Montezuma (mythology)

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Montezuma was the name of a heroic-god in the mythology of certain Amerindian tribes of the Southwest United States, notably the Tohono O'odham and Pueblo peoples — Also known as Aztec Emperors of the same name in Mexico, Moctezuma I and Moctezuma II.

Moctezuma I Aztec emperor

Moctezuma I, also known as Moteuczomatzin Ilhuicamina, Huehuemoteuczoma or Montezuma I, was the second Aztec emperor and fifth king of Tenochtitlan. During his reign, the Aztec Empire was consolidated, major expansion was undertaken, and Tenochtitlan started becoming the dominant partner of the Aztec Triple Alliance. Often mistaken for his popular descendent, Moctezuma II, Moctezuma I greatly contributed to the famed Aztec Empire that thrived until Spanish arrival, and he ruled over a period of peace from 1440 to 1453. Moctezuma brought social, economical, and political reform to strengthen Aztec rule, and Tenochititlan benefited from relations with other tribes.


Tohono O'odham version

In the Tohono O'odham legend, at the beginning of time the Great Spirit finds clay by digging a hole; he then drops the clay into the hole again and out comes Montezuma, who assists him in bringing out all the Indian tribes, with the Apache last of all. It is said that all men and animals were speaking a common language in the early days; however a great flood destroyed everyone, with only Montezuma and his friend, Coyote, escaping. Because Coyote had warned him of the flood beforehand, Montezuma had fashioned a boat that he kept prepared on the peak of the Santa Rosa Mountains in Arizona. Coyote likewise made a boat for himself, by gnawing down a giant cane and stopping it with gum.

Great Spirit

The Great Spirit, known as Wakan Tanka among the Sioux, Gitche Manitou in Algonquian, and in many Native American and First Nations cultures as the divine or the sacred, is the supreme being, God, or a conception of universal spiritual force.

The Apache are a group of culturally related Native American tribes in the Southwestern United States, which include the Chiricahua, Jicarilla, Lipan, Mescalero, Salinero, Plains and Western Apache. Distant cousins of the Apache are the Navajo, with which they share the Southern Athabaskan languages. There are Apache communities in Oklahoma, Texas, and reservations in Arizona and New Mexico. Apache people have moved throughout the United States and elsewhere, including urban centers. The Apache Nations are politically autonomous, speak several different languages and have distinct cultures.

Coyote (mythology) mythological character

Coyote is a mythological character common to many cultures of the indigenous peoples of North America, based on the coyote animal. This character is usually male and is generally anthropomorphic although he may have some coyote-like physical features such as fur, pointed ears, yellow eyes, a tail and claws. The myths and legends which include Coyote vary widely from culture to culture.

After the flood had subsided, Montezuma and Coyote meet again atop Monte Rosa, and Montezuma sends Coyote out four times, once in each direction, to find out how far the sea is. He quickly returned from the south and the west, reporting that it was nearby. The journey east took a bit longer, but eventually he found the sea there also. Finally, he journeys northward and never finds water before growing tired.

Meanwhile, the Great Spirit, helped by Montezuma, has again repopulated the world with people and animals. Montezuma is entrusted with the governance of mankind, but becoming proud and wicked, he rebels against the Great Spirit, dismisses Coyote, and commands mankind to build a house tall enough to reach Heaven. Before he can succeed at this endeavour, the Great Spirit casts it down with thunderbolts, causing a confusion in the languages of mankind.

Persisting in his wickedness, Montezuma commands all the temples be destroyed; in response, the Great Spirit punishes him by sending a locust to the east to summon the Spanish, who make war on Montezuma and destroy him.

This legend was related by chief Con Quien of the Tohono O'odham and published in the Indian Affairs Report of 1865, p. 131. Bancroft, writing later in the 19th century (Native Races vol 3), speculates that the name of the historical Aztec Emperors Moctezuma (more properly Motecuhzoma in Nahuatl) was the ultimate origin of the mythical hero-god's name the name being "gradually associated in the minds of some of the New Mexican and neighboring tribes, with a vague, mythical, and departed grandeur", until "all the lesser heroes would be gradually absorbed in the greater, and their names forgotten. Their deeds would become his deeds, their fame his fame."

Hubert Howe Bancroft American historian and ethnologist

Hubert Howe Bancroft was an American historian and ethnologist who wrote, published and collected works concerning the western United States, Texas, California, Alaska, Mexico, Central America and British Columbia.

However, other references among the Arizona and New Mexico tribes indicate a belief in "Montezuma" as having been the name of a great king and law-giver of the remote past, who ruled over a vast empire including Mexico, and who is said to be buried inside a particular mountain in Arizona that allegedly bears his image.

In 1737, a religious prophet appeared among the Guaima and Pima Indians (Akimel O'odham), close relatives of the Tohono O'odham. This was Agustín Ascuchul, who claimed that the god Moctezuma had appeared to him and named him his prophet. He called on the Indians to follow him to a new place, to worship the god. More than 5,000 Indians abandoned their homes to follow the prophet. The governor of Sonora, Juan Bautista de Anza, interpreted this as a rebellion. He soon suppressed it and hanged the prophet.

Pima people Native American peoples

The Pima are a group of Native Americans living in an area consisting of what is now central and southern Arizona. The majority population of the surviving two bands of the Akimel Oʼodham are based in two reservations: the Keli Akimel Oʼotham on the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) and the On'k Akimel Oʼodham on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (SRPMIC).

Sonora State of Mexico

Sonora, officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Sonora, is one of 31 states that, with Mexico City, comprise the 32 federal entities of United Mexican States. It is divided into 72 municipalities; the capital city is Hermosillo. Sonora is bordered by the states of Chihuahua to the east, Baja California to the northwest and Sinaloa to the south. To the north, it shares the U.S.–Mexico border with the states of Arizona and New Mexico, and on the west has a significant share of the coastline of the Gulf of California.

Pueblo version

Montezuma also figures prominently in the religion of the Pueblo Indians, who held that their god-king Montezuma was variously from Taos, Acoma, or one of the other pueblos, and was conceived from a beautiful virgin and a pinyon pine nut. Although weak as a youth, he was chosen to be their unlikely leader, and surprised everyone with his miracles, including the ability to produce rain. He taught the people their customs, and how to build the adobe pueblos. One day he kindled a fire that they were never to allow to burn out, then departed for Mexico (in some versions, on the back of an eagle), promising to return some day and save them from the Spanish.

Taos Pueblo pueblo

Taos Pueblo is an ancient pueblo belonging to a Taos-speaking (Tiwa) Native American tribe of Puebloan people. It lies about 1 mile (1.6 km) north of the modern city of Taos, New Mexico. The pueblos are considered to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the United States. This has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Acoma Pueblo Native American pueblo in New Mexico

Acoma Pueblo is a Native American pueblo approximately 60 miles (97 km) west of Albuquerque, New Mexico in the United States. Four villages make up Acoma Pueblo: Sky City, Acomita, Anzac, and McCartys. The Acoma Pueblo tribe is a federally recognized tribal entity. The historical land of Acoma Pueblo totaled roughly 5,000,000 acres (2,000,000 ha). The community retains only 10% of this land, making up the Acoma Indian Reservation. Acoma Pueblo is a National Historic Landmark.

Pinyon pine subsection of plants, the Pinyon pines

The pinyon or piñon pine group grows in the southwestern United States, especially in New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah. The trees yield edible nuts, which are a staple food of Native Americans, and widely eaten as a snack and as an ingredient in New Mexican cuisine. The name comes from the Spanish pino piñonero, a name used for both the American varieties and the stone pine common in Spain, which also produces edible nuts typical of Mediterranean cuisine. Harvesting techniques of the prehistoric American Indians are still used today to collect the pinyon seeds for personal use or for commercialization. The pinyon nut or seed is high in fats and calories.

U.S. Attorney W.W.H. Davis, who visited the Laguna Pueblo in 1855, was allowed a rare glimpse at some sort of idol or icon of their god Montezuma, whereof he gave a vivid description in his book El Gringo. According to Davis, this object was round, nine inches tall and in diameter, and made of tanned skin. The cover was painted half red and half green, and on the green side were triangular holes for eyes, round pieces of leather for the mouth and ears, and no nose. He said it was kept wrapped in cloth, and was sprinkled with a 'white powder'.

Laguna Pueblo

The Laguna Pueblo is a federally recognized tribe of Native American Pueblo people in west-central New Mexico, USA. The name, Laguna, is Spanish and derives from the lake located on their reservation. Originally, this body of water was the only lake in what is now the state of New Mexico, and was formed by an ancient dam that was constructed by the Laguna people. After the Pueblo Revolt of 1680-1696, the Mission San José de la Laguna was erected by the Spanish at the old pueblo, and finished around July 4, 1699.

The Swiss-American ethnographer Adolph Bandelier asserted in the 1890s that these legends had been invented by the Pueblos fifty years earlier solely to impress American explorers, and were not really part of their religion; he cited a document purporting to be a secret plot to 'teach' the natives that they were the descendants of Emperor Montezuma for political purposes, during the Mexican–American War. However, other documents have since come to light showing that the Spanish too were quite aware of Montezuma's renown in the Pueblo region long before then—the earliest such recorded reference dating to 1694, when the natives told Jesuit Father Eusebio Francisco Kino that Montezuma had built what is today known as Casa Grande (Wilson 1999, p.16).

Finally, Llewellyn Harris, a Welsh-American Mormon missionary who visited the Zuni in 1878, claimed that they told him they were descended from Montezuma, who was himself descended from white men called "Cambaraga" who came from over the sea 300 years before the Spanish, and that they still had many Welsh words in their language (see Madoc for many more tales along this theme). However, these much more sensational claims have never been independently verified.

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