sitting flat on the ground.
At 11:28 the boarcl-rattles were carried clapping around the
church again three times. Four minutes later the governor's staff
came back into the church, followed shortly by the other societies.
Two processions were formed with the same personnel as before.
The one going to the right carried the image of Mary; the other
carried Mary Magdalene. When the two parties met at S7 the
14 Deer dancer on left, three "pascolas" on right.
15. One of the numerous processions of "La Fiesta de Gloria."
16. Devil-chasers preparing to burn the effigy of Judas. Note the
devil-chasers' headgear on the effigy.
17. Jose Miranda, Yaqui governor of Torin, and his family.
48 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
devil-chasers of one group had a sham battle with those of the other
group. Then each procession continued on the way it was going
to the church, arriving at 12:02 A. M. Chants lasted until 12:20,
when the societies took a recess.
They returned at 12:50, and continued chanting intermittent-
ly until I :48. Another recess lasted twelve minutes, when a pro-
cession started in two groups as before, only both parties were single
file. They consolidated at S7, and marched around the village
for more than an hour. At 3:20 they went back to the church for
another chant. At 3:25 the societies marched out to their respect-
tive campfires. The devil-chasers were feeling unusually festive.
They acted as if they were gloriously drunk. Their musicians
played catchy tunes and individuals danced around the camp-fire.
In the meanwhile a curtain had been drawn across the church in
front of the altar, and men and women were rearranging the altar-
pieces behind it. The rattle-board was carried noisily around the
church at 4:05. The informal dancing stopped. At 5:00 peo-
ple began curling up around the fires for an hour's sleep. By 5:30
A. M. all was quite, but not for long.
It was Saturday morning, and the devil-chasers were soon
astir. It was apparent that they had some special business
on hand. At 8:40 they started a burlesque parade. They had
made a huge straw man to represent Judas. The figure was some
six feet tall and highly sexed. This effigy with a devil-chaser's
swoul by its side was placed on a donkey. Behind it role a devil-
chaser to hold it on. Along with the procession went four music-
ians, two drummers, a violinist and one with a guitar, and twelve
other devil-chasers. One of them carried an incense-burner (a
bundle of rags). They did everything backwards. They went
around the village in the wrong direction and approached the cross-
es from the back sides. When they returned they planted the
straw man a short distance from the big cross in front of the church.
By 10:00 women and children were coming from all directions
in holiday dress. Until this morning they had worn everyday
clothing, plain, faded blue or grey calico. Today skirts were
bright blue or red and shirt-waists were red, pink, green, purple, or
yellow. Most of the women brought quantities of flower-petals
which they placed on a pile in front of the curtain. Three pascolas
and the deer-dancer, all naked to the waist, stood waiting at the
left. People were still coming. An air of cheerfulness and holi-
day gayety mingled with an atmosphere of solemnity. Suspense
was growing. Th7e crowd was now far larger than at any time
since the fiesta started. At 10:34 the devil-chasers stomped in,
beating their swords rhythmically. All the other societies, includ-
ing the malachines, or plumed-dancers, marched in. This was the
first time either the matachines or the pascolas had appeared. The
devil-chasers started a one-one glide dance step, back and forth, a
line on either side of the church. The cadence gradually increas-
ed. At 10:40 the chance changed to a five-beat step, the tempo
STUDIES OF THE YAQUI INDIANS
gradually getting faster. We noticed that each woman and child
had filled a handkerchief with confetti and yellow flower-petals
from the pile near the curtains. Dark eyes were flashing. At
10:50 the dance became a three-step. Now it was fast and furi-
Suddenly, dramatically, a bell rang and the curtain before the
altar was drawn aside. The devil-chasers rushed into the inner
sanctuary, while the crowd on either side pelted them with confetti,
flower-petals, and green leaves. The deer-dancer broke into an
orgy of dancing. In the rear of the church the matachines were
doing a fast step. The devil-chasers stayed at the altar but an
instant, when they came back, the curtain was drawn to, and they
started a fast one-step. The whole episode was picturesque and
seemed to represent the festive portion of the ceremonies. In Eive
minutes the whole episode was repeated, but faster.
When they came out the second time and started a third epi-
sode, a woman, perhaps wife, sister, or other relative, took her place
beside each devil-chaser and ran back and forth with him as he
danced. Without losing a step each man took off a sandal and
handed it to the woman, then the other sandal, next his deer-hoof
belt, his anklets, and his swords. The grand climax came when
the bell rang for the third time. By this time the entire crowd was
worked up into a state of wild ecstasy. When the devil-chasers
made the last rush to the altar the women went with them. There
seemed to be some special blessing for those who got there first.
They fell on their knees and the woman of each devil-chaser re-
moved his mask and overcoat blanket, and placed a piece of cloth
on his head.
While this was going on the matachines, plumed-dancers, be-
came the chief attraction in the center of the church, doing a beauti-
ful dance filled with glides, spins and turns, to the music of a violin
and guitar. Each woman began leading her devil-chaser away
from the altar, carrying all his paraphernalia while he wabbled as
he walked. They went out to the straw man in front of the
church, stuck their swords in it, and hung their masks on the swords
Then they set fire to the effigy and stood by while their ceremonial
property burned. One of them refused a hundred pesos for the
mask he burned. He said it was a death penalty to sell a mask
or a sword. The devil-chaser's part in the Fiesta de Cloria was
The governor's staff retired at I 1:30. Three men w~th
feather headdresses and bows and arrows appeared before the altar.
The dancers of the military society, the coyote band, consecrated
themselves for an all-night dance. The malachines, or plume-
dancers, brought in a bamboo pole with long streamers attached to
the top of it after the fashion of a May-pole. They removed their
tall cor~onas and began a dance in and out, winding the streamers
around the pole. The dance was beautifully and skillfully done.
When wound, the streamers made a perfect design on the pole. The
50 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
dancers paused an instant while their chief inspected the design on
the pole to see if any error had been made. Then the dance re-
sumed to unwind the pole. This was done without an error.
In the meanwhile the large statue of Mary had been removed
from its places on a sicle altar and a small Mary in a little box
shrine brought out. This image was dressed for the fiesta in a
white dress, silver and gold lace, a flowered apron, a silver crown;
and the interior of the shrine was decorated with paper flowers.
The military society held an altar ceremony. The men ad-
vanced two at a time holding the butts of the rifles forward. They
knelt, crossed themselves and backed away. The matachines
danced intermittently until 12:43. Several counts showed the
tempo of their steps to be 108 per minute. This ended the cere-
monies at the church until late afternoon. The women went to
their cooking shelter to prepare fortillas, beans, and coffee for their
families, and the men adjourned to the porch of the priest's house
which was some fifty yards north of the church.
Here the pascolas and the deer-dancer had retired to start a
dance which would last the better part of eighteen hours. There
were three pascolas and one deer-dancer. The deer-dancer took
turns with the others, but did a different dance, yet to the same
music. The three pascolas were dressed alike, naked to the waist,
a blanket around the hips, supported by a belt with bells on it, legs
and feet bare except for cocoon rattles around the ankles, hair tied
in a hank on top of the head like a round whisk-broom on end, a
tambourine-like rattle in each hand and a black wooden mask which
hung over his face as he danced and to the side or back of the
head when he was not dancing. The deer-dancer was dressed in like
fashion except that instead of the mask, he had a white turban-like
cloth on his head. When he danced he wore a small fawn-heacl
which was kept in place by a string going underneath his chin.4
Three sets of musical instruments furnished music for the four danc-
ers. One was composed of a violin and a harp, both homemade.
A second was a drum and a bamboo flute, both played by an old
man. A third consisted of three music sticks and a gourcl- and-
water drum played by four young men. The different accompa-
nists took time about, as did the dancers. The pascolas did a
sort of combination jig, clog, and crow-hop dance. The deer-
dancer did an interpretative dance showing the movements and
habits of the deer. He was a splendid dancer. The pascolas
danced on an average of five minutes each at a time. The
younger ones averaged about 340 steps a minute. The old man,
over sixty, went so fast that his steps could not be counted. The
musicians had near at hand earthen bowls filled with cheap cigar-
4For a description of the deer-dance as given by Arizona Yaquis
see Frances Densmore's "Yuman and Yaqui Music," Bureau of Amerl-
can Ethnology Bulletin, 110, pp. 155165. Miss Densmore also gives a
detailed account of Yaqui musical instruments.
STUDIES OF THE YAQUI INDIANIS 51
ettes which they handed out to the spectators during the brief in-
termissions. T~hey had been purchased and charged to the gener-
al fiesta expense account. T he dancers stopped a short while at
3:00 P. M. to eat.
At 6:25 all the societies including the dancers began to as-
semble at the church for a procession. The devil-chasers were
without their masks and other paraphernalia. They were now a
tired, bedraggled, serious group. One would not suspect them of
being the restless, clowning demon-rustlers of yesterday.
The procession moved directly from the church to S21 where a
new arbor, some twenty by twenty feet, had been constructed in the
course of the day. About every fifty feet along the way the group
stopped, and all those in front of the canopy turned and faced it
for an instant. When the image of Mary had been placed under
the arbor, the malachines, candle-boys, altar-boys and girls dressed
in white danced back to the church and disbanded at 7:25. Ap-
parently the arbor, S2l, was to be the center of the night's cere-
About 5:00 in the afternoon the gaunt old ox which had been
tied to a palm tree in the plaza for two days was killed. Eighteen
dogs attended the slaughter, but little clid they get, as the Yaquis
utilize practically every bit of a slaughtered animal. Now the
meat, including the intestines, was being roasted in the cooking com-
pound at S17.
Piles of dead, solid mesquite wood had been stacked near the
new arbor earlier in the day to furnish fires for the night. Shortly
after sundown a number of fires were lighted, the military society
having by far the largest one.
Tlhe maestros and singers chanted in front of the arbor until a
church bell rang at 8:00. At 8:10 there were fire-works. At
the same time the pascolas and deer-dancer started a dance under
the arbor. They rotated continuously until 9:25, when they rested
for a while. About this time the maiachines started a dance in the
dimly lighted church, a dance much like our Virginia reel. They
had no audience; everyone was at the arbor, S21, but they went
on for an hour without stopping. They did not dance again until
At 10:20 the coyote chance started a short distance west of the
arbor. It was a monotonous dance done by three warriors wear-
ing weather headdresses. Each straddled a long bow, stick-borse
fashion, and beat a cadence on the bow with a split piece of bam-
boo. The three went abreast keeping the left foot about six inches
in front of the right, doing little crowhops. They went back and
forth, beating out trails some thirty feet long in the dust. The
coyote is the most uninteresting of all the Yaqui dances.
The pascola and deer-dances went on under the arbor and
the coyote dance in front of it periodically all night. The maestros
and singers chanted occasionally. Only the devil-chasers and
children slept. The devil-chasers had their own camp-fire around
52 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
which they sprawled, using rocks, chunks of mesquite wood or noth-
ing for pillows. They had earned their rest, and slept like logs.
The women in the cooking compound kept a tub of coffee and two
tubs of stew boiling. Some of them were busy cooking tortillas.
From time to time food and coffee were carried out and served to
the people. The night was crisp and still. A round moon shone
above the palm trees in the old plaza. Nature had conspired with
the dancers to create an atmosphere of mysticism. So great was
the effect that we hardened materialists who were taking notes felt
it and were moved. We experienced to a small degree the fasci-
nation these occasions have for centuries held for the Yaquis.
Before daylight a cold wind sprang up from the Northeast.
People huddled closer to the fires. Even the dogs with their hides
drawn tightly over their ribs edged in. There was a lot of cough-
ing, deep down in chests, caused by four nights of exposure on the
cold ground. A woman and two children slept shiveringly under
a thin blanket with a dog on the foot of the blanket. Dawn be-
gan to appear. The military society formed a double line facing
the East with hats on the ground at their feet. It was an early
morning silent prayer. This officially ended the coyote dance.
At 6:00 there were fireworks. Ten minutes later the mili-
tary society, with their guns this time, and the governor's staff,
formed in lines and marched to the church, bowing to the cross in
front as they entered the church. The governor and chiefs of the
military society went up to the altar, knelt and crossed themselves
and returned to their places. Candles were lighted on the altar.
Then followed an initiation of two boys into the military society.
The warriors with all their arms were in single column on eith-
er side of the church. At either end of the space between was a
maestro. One boy was about seven and the other about nine.
Each was given a flag and a feather headdress. A member of
the society in a feather headdress went about with them. An old
man walked behind the three apparently to prompt them. The
boys were first conducted: to the altar, where they knelt and crossed
themselves. A maestro and chorus chanted. The chorus con-
sisted of one man and one woman. Then the boys were marched
back and forth a number of times, up and down the church, while
the warriors held their guns at a forty-five degree angle. Then
there was a long prayer by the maestro at the north end of the
column while the boys stood with bowed heads before him. This
was repeated by the maestro at the south end of the column, and
then the one at the north end gave a second prayer. More march-
ing back and forth and waving of flags. The warriors formed a
circle with the neophytes and a woman in the center, for more pray-
ers and flag-waving. The ceremony lasted thirty minutes.
The matachines had spent the night at the church. At 7:00
they went down to the cooking compound to eat. They returned
to the church at 7:25 and started one of their beautiful, whirling:
dances. The pascolas and deer dancer were still performing at
STUDIES OF THE YAQUI INDIANS
the arbor. Shortly' before 8:00 the devil-chasers, just ordinary
looking Yaqbis now, but somewhat refreshed after a night's sleep,
started setting a double row of boughs some eighteen feet apart
from the arbor to the church, a distance of about 500 fee.t They
were getting ready for the journey of the risen Lord from the tomb
(arbor) to the church. The lines were laid off by a Yaqui drag-
ging his sandlecl feet through the dust. The green cottonwood
boughs, twelve to eighteen inches high, were placect about every
three feet. At 8:25 the bell at the church was rung to announce
that the avenida was complete.
Drum-beats at 8:55 announced that the triumphant proces-
sion was about to get uncler way this Easter Morning. Fireworks.
At 9:02 the church-bells rang, and five girls with the image of
Mary ran from the church down the avenue of green boughs.
About halfway they turned and ran back to the church. At 9:06
they ran out again, got nearer to the arbor, but turned back. At
9:11 they came out again, almost reached the arbor, turned, and
ran as though the prairie were afire behind them. At 9:15 seven
of the maltachines quietly left the church carrying their coronas,
plumes, and rattles in their hands and went to the arbor. Three
minutes later the other seven matachines started dancing in the
church. At 9:21 a procession formed at the church. The seven
malachines led, and they were followed by three pascolas. Be-
hlind them came three girls dressed in white, with flags, followed by
twelve women bearing images of the Three Marys. Four other
women held a canopy over Mary, the Mother. More than a hun-
dred women and girls followed behincl. They were going to meet
the risen Lord who was approaching from the East.
The procession of Jesus had formed at the arbar. In front
were three coyote dancers, dancing backwards, followed by revtn
matachines with their whirls and glides. Then came one pax:1la
and the deer-dancer. They had scarcely stopped since noon th,
day before. Next were the altar-boys with flags followed by fou
men carrying the image of Jesus under a canopy. As the two pro-
cessions approached they would go a short distance each and stop
with a system of responses. When they met, the dancers stepped
aside, and there was flag-waving and incense-burning by each
group. This was solemn enough, but it lasted only a minute or
two. The Marys then recognized the Christ, and what joy,--fire-
works, confetti, flag-waving, and wriggling of images! The two
groups then formed into one and proceeded to the church. First
went the altar-boys of one group, then the coyotes, the fourteen
malachines, the four pascolas and deer-dancer, the girls dressed in
white, the altar-boys of the other group, the four images all abreast,
the maestros, singers, and multitude. As they slowly went up the
hill to the church the bells chimed, and the dancers clancecl furious-
ly. The military society flanked the procession on both sides. The
devil-chasers without their paraphernalia were solemn and subdued.
When the procession reached the church, Jesus was mounted high
54 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
on the main altar, and Mary was placed on the ground at his feet.
The other Marys were placed on a side altar at the left. Everyone
knelt except the military society. The devil-chasers removed their
sandals and placed handkerchiefs over their heads. There was a
chant by the women singers. Four clays and nights of singing in
the open air was causing old High Pitch to get hoarse.
While the chant was going on we counted 218 persons pres-
ent. A baby was crying lustily. She was trying to tell the congre-
gation that she was getting tired of these endless processions. The
mother finally compromised and offered the child a huge, full
breast. The baby disgustedly rejected it. We had an idea that
she had the stomach-ache. The mother carried her out, and we
could hear High Pitch again.
At 10:10 while the chant was still going on, the matachines
started a slow dance in and out among the kneeling worshipers.
Chants, prayers, and dances lasted until 11:30, when a final pro-
cession was organized. It was in the same order as the previous
one, except that there were but two images, a small one of a seat-
ed Jesus, and the Mary in the little box shrine. The two were
carried side by side under a blue canopy. We thought they were
going around the town as usual, but they fooled us and went
around the church instead. It was soon over, and the congregation
listened to a final chant by High Pitch. The pascolas and deer-
dancer left at 11:50. We imagined they were glad to get away,
as they had been at it for twenty-four hours. There was a general
hand-shaking in front of the church. Part of the people lined up in
a "receiving line" and the rest circled around and shook hands
with them several times. At 11:58 it was all over but the drink-
ing. The habitual drinkers had abstained from their mescal for
forty-five days, and it had been going hard with them. Before
sunset there were more than a dozen lying here and there in the
streets of Torin with froth in their mouths, a red, glazed look in
their eyes and streaks of mud made by the mixing of dust and sweat
over their bodies and in their hair. So ended the Fiesla de Gloria.
STUDIES OF THE YAQUI INDIANS
William Carry Holden
Yaquis love funerals. They live in a state of constant expec-
tancy from one funeral to the next. One can never tell for certain
when the next funeral will be, and this very uncertainty holds a
charm. Who knows but before the day is over the bell at the Ya-
qui church will toll, announcing to the Yaqui world that the time
has again come for an all-night fiesta, and, perhaps, if the deceas-
ed is venerable enough, for a celebration lasting for two days and
nights or more.
Our first experience with a Yaqui funeral occurred at Torin
in March, 1934. One Saturday evening, when we had just eaten
our supper, and Ramon, our interpreter, was making a pair of san-
dals for our physical anthropologist, one of the three bells on the
Yaqui church began to toll. Ramon, wise in such matters, an-
nounced that some one was dead--perhaps old Anita; for days her
death had been expected, if not to say awaited.
At eight-thirty a solitary candle was lighted on the altar at
the church. About nine-thirty three of us started out to find the
funeral. We were still leery about going into the Yaqui section
after dark. The soldiers at the Mexican garrison had told us how
treacherous the Yaquis were, and how easy it was to get a knife-
blade between one's ribs. We knew the Mexicans might be
stringing us along as tenderfeet, but we noticed that they stayed as
far from the Yaquis as they could after sundown. So we approach-
ed the Yaqui garrison with considerable caution. We had though
it best to go there first and get permission from the chiefs to attendl
the funeral. The second army chief was the only one at the glrri
son, but he seemed pleased that we were interested and offered ;o
take us himself. He led us first to a cross on the east side of the
hill on which the church is located. Here the devil-chaser society
was assembling. As we arrived they were putting on their masks
and forming in two lines. Presently they marched to the church,
making a rhythmic beat with their wooden swords. They circled
inside the church, got an old kerosene lantern, and came out. As
they left the church they were flanked on each side by a line of
Yaqui warriors fully armed with cartridge belts, high-powered
rifles, automatic pistols (with hammers cocked), and knives stuck
in their belts behind. To the tune of a bamboo flute and drum
the entire party marched to the house where the dead woman lay.
The area inside the compound was lighted by a number of
camp fires. Under an open lean-to shed at the east end of the
house was old Anita, for it was she, on a straw mat with a candle
burning on either side of her. At her head was an improvised altar
56 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
made of a covered table bearing an image. Several women sat
flat on the ground near by.
In the yard, about thirty feet south of the corpse, planted in
the ground was a small cross, some four feet high. A small area
of earth, three or four feet in diameter, had been dug up just south
of the cross. In this loose earth were stuck the staffs of the four
chiefs, the banners of the eight clans, the spears and swords of the
mounted guard society, and the wooden swords of the devil-chasers.
On each devil-chaser's sword was his mask.
Two of the mounted guards took two spears and stuck them
in the ground at Anita's feet, crossing them, making an "X." Then
men and women started coming singly or in pairs, kneeling before
the spears at Anita's feet and crossing themselves.
Meanwhile more people were arriving and the yard was fill-
ing. Presently, the chiefs decided that more room was needed, for
this was to be an extraordinary funeral. A group of men proceed-
ed to move the fence on the south side, cutting the horizontal bam-
boo pieces with their big knives, pulling the parts up and carrying
the fence away in sections. In three minutes it was done.
Two or three men were keeping the fires going. Under an
arbor a short distance east of the corpse, several women were sitting
flat on the ground, cooking tortillas. Near by a tub full of coffee
was boiling. Lots of it would be needed to keep the crowd awake
for two nights. And the dogs were there,-perhaps a hundred all
together, slinking about, snarling and fighting. Each woman cook-
ing tortillas had a stick with which she whaled every dog within
There seemed to be no definite ritual scheduled for the night.
The crowd was just milling around and kicking dogs out of the
way. We stayed an hour. Having been informed by Ramon that
nothing else would happen that night, we went back to camp and
to bed. After we were in bed, we could hear a native musician
playing a mournful dirge on a bamboo flute. He would start on
a high note, hold it for some time, and then slur off on three lower
notes. The flute was going every time any of us was awake during
the night. Occasionally, we heard chanting. Beginning about
daylight, homemade fire-crackers, somewhat like our sky-rockets,
were shot, a feature which Ramon explained by saying that when a
soul started up to the gods these rockets helped to boost it along;
that each rocket hiked it up a little farther.
About sunrise, as we watched through field-glasses, somne
18. Funeral procession leaving church.
19. Corpse in cemetery where it has just been measured for the grave
dimensions. Man on extreme right is laying off the grave.
20. Open grave after corpse has been deposited. Note bones on the
pile of earth at right.
21. Typical graves in cemetery at Torin.
PATE 7 57
58 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
thirty men went down the river and came back with poles, cotton-
wood boughs, and bundles of bamboo cane. No ceremonies oc-
curred in the course of the day. Ramon had promised to come for
us as soon as the night affair got under way, but at nine o'clock
there was no Ramon; so we decided we were missing; something
and started without him. At the funeral compound we found Ra-
mon, and learned his reason for not coming for us: his chief had
told him to cut wood, and the power of a society chief being next to
absolute, Ramon was cutting wood.
Everything was in full swing, illuminated by firelight and
candles. A new death arbor some eighteen feet square and built
of the cottonwood and bamboo which we had seen the men carry-
ing, had been built in the open space south of where Anita had
lain in state the night before. Three sides of the arbor were open,
but the west side was closed with cottonwood boughs. In the north-
west corner was an altar, on which stood two images. Near the
front of the arbor, suspended by a thong from the ceiling, was a
bucket of water with a gourd in it. Some thirty feet east of the ar-
bor was an open-air altar, on which were a cross and twenty-five
or thirty small hand-made books that looked, from where we were,
like packages of fire-crackers. Ramon said they were books con-
taining the names of "all the dead peoples".
Just west of this altar was Anita on a brand-new bier. Her
bamboo litter had been elevated eighteen inches on four poles with
forked ends. Anita had been re-dressed since the night before.
Now she had on a blue dress of cheap cotton cloth. On her body
tied to her waist, was a stalk of cotton, evidently grown the year
before, with open balls. Plain brown stockings, the only stockings
we saw on a Yaqui, covered her feet A black cap was on her
head, and her strong old wrinkled face was uncovered. Her hands
were tied together across her chest with a blue string. Her head
rested on a small blue pillow. Everyone seemed quite concerned
about the comfort of Anita's head. Every little while someone
would come around, lift her head, and rearrange the pillow. We
could not see that they were helping matters any, but they evident-
ly thought they were. Around the bier on tall, bamboo candle-
sticks were eight candles which clearly illuminated the body.
A few feet east of the open-air altar was a cross planted in
the ground, and behind it, after the manner of the night before,
were chiefs' staffs, and the arms, banners and masks of the various
societies. A dozen fires scattered about the place not only gave light
but helped to ward off the chill of the night.
On each side of the corpse was a devil-chaser in full attire,--
mask, overcoat blanket, deer hoof belt, and anklets of cocoon
rattles. In his right hand each had a long, painted sword. In his
left he had a short wooden sword and a green mesquite branch,--
the symbol of immortality. These fellows clowned, did antics,
made countless passes with their wooden swords at imaginary devils
STUDIES OF THE YAQUI INDIANS
over the body of Anita. About every forty minutes the devil-chaser
chief "changed guards", The change was accompanied by a
special clownish ceremony. The new and old guards would jump
around, make a series of passes at each other and end the cere-
mony by backing up to each other with a severe butt. The devil-
chasers' vigil over the corpse went on all night. Regardless of what
else took place they anticked and kept the evil spirits shooecl away.
From nine to ten o'clock the ceremonies were predominantly
pagan. Under the death arbor a couple of deer-dancers took turns
at dancing somewhat like a combination of our tap and buck-and-
wing dances. Their costumes consisted of a short blanket around
their middles; bell-adorned belts around their waists; and cocoon
anklets on their legs. Both were barefooted. When they danced
they wore a black wooden mask made grotesque with long horse-
hair whiskers. When not dancing, they hung the mask on the
side or the back of their heads. Their hair was bound in a bank
so that it stood up straight on their heads like a round whiskbroom.
A part of the time they danced to the tune of two home-made violins
played by two stolid Yaquis at the rear of the arbor. The rest
of the time the music was of a more primitive type. An old man
sat on the ground and played a flute and a drum. An official fire-
tender kept a bed of live coals near the drum so that its heads would
stay tight. Two younger Yaquis played musicsticks. It was the
business of the two dancers to entertain the crowd. While they
were not dancing they made jokes,-as Ramon put it, "they make
funny words". Their jokes were in Yaqui, but the Yaquis have
incorporated a number of Spanish words, so that we could get the
drift of what they were saying. They took several cracks at us.
One was on el patron, another was about los Americanos who
could not say anything but si, serior and muchas gracias. The
crowd laughed heartily. We had the feeling, however, that the
dancers were better at dancing than at wise-cracking. One of
them, an old man over sixty, was good.
While the dancing was going on, the women were systemati-
cally feeding the crowd. A half dozen women were cooking tor-
tillas made of wheat flour. The dough, made in large batches, was
somewhat like our lightbread dough. A woman would take up a
ball and start patting and revolving it on her forearm until it was
eighteen to twenty-four inches in diameter and as thin as a piece
of cloth. Then she would throw it into a large, flat earthen bowl
over a hot bed of coals. Almost as soon as the tortilla touched the
bowl, she would turn it over with her fingers. In a couple of sec-
onds she would fold it over double, then flip it over, then unfold
and refold the other way, then over again. Then she pitched it
to a woman on one side who put it in a basket. When finished,
the tortillas had the consistency of pie crust. With a half dozen
women cooking, the woman who put them in the basket was kept
busy. The coffee tub was kept boiling at one side.
60 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
End to end, on the ground, were bamboo mats, on which the
women placed a basket of tortillas, a bowl containing a few lumps
of sugar, (the only sugar we saw them use), and a couple of coffee
pots. Fifteen or twenty men would stack their hats by the cross
east of the open air altar and silently file around the mats, kneel
down, and pass the basket of tortillas around. Coffee was served in
pottery bowls, each holding about a pint, and two, three or four
persons used the same bowl. They never used over one lump of
sugar to a bowl of coffee. Behind those eating stood a dozen or
more men and women, each holding a burning candle. The effect
of the whole scene, the men kneeling reverently around the mats,
eating tortillas and drinking coffee, the candle bearers standing be-
hind, silent and rigid, all reminded one vividly of a communion
service. When one group finished eating they left and others came.
Usually the men ate first and then the women, but there seemed to
be no fixed rule, for at times men and women ate together.
At ten o'clock the nature of the ceremony changed. Two
young women representing the two societies to which women belong,
came and knelt at the foot of the corpse, one on either side. Each
woman wore a black mantilla over her head upon which was a red
crown, and in her hand was the red banner of her society. This
each continuously waved, energetically and deftly, cutting various
and complicated figures in the air with it.
Eight mourners came and knelt on narrow mats some distance
farther back from the foot of the corpse. Behind the mourners was
the priest society, consisting of the native priest (maestro), two as-
sistants, and a dozen women. On either side of the corpse knelt the
plumed-dancers, their brightly-colored headgears and the brilliant
plumes which each held in his left hand giving a festive appearance
to the scene. The headgears matched the paper flowers on old An-
ita's dress. Just outside the row of plumed-dancers, standing in
double columns on either side of the corpse, were members of the
military society, fully armed.
A flute with its four-note dirge was played periodically, ac-
companied by a drum. The priest society chanted. The native
priest, dressed in the usual denim and sandals, would chant a line
and the women would chime in a few measures behind. The wom-
en were led by a fat woman, weighing over two hundred and fifty
pounds, with a shrill soprano voice. The most of her two hundred
and fifty pounds was around her middle, and when she sang, it
heaved up and down like a bellows. We called her Old High
Pitch. When she sang, one could not hear any of the other
chanters. Her voice carried more than a half mile.
Chants were interspersed with prayers led by the priest. He
said them in a continuous rolling monotone. After more than an
hour of chants, prayers, and flute and drum dirges, this formation
Then for a while the performance which had taken place from
nine to ten was repeated,-the deer-dancers doing their buck-and-
STUDIES OF THE YAQUI INDIANS
wing steps, and "niaking funny words," the devil-chasers still
driving the devils away from the corpse, men and women partak-
ing of food again. The women cooking tortillas had never stopped.
Occasionally there would be fire-works, and Anita's soul would
be propelled a little higher.
So it went all night, pagan and Christian observances ming-
ling. Babies cried and sometimes choked. Several of them had
whooping-cough, hooplia, the Yaquis call it. Dogs barked, snarl-
ed and fought. As the night wore on, children went to sleep. Their
mothers bedded them down at the edge of the crowd under thin
blankets. The night was chilly. We buttoned our sheepskin coats
around our necks and edged up to a fire occasionally. We won-
dered how the children clad in thin calico could stand it on the
cold ground. They slep like logs, however, unless overtaken by a
coughing fit. By midnight the women were all looking tired and
worn out. This was the second night of it. Some of them curled
up near the fires for a nap, but not for long. There was still more
-ooking to be done, and more chants to be chanted, and more dogs
to be driven away from the tortilla basket.
One of our party stayed to see the ceremony through the night.
The rest of us went to camp and to bed, but not to sleep as sound-
ly as we wished. Periodically through the latter part of the night
the flute's dirge or Old High Pitch's voice awoke us, and we
would lie awhile and look at the rounded moon going down in the
west and wonder about funerals.
The next morning about nine o'clock as we were passing the
Yaqui garrison on our way to see how the funeral was progressing,
we noticed the four chiefs and the entire military clan gathered
there. We stopped in to shake hands with all of them. It is a
breach of etiquette to pass a Yaqui without shaking hands the first
time you meet him in the day. TIhat is, if he is a friendly Yaqui;
if he is not friendly, one had better not meet him. Before we got
through handshaking we heard the funeral procession coming up
the road from the east, and we moved quickly so as to see it.
In front came the fourteen plumed-dancers doing a beautiful
dance full of movement, glides, turns, spins,--all in umlson. Red,
yellow, blue and purple streamers fluttered from the tops of their
tall coronas. Brilliant plumes of parrots' feathers, red, yellow, white,
and green, waved in their left hands, and gourd rattles beat a fast
cadence in their right hands. Tlhe three youngest members, boys
about eight, ten, and twelve, respectively, wore long white, stittly .
starched dresses. One wore a red slip under his dress, one an
orange slip, and one a green slip. T he other eleven wore brilliant-
ly colored scarfs around their shoulders. All of them wore the na-
Behind the plumed-dancers came the devil-chasers in full ar-
ray, masks and all, jumping, clowning, wielding their wooden
swords, and making terrific passes at Imaginary devils along the
62 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
Next came four men and four women carrying on their should-
ers the bamboo litter with Anita's corpse on it. Forty hours had
passed since she died, but her wrinkled old body was so thin and
emaciated and the air was so dry that decomposition had not yet
begun. The litter-bearers walked in a sprightly manner, jiggling
the body up and down to the cadence of the plumed-dancers'
Next came the pascolas with their wooden masks hanging on
one side of their heads and the muscles in their naked bodies look-
ing surprisingly fresh after twelve hours of dancing. Then came
the maestro and his assistants and old High Pitch and her assis-
tants. Behind them were the drummer and the flute-player still
piping his four mournful notes. A multitude of women and children
The procession stopped in front of the Yaqui garrison and the
pallbearers lowered and raised the corpse five times in front of the
cross there. The four chiefs and members of the military society
marched out from the garrison in two columns, flanking the proces-
sion on either side. The entire group then moved towards the Yaqui
church (a combination of pagan shrine and Christian church made
of bamboo) on a hill a quarter of a mile away. They paused for
a moment before a cross at the foot of the hill to lower and raise
the corpse five times more and then preceded up the hill to the big
cross in front of the church.
They placed the body on the ground at the foot of the cross
and spent twenty minutes in chants and prayers. In the meanwhile
one of the assistant chiefs measured the length and breadth of
Anita's body with a couple of bamboo sticks. He cut them just
the right length. The corpse was then carried into the church and
laid on the ground before the altar in the north end. The priest
and the chorus started a chant which lasted an hour.
In the meanwhile the assistant priest had measured off a grave
in the south end of the church. A devil-chaser, who had removed
his mask, brought a spade and started digging the grave. He
kept his measuring sticks close at hand so as to take no chances on
getting the grave too large. None of the other Yaquis took any
interest in the grave-digging. After a while a second devil-chaser
came and relieved the first one, who went away and did not come
back. The only ones taking any interest in the digging were mem-
bers of our expedition. The devil-chaser dug into another burial.
.He threw out a thigh, a leg bone, an arm bone, a few ribe, and a
number of finger bones. That made no difference; he paid no at-
tention to them.
When the grave was finished to a depth of three and a half
feet, and a couple of bamboo sticks crossed over it, two girls dress-
ed somewhat like Greek Catholic bishops came and waved red
banners over it. They were consecrating the grave and driving the
evil spirits out. Next the devil-chasers in masks came in two lines
and circled the grave three times, one line going in a clockwise direc-
STUDIES OF THE YAQUI INDIANS 23
tion and the other line going counter-clockwise. Each devil-chaser
cut vigorously in the air with his wooden sword.
T'he procession then formed and brought the body to the
grave. The litter was placed on the pile of dirt by the side of the
grave and Anita's hands were untied. Several men lifted the body
from the litter and handed it to two men in the grave. The litter
was thrown over the cliff at the edge of the church yard. The two
men lowered the body into the grave. They seemed to be in a
great hlurry. Anita's head got turned to one sicle and her mouth
fell open. The only pains they took for her comfort was to place
the little blue pillow under her head. They did not straighten her
head or shut her mouth. We watched carefully to see if they
would pull a cloth over her face, but they did not. The men got
out, and the priest standing at the head of the grave sprinkled in
some water and some earth, mumbling a few words.
The procession retired to the church and started another chant.
Three or four men and a half-dozen women stayed to fill the grave.
A man pitched a spade full of clirt into Anita's face. Some of it
went in her mouth. One man spaded and the women pushed the
dirt in with their hands. When the grave had been filled about a
foot with loose clirt, another man brought a tamper. It consisted
of a square granite rock weighing about twenty-five pounds with a
wooden handle mortised into it. The man got down in the grave
and began tamping. His first move was to whang right clown over
Anita's face. More dirt and more tamping and they got the old
lacly firmly tampecl in. The bones which had been thrown out
were pitched back in as if they had been clocls of earth. They had
little excess dirt left over, and this was made into a small mound.
A little bamboo cross was placed at the head. All this time sky-
rockets were being fired near by.
When the grave was filled, the priest society came and knelt
around the grave, and the head priest said a prayer. They return-
ed to the altar in the church and started another chant. Ihe devil-
chasers came and circled the grave three times in the same manner
as they had done around the open grave.. When they went away,
the relatives came and knelt about the grave. This was the first
time they had been near the body or the grave. They had come
to the church and remained apart from the crowd until now. The
oldest one among them, an old man, said a prayer. Then they
arose and went to the large cross south of the church where they
arranged themselves after the fashion of a receiving line. Friends
of the relatives formed another line and started around shaking
hands with them. A Yaqui handshake is a ceremony in itself.
Each person touches his own left shoulder, then the other person's
left shoulder, and grasps the other's hanl on a backward move-
ment. There is something collegiate about it when done rapidly.
Each friend circled around and shook hands with each relative
64 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
The military clan formed into a column of threes and march-
ed back to the Yaqui garrison. Not a tear had been shed, but
Anita had been highly honored. Very few Yaquis rate a forty-
two hour funeral. The most of them are lucky if they get more
than a twenty-four hour ceremony.
We thought the funeral was over, but we found out three
days later that we were mistaken. Another all-night session would
be necessary to commit Anita's soul safely to its eternal home. It
seems that the Yaquis are a trifle confused as to how and when a
spirit leaves a dead body. If the person is unmarried they assume
that the ascension is immediate. When the person is married they
are not so sure whether it is at once or whether the soul stays three
days in the grave and then comes out to start its heavenly flight.
Anyway, they take no chances on it and hold a second all-night
ceremony on the third night after the burial of every married person.
It was nine o'clock when we went down to the ceremonial
grounds, the same place where the funeral had been held. The
people were forming a procession at the edge of the clearing a
hundred yards east of the death-arbor. The order of the procession
was similar to that of the funeral except that the pallbearers carried
a litter an which was an image of the Virgin. The group moved
slowly to the death-arbor, where, in the main, the schedule of the
second night of Anita's funeral was repeated. Chants and prayers
alternated with pascola dancing and feasting throughout the night,
with an occasional shooting of fire-works. At sunrise the cere-
mony ended, and the people went home. We were told that one
year from that night a similar affair would be held for Anita.
The people got one night's sleep before starting another fun-
eral. About four o'clock the next morning a man about thirty-five
died, presumably of tuberculosis. A few hours later a little girl, a
beautiful child of two, died of whooping-cough. The bodies were
dressed for burial and carried on bamboo litters to the place of the
death ceremony. They were placed on a crude table under the
south side of the arbor. The man was dressed in a robe of black
calico. There was nothing on his head, and his feet were bare
save for a pair of new sandals. These had been cut from the hide
of a black cow. The hair was still on the soles of the sandals.
Flowers ciut from colored paper were attached to the man's shoul-
ders, elbows, wrists, chest, knees, and ankles. By his side was a
devil-chasers' sword. The child was dressed in pale blue calico
with numerous paper flowers attached.
A crowd of people and dogs milled around the place all day,
but the ceremony did not start until about dark that night. The
procedure was the same as in the case of Anita's funeral with one
exception. Seven arches of bamboo cane had been erected in a
line in the course of the day. The arches were about thirty feet
apart, and each was about eight feet high and eight feet wide at
the base. About nine o'clock a procession formed with the same
general order as in Anita's second ceremony. Instead of the
STUDIES OF THE YAQUI INDIANS
Ima.A.: they carried the two bodies side by side. The procession
w~...... under the arches to the easternmost one and then returned.
T~he march to the church got under way early the next morn-
ing, for the man was stinking. The child was buried first, while
the man's body lay on his bamboo litter before the altar in the
church. It seems that only one spade was available, so the meas-
urements for the man's grave were not taken until after the child
was disposed of. When the man's grave was finished they rushed
him into it with great speed. No effort was made to get him in a
comfortable position. His eyes were half open and his jaw had
fallen, but the men who placed him in the grave were anxious to
get him covered up, for the stench was sickening.
About ten o'clock of the first night of the Fiesta de Gloria, a
baby seven months old died of pneumonia. We speculated as to
whether the Yaquis would take time out to hold an all-night wake
while the Fiesta was on. About eight the next morning while we
were eating breakfast we saw half a dozen women coming up the
bill towards the church. One woman had something on her head.
When the group came nearer we saw it was the corpse of the
baby on a little bamboo litter. The mother and father, whose ages
were eighteen and twenty, preceded the little procession to the
church. The parents went into the church, where they stayed un-
til the burial was over.
The woman placed the corpse on the ground at the foot of
the large cross, A man came and measured the body for the grave
dimensions. It was a mite of a grave not over two feet long and
a foot wide. About thirty inches deep, the man came to another
body, Instead of digging a new grave, he levelled the bottom so
as to put the baby squarely on top of the skeleton beneath. While
the grave was being dug the body remained at the foot of the cross.
Four or five women sat flat on the ground near it, talking and
When the grave was finished we thought the devil-chasers
would surely come and march around it. They were near by, as
the Fiesia was in progress, but took no notice of the burial. When
the women started to the grave with the corpse a flag-waver ran to
the grave and waved his flag over it briefly and hurried back to
the shade of a tree where he sprawled on the ground. As the
body was placed in the grave the maestr~o and three or four women
came from the church where they were busy with fiesta proceed-
ings. The priest sprinkled water and earth in the grave, said a
short prayer, and returned to the church. Four women and the
man who had dug the grave filled it, the women using their hands
and the man the spade. He tamped the dirt in as had been done
in the three previous burials. When a little bamboo cross had
been planted and four candles lighted over the grave, the parents
carre from the church and knelt with four other persons whom we
took to be relatives. As several prayers were said, the mother, a
66 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
comely woman, wept, the only weeping we saw at any funeral.
After a few moments the relatives went and stood before the cross
in front of the church. Friends came and went through the custo-
A fifth funeral was in progress the day we left Torin. As
we bumped along the dusty road we heard skyrockets exploding
above the sands of the Yaqui river, each one sending the old man's
spirit a little higher up to the gods.
STUDIES OF THE YAQUI INDIANS
William Curry Holden
An inventory was taken of the utensils of fourteen kitchens.
Every kitchen had a large metate of porous volcanic rock for corn
grinding. Only one metate had the short triple legs so common in
Mexico (Figure 5, Plate 2.). Six of the remaining thirteen were
mounted about thirty inches high on mesquite posts. The women
using these stood as they ground their corn. The other seven
melates were mounted on blocks of wood or rocks a few inches
above the ground. The women used them in a kneeling position,
which would soon become back-breaking for a white woman. The
Yaqui women have two ways of grinding corn on these metates,
the wet method and dry method. The wet method is used more
frequently than the dry. About a gallon of corn is soaked over-
night in water and wood ashes. As the woman grinds it with a
manor, it becomes a soft pasty dough which is caught in a wooden
bowl placed under the lower end of the melate. It requires an hour
or more to grind a gallon of corn. A little salt is added to the
dough, and the woman pats it into a tortilla which she cooks on
a large, flat earthen bowl over an open fire-place. When the dry
method is used the corn is placed in a large olla over the open fire
place. A woman constantly stirs the corn with a long wooden
spoon. Many of the grains will crack open slightly as does pop-
corn. The rest becomes brown and crisp without cracking. The
woman then grinds the corn on the melate, after which she mixes it
into dough by adding salt and water. Tortillas prepared in this
way have altogether a different texture and flavor from those made
by the wet method. The average woman puts in from three to
six hours a day preparing corn-meal and cooking tortillas.
Seven of the fourteen kitchens had mechanical corn-grinders.
All of these have been purchased during the last few years since
the government began paying the Yaquis "to be good." These
grinders, which sell at ten pesos each, resemble our hand sausage
grinders or food choppers. A woman can grind her corn in one of
them in a fourth of the time required on a metate.
Eight of the fourteen kitchens had separate metates', of smaller
size, for coffee grinding. Three kitchens had small mechanical
coffee-grinders, the kind which is nailed on the wall or a post and
which is used by frontier people in this country. The Yaquis trade
for a native, green coffee of small size. This the women parch in
large allas in a manner similar to parching corn, only it takes much
longer. When made into coffee it is as black as tar and has the
consistency of thin soup. It has a vile smell and a viler taste.
Yaquis drink it black, occasionally using sugar. Thirteen kitch-
ens had coffeepots made of cheap porcelain or tin. Eight of
68 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
these had two pots each and two kitchens had three pots. These
are new innovations taken up since the government began paying
the Yaquis. Formerly they used earthen oilas of their own make
for coffee pots. In one kitchen an olla is still used.
Each of the fourteen kitchens contained from one to six five-
gallon square tin cans, the kind used by oil companies the world
over. ~The Yaquis cut the tops out of them and insert a handle
by nailing a rounded piece of timber across the center of the can
just below the rim at the top. The cans are used principally for
water carrying. Most of the water is carried by the women. A
woman can balance a five-gallon pail of water on her head and,
if need be, walk for miles without spilling a drop. On an aver-
age, the homes are located about a quarter of a mile from the river
from which most of the families get their water. A few use wells.
Several families visited by our party lived from two to three miles
from the river, and all the water used was carried from it either on
the heads of the women or the shoulders of the men. Men never
carry water on their heads; instead they carry two five-gallon pails
at a time, each suspended from the ends of a stick across the should-
ers. (Figure 27, Plate 11).
Each kitchen had from two to five tin or zinc buckets varying
in size from a half-gallon to two gallons. Nine kitchens had a
steel or cast-iron skillet each, and one kitchen had two. The oth-
er four used pottery vessels instead oif skillets. All the kitchens
had from one to ten earthen cooking-po~ts. Beans, next to tortillas
the chief item of food, are always cooked in oilas, which vary in
size from one to two gallons. A pot of beans is cooked and then
kept simmering constantly for two or three days until eaten. Then
another potful is cooked. (Note bean pot in Figure 35, Plate 12).
Eight of the fourteen kitchens had from one to five tin or por-
celain cooking-pans of some scrt. The other six had no kind of
metallic cooking-pans whatever. Five kitchens had cheap porce-
lain dishpans. The other nine used wooden or pottery bowls for
dishpans. Practically every kitchen has one or two wooden bowls.
(Figure 19, Plate 3). These vary from fifteen to twenty-four
inches in diameter and from four to seven inches in depth according
to size. Somewhere in nearly every kitchen will be hanging from
one to five canteens. These have been stolen or captured from
the Mexican army from time to time.
Thirteen of the fourteen kitchens had from two to nine porce-
lain cups each. No china cups or plates were seen anywhere.
Five kitchens had forks, from one to five each, and four had knives,
from two to five each. The only knives seen in the others were
long homemade hunting-knives similar to the ones the men wear
behind their belts. The average Yaqui has little use for table-
knives and forks. He eats most of his food with his hands. He
takes a tortilla from a basket, cups it in his hand, puts in a spoon
full of beans from the bean pot, folds the tortilla together, and eats
it as a sandwich. It is only when there is a stew of javelina or
STUDIES OF THE YAQUI INDIANS
deer meat, which is not often, that he needs an eating implement,
and then he generally uses a spoon. Only one kitchen of the four-
teen had no spoons. The others had from two to ten each. The
spoons were cheap and much like the ones that sell two for a nickel
in our five and ten-cent stores. Twelve of the fourteen kitchens
had from one to six porcelain plates each. Thirteen kitchens had
smoothing irons, two having one and eleven having two each. These
irons were heated on mesquite coals. They were much thinner than
traditional irons used in this country.
Every kitchen we visited had from one to ten baskets each.
There was always a tortilla basket from ten to fourteen inches in
diameter and six to eight inches deep. Then there was usually a
larger basket in which the eating utensils were kept. This basket,
when the utensils were not in use, was kept near the hearth, or
hanging on a wire attached to a log in the roof. There might be
other baskets, of varying sizes and shapes, for storage purposes.
Eight of the fourteen kitchens had a homemade table each. These
were usually very crude and wobbly.
The different kitchens had various miscellaneous objects.
Number 2 had a piece of sheet iron over the open fireplace instead
of the earthen griddle on which tortillas are cooked. Number 3
had a saddle, an American steel-trap, a leather pouch, and three
sleeping-mats. These stood against the wall during the day and
were spread on the floor at night. Yaquis sleep on them without
removing their clothes and with only a blanket for cover even on
the coldest nights. Number 4 had two little, old trunks, probably
captured in a raid on some IMexican ranch, a rifle, a rawhide rope,
two cow-hides, several mescal bottles, and a leather pouch. Num-
ber 5 had a brush broom and a small porcelain sugar bowl. Num-
ber 6 contained three homemade chairs. Number 7 had one chair
and two rawhide stools. Number 8 had a crude cupboard in one
corner. Number 10 had a swinging pot-rack, twenty by fifty
inches, hanging from the roof. Number 11 had a baby cradle.
Number 12 contained an improvised cupboard made of two pine
We took inventory of the bedrooms of the fourteen house-
groups containing the fourteen kitchens mentioned above. In all
we minutely examined twenty bedrooms, as there are sometimes
two bedrooms attached to each kitchen. The contents of bed-
rooms are not so uniform as are those of kitchens. They are used
not only for sleeping, but for storage of practically everything the
family has which is not found in the kitchens. In fact the bed-
rooms are a combination of sleeping quarters, clothes closets, harn-
ess and saddle rooms, tool sheds, attics and cellars--all in one.
Rather than attempt to generalize about their contents, as in
the case of the kitchens, it will be easier just to pick out a typical
bedroom and give its contents in detail. In room A of house-group
5, for instance, was an elevated bed on the east side. It was
70 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
mounted on two trestles made like our carpenter's "saw-horses,"
only not so high. These were about fourteen inches in height. A-
cross the horses were small round poles about one inch in diameter
and six feet, six inches long. They were close together. On
them was a bamboo sleeping-mat. Piled in a heap on the back
side of the mat were a faded blanket and two crude pillows, stuff-
ed with raw wool. This type of bed is not common, as perhaps
nine-tenths of the Yaquis sleep on mats thrown directly on the
ground. Hanging on the wall behind the bed were several items
of clothing and a pair of sandals. Against the north wall were
leaning two sleeping mats. Above them attached to the wall was
an old tin bucket filled with odds and ends. On the west wall
were hanging two saddle-bags, a dancer's rattle, plumes, and head-
gear, a small mirror, a bag woven from the carrizo tops filled with
knickknacks, a water-canteen, a rifle and cartridge-belt, a monkey-
wrench, and an old colored shirt. On the south wall were a few
lengths of chain, a horsehair rope, a rawhide lariat, and several
small crosses made of carrizo blades. In the southeast corner
were two five-gallon tin cans on which was placed a pine box fill-
ed with a jumble of women's clothing. In the southwest corner
were standing, several agricultural implements, two weeders, a long-
handled spade, and a wooden spade used for winnowing grain. In
the northwest corner were a saddle, a set of dilapidated harness,
and some bridles. On a pine box near the center of the room was
a large carrizo basket containing about a bushel of beans. Hang-
ing from a roof-support above the bean-basket was a sack contain-
ing about a peck of shelled corn. The room had a generally un-
Somewhere in practically every Yaqui house, either in the
kitchen, a bedroom, or under a shed connecting the kitchen and bed-
rooms is a large earthern water alla mounted on a three-pronged
post (Plate 9). The oila usually has a capacity of ten to fifteen
gallons. It is porous enough to permit the water to seep through
and collect like "sweat" on the outside. Sometimes there is a slow
drip from the bottom of the olla. The drip is drained off by
means of a little trough and caught in a pottery bowl buried even
with the surface of the ground. This becomes a drinking-place for
the chickens. In time a green mass covers the outside of the oila.
The water on the inside is extremely cool even on the hottest days.
It seems to be a matter of custom with the Yaqui women to keep
the water olla approximately full all the time. We were told that
they occasionally scrub out the inside of the oila in order to keep
the pores open so the water will continue to "sweat" through and
make the alla cool. The dipper usually consists of a half-gourd.
Practically all of the household work is done by the women,
washing, ironing, corn-grinding, cooking, water-carrying, sewing,
which is done mostly with their fingers, sweeping, and wood-carry-
ing. Wood-carrying requires considerable time. As a rule
STUDIES OF THE YAQUI INDIANS
Yaquis burn only dead solid mesquite. As the supply becomes
exhausted near the camp the women have to go farther and farther
from their houses for it. It is not unusual for a woman to walk a
mile or more, break up a bundle of wood, tie it with a leather
thong, (Figure 7 Plate 3), balance the load on her head, and car-
ry it home. All of this she usually does while her husband sits at
the council-house and spits.
We, were astonished one day when we entered the house of
one of the most prosperous families and found a Singer sewing-
machine. It was an old-fashioned pedal model which was made
perhaps twenty-five years ago. We were unable to learn how
the family had come into possession of it, but we suspected it had
been captured in a raid. The full-breasted, smooth-faced woman
who used it did sewing for other people. She charged fifty
centavos for making a skirt or shirtwaist. She said she was busy
all the time with outside sewing.
During the month of March when the nights are chilly, the
sun feels warm and inviting until the middle of the morning, al-
though it gets hot enough during midday. Frequently we saw
Yaqui women sitting flat on the ground in the sunshine, as is their
custom, combing one another's hair with a burr from the organ
cactus. These burrs are about the size of a turkey's egg and are
covered with sharp spines. They ripen in the spring, and the
women gather numbers of them for use throughout the year. The
women burn off some of the spines on two sides so that the burr can
be grasped by the thumb and fingers. The rest of the spines are
trimmed to a uniform length. The burr then serves effectively as
both a comb and brush.
The woman's hair is long, straight, and black. If time
permitted after the combing, the women would delouse one another.
One woman would take little "lands" about a half-inch wide on
the other's scalp and go up and down snapping the lice between
her thumb nails (Figure 22, Plate I1).
In their dress the men wear any kind of shirt they can get,
blue denim trousers, and straw hats of many varieties. T`he
women wear several calico skirts which are gathered at the waist
with draw-strings and a short loose shirtwaist which is not gather-
ed at the bottom. In public they wear brown or black mantillas
over their heads. At home, they frequently wear bandana hand-
kerchiefs. All the men and part of the women wear sandals; the
rest of the women go barefooted. Very little jewelry is worn by
men or women; such as was seen is like that sold in our ten-cent
72 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
William Garreul McMillan
Yaqui architecture is based on the use of wood and bamboo
(carrizo), being influenced by building materials immediately at
hand. In structural design the supporting framework consists of
"Y"-shaped vertical supports set in the ground, and horizontal logs
of varying sizes and crookedness placed overhead (Plate 9). On
this framework are placed purlins of small size, spaced at intervals
of twelve to thirty-six inches. The framework is then ready for
the walls and roof of bamboo, which grows in abundance along the
For the supporting columns and horizontal beams, mesquite logs
are commonly used, although in some instances cottonwood and wil-
low are preferred. The low ceiling height of the houses is in-
fluenced by the fact that the forked mesquite trees do not offer very
long vertical posts without involving excess diameter and crooked-
ness. The normal roof height is about six and one-half feet at
the eaves. The necessary hip or pitch in the roof at the center of
the houses is usually obtained by placing a short auxilliary log im-
mediately under the beam at the crotch of the vertical support.
In placing the roof on the log framework, a heavy layer of
unstripped bamboo poles is placed at right angles to the purlins of
various sizes and uneven lengths. The process is again repeated
with the several layers of bamboo at right angles to the previous
layer (Plate 9). The number of layers depends upon the spacing
of the purlins and the subsequent thickness of the wate~r-repellant
dirt placed over the roof area. Growing vegetation during the
rainy season is sometimes in evidence on the roofs. In some cases
where there is no apparent need for protection from seasonal rains,
the roofs of unstripped bamboo are held down by means of larger
bamboo poles bent to the contour of the roof and securely tied to
the supporting beams and purlins with bark ties. Where a shade
from the heat is desired, the roof is often-times a series of wood
poles close together, tied down with bark or wire. The hip type of
roof predominates in the larger houses. Smaller rooms are some-
times built adjoining the larger structures and are covered with the
lean-to or shed type of roof.
The walls are built by interlacing the bamboo poles at right
angles to one another. The prevailing types of wall and fence
construction are the horizontal and vertical weaves with the vertical
weave in its various forms predominating (Plate 10). The walls
Plot of a typical Yaqui house group.
TYPIcAL YAQUI HouS. GCoPOU
74 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
are occasionally plastered with adobe. The horizontal weave
(A-1, Plate 10) is best suited for the reception of the adobe plaster
mud. This weave, however, requires longer lengths of bamboo to
reach from column to column. There is no fixed number of verti-
cal interstices in this weave, but in nearly every case observed the
central part of the span contained from six to twenty verticals. At
the ends and near the supporting columns there are several verticals
to hold in place the horizontal members which may not be long
enough to reach the columns. Types "A-l" to "A-3" (Plate
10) weaves are used.
In making the vertical type of weave, two or more long bam-
boo poles are lashed by means of bark, rags, or wire, usually bark,
to the bottom, center, and top of the supporting columns. As the
work of lacing the vertical members progresses, the horizontal
members are added in varying numbers at the center and top sec-
tions. The most commonly used types of vertical weaves are "B-
2" and "B-4" (Plate 10) although "B-l" to "B-6" types are in
There is no preference shown in regard to the supporting
columns projecting on the inside of the walls. In some cases
where the flat bamboo mats have served their usefulness as beds, the
mats are tied in place with bark strips to the exterior walls (Plate
10). Sometimes when the old walls need repairing, another wall
of the reverse type is applied over it (Plate 10). This wall is
given additional security by placing diagonal and horizontal mem-
bers to the outside surface.
There is no treatment for the dirt floors other than an occasion-
al sprinkling of water administered at the time of sweeping. The
black soil reaches a powder fineness when dry. Where the floors
are moistened regularly and subjected to daily sweeping a hardness
comparable to adobe is obtained.
The only window in all the houses visited by our party was a
small opening in which there were bars consisting of vertical sticks
spaced about three inches apart and mortised top and bottom to
the log frame. This window had the appearance of an observa-
tion point. Windows are not needed in Yaqui houses. The
cracks in the bamboo walls permit sufficient ventilation and a ready
escape of smoke from the kitchens.
The doors are of several types. The accordian type, with the
bamboo or willow members laced in a vertical position by means of
three horizontal rawhade or bark thongs, is fastened stationary on
one side and is allowed to fold back when loosened on the opposite
side. Another type involves three horizontal wood members to
which the vertical members are laced or nailed at about three
inches spacing. The outer vertical members of the hinged side
Yaqui architectural details.
PLA TE 9
T~reast Scnlon T aU HIr Tyre Co synarso0n.
Hhl HEWn nOT DUC R1
WATER WauI WooDEl CUorE L v STOCC WTen TPous
Ano sTd~ONE I(TCHEllt REP LnE CE l-- -
rl ~ Los DooFm SuL.
OLLA OLWATEREVESSEL. BENCH,LADDER)' Olif SUPPORT .LOGI CHIC E~NTRBU
76 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
rest on a pivot at the top and bottom and are encompassed by a
forked limb which, in turn, is nailed to the supporting door post. In
isolated cases milled lumber, nails and hinges are used. Large
logs are staked down for door sills to prevent the ever present dogs
from digging under the doors and gaining admission to the houses
Gate construction is identical with that of doors except in the
case of corral gates. These gates consist of heavy, movable in-
dividual poles which slide in slotted inserts at the heavier gate
posts (Plate 9). WV~ire ties are used to reenforce the retaining
Fence construction is represented by three types of material.
In the residence fence enclosures the vertical type bamboo weave
is used almost exclusively. In some instances, instead of bamboo,
smooth or barb wire is used as the three horizontal interstices. The
mesquite supporting posts are placed at irregular intervals and
with no apparent regard for straight lines (Plate 8). Often
growing tree large enough to serve as a post is a decided influence
in the shape, direction and size of a fence enclosure. Only in iso-
lated cases is there any attempt made to cut the vertical members
a uniform length. All the vertical types of weave are represented
in the fence enclosures. Where strength is needed for retaining
livestock, heavy wood construction fences are used. The more
open type of fence is executed by means of vertical posts set in pairs
at varying intervals with horizontal logs securely cradled at the sup-
ports. Another less popular type is a solid fence erected by plac-
ing vertical posts close together and setting in the ground. These
solid fences are about six feet high. Barb wire fences are in evi-
dence around the more prosperous households. Natural fences in
the form of cactus growths are pruned from the ever present and
abundant thorny vegetation.
The composite house groups are influenced by the size of the
families (Plate 8). There is no attempt made for a systematic
arrangement or for symmetry in the enclosures. The bedroom with
the four walls is adjacent to the open sidled kitchen, which usually
has a higher ceiling than the other roofed structures. The open
kitchen permits unhampered escape of smoke and easy access for
hungry dogs, chickens and birds. Often a kitchen is large enough
to accommodate a bed mat or baby cradle. There are never
more than two rooms in an individual unit. As the growing fam-
ily needs more space, separate bedrooms are constructed near by,
the main kitchen serving the requirements of the entire group. A
fence enclosure affords more privacy and security from the ravages
of prowling dogs and vermin. The enclosure may encompass
Yaqui wall types.
PLATE 10 T7
TrypE 'AI 3RenOP1A TIPE (Ol SeNon 014 OR RAC NG Scrior.
jlf~ ~TYP - VERTICp~ FHOIOAL WEAVE.
718 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
small storage sheds, pens and chicken houses, pot-racks, sunshades,
farm and ranch implements, garden plantings, and the like. Many
groups are scattered over wide areas with no organized setup or
Generations of life close to nature have taught the Yaqui to
utilize her products for his daily needs. Ladders, work trestles,
chickens and stock water-troughs, shovels, boats and many other
necessary commodities are carved from the soft grained woods
growing in abundance along the river banks (Plate 9).
STUDIES OF THE YAQUI INDIANS 79
MEDICAL PRACTICES OF THE YAQUIS
Charles John Wagner
The Yaquis are a fairly healthy people. Evidently some
Immunity is created against bacteria to which a race is constantly
exposed. Travelers in Sonora are usually promptly afflicted with
dysentery to which the Yaquis are not subject, but tuberculosis,
rare among them, is rapidly fatal once it is acquired. Immunization
against disease is practically unknown to them. Even small-pox
vaccination is rarely used. Isolation to prevent the spread of di-
sease is also little known. On a Saturday night during the pre-
Easter festival, when many had assembled at their brush-arbor
temple, thirty-eight children were counted under four years of age
many were babes in arms. Among the thirty-eight, eighteen had
'The first sick call, after the Yaquis satisfied themselves that
our party included a physician, was to a shelter among the ruins of
the former Mexican city of Torin. We found a young man dying
of tuberculosis. He lay on the usual bamboo mat on the earth
floor of the common living room. Dust on the floor was shoesole
deep. Food was being prepared at the fireplace in one corner.
Utensils were used in common. Three children were playing
about the room. A babe sat on the mat near the sick man's head.
As he coughed he expectorated first to one side then the other as
the presence of playing children permitted. The physician's in-
ability to do much for the sick was offset in this case by the great
opportunity to help the living.
Diseases prevalent are whooping-cough, pneumonia, diptheria,
malaria and typhoid. Epidemics of small-pox occur and are wide
spread. Venereal diseases, so common among the neighboring
Mexicans, are not common among the Yaquis as these people do
not intermingle. Tuberculosis was encountered at Torin where
Yaquis were living in adobe ruins where sun and the air had not
free access as in their usual bamboo shelters. One case of pellagra
was seen--several of rheumatism. Malnutrition was rare. Skin
diseases are apparently infrequent. Some throat troubles and
middle ear disease were found. Their teeth, in spite of the lack
of care, are fairly sound. Tumors are numerous and neglected as
scarcely any surgery is practiced.
Ordinary treatment is generally known among the Yaquis as
household remedies are known among us. Headache is treated
with curative moistened leaves held to the head by a folded moisten-
ed cloth. Fever is controlled by teas and by moist cloths or leaves
applied to face and wrists. Cathartics--herbs eaten or taken as
tea--are used, while dysentery is controlled by other herbs. Small
wounds, abrasions and ulcers are covered with curative wood-
80 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
scrapings or leaves, and bandaged. The Yaquis understand
something of the value of rest and limitation of diet. There are
few cripples among them, attesting to the fact that those critically
njured usually die.
Yaqui medical practices contain little of magic, but some sup-
erstitions persist. When a child is born it is a common practice to
wind a strand of tendon fiber loosely but securely about its wrist. As
long as it remains, the child will not have whooping-cough! Among
us the asafetida bag is still worn about the neck and the potato
carried for rheumatism, but we hide them in our clothing.
Childbirth among the Yaquis is not often accompanied with
trouble. The mother is usually attended by older women in the
family or by some experienced woman as a midwife. Two case-
histories were obtained where mothers were unattended, managing
the event themselves, even to the tying of the cord and the disposi-
tion of the afterbirth. Severe distochias usually result in the moth-
er's death. The medicine man is rarely called. After delivery
some mothers are up at once, but the usual custom is for them to
stay on the bed mat from three to five days.
Children are welcomed and much loved, but the death rate
among them is appalling. It is not unusual for a woman to have
borne eight to ten children with only two or three living. The
mortality is not at childbirth but within the first six or eight years
when whooping-cough, diphtheria and small-pox take their terrible
The water-supply changes with the season. When it is dry
and the river is very low, drinking water is obtained by digging pits
in the sand and dipping the water that rises. During high water
when the river is muddy, villagers use a common well near the river.
Outlying settlements are supplied with water carried from the river,
as their wells are usually brackish. The supply of water for drink-
ing and cooking is kept in an olla supported on a tripod in the shade
of the house. Sufficient water filters through so that it is kept
somewhat cool by evaporation. The drip is caught in a bowl o-
one ground, thus affording a drinking place for the chickens and
dogs. Dogs usually outnumber the people of a household. They
are useful as settlement scavengers--rarely fed, but otherwise well
treated. Washing of clothing is done at the river or in water-filled
holes near the shelter. Their infrequent bathing is also done at
22. Women catching lice in each other's hair.
23. Women water carriers.
24. A potter at Torin.
25. Wash day at a water hole on the Yaqui River.
26. Another wash scene.
27. Our interpreter, Ram6n Torry, carrying water.
PLATE 11 dl
~ ~i~C.~a~: 3.5 rap~--
L--1g' r t
X jh i
~n: I : i
~ii-. '.1 ;-~p rL~c?:
b 1-r ~~+ *~*
--~X IF~::.~a~ ti
r.' :~l~i~ 5riaL
ii ,ia.:-~.-~*. ...- -- ;- "
82 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
They sleep in their clothing with one blanket on a mat of in-
terlacing flat bamboo laid on the bare earth. When not in use
during the day these mats are leaned against a support in the sun
to be thoroughly dried and aired. These Indians have very few
possessions. Almost any Yaqui can pack what he cares to take
and be on the move in five minutes. With these facts in mind a
better understanding of their health and medical practices is possi-
The Yaquis guard the identity of their medicine men as well
as the medicine men's remedies with great caution. Time and
again, while at Torin in the course of the first expedition, we under-
took to meet the medicine man, but our interpreter and guides did
not know where he was, or he had gone away, or he was too busy
to see any one, et celera. Later we learned that we had passed
his house several times each day. On the second day after we
arrived at T~orin, on the second expedition, we had a long confer-
ence with the chiefs. After the governor had made a long and
warm speech of welcome and had offered to co-operate with us in
every way they could, we asked anew to see their medicine man.
The chiefs conferred at length. Finally the governor said that
the next afternoon he, himself, would take us to see their native
The next afternoon the governor kept this appointment. The
medicine man was near fifty, an earnest, dependable man. He
brought out his medicine pack with as much frankness as his peo-
ple had previously shown reticence concerning him. His medi-
cines were contained in a cloth some three feet square. The op-
posite corners were tied together as one ties a small pack ina
handkerchief. He spread the medicines out on a crude table, and
for three hours carefully explained to us the uses of each.
For dysentery the medicine man takes three small sticks of goma
de Sonora and boils them in water. Then he adds cominos aniss
seed), cinnamon bark, and essence of mint. This mixture is
strained and some alcohol added to preserve it. The patient is
given the equivalent of a small whiskey glass three times a day.
Diarrhea is treated with molanisco. The root is beaten to a
pulp. This is steeped in cold water, and the liquid is taken sev-
eral times a day.
There are three remedies for headache. One is of bailburia
root, dried, beaten to a powder, and mixed with tallow forming a
salve. This is applied to the head. A second remedy is made
from mesquite leaves. A quantity of these are mashed into a pulp.
This is mixed with water and urine, made into a poultice and ap-
plied to the forehead. The third remedy is made from the bark
of cuhaca huisachee). A strip about one inch in width and two
inches long is beaten to a pulp. This is moistened with urine
from a male and applied to the forehead. The poultice is allowed
STUDIES OF THE YAQUI INDIANS L(
to stay on until the odor becomes so offensive the patient cannot
stand it any longer.
For typhoid fever a preparation made from the immortal plant
is used. The leaves and fine stems are boiled and made into a
tea. This is drunk at intervals. It is very bitter and probably
For scarlet fever the yellow root of the mochi plant is used. It
is beaten to a pulp and steeped in cold water. The liquid is
placed where the dew will form on it overnight. Beginning next
day it is given to the patient three times a day for three days. Dur-
ing the time the patient eats no food.
When a patient is delirious he is given a warm tea made from
the leaves and stems of the lia plant. He drinks a cupful every
Earache is treated with a preparation made from beef gall. It
is dried in its own sack in the sun. Several thin slices are steeped
in water. About half of a teaspoonful of the liquid is dropped in
the patient's ear. The same medicine is also used for toothache.
For hiccough a tea made from the seed of the torilo plant is
used. The seeds from one pod are ground and steeped in water.
The patient sips the liquid until he gets relief. The lorilo plant
grows south of Sonora in Sinaloa.
There are two remedies for rattlesnake bite. One is very
simple. The golondrina (milkweed) plant is mashed to a pulp,
and the paste is applied to the bite. The second remedy is more
complicated and must be made in advance and kept on hand. A
snake is killed, its gall bladder taken out, and the gall mixed with
an equal part of alcohol. The mixture is allowed to stand for
twenty days. It is then ready to apply to the bite. The medi-
cine man does not permit his patient to drink any water for several
days, as he believes it will cause the poison to spread.
The juice of the century plant is applied to sores. The plant
is mashed in such a way that the juice falls directly on the sore.
For cuts and bruises a more intricate preparation is made. The
verba del monzo is beaten to a pulp. Rosemary, yerba colorado,
and alucema seed, all beaten to a pulp, are added, making a paste.
This is applied to the cut or bruise.
To prevent whooping-cough, the common practice, as men-
tioned above, is to place a tendon around the child's wrist. He
sometimes wears this for several years. Another remedy is to
wear around the neck a little bag containing nutmeg, flax seed and
anis seed. This -is also good for preventing other diseases. After
there has been a case of whooping-cough it is customary to fumi-
gate the house by burning Spanish dagger in it.
Small-pox is treated with a tea made from amapa (dye
wood). The wood is scraped in water causing it to turn to a
light orange color. The tea is drunk half a cupful at a time. It
has a delightfully cooling taste. Another medicine for smallpox
84 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
is got from a small black insect called pinocafe. It is put into
water where it gives off a yellowish excretion. The liquid is then
drunk. This is done about the time the patient breaks out. In
about six days the patient gets well.
For coughs, a tea is made from the bark of the forote tree.
The tea is boiled and a half cupful taken three times a day for six
or eight days.
For a blow on the chest, as when one is kicked by a horse, the
resurrection plant is used. The plant is placed in water, and when
it begins to grow the patient drinks the water. If the plant fails
to open up, it means the person will die.
Pains in the chest and back are treated with paste macle of
white caliche pcwdered and mixed with urine from a boy not over
fifteen years old. The paste is applied as a poultice on the place
of pain. The caliche is obtained near Nogales, about three hun-
clred miles to the north. The remedy is somewhat like our use of
For a blow in the stomach a medicine is made from palo
mulato bark and cochana root. These are boiled together and
made into a drink. Only a little is taken at a time as it is very
Lung troubles are treated with a remedy made of the roots of
gerba de la vibora (snake grass). The roots are mashed into a
fine powder. This is put into water in a vessel and beaten vigor-
ously until it froths. The froth is skimmed off and put on the
Gas relief is obtained from a brew made from mesquite bark.
The bark must come from the tree on the side of the rising sun. A
strip of bark is beaten into a pulp and then steeped in water. The
liquid is drunk as needed.
Cathartics are macle from various herbs. One very commonly
used is a tea macle from the macerated bark of mesquite twigs.
Fainting spells are treated with a medicine made of Brazil
wood and mesquite leaves. The Brazil wood is scraped into a
glass of water. This colors the water a light red. The mesquite
leaves are mashed and put into water. The liquid is then taken
Pinkeye is treated with the juice from haicocoa berries. The
berries are about the size of buckshot and of a cleep red color. The
juice is mashed out and smeared on the eyes, temples, forehead and
Abortions are sometimes produced by drinking a tea macle by
boiling corcho (a cork-like pine) in water. A lump of sugar is
put into a cupful and drunk once a day for three days. It makes
the woman deathly sick. She has spasms and occasionally be-
comes perfectly rigid. Another kind of tea for the same purpose
is made from the roots of the immortal plant.
STUDIES OF THE YAQUI INDIANS
Sometimes abortions are produced by mixing the resin of the
brea tree with tallow and making a paste. This is rubbed on the
abdomen. When this remedy is effective it is probably due to the
severe rubbing instead of the paste. Another way to produce an
abortion is for the woman to press her abdomen across a tree or
Hemorrhoids are treated by inserting in the rectum a conch
shell, heated and covered with tallow. It is inserted in a twisting
Hydrocephalus (water on the brain) is treated with nutmeg.
The nutmeg is ground into a powder and rubbed on the temples.
For ant bites the Yaquis use the wax from the mesquite tree.
In the last few years this practice has been modified by the use of
commercial glue, which is smeared over the bite.
T~he Yaqui remedy which interested us most is one which is
purported to cure rabies. Scores of persons told us that they had
seen Yaquis cure patients who had already started having spasms
before the treatment had begun. Among those who claimed they
had witnessed such cures were two Americans who had lived many
years in Sonora and a number of Mexican army officers. There
seem to be three or four remedies. The one by which most store
is placed is a tea made from the bark and leaves of the fresno tree.
This tree is said to grow in the mountains. Only atole is given the
patient to eat. If he becomes irrational he is tied up until the
medicine has its effect.
Another remedy when fresno tea is not available is made of
beans. About a pint of beans is roasted and then ground very
fine. This bean meal is mixed with cold water. The patient is
made to drink the mixture until he vomits. The next day the treat-
ment is repeated. If the patient is not better it is repeated agai7
on the third day.
A third remedy for rabies is made from the golondrina (milk-
weed) plant. It is used in two ways. Some of the weed is
mashed and made into a paste. This is applied externally over
the bite. Some of the weed is mashed, steeped in water, making
a tea. When it settles, the liquid is drained off and drunk. The
patient must be careful not to get any of the weed as he drinks.
The governor at Torin told us that he once had seen a Yaqui
cure a patient of rabies in Magdalena by the rubbing of saliva all
over him. The treatment went on two or three days, during
which the patient fasted. The governor mentioned also, without
apparently knowing the significance of the remark, that the Yaqui
who gave this treatment was known not to have been effected by
the bite of a rabid animal. This "cure" can be given some cred-
once. In the treatment of certain diseases, as diphtheria, we use
the serum from the blood of animals in which immunity against that
disease has been created. Serum from the blood of individuals
recovering from measles, mumps and infantile paralysis is used with
86 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
success in the treatment of those diseases. This leads to specula-
tion about the possible formation, in the body, of principles antagon-
istic to the virus of rabies, that could be transmitted with curative
effect through the body fluids as in this case, the saliva. Mother
Nature has taught primitive man many things through experience
that scientific men are discovering in the laboratory.
Gunshot wounds are treated in a primitive but effective way.
A section of bamboo having about the diameter of the wound is
selected. Another piece with closed end is fitted into this, making
a crude popgun. Brazil wood scrapings are placed in this "Lgun"~
which is then inserted and wound forced full of the scrapings.
~These, in contact with the tissue fluids, swell, stopping hemorrhage.
As the wound heals this plug is extruded. In the absence of any-
thing better, severe wounds are plugged with a mixture of grass and
moist earth. Very little is accomplished with abdominal or chest
wounds, which are usually fatal. If a person so wounded can be
moved, he is usually carried into the mountains.
Fractures are placed in as good position as possible by manip-
ulations and then splinted with split bamboo.
Throughout the medicine man's explanations one could not but
be impressed with the fact that these people were doing the best
they could with what they had at hand.
The medicine man at Torin said that it took a lot of work to
keep up his collection of herbs and medicines. They had to be col-
lected from over a wide area. He had to go as far as three hun-
dred miles for some of them. With the utmost frankness he said
that none of his remedies were sure. He added that they were
not so reliable as the white man's medicines, but they were all the
Yaqui had, and he and his people were forced to get along with
them, the best they could.
On the occasion of our second visit to his shelter, after pains-
takingly explaining his remedies, he gave us many specimens, pieces
of his valuable woods, herbs, and some appliances which he could
duplicate. Interesting hours were spent several times in the mutual
exchange of information. We showed him our physician's bag
with its medicine kit, the surgical supplies and instruments and the
diagnostic apparatus. He, and the fringe of Yaquis listening,
seemed especially interested in the blood pressure apparatus. They
were pleased to have it used on them. We gave the medicine
29. A sick Yaqui. Note the bundle of leaves tied around his fore-
30. "Pascolas" and musicians.
31. Reed fife and drum player.
32. Dr. Wagner and the Yaqui medicine man at Torin.
34. The expedition's water hole dug in the sand of the Yaqui River
35. An elevated cooking hearth.
.. ~ 35`
88 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
man a metal box of ready dressings, a bandage scissors, a pair of
dark glasses, a bottle of iodine (the color was pleasing), a tube of
ointment and some simple remedies, all of which we explained. He
was very appreciative and listened with careful interest as we talked
about the benefit of cleanliness, safeguarding water supply, the
use of antiseptics, and the purpose of isolation in contagious diseases.
~The Yaquis are eager to learn. On the other hand we learned
much from them.
We were privileged to minister to many. Their confidence
and gratitude were delightful. Nine came for operations. The
first, of course, was the most eventful, as we felt that the patient
had volunteered or had been selected to "try out" the surgeon and
much depended on the outcome. Our group had been in the
Yaqui village about ten days when Juan Serrano, who had fre-
quented the camp, came asking us to remove a bullet from his spine.
He walked with a waddle as the result of a gun shot wound across
the back which he said he had received nineteen years before, in
an engagement with a Mexican force. As he was crouching be-
hincl a rock, he was shot repeatedly across the -back, the bullets
plowing a groove just above the hips. It had been a year before he
could walk again. On examination we found the condition as he
stated. A large bamboo cane could easily be laid in the deep
scar across his spine and on pressing deeply a hard movable par-
ticle could be felt to the right of the last vertebra. We explained
to him that in our country a foreign body like a bullet in a critical
location is not removed unless it is giving trouble. He answered
that he wanted it out because "It makes pain in the light of the
moon." So we agreed to remove it for him. He then said that
it would have to wait because it would be two days before he
could take off his clothing. This was true, as a fiesta was then
in progress, lasting four days and nights, during which they did nct
remove their clothing. On the morning after the flesta we went
to the Yaqui officers' headquarters, where we had arranged to
perform the operation. The crowd was there but Juan was not.
We could not miss such a chance of gaining the Yaqui's goodwill,
so we did the unheard of thing here -we hunted up the patient. We
found Juan at his home shelter and although he looked a little sur-
prised, he came with us willing, bring-ing an earthen basin with
water in which we were to scrub our hands. Our surgical bag
contained two surgical packages, a large one, in case a major
emergency operation for one of the party was necessary in the
jungle, and a smaller package of sterile supplies and instruments,
such as were needed for the operation at hand. A squared log
STUDIES OF THE YAQUI INDIANS
used as a bench at the edge of the headquarters' stone porch served
as an operating table. Juan lay face down on the log with his
arm as a pillow His back was bared. The small package of
sterile instruments was laid near him. Every member of our group
assisted. Two, with tree branches, warded off the insects. One
directed the forty to fifty onlooking Yaquis. Another acted as
circulating nurse. Two of us scrubbed our hands and disinfected
them the best we could with alcohol. There was only one pair
of sterile rubber gloves so the assistant had to confine himself to
what he could do without coming into contact with the site of oper-
ation. Meanwhile iodine had been applied on the patient's back.
The area to be operated was then thoroughly injected with novo-
cain, as it was particularly necessary that this patient should feel
no pain. As we picked up the scalpel to make the incision there were
really some anxious moments. Every surgeon knows that a small
foreign body in the deep tissues is often difficult to locate. Without
the aid of an X-ray or specially designed instruments, one may cut
within a hair's breadth of a bullet and not find it, and repeated cuts
near the spine are dangerous. With two score excited Yaqu s
looking on at our first operation, it might be just "too bad" if we
did not find that bullet. T~he Lord's favor was with us, the scal-
pel went true and the bullet was found at once. It was in three
fragments. They were dissected out with just enough tissue to
hold the three pieces together so that they could be held up for all
to see. The murmur of approval that came from that crowd cf
Yaquis was music to our ears. We dressed the wound and gave
Juan a slap on the shoulder to let him know that the operation
was over. That he had felt no pain and went on about his busi-
ness, was a revelation to these men. Juan's recovery was all that
could be hoped for. The fee was notable. On learning that we
were interested in guaraches-the leather sandals universally worn
-he brought us a baby pair. We told him that we did not want the
shoes off his baby's feet but he answered "feet too big". Since the
baby had outgrown the guaraches, we were delighted to have
them--a most acceptable fee in view of what it meant.
Two days following the time of the first operation, the second
governor of Torin asked us to remove a fragment of rock from his
neck. He stated that years previously a bullet struck a rock near
him and that a fragment of rock lodged in his neck. We could
feel it deep in the neck near the jugular vein, but wondered how
he could know that it was a rock fragment and not part of a bul-
let. It caused pain when be swallowed. On opening the neck
we found it to be -a fragment of rock just as he had stated. He is
known among us as "Rock-in-the-neck".
Four other operations were performed during our first s:ay.
The last was on the night before we left. The Fiesla de Glor-ia,
the great Easter fiesta, had come to an end. A young Yaqui at-
90 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
tending from a distance, learning that we were leaving the next
morning, came about 9 P. M. to ask us to remove a tumor from
his eye. The mass was about the size of an egg and overhung the
eye, completely obstructing the sight. So we arranged to remove
it for him at once. He was placed on a cot in our camp. The
audience included the officers of the Mexican garrison and their
wives and several soldiers, besides many Yaquis. In addition to
the moon light we had an indifferent gasoline torch and two good
flash lights. Men with branches fanned away the myriad insects
while the operation was performed. The patient was most appreci-
ative as the sight of his eye was restored at once. A friend was
instructed about his care and the removal of stitches. In a letter
received from our Yaqui interpreter some weeks after our return to
the United States there was this welcome information: "(I am very
glad to write you. Just let you know about the man who you made
a operation. Well be thanking you ever so much. He is very well
During the second expedition five months later, many came
for medical and surgical care. One of the operations performed
was somewhat spectacular and especially pleasing to our Yaqui
friends. We were asked to see a boy of Tourteen who had a
growth on his back. We found it to be a cancer and advised the
father and mother that the only safe way was to burn it off. They
and the boy wanted it done With a well-equipped operating
room, good anaesthetic, capable nurses and an electric cautery it
would have been easily done. None of these except the novocain
for local anaesthesia were at hand. An iron rod was found in the
door yard and heated in the open fire. The boy was placed on a
crude table outside the shelter. The area was injected with novo-
cain and the redhot iron applied. The tumor sizzled and smoked
as the iron burned it completely away. The boy felt not the least
pain, and became at once an object of wonder to his friends.
So much can be done among the Yaquis. They are a cour-
ageous, resourceful people. May a wise government soon estab-
lish them on lands where they may maintain their homes in se-
curity and peace. We look forward to being with them again as
one looks forward to a visit with old friends.
STUDIES OF THE YAQUI INDIANS 91
PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE
Carl Coleman Selizer
In the spring of 1934, the Texas Technological College Yaqui
Expedition, under the leadership of Dr. W. C. Holden, was en-
gaged in scientific investigation of the Yaqui Indians of Sonora,
Mexico. 1 he writer accompanied the expedition in the capacity of
physical anthropologist,' and secured a series of anthropometric
measurements and ob-servations on a group of 100 adult male mem-
bers of the tribe.
The Yaquis are an important member of the Cabita division
of the Uto-Aztekan linguistic stock, and occupy as their native habi-
tat the lower Rio Yaqui district close to where the river empties in-
to the Gulf of California. Those still living in this region number
from 2,500 to 3,000, and reside in the four river villages of Potam,
Vicam, Torin and Consica, and in one mountain village, Agua
Berde, situated in the Sierra de Bacatete. These groups, however,
form merely a small part of the existing population of Yaquis. The
majority are widely spread over the western and southern portions
of Mexico; there are some even within the United States. What
the total population numbers at the present time is very difficult to
say. Hrdliaka (1), who visited them in 1902, gave an estimate of
approximately 20,000, a statement which has been repeatedly af-
firmed as quite accurate. My own impression is that the number
of Yaquis extant today is 12,000 to 15,000. The Yaquis are not
a decadent tribe, but one which is being disintegrated slowly but
surely by the Mexican government. The reason for this official
policy is to be found in the historical resistance of the Yaquis to
the dominance and encroachment of their territory and civil liber-
ties by the Spaniards first and then by the Mexicans. Perhaps bel-
ligerent by nature, but certainly belligernet in the matter of self-
preservation, they have perpetrated the largest series of revolts
against the reigning governments that are to be found anywhere in
the annals of American Indian tribes. Hrdliaka mentions among
'As National Research Fellow in the Biological Sciences, I am in-
debted to the National Research Council for the opportunity to under-
take this work, and to my sponsors, Dr. E. A. Hooton of Harvard Uni-
versity and Dr. A. V. Kidder of the Carnegie Institution and the Labor-
atory of Anthropology at Santa Fe. I am also indebted to the D~vision
of Anthropolgy of Harvard University, and especially to its chairman,
Dr. A. M. Tozzer, for a grant of funds which enabled me to accompany
the expedition in the field.
92 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
the numerous uprisings the serious revolts in 1609, 1740-41, 1764-
67, 1825-27, 1832, 1840, 1867-68, 1889-1901, and 1902 (1).
Since this time there have been several others, the last one taking
place as late as 1927. From the beginning of the twentieth cen-
tury onwards, the Mexican government has been dealing with this
problem in a very clever fashion, by adopting a policy of expatria-
tion and deportation to reduce the number of the Yaquis to a con-
trollable size. Thus within the last fifteen or twenty years, thous-
ands of Yaquis have been moved from their homes along the Rio
Yaqui to far distant locations in Yucatan, Tehuantepec and Si-
naloa. Some are also living in the neighborhood of Obregon and
Hermosillo, as well as in a few of the islands off the west coast
of Mexico. Those still living in the Bacatete Mountains have ney-
er yet been conquered and are at the present time at war with the
government. The United States Yaquis consist of a group of
about 200 to 250, and are impounded in a small village called the
Barrio Pascua, two miles from the western outskirts of Tucson in
Arizona. They are political refugees who escaped from the Mexi-
can army and crossed the border into the United States, after hav-
ing amushe a considerable detachmnent of Mexican soldiers in a
In my series of Yaqui measurements, I7 individuals are in-
cluded who are members of this Arizona Yaqui colony. The rest
were examined by me in the villages of Vicam and Torin. There
are a few, however, who come from Potam and Consica. All, so
far as could be determined, are considered to be full-bloods. I
was permitted to observe only 100 men, as the village chiefs de-
cided that a larger number of measurements, observations, and
photographs might be used by the Mexican government as positive
means of identification in the event of future outbreaks.
The measurements, a discussion of which follows, were all
taken according to the methods embodied in the International
Agreement (2), by means of an anthropometer, spreading caliper,
sliding caliper and steel tape. Weight was obtained by the use of
a bathroom scale, which was found to be very satisfactory for
field work. No special instrument was utilized to measure head
height, but this feature was obtained by subtracting the standing
height to portion from the stature. For skin-color, the Von Luschan
scale was found to be fairly satisfactory. Perfect agreements in
color matchings, however, were not always possible.
The statistical constants, means, standard deviations, coeffic-
ients of variation and probable errors, were all calculated in the
usual manner with the assistance of Pearson's table of X, and X,
3&-47. Yaqui facial types.
94 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
Apart from this study, the only other anthropometric obser-
vations of the Yaqui Indians were taken by Mrdliaka in 1902, as
part of his prolific survey for the Hyde Expedition of the Ameri-
can Museum of Natural History, 1898-1903 (4). Unfortunately,
only a very small portion of the material obtained has been pub-
lished so far, consisting up to the present time of means and in
some cases dispersion-tables of stature, cephalic index, face height,
face breadth, facial inclex and nasal index, obtained on 50 adult
males, and stature measurements on 33 adult females (1). How-
ever, many of his valuable physiological and medical observations
on the Yaquis have already been made available (4).
ANTHROPOMETRIC MEASUREMENTS AND PROPORTIONS
Table 1. Yaqui Males
No. Range Mean S. D.1 C. V.1
Weight (lbs.) .. . ... 100 81-220 140.70i1.37 20.30 14.43
Stature 100 143-181 166.68i0.44 6.57 3.91
Span 100 158-190 172.2010.43 6.33 3.68
Relative span 100 96-113 102.94i0.17 2.46 2.39
The mean weight for Yaqui males is 140.70 pounds. Since
the weights recorded include light street clothing, it is estimated that
approximately 4 pounds must be subtracted to obtain the mean
stripped weight. This still leaves the Yaquis with an average
weight which classifies them among the moderately heavy groups
of North American Indians.
In stature, the Yaquis also reach moderate dimensions with
a mean of 166.68 centimeters (without shoes). This stature con-
sidered in conjunction with the average weight indicates, in a rough
way, the presence of well-set, solidly built individuals. Hrdliaka's
measurements (1) give an average stature of 169.6 centimeters for
50 Yaqui males. The difference between his average and that of
the present study amounts to about 3 centimeters. This is not a
very large divergency, and it may be explained by a variety of
reasons. In the first place, there may have been a decrease in
stature within the Yaqui tribe in the last thirty years; secondly,
shoes worn by the subjects would raise the average considerably;
and finally, the smaller size of Hrdliaka's series in comparison to
the author's might account for the discrepancy. I am inclined to
lay most stress on the last possibility, the probability being that
Hrdliaka's smaller series clic not permit so complete a representa-
tion of the various villages and localized types.
Span or maximum arm spread is 172.20 centimeters for Yaqui
men. The mean excess of span to stature is 5.52 centimeters. This
relationship of span to stature is expressed by the relative span in-
dex, which is 102.94. The range of 96 to 113 for relative span
IS. D.-standard deviation C. V.--coefficient of variation
STUDIES OF THE YAQUI INDIANS 95
shows, moreover, that not all the individuals in the series have spans
that exceed the statures. There are 6 subjects out of the 100 whose
arm spread is less than the measurement of their total body height,
indicating the possession by these individuals of relatively shorter
arms and narrower shoulders.
~Table 2. Yaqui Males
No. Range Mean S. D. C. V.
Sitting height .. .100 71-91 83.10f0.20 2.91 3.50
Relative sitting height 100 46-55 49.7220.10 1.54 3.10
Trunk height ... ...... 100 44-58 51.72r+0.17 2.58 4.99
Relative trunk height ... 100 26-35 30.9410.11 1.64 5.30
Mean sitting height, which is the measurement of the torso,
head and neck, is found to be 83.10 centimeters for the Yaqui
males. This is unquestionably a very small average height, espec-
ially when the stature of the group is taken into consideration. The
author's series of Zufii males (as yet unpublished), with an average
Itature of 161.43 centimeters, has a mean sitting height of 84.6e,
1.56 centimeters greater than that of the taller Yaquis. This situa-
tion is emphasized by the mean relative sitting height (proportion of
sitting height to stature) of 49.72 for the Yaquis, in contrast to
52.42 for the Zufiis. For further comparison we find that 20 Sioux
described by Hrdlifka (5) give a mean relative sitting height of
52.6, and a very large group of Southwestern and Mexican In-
dians by the same authority (5) shows proportions which average
52.5. It may be said then, that in absolute dimensions and in rela-
tive proportions to the total body height, the Yaguis are much
smaller in sitting height than many other Indian stocks.
Trunk height, the length of the torso alone measured from
the sitting position to the supersternal notch, is 51.72 centimeters
for Yaqui men. The much smaller Zuisis average for the same di-
mension 53.96 centimeters, 2.24 centimeters greater than the taller
Yaquis. It is therefore apparent that the difference between the
Yaquis and Zuisis is greater in the torso alone, than in the torso,
head and neck. The relative trunk height for Yaquis is 30.94 per
cent compared to 33.48 per cent for the Zuilis. This is additional
proof that there is something exceptional in the length of the tor-
so of the Yaquis, the figures indicating a much smaller trunk
height relative to stature than is to be found for the Zuriis. If we
consider all the evidence, then, it is clear that the Yaquis have ab-
solutely and relatively smaller sitting heights than many other Indian
groups, and that if we omit the head and neck, and consider the
torso alone, a good deal of the proportionate smallness is traceable
to this particular dimension.
96 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
Table 3. Yaqui Males
No. Range Mean S. D. C. V.
Biacromial diameter 100 31-42 37.8220.12 1.86 4.92
Relative shoulder breadth 100 20-25 22.64"0.03 0.88 3.89
73i-iliac diameter 100 20-35 29.64t0.13 1.88 6.34
Shoulder-hip index 100 66-93 78.98'0.32 4.76 6.03
The Yaquis are not very broad in the shoulders, as indicated
by the mean biacrom~al diameter of 37.82. If the breadth be-
tween the shoulders is computed as a percentage of the total sta-
ture, this dimension may be described as of moderate width with a
definite inclination toward narrowness. In comparison with the
Zufiis of New Mexico, the Yaquis are considerably narrower-
shouldered relative to stature, with a mean relative shoulder
breadth of 22.64 to 23.16 for the Zuilis.
In the breadth between the hips the Yaquis attain a mean di-
mension of 29.64 centimeters. We find a higher variability for
this diameter than for shoulder width, the coefficient of variation of
hip breadth being 6.34 to 4.92 for the shoulders. When the bi-
iliac diameter is considered as a percentage of the shoulder width,
we obtain the high mean index value of 78.98. The Yaquis, then,
have broad hips relative to the width of their shoulders. The Zuais
for the same proportions give a mean index of 75.58. The latter are
accordingly much narrower in the hips relative to the shoulders than
the Yaqu s. The variation in this index is fairly high, the coeffic-
ient of variation being 6.03 and the range 66 to 93.
Table 4. Yaqui Males
No. Range Mean S. D. C. V.
Chest breadth 100 23-34 27.87+0.12 1.83 6.57
Chest depth 100 16-25 21.38+0.12 1.78 8 33
Thoracic index 100 67-90 76.780-0.31 4.60 5.99
The breadth (lateral) and the depth (antero-posterior) di-
mensions of the chest were taken as a mean between inspiration and
expiration, at about the level of the nipples. In comparison to the
smaller Zuiiis, the Yaquis have practically the same chest breadth,
but are considerably greater in the dep~h of the chest. But in con-
trast to Hrdliaka's Indians of the Southwest and Mexico (5), the
Yaquis have not only narrower chests but also shallower chest di-
ameters. The mean chest breadth for Yaqui males is 27.87 cen-
timeters and for Hrdliaka's Indians 29.9 centimeters. The mean
chest depth for Yaquis is computed to be 21.38 centimeters against
22.8 centimeters for HrdliEka's Indians. In regard, however, to
the relative proportion of the chest dimensions, as indicated by the
thoracic index, the Yaquis are very similar to Hrdliaka's Indians
of the Southwest and Mexico, with a mean of 76.78 for the author's
series and 76.15 for the latter group. Thus, in comparison with
many other Indian tribes, the Yaquis have smaller chest dimen-
sions, but similar chest proportions. And if we recall that the Ya-
STUDIES OF THE YAQUI INDIANS
qui had considerably shorter sitting heights, this tendency being par-
ticularly apparent in the torso, it is highly probable that they are
also comparatively shorter in the length of the rib cage.
Table 5. Yaqui Males
No. Range Mean S. D. C. V.
Upper arm length 100 28-39 32.68r0.13 1.93 6 00
Lower arm length 100 21-34 25.44t0.13 1.93 7.75
Lower leg length 100 28-45 38.38r0.16 2.34 6 13
Upper arm length is the distance from the acromion to the su-
perior head of the radius. Lower arm length represents the length
of the radius itself, from its superior head to the distal end of the
styloid process of the same bone. Lower leg length is the total
longitudinal length of the tibia, measured from the medial aspect of
the superior border of the co~ndyles to the distal edge of the medial
The means of these dimensions among the male Yaquis de-
serve no special comment. When, however, the proportion of
lower arm length to upper arm length is calculated, by the index of
the means, this figure, 77.84, does indicate the possession by the
Yaquis of comparatively greater lower arm segments relative to
the upper arm length than is commonly found among many groups.
Table 6 Yaqui Males
No. Range Mean S. D. C. V.
Head circumference 100 490 594 546.2020.98 14.E5 2.63
Head length 100 167-202 183.8410.43 6.42 3.49
Head breadth .. 100 135-161 149.23 0.34 4.98 3 31
Cephalic index 100 72-92 81.28t0.27 3.96 4.87
The size of the Yaqui bead, as indicated by the mean circum-
ference of 546.20 millimeters, is relatively small. Even the Zufiis
of New Mexico, who weigh less than the Yaquis and are much
shorter in stature, have a head circumference which is slightly high-
er than this series. Further confirmation of this comparative small-
ness of the Yaqui cranium can be had on the calculation of the
cranial module. From the average of the means of the length,
breadth and height of the head, one computes an average cephalic
module of 153.7. Hrdlirka (5) gives an average cephalic module
of 164.0 for his male Sioux, and a minimum index of 155.7. The
Sioux head is known for its large size; nevertheless, the Yaqlui
average does not come up to the size of even the smallest Sioux
The Yaquis of this series are not entirely free from artificial
deformation of the head. About one-third of the group shows
some signs of flattening in the occipital region. It is most often very
slight in amount, however, and does not modify the original diame-
ters to any great extent. The Yaquis have a very short head
length (183.84 mm.) and a head breadth of moderate dimensions.
The undeformed head length probably runs around 185 millime-
98 TEXAS TECHNOLOGICAL COLLEGE BULLETIN
ters. The mean cephalic index of 81.28 places the Yaquis in the
upper limits of the mesocephalic class. The cephalic index of the
undeformed individuals is 80.65, from which the reader may gath-
er that artificial deformation among this group of Yaquis does not
effect any serious modification of the cranial proportions. Hrdliaka
(1) has presented a dispersion table for the cephalic index of 49
Yaqui males, all undeformed heads. From this table I have com-
puted an average index of 78.6 for his series. The latter group
then are more dolecocephalic than the Yaquis of this study.
'Table 7. Yaqui Males
No. Range Mean S. D. C. V.
Head height 100 109-158 128.0510.59 8.70 6.79
Length-height index 100 57-83 69.91t0.31 4.65 6.65
Breadth-height index 100 68-99 85.5410.43 6.32 7.39
The head height mean of 128.05 millimeters for Yaqui males
is fairly high. The series, however, is not very uniform in this re-
spect. It exhibits an extraordinary amount of variability for this
measurement, as can be seen from the range of 109-158 and the
standard deviation of 8.70. Although in absolute dimensions the
Yaqui head presents a well-elevated vault, it should be described
as moderate in relation to its length and specially in relation to its
breadth. The mean length-height irdex of 69.91 is considerably
lower than Hrdliaka's Indians of the Southwest and Mexico (72.2),
but still relatively higher than his Chippewa and Sioux. When the
height is expressed as a percentage of the breadth, the Yaquis be-
come much lower-headed indeed. Their mean index of 85.54 is
below that of Hrdliaka's Indians of the Southwest and Mexico
(89.7), his Chippewa (87.2) and Sioux (86.3). The Yaquis,
then, are characterized by a head height which is of good elevation
in absolute dimensions, but in proportion to its length and breadth
is much lower than many other American Indian groups.
Table 8. Yaqui Males
No. Range Mean S. D. C. V.
Minimum frontal diameter 100 85-116 100.7820.40 5.92 5.87
Fronto-parietal index ... ..100 55-75 67.70f0.25 3.72 5.49
One of the outstanding features of the Yaqui head is the nar-
rowness of the forehead as expressed by the minimum frontal diam-
eter. It is much narrower than the mean frontal breadth of the
Zuais, as well as of most of the other Southwestern and Mexican
tribes, The relationship of the minimum frontal diameter to the
maximum head breadth is given by the fronto-parietal index. The
size of this index in Yaqui males indicates a skull vault which, al-
though it is quite narrow in the front, expands very rapidly as one
goes backwards toward the parietal and occipital regions. It is
a very narrow forehead in relation to the width of the head.