Havasupai Legends

Religion and Mythology of the Havasupai Indians of the Grand Canyon

For almost seven hundred years, the Havasupai Indians, who call themselves People of the Blue Water, have lived in an area that includes the depths of the western Grand Canyon and the heights of the San Francisco Peaks. Here they inhabited the greatest altitude variation of any Indians in Southwestern America.

Written in consultation with some of the last Havasupai shamans, this book details their religious beliefs, customs, and healing practices. A second section presents legends of the Havasupai origin, the first people, and tales of Coyote, Gila Monster, Bear, and others.

Carma Lee Smithson was engaged in doctoral research when she succumbed to lymphosarcoma in 1961. At her request, Robert Euler arranged and expanded her work for publication. Originally published in 1964 as Havasupai Religion and Mythology, this work has been reedited and includes photographs and a new foreword by Euler, now a consulting anthropologist.

Table of Contents:

        Sacred Places and Spirits
        Conceptions of the Soul
        Shamans and Illness
        Concepts of Disease and Illness
        Preventive Medicine
        Medicinal Therapy and Contraceptives
       The Sweatlodge and Its Therapeutic Functions
       Death and Funeral Customs
       The Funeral of Mexican Jack
       Havasu Canyon Walls Closing Up
       Frog Rock
       Origin of Menstruation
       The Man Who Went After His Wife
       The Lady Who Could Have No Children
       Grandmother and Little Boy
       The Sun and His Daughters
       The Man Who Caught Himself in the Eagle’s Nest
       Bear’s Wife
       Turkey (or Eagle)
       Turkey (version 2)
       Fox and the Giant Bird
       Fox and His Brother
       Gila Monster and Hunter Hawk
       Porcupine (version 2)
       Coyote and His Family
       Coyote Steals the Heart of a Chief
       Coyote, Wolf, and Lion
       Coyote Packs a Pole
       Wolf, Coyote, Bat, and Elk
       The First Sweatlodge
       Coyote and Deer
       Coyote’s Death


Praise and Reviews:
—American Anthropologist

“Most noteworthy is Smithson’s detailed description of a 1951 Havasupai funeral ceremony that reveals significant Mohave Indian influence.”
—The Western Library