In Hiaki, the translation for deer is maaso. This term is used for both the animal and the dancer. When most spectators come to watch the deer dancer they tend to focus on the feet, but where they should be looking at is at the deer’s head. The deer is a highly-admired creature in the Hiaki culture, because it represents independence, freedom, and strength.

Another word for deer is yoawa, which is used when one is speaking about deer in general. The word sou te’ele is used when referring to a different species of a small male deer. In the past, hunters would not come close to these deer because they would spit on them.

The following is a short story about the maaso:

When Tucson was populated by about 35,000 people and surrounded by wilderness with hardly any transportation around the deer roamed around freely around the land. Because the deer could roam freely many were awed by its beauty and it also provided food for the people. The men saw the strength they wished to have.

Around the time between the first and second world war the mother deer and its fawns would go sit on the banks and drink water. The deer would not be bothered in these instances, because of the belief that the Hiaki are one with the animal world and must respect life in every form. All life has a purpose. For example, when hunting one must wait for a sign from the deer that indicates that it okay for the hunter to kill it.


Ha’achihtia is a short plant that produces tiny and bright yellow flowers. The plant can be found growing beside creeks and small streams in Northern Sonora, Mexico, though it’s picky about where it grows and is difficult to find. In use, it is actually very similar to what is commonly known as “sneezeweed” in English, though the differences in the two plants’ sizes and distribution suggest that they’re not the same plant. The flowers of ha’achihtia look similar to those of a daisy, though there is one key distinction; they make anyone who sniffs them sneeze explosively. Because of this, the Hiaki and other indigenous people who live near to where it grows, such as the Mayo, use it as a natural decongestant. The flower is picked, dried, and ground into a powder which is then kept covered so that everyone isn’t constantly sneezing uncontrollably. When somebody catches a cold or just wants to clear out his or her sinuses, all they have to do is sniff the powder. After a heavy bout of sneezing, they should be able to breathe through their noses again.

Ha’achihtia likely gets its name from the Hiaki word for sneezing, ha’achihte. In fact, if we replace the letter “e” at the end of ha’achihte with “ia”, the word becomes a noun. Additionally, the word ha’achihte is a good example of a concept called sound symbolism, which means that it sounds similar to the particular action it describes. If you think about it, ha’achihte sounds close to the noises people make when sneezing. (The word Achis! is the equivalent of English achoo! in many languages around the world; it’s possible that ha’achihte is made up of some variant of achis plus the verbalizing suffix -te. In Hiaki -s is pronounced like ‘h’ when it occurs before a consonant, so achis-te would be expected to surface as achih-te if that were the etymological base of ha’achihte.)

The Hiaki name for the plant is reflective of its natural properties and the effect it has on people. However, the Mayo people also live in the plant’s natural habitat. They speak a language very closely related to Hiaki, but their name for the plant derives from the way it is taken in its medicinal use. In Mayo, ha’achihtia is called júptera, which literally means “for sniffing”.


Chea Huevena Wikuim! (More Lizards!)

Kuta Wikui (Black Spiny-tailed Iguana)

This lizard’s name literally means “wood lizard”. Like veho’ori, kuta wikui likes to live in trees. However, unlike veho’ori, these lizards aren’t targeted by lightning. Instead, they’re targeted by people! Some Hiakis boil kuta wikuim and eat them. They’re said to taste like chicken.

Kuta Wikui


Waittopit (Mediterranean House Gecko)

These lizards usually measure around three to four inches and have a very light colored body. Unlike the other lizards typically found around the Sonoran Desert, their scales are very small and soft. This makes it much easier to accidentally break their skin. Many Hiakis believe that if the innards of a waittopit touch a person, it means that he or she will soon die. Because of this, the Hiaki prefer to keep their distance from these lizards and sometimes even throw things at them to keep them away from children.



In Hiaki, the hummingbird is known as semalulukut. There are no specific names for the different types of hummingbirds, but it is recognized that many live around the world. It is known that the semalulukuchim in Sonora and Southern Arizona are attracted to mesquite flowers. The semalulukut is also known to appear in the worlds beyond our life on Earth and is referenced in a Pascola song with the name ‘Semalulukut’. There is also a folk song [1] that appears below:

Aa, semalulukuttaka huni                                                 Aa, the hummingbird, also,
Toloko huyapo siika                                                              In the light blue wilderness went,
Huyapo sewa luute                                                               In the wilderness he is using up the flower.
Semalulukuttaka huni                                                        The hummingbird also,
Toloko huyapo siika                                                              In the light blue wilderness went,
Huyapo sewa luute                                                               In the wilderness he is using up the flower.
(x3)                                                                                                 (x3)

Aman ne seyewailo[2]                                                        Over there, I, in the middle
Sanialoata nasukun                                                              Of the flower-covered grove,
Weyekai                                                                                      As I am going,
Sanialo huyapo siika                                                             In the wilderness grove I went
Huyapo sewa luute                                                               In the wilderness he is using up the flower,
Semalulukuttaka huni                                                         The humming bird, also,
Toloko huyapo sisika                                                            In the light blue wilderness went,
Huyapo sewa luute.                                                              In the wilderness he is using up the flower.


[1] This is an edited version of the “Semalulukut” song in Larry Evers, Yaqui Deer Songs, Maso Bwikam: A Native American Poetry. The Hiaki words and spellings have been updated slightly. The English translation was kept the same.

[2] The song form of sewawailo. Translates to ‘flower world’, but in this case it is used to mean wilderness.


In Hiaki, the general term for lizard is wikui, but if you want to talk about a particular lizard or a certain type of lizard you’ll probably want to be a bit more specific. There are dozens of different species of lizards that make their home in the Sonoran Desert and the Hiaki language has words and names for most of them. Here are some examples:


Tasa’a wikui

This lizard measures about four to six inches in length and is characterized by a light brown color with black stripes along its body. Typically, it’s only seen during the hotter months of the year, which may be why it has the name that it does, as the Hiaki words for summer and hot are tasaria and tata, respectively. Tasa’a wikui is a favorite food of the red racer snake.



These tiny lizards are a dark grey color and are usually no more than two inches in length including their tails! Their small size makes it easy for them to slip through little cracks and under doors to get into houses, and their name roughly translates to “watches your house while you’re out of town”. If these lizards could speak, they might say something like Nee hipu tawala, kialikun ne kaakun aa weye, which means “I’m house-sitting, which is why I can’t go anywhere”.


(Ornate Tree Lizard)

This lizard is a similar color to hipuyesa’ala, but it has a much bigger and fatter body, as it measures about six to eight inches. It prefers to live in trees, particularly mesquite trees. The Hiaki believe that if veho’ori makes its home in a tree and there are enough living in it, lightning likes to strike the tree and get them during a storm.