Sacred Texts  Native American  Southwest 

Tales of the Cochiti Indians

by Ruth Benedict

Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin No. 98


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This is a collection of texts from the Cochiti, a Native American Pueblo tribe of New Mexico. Ruth Benedict gathered these texts in the early 1920s in the field with her mentor at Columbia University, Franz Boas. The texts range from mythological to autobiographical, and give us an unparalleled look at the inner life of a Native American group.

In her selection and commentary Benedict focuses on some interesting points. In Pueblo culture, women are considered the equal of men, and these tales show women exercising choice in their lives, engaging in specialized occupations, and taking action when wronged. This is reflected in Cochiti theology, which includes a cosmogenic mother (the moon, here called 'Our Mother') and father (the Sun). The texts also show the Pueblo as having positive attitudes about sexuality, (albeit also placing high value on marriage and family). Benedict, refreshingly, did not censor or translate into Latin the portions which previous scholars would have considered too explicit. The texts also show the darker side of traditional Southwestern life, where suspicion of malign witchcraft could lead to dire consequences; and the incessant low-level conflict with adjacent tribes, in this case, the Navajo.

Benedict was one of the first modern ethnographers. This collection is a classic, and an enjoyable read as well.

Title Page

I. Origin Tales and Stories of the Katcinas

The Flood
Kotcimanyako Scatters the Stars
The Origin of Death
Hummingbird has Food
Salt Woman is Refused Food
The Contest of Good-Tasting Fat
Coyote Fails As Initiate
Heluta and Nyenyega Contest for a Wife
Heluta Plants the Deer
The Imprisonment of the Katcinas
The Institution of Pottery
Bloody Hand-Print Katcina
The Recovery of the Koshare
The Women's Corn Grinding Society
How the People Came Up From Frijoles
The Punishment of the Snake Society
The Pecos Indians Become Snakes
The Deer Dance
''Where the Giant is Shut Up''

II. Hero Tales

The Giant and the Twins
The Giant and the Girl
The Sun's Children
The Son of the Sun
The Sun's Child Dances with his Mother
Arrow Youth
Arrow Boy Triumphs Over His Mockers
Arrow Boy's Son
Arrow Boy Recovers His Wife
The Contest of Poker Boy's Wives
Poker Boy Disappears Into His Shrine
Corncob Boy
Corncob Boy Marries Deer Planter's Daughters
Corncob Boy Intercedes For His People
Corncob Boy Triumphs Over His Mockers

III. Novelistic Tales

Sun Steals Shell Man's Wife
Shell Man's Wife is Lured Away By His Eagle
The Deer and the Lost Child
Mother Corn Guides the Deserted Child to her People
The Industrious Daughter Who Would Not Marry
Locust Boy
Butterfly Pursuit
A Boy of White House Marries A Girl of the Village of the Stone Lions
The Neglected Child
The Witch and her Husband
Arrow Boy, Child of the Witch Man
The Witch Wife Transforms Her Husband
The Husband Who Was a Witch
The Two Brothers Recover Their Sister From the Witches
The Youth And The Witch
The Witches Who Were Mice At Night
The Man Who Failed to Become a Witch
The Antelope Hunter who was a Witch
The Two Witch Men
The Woodchopper and the Coyote
The Bears
The Jealous Wife
The Wife's Revenge
The Girl who did not Love her Little Brother and Sister
The Eagle and the Baby
The Locust
The Girl and the Grasshoppers
Cactus Lover
The Wife who was Cast Out by her Husband
The Girl who Stepped on the Snake
The Tip Beetle's Revenge
The Man who was Cruel to Animals
The Cacique who Visited the Dead
The Mother who Mourned for her Daughter

IV. Animal Tales

Crow and Hawk
Coyote and Beaver Exchange Wives
Crane and Geese
Bat Boy
The Frog Wife
Lion and Grizzly Bear
Coyote Sings for the Prairie Dogs
Coyote Interrupts the Corn Dance
Coyote Brings her Children to Play with the Quails
Bungling Host
Fox and Coyote
Duck Sings for her Children
Road Runner Girls Grind
Coyote has a Ball on her Toe
Crow's Song
The Burro and the Coyote
Betting Eyes
Bird and Toad Play Hide and Seek
Origin of the Cat
Woodrat and Mouse Challenge Each Other
Horned Toad Sings in Black Boy's Stomach
The Scaring Contest
Geese Talk the Santa Ana Language
Geese Go Shell Gathering
Deer and Coyote

V. European Stories: Märchen and Noodle Tales

Ginini (Halfwit)
The Blind One and the Lame One
The Six Boys
The Three Brothers
Tied to the Cow's Tail
The Devil Woman
The Giant's Daughters
The Door Falls from the Tree upon the Robbers
The Three Brothers (Open Sesame)
Half Rooster

VI. True Stories

How the People Came up from Frijoles
The Destruction of White Shell Pueblo
The Coming of the Mexicans
How they Came Down from the Mesa
The First Battle with the Whites
The First Priest at Cochiti
The Girl who was Stolen by a Navaho
Why the Navaho Buy So Much Turquoise
People Who Went For Turquoise and Became Snakes
The Cochiti Scalp a Navaho at Sia
Buffalo Hunting of the Plains
Antelope Hunting


I. Origin Tales and Stories of the Katcinas and the Societies
II. Hero Tales
III. Novelistic Tales
IV. Animal Tales
V. European Tales


Place of Emergence
The Turquoise Cave
A Visit to the Underworld