Wah Kuu’u

The Hiaki phrase wah kuu’u refers to cultivated agave. Wah kuu’u is a plant that is used extensively by many cultures throughout the Southwest for many different purposes, so there are lots of words related to the parts of wah kuu’u and its uses that are worth discussing. Here are some examples:

Kuu’u vi’am is the ridge down the middle of an agave heart, though the word vi’am usually only refers to the nape of the neck.

The word sana’im normally just means “ribs”, but when discussing agave, sana’im refers to the ribs that come off of kuu’u vi’am.

Ma’ikoam refers to the edible, outer parts of a roasted kuu’u vi’am. These parts are left over from the cutting and harvesting of wah kuu’u, and after roasting, you can just pull them off the heart and eat them.

The many different uses of wah kuu’u include rope making. From the leaves of wah kuu’u, you can make a thick type of rope called wikia, which is used for things like lassoing animals. The middle parts of the plant can be used to make Ihkle which is a thin, string-like rope.

When harvesting wah kuu’u, the parts of the plant that are harvested are put into large cloth sacks. Eventually, when these sacks become full, they need to be sewed shut so that their contents don’t all fall out. This can be done with a hi’ikiam. Hi’ikiam literally translates to “needle”, but in the context of agave harvesting, it means a large, flat metal needle used for this specific purpose.


The Hiaki word tekuuku refers to a tornado or dust devil. In Hiaki lore, the occurrence of a destructive tornado is more than just a coincidence; they happen as a result of serious wrongdoings such as child abuse and other major crimes. There are many stories among the Hiaki about the homes of people rumored to abuse their own family being destroyed in a tornado while everyone else’s homes are left completely untouched. This is also known to happen to buildings that are a haven for prostitution and substance abuse. Because tornadoes are so common in areas like Texas, some Hiakis speak of Texas as a place where sin is everywhere and people have forgotten God. If you wanted to talk about tornadoes and where they hit, you could use a sentence like.

Ume bweere tekuukum wam vicha Tehauvicha hivayu kom hohote ta imi’i kaa tua kom hohote.

“Tornadoes occur in Texas a lot but they don’t really happen here.”

Dust devils, while usually not as destructive, are still considered very dangerous. If you see one you should avoid going anywhere near it, especially its center. There are elements within it that can enter your body and cause all sorts of problems.

Photo credit: Jim Reed, 2008

Waehma / Wovusan Semaanam

In Hiaki, the words Waehma and Wovusan Semaanam refer to Lent. Waehma is a borrowing from the Spanish word cuaresma, and Wovusan Semaanam literally means “seven weeks”. This time of year is the most important for Hiakis, and there are regular ceremonies with pahkolam and musicians, though the matachinam are absent except on Holy Saturday. On the last Saturday before Palm Sunday, a deer dancer will make an appearance. The celebrations may be carried out a little bit differently or at different times depending on the village, but the meanings of the ceremonies are the same.

The beginning of Waehma marks a period of mourning among the Hiakis as it represents the impending execution of Christ. Because of this, there are certain behaviors expected of people. For example, brightly colored clothing and flowers are frowned upon and all flowers are removed from the churches. Furthermore, it’s inappropriate to go out and treat yourself to something fun, like a movie, though it would be appropriate to rent a movie and watch it at home. During Waehma, many ceremonies such as weddings, baptisms, and coming of age celebrations are forbidden and must be postponed until after it ends. A family is expected to plan such things around Waehma. However, if someone passes away, funerary ceremonies are allowed to proceed normally.

For the Hiakis, Waehma ends on Holy Cross Day, but the end of Waehma also marks the beginning of spring, when the trees are said to put on their fine clothing and the little yellow mesquite flowers known as chunahkam appear. A sentence that you might hear quite a bit during Waehma is Wovusan semaanam lauti simsune, which means “Seven weeks will pass quickly”, that is, “Lent will be over soon”.

Emo Chupak – They Got Married

In Hiaki culture, when two people get married, the bride moves to live with the groom in a house close to his family. So, much of the wedding ceremony includes activities centered around the couple’s new home. The bride is expected to cook for herself and her husband, so she is given cooking supplies and utensils as wedding gifts and she is shown the kitchen of their new home. At the couple’s new house are two pahkola dancers who portray the bride and the groom in a lighthearted and comedic performance. The dancer portraying the bride will wail and complain as if the bride is being wed against her will. He’ll say things like “but I don’t want to marry him; he’s poor and ugly!” or “I wish I could marry this other man instead! He has land and he’s better looking!” Some of the people watching might chime in and say similar things about the groom, but it’s all in jest.

Much of the community is involved in the ceremonies as well. Before the couple is married, the parents of the groom will go to the bride’s house and test her to see if she can do all of the tasks expected of her, like cooking and sewing. They might instruct her in how to prepare the groom’s favorite food, for example. The groom and those close to him, like the best man or his godparents, are fed a meal at the home of the bride, but they must be careful not to eat too much, because the next stop is the groom’s house, where they are fed again. The whole wedding party helps the bride’s family take the wedding gift of food and cooking supplies in large baskets to their new home. Many people in the community are involved in moving the newlyweds and all of their belongings into their new home; even the dogs might run alongside!

Emo means ‘each other’ and chupak means ‘completed, finished’, so this expression that mean s They got married could literally be translated as They completed each other.

Bwia woho’oria

The phrase bwia woho’oria refers to holes or burrows in the earth. Bwia literally means “earth” and woho’oria is the part meaning “hole”. Many creatures are known to inhabit these holes in the ground, and it is said that the Surem, the predecessors of the Hiakis, called bwia woho’oriam their homes because they were very small in size. Some example sentences for talking about holes in the earth include:

Bwia woho’oriata ne bweiria.

“Dig me a hole”.

Bwia woho’oriaku ne kom wechek.

“I fell into a hole”.

Bwia woho’oria wam katek.

“The hole is over there”.



The Hiaki word puhtua means “to give someone the evil eye” and in Hiaki culture it describes causing an ill effect on someone with a look, though this look does not have to be with the intent of causing harm. The word can be broken up into two parts: puh- which comes from puusim, meaning “eye”, and –tua, which is the causative morpheme.

There is a large psychological aspect to the power that these strong looks contain. Thus, if you fear a curse has been put upon you or your child and you become stressed and worried sick in anticipation, then indeed you have been cursed. However, if you ignore any stares you might receive and you do not believe in curses, then you’ll (probably!) be fine.

Hiaki mothers with newborn babies are advised to expose their infants only to the closest family members and not take the baby outside in case of any negative emotions and energy that could have a harmful effect. Even if someone wishes no harm upon your baby, they can still make the baby sick by looking at it for too long. Sometimes you can’t help staring at a newborn because they’re just so cute, but in doing so you risk making them ill. Because of this it’s considered impolite to look at a baby with more than just a quick glance.

As a form of protection, some Hiakis wear what is called a maso puusim, or a “deer eye”. Among the many remedies used to protect babies, maso puusim is a small charm worn by both young and old for protection from strong negativity. If a baby does become sick due to a strong or lengthy look, a mother can cure and protect the child by touching its forehead and saying a small blessing, though this will only work if the mother has no doubt in her heart.

Congratulations and Celebratory Remarks

In Hiaki, just like in English and Spanish, there are remarks you can use to celebrate a holiday or congratulate someone, though they’re a bit different than those used in English or Spanish. Most of these expressions require that the speaker produce a full Hiaki sentence instead of just a few words. In addition, some of these expressions aren’t as specific as the ones in English or Spanish and the same ones can be used for a variety of different occasions. For example, the sentence Alleaka te au yuumak translates literally as “Happily we have arrived to it” and can be used on Christmas, New Year’s Day, a wedding, a graduation, and even a birthday. Nonetheless, there are ways to specify the occasion. If the New Year is right around the corner and you want to say something in celebration, you could say Alleaka te au yuma’ane wasuktia vemelawi, which roughly means “Happily we will arrive at the new year”. If you wish to congratulate a group of people for graduating and receiving their doctoral degrees you can use the sentence Alleaka te enchim vichak ian uka doktoratota enchi mavetaka’apo amani which means something like “We are happy to see you receive this doctorate today”. For birthdays, if you don’t want to just say Alleaka te au yuumak, you could use Fakundo ian taewaim yo’ore to mean “It’s Fakundo’s birthday”, though it literally translates to “Fakundo respects this day”.


The Hiaki word Nauto’oria refers to both a medicinal plant (specifically a flower) and a specific medicinal blend of different ingredients. We can break the word up into two parts: nau-, which means ‘together’, and -to’oria, which roughly translates to ‘poured together’.

Nauto’oria meaning both the plant and the medicinal blend are used for specific illnesses. These are mostly external ailments like measles and skin rashes, though nauto’oria can also be used for earaches and digestive problems.


The word for coyote in Hiaki is, Wo’i, but in Sonora it is pronounced as Go’i. In the Hiaki culture, coyotes are known as thieves. In Hiaki stories, you often hear of Wo’i Wakila (Skinny Coyote) playing tricks and getting into trouble. An example of using the word is:

“Wo’i wakahta nee etbwariak!”

“Coyote stole my meat!”

A word related to wo’i is va’a wo’i, which means ‘water coyote’, but it refers to the egret, because it walks around hunting fish in the water like the coyote hunts its prey on land.

Yo’ohoara – House of the Elders

Yo’ohoara (also called encanto) refers to sacred and magical places in the Hiaki lore. These are usually hills in inconspicuous locations that look like they have never before been touched by mankind. If a person has a desire to become more skilled at something, such as becoming a better musician or artist, he or she can travel to one of these places and ask for their wish to be granted.

First, you must be completely alone and must truly believe in the power of the yo’ohoara. None of this will work if you have just the slightest shred of doubt. You should go to the yo’ohoara sometime in the morning, sit under a mesquite tree, and wait for a door to appear at exactly high noon. If the door appears to you and you are truly sincere, then it will open and you will see the entrance to the spirit world. A creature with the upper body of a man and the lower body of a billy goat (chiva’ato) will come out and ask you what you seek. This creature is the devil himself. You should only tell him what you want if it is something you truly desire and are determined to achieve, because if you are insincere and you go through the door with him, you can never come out. But, before he lets you in, he will test you by hopping on you, touching you all over, and rubbing himself on you. If you are not disturbed to the point of leaving, then he will allow you entrance.

Once you have travelled through the door, you must continue to follow the devil and look straight ahead. To one side of you, there will be a group of masterful musicians playing the most wonderful music you’ve ever heard. To the other side will be the most beautiful women wearing revealing clothing. Both the musicians and the women will be calling your name and beckoning you to come to them; the men will say they’ll teach you to play like them and the women will tell you they want to spend time with you. However, you must not give in to temptation, because if you so much as turn your head from the devil’s back and look at them, you will never be allowed to leave the spirit world. Among the other things you will see while following the devil are a great many people who could not resist temptation and are forever trapped.

If you prove to pass this test, then you must speak with the devil once more. The conversation you have with him will lead to one of two outcomes, if you’re smart. If you changed your mind and you don’t wish to strike a deal with the devil, then you can explain that there is nothing you desire from him, and he will escort you out. But, upon leaving, you will forget all of the events that transpired. If you still desire the skill you sought coming into the spirit world, then you must tell him. He will grant you what you seek, but in exchange for your soul. He’ll tell you that he will come to you when it is time, but if you are clever, you can tell him to come for you when all of the fingers on your hands are the same length as your middle fingers. Not realizing that the fingers on human hands never grow to be all the same length, he will agree to your condition. This will grant your soul the protection of never being claimed by the devil, but for the rest of your life you will feel a tugging on your fingers.

If you, like many Hiakis who have entered the yo’ohoara seek to be a better violinist, then the devil will hand you a violin of your own, but the bow will be a snake. The snake will wrap itself around your arm and pass over the strings just like a regular bow, but if you make a mistake while playing, it will tug on you and correct you.

If, one day, you decide to visit a yo’ohoara for whatever reason, be careful not to linger around it for too long, because the spirit Yoeta is rumored to reside by such places.