Acoma/Laguna Pueblo Literature
The Acoma chief had a daughter named Co-chin-ne-na-ko, called Co- chin for short, who was the wife of Shakok, the Spirit of Winter. After he came to live with the Acomas, the seasons grew colder and colder. Snow and ice stayed longer each year. Corn no longer matured. The people soon had to live on cactus leaves and other wild plants.
One day Co-chin went out to gather cactus leaves and burn off the thorns so she could carry them home for food. She was eating a singed leaf when she saw a young man coming toward her. He wore a yellow shirt woven of corn silk, a belt, and a tall pointed hat; green leggings made of green moss that grows near springs and ponds; and moccasins beautifully embroidered with flowers and butterflies.
In his hand he carried an ear of green corn with which he saluted her. She returned the salute with her cactus leaf. He asked, “What are you eating?” She told him, “Our people are starving because no corn will grow, and we are compelled to live on these cactus leaves.”
“Here, eat this ear of corn, and I will go bring you an armful for you to take home with you,” said the young man. He left and quickly disappeared from sight, going south. In a very short time, however, he returned, bringing a large bundle of green corn that he laid at her feet.
“Where did you find so much corn?” Co-chin asked.
“I brought it from my home far to the south,” he replied. “There the corn grows abundantly and flowers bloom all year.”
“Oh, how I would like to see your lovely country. Will you take me with you to your home?” she asked.
“Your husband, Shakok, the Spirit of Winter, would be angry if I should take you away,” he said.
“But I do not love him, he is so cold. Ever since he came to our village, no corn has grown, no flowers have bloomed. The people are compelled to live on these prickly pear leaves,” she said.
“Well,” he said. “Take this bundle of corn with you and do not throw away the husks outside of your door. Then come tomorrow and I will bring you more. I will meet you here.” He said good-bye and left for his home in the south.
Co-chin started home with the bundle of corn and met her sisters, who had come out to look for her. They were very surprised to see the corn instead of cactus leaves. Co-chin told them how the young man had brought her the corn from his home in the south. They helped her carry it home.
When they arrived, their father and mother were wonderfully surprised with the corn. Co-chin minutely described in detail the young man and where he was from. She would go back the next day to get more corn from him, as he asked her to meet him there, and he would accompany her home.
“It is Miochin,” said her father. “It is Miochin,” said her mother. “Bring him home with you.”
The next day, Co-chin-ne-na-ko went to the place and met Miochin, for he really was Miochin, the Spirit of Summer. He was waiting for her and had brought big bundles of corn.
Between them they carried the corn to the Acoma village. There was enough to feed all of the people. Miochin was welcome at the home of the Chief. In the evening, as was his custom, Shakok, the Spirit of Winter and Co-chin’s husband, returned from the north. All day he had been playing with the north wind, snow, sleet, and hail.
Upon reaching the Acoma village, he knew Miochin must be there and called out to him, “Ha, Miochin, are you here?” Miochin came out to meet him. “Ha, Miochin, now I will destroy you.”
“Ha, Shakok, I will destroy you,” replied Miochin, advancing toward him, melting the snow and hail and turning the fierce wind into a summer breeze. The icicles dropped off and Shakok’s clothing was revealed to be made of dry, bleached rushes.
Shakok said, “I will not fight you now, but will meet you here in four days and fight you till one of us is beaten. The victor will win Co-chin-ne-na-ko.”
Shakok left in a rage, as the wind roared and shook the walls of White City. But the people were warm in their houses because Miochin was there. The next day he left for his own home in the south to make preparations to meet shakok in combat.
First he sent an eagle to his friend Yat-Moot, who lived in the west, asking him to come help him in his fight with Shakok. Second, he called all the birds, insects, and four-legged animals that live in summer lands to help him. The bat was his advance guard and shield, as his tough skin could best withstand the sleet and hail that Shakok would throw at him.
On the third day Yat-Moot kindled his fires, heating the thin, flat stones he was named after. Big black clouds of smoke rolled up from the south and covered the sky.
Shakok was in the north and called to him all the winter birds and four-legged animals of winter lands to come and help him. The magpie was his shield and advance guard.
On the fourth morning, the two enemies could be seen rapidly approaching the Acoma village. In the north, black storm clouds of winter with snow, sleet, and hail brought Shakok to the battle. In the south, Yat-Moot piled more wood on his fires and great puffs of steam and smoke arose and formed massive clouds. They were bringing Miochin, the Spirit of Summer, to the battlefront. All of his animals were blackened from the smoke. Forked blazes of lightning shot forth from the clouds.
At last the combatants reached White City. Flashes from the clouds singed the hair and feathers of Shakok’s animals and birds. Shakok and Miochin were now close together. Shakok threw snow, sleet, and hail that hissed through the air of a blinding storm. Yat-Moot’s fires and smoke melted Shakok’s weapons, and he was forced to fall back. Finally he called a truce. Miochin agreed, and the winds stopped, and snow and rain ceased falling.
They met at the White Wall of Acoma. Shakok said, “I am defeated, you Miochin are the winner. Co-chin-ne-na-ko is now yours forever.” Then the men each agreed to rule one-half of the year, Shakok for winter and Miochin for summer, and that neither would trouble the other thereafter. That is why we have a cold season for one-half of the year, and a warm season for the other.
The oldest tradition of the Acoma and Laguna peoples indicates they lived on an island off the California Coast. Their homes were destroyed by high waves, earthquakes, and red-hot stones from the sky. They escaped and landed on a swampy part of the coast. From there they migrated inland to the north. Wherever they made a longer stay, they built a traditional White City, made of whitewashed mud and straw adobe brick, surrounded by white-washed adobe walls. Their fifth White City was built in southern Colorado, near northern New Mexico. The people are finally obliged to leave
there on account of cold, drought, and famine.
Laguna, Spanish for “lake,” refers to a large pond near the pueblo. The word “pueblo” comes from the Spanish for “village.” It refers both to a certain style of Southwest Indian architecture, characterized by multistory, apartmentlike buildings made of adobe, and to the people themselves. The Pueblos along the Rio Grande are known as eastern Pueblos; Zuni, Hopi, and sometimes Acoma and Laguna are known as western Pueblos. The Lagunas call their pueblo Kawaika, “lake.”
Laguna and Acoma Pueblo Indians organized and instituted a general revolt against the Spanish in 1680. For years, the Spaniards had routinely tortured Indians for practicing traditional religion. They also forced the Indians to labor for them, sold Indians into slavery, and let their cattle overgraze Indian land, a situation that eventually led to drought, erosion, and famine. Pope of San Juan Pueblo and other Pueblo religious leaders planned the revolt, sending runners carrying cords of maguey fibers to mark the day of rebellion. On August 10, 1680, a virtually united stand on the part of the Pueblos drove the Spanish from the region. The Indians killed many Spaniards but refrained from mass slaughter, allowing them to leave Santa Fe for El Paso.