Hiko’ovila is the Hiaki name for a small worm that lives deep in the throats of moreakame (people who practice witchcraft) and also some animals like paro’osim (rabbits) and maasom (deer). This worm is what allows a moreakame to bewitch people, though hiko’ovilam also grant animals a similar power. If a hunter is pursuing a particular yoawa and he takes aim and fires at the animal, the hiko’ovila may protect the animal from harm caused by the arrow or bullet. The hiko’ovila may also allow the yoawa to curse the hunter. The animal will turn and face the hunter and let out a puff of air, and once that air reaches the hunter, it will cause him to fall ill and eventually die.

For all of the power that hiko’ovilam grant people and animals, they can’t seem to handle spicy food. It is said that bewitchers cannot eat spicy food because it disturbs and harms hiko’ovilam, and this is also likely why many animals avoid hot peppers.


You may have heard the word yoawa used to mean maaso or “deer”, but yoawa is much more than just a synonym for maaso. The word yoawa relates to Yo’o Ania, one of the many Hiaki worlds. Yo’o Ania is home to all plants, animals, natural features, and everything we encounter and depend on in our lives. So, the word yoawa is a term for all creatures that dwell in this world. You can use yoawa to mean maaso, but it also refers to roadrunners, snakes, mountain lions, human beings, and all other residents of Yo’o Ania. However, not many people know the truth about yoawa, and the word is commonly used to mean maaso. This is perhaps because maaso is a very strong symbol to the Hiaki, and it represents independence, strength, agility, elegance, and gentleness.

The words Yo’o Ania and yoawa are noticeably similar to the word yo’ore, meaning “respect”. This may not be a coincidence. Yoawa respect Yo’o Ania by taking from it only what they need, and we can think of Yo’o Ania as the “world of respect” or the world we are indebted to. In this way, the meaning of yo’ore relates to both yoawa and Yo’o Ania.


Tekwe is the Hiaki word for “vulture” or “buzzard”. Tekwem are known around the world for circling high above their prey before eventually flying down to eat, but how they find their next meal is perhaps less understood. Hiaki elders used to speak of a rising, smoky cloud that only tekwem can see. This cloud emanates from a decomposing body and is visible to tekwem from very far away. It rises very high up into the air and points them to their next meal. Tekwem will circle around this smoky cloud before flying down one by one to feast.

The food that tekwem enjoy is not the first choice of many other animals, including humans. You may have heard a Hiaki story about a man and a tekwe who come to appreciate their own food after trading places:

A man was once at his home lying under the shade of a tree and watching a tekwe gracefully fly through the air. He said out loud how he wished he could be that tekwe and fly freely around the world and see everything. Hearing the man’s wish, the tekwe flew down to him and offered to trade places with the man. The tekwe took off his cloak and gave it to the man, while the man gave the tekwe his own cloak. The man found the tekwe’s cloak to have an unpleasant smell, but he was overcome with excitement about being able to fly. The tekwe instructed the man to hop three times, because on the third hop he would fly. The man did so and flew off into the sky, while the tekwe then went toward the man’s home. The man’s wife, thinking the tekwe was her husband, told him to take a bath because he smelled so foul that she couldn’t bear to be around him. She cooked for him, but he wasn’t interested in any of the food she made. Meanwhile, the other tekwem told the man to follow them to where there was plenty of food, but he could not stomach the food that they ate. After three days they both became very hungry and the man eventually flew back down to his home. They were both unable to eat each other’s food and they agreed to change back into their original cloaks, but the man’s clothes still smelled because the tekwe wore them for three days. They then parted ways and the man returned to his wife. He told her to make him something to eat right away and to throw away his clothes that the tekwe had worn, and he took a bath. Then, everything returned to the way it was before the tekwe had granted the man his wish. So, think twice about what you wish for.

Uu Heneral Napowisa Hisakame

The general Hiaki term for “roadrunner” is taruk, though you may have heard this bird called by another name: Heneral Napowisa Hisakame. Heneral means “general”, as in a military leader, napowisa means “grey-speckled”, and hisakame means “one who has a crest”, so the whole phrase put together means “general who has a speckled grey crest”. Heneral Napowisa Hisakame got this title for its deeds back in the days of the Surem, when animals and people still communicated. An enormous serpent once came through Hiak Vatwe, terrorizing everyone and eating whomever it pleased as it went along. Nobody knew what to do, and so they turned to taruk, who then led the fight against the serpent and earned the title of Heneral.

Unsurprisingly, Uu Heneral Napowisa Hisakame likes to dine on snakes, and it often gets into fights with rattlesnakes. Uu Heneral will toss dirt and sticks onto a rattlesnake, while the rattlesnake will coil itself up and keep its head down to stop Uu Heneral from poking its eyes out. Fighting back doesn’t usually work out for the rattlesnake, as Uu Heneral is much faster and can dodge the snake’s strikes, so the rattlesnake has no choice but to tolerate Uu Heneral until it decides to kill and eat it.

Word Games

Hiak vatwe, the homeland of the Hiaki people in Southern Sonora, is just north of the homeland of the Mayo people, and the Hiaki and Mayo languages are closely related. Hiaki people often remark about how fast the Mayo talk and how fast their language sounds, and many Hiaki and Mayo words are so similar that the Hiaki sometimes tell stories and jokes about people competing to see whose language is faster or “more efficient”. For example, you might hear a story about a Mayo telling a Hiaki, “Say your word for frog”. The Hiaki responds by saying “voovok”. The Mayo, trying to make a point about his/her language being more efficient, replies with the Mayo word for frog: “vorok”. But the Hiaki, not willing to admit defeat, says, “Tell me your word for watermelon”, and the Mayo responds with “sakovaari”. The Hiaki then says his/her word for ‘watermelon’: “sakovae“.

Vaka Teeve

The Hiaki phrase vaka teeve literally means “tall/long bamboo” (vaaka is “bamboo” and teeve is “tall” or “long”), though vaka teeve is also the name of a historically significant mountain range in Sonora, known in English and Spanish as Bacatete. In the Hiaki people’s struggles against the Mexican government, Vaka Teeve was a place where many Hiakis sought refuge, and they say you can still find tetakoram scattered throughout the mountains. Tetakoram are rock fences with small holes that Hiaki warriors would shoot their guns through.

The name of Vaka Teeve isn’t a coincidence; long ago, when there was still lots of rain in that area, wild bamboo grew very tall all around the mountains. If you needed bamboo for something like patching up a house or making a fence but you didn’t know where to find it, someone might look toward Vaka Teeve and say Amani vaaka si tetteve, which means “over there the bamboo is very tall”.


Moreakame is a Hiaki word meaning something like “witch” or “one who practices witchcraft”. Moreakame are generally considered to be mean-spirited people with intent to harm others, though it’s common to see healers mistaken or rumored to be moreakame as well, especially if these healers know some bewitching. Moreakame are said to have the power to command cigarettes to travel to other people and burn them. This can happen at any time and any place, and the cigarette can burn you anywhere on your body. So, if a moreakame harbors any negative feelings like animosity or jealousy towards you, you may one day receive a surprise visit from a lit cigarette.

Moreakame are also said to be unable to eat chili or spicy foods due to a bwíchia (worm) that lives inside their throats. This worm does not take kindly to chilis, so moreakame simply avoid spicy food. The same is true of most animals, which is why most animals don’t eat chili peppers.

Susu’uli Wo’i

The Hiaki phrase Susu’uli Wo’i refers to a type of coyote known for hunting deer. Susu’uli Wo’im closely resemble more common coyotes, called Wo’im, but if you look carefully you’ll see that they’re smaller and their fur is a kind of grey with dark stripes. Like other coyotes, Susu’uli Wo’i howls, though its howl is more shrill and higher pitched, which is one way you can tell it apart. Susu’uli Wo’im behave similarly to wolves in that they are typically loners until they intend to hunt deer. Of course, one Susu’uli Wo’i wouldn’t be able to take down a deer by itself, so they howl to call the attention of other nearby individuals and then hunt in a pack of roughly four or five. Susu’uli Wo’im don’t typically allow themselves to be seen, as they’re either up in the mountains or out hunting at night, but one way you can be sure of their presence is by hearing their distinct howl.


The Hiaki word omtiteam can be broken up into two parts: omti-, meaning “angry”, and
team, meaning “names”. So, omtiteam literally translates to “angry names”, but it means something more like “nicknames”. The Hiaki are no strangers to cracking jokes with each other, and omtiteam are one way to go about poking lighthearted fun at your peers. For example, suppose one day you have the misfortune of falling face-first into the snow in front of all your friends. Then, you might be given Sapa Wechia, or “Snow-Fallen” as an omtitea. If the name sticks, your entire family might come to be known as Sapa Wechiam, or “the Snow-Fallens”. Or perhaps there’s a family known for always buying old, run-down cars. They might be given the name Karo Moeram, or “Old Cars”. A famous omtitea belonged to José María Leyva, better known as the Hiaki general Cajeme, or Kaa He’eme, meaning “one who doesn’t drink”. For a time, José María Leyva had a ranch near Ciudad Obregón, but there was never enough water for him and his animals to drink, so he was given Kaa He’eme as an omtitea, reflecting his fortitude and strength in enduring thirst well. Thus he became known as Cajeme to non-Hiaki speakers.

Omtiteam aren’t meant to truly hurt someone’s feelings, but if an omtitea is really bothering somebody, you might hear the phrase Kia hekapo aa simtuane, which means “just let it go in the wind”.


The Hiaki word me’etai refers to a type of dove that unfortunately no longer exists in the Hiaki homeland. Me’etaim were very similar in appearance to other kinds of doves, though a bit bigger; they were roughly the same size as a city pigeon. They were a solid grayish color, toloko, and they could be found all over the place. However, what set me’etaim apart from other doves is their call or song, which is rendered in Hiaki as Luiiis, pocho’oku week, pocho’oku week, or, “Luiiis, is standing in the brush, standing in the brush”. Of course, me’etaim would sing this regardless of whether Luis was actually standing in the brush or whether there was even somebody named Luis around. Me’etaim used to live in the Hiaki homeland in Sonora along Hiak Vatwe, the Hiaki River, but they haven’t been seen or heard for many years. It’s possible this is because water has become much scarcer with the damming of Hiak Vatwe.