Sunday, February 15, 2015

Red Piki

Weather: A little rain Wednesday.

What’s still green: Juniper, piñon, and other evergreens, yuccas. Rose stems; leaves on grape hyacinth, Japanese honeysuckle, alfilerillo.

What’s gray: Salt bushes, winterfat, snow-in-summer.

What’s reddened: Cholla, twigs on peach, apricot, apple, sandcherry and sandbar willow; purple aster leaves.

What’s yellowed: Young stems on globe and weeping willows; arborvitae have browned.

What’s blooming indoors: Zonal geraniums.

Animal sightings: Small birds.

Weekly update: Piki dyed red with amaranth existed in the late nineteenth century. However, kachinas giving it to onlookers at their dances appears to be more recent.

In 1891, Jesse Walter Fewkes said most piki was the color of "woodwork," but that "bright red striped and other colored piki are made." He said it was not unusual to see "several rolls of variegated pi-ki tied together side by side" on the "walls in dwelling rooms."

He saw a "considerable quantity of red" among the prizes the clowns and kachinas brought to the Niman ceremonial footrace at Hano. It wasn’t given to spectators, but to the winners. He added this was the only race that featured prizes.

Hano is the Tewa-speaking pueblo that shares First Mesa with Walpi and Sichomovi.

Piki was used in ceremonies, but its color wasn’t important. Voth says at Soyal in the early 1890s at Oraibi on Third Mesa, some Soyal "Katcinas carry presents (piki, watermelons, corn, etc.)" and priests throw presents to spectators.

A few years later, Barbara Friere-Marreco said "red and yellow mowa, used by certain kachina, is made by mixing vegetal dyes in the dough" at Hano. Fewkes reported amaranth was "used to impart a red color to the piki or paper bread distributed at katcina exhibitions" without specifying where or when.

A similar progression from noting the use of amaranth to vague comments of function appears in the observations at Zuñi made by Matilda Coxe Stevenson. In 1901, she simply said women occasionally dyed their piki red. In 1915, she added the colored wafer bread was "carried by impersonators of anthropic gods and thrown by them to the populace between the dances" without specifying which dances.

Observers in the 1930s reported seeing colored piki, but again were vague. Alfred Whiting said amaranth was "used as a dye to color the piki (wafer bread) a brilliant pink." At Hotevilla, Mischa Titiev saw kachinas use "parched and popped corn, melons, piki bread in various colors, and baked sweet corn" as a comic gift at an October dance.

Hotevilla is the Third Mesa settlement made by the conservatives who withdrew from Oraibi in 1906. Because it has no physical home for its kachinas, the spirits don’t disappear at Niman, but are available for harvest rituals.

By the 1970s, tourists and others uniformly remember red piki being given at Niman, the only outdoor kachina ceremony. Harold Courlander saw "kachinas give out bread, piki, fruit and other gifts to spectators." Raymond Sokolov noticed "brightly colored piki, made from white corn meal to which red or yellow dyes have been added, is distributed only by katsinas during the dances."

Between Titiev and Courlander the number of people who attended public dances increased, and their knowledge decreased. Pueblos became interchangeable, all dancers were kachinas, and gift giving was assumed.

In fact, the major gift giving dance had been the Basket Dance described in the posting made 5 February 2012. However, a major change had occurred. Baskets originally were thrown to favored men in the audience. As the number of spectators increased, women no longer spent time making special baskets since they were unlikely to land in the desired hands. Instead, Helga Teiwes says at Shungopovi on Second Mesa, "enormous amounts of plastic and aluminum kitchen items, rolls of paper towels and toilet paper, boxes of Cracker Jack" are "showered on the crowd."

Today, the knowledge of red piki as a gift is both more universal and less specific. Native Seeds notes, "The Hopi" use one of its offered varieties to "make a scarlet natural food dye to color piki bread."

A more boutique seed company has altered that to say the same plant is "still used by the Hopi to color cornbread rich red." Corn bread, of course, is not treated with lime derived from calcium, so that may explain why the color is "red" and not the "pink" of Whiting.

Another company has gone a step farther. It markets Supai Red Parch Corn as a "traditional southwestern snack, often accented with chile lime salt!" You see those green fruits on packages of lime-flavored corn chips.

It’s a long ways from the Hopi who used piki as a traveler’s food and the Iroquois who used parched corn. It’s even farther from the time when only the bravest ran from kachinas at Niman, because if they were caught they were beaten with yucca whips. Only those who evaded them got piki.

It’s farther still from the time when Alexander Stephen said a red ear was kept for four days where a person died. Then it was attached to the ceiling. "If it is still there next planting season, he who has the bravest heart takes it out and plants it."

Courlander, Harold. The Fourth World of the Hopis, 1971.

Fewkes, J. Walter Fewkes. "The Wa-Wac-Ka-Tci-Na, a Tusayan Foot Race," The Essex Institute Bulletin 24:113-133:1892 and "A Contribution to Ethnobotany," American Anthropologist 9:14-21:1896.

Friere-Marreco, Barbara, William Wilfred Robbins, and John Peabody Harrington. Ethnobotany of the Tewa Indians, 1916.

Sokolov, Raymond A. Fading Feast, 1981.

Stephen, Alexander. Notebooks, 1882-1894, edited as Hopi Journal, 1936, by Elsie Clews Parsons.

Stevenson, Matilda Coxe. The Zuñi Indians, 1904, and Ethnobotany of the Zuñi Indians, 1915.

Teiwes, Helga. Hopi Basket Making, 1996.

Titiev, Mischa. Old Oraibi, 1944.

Voth, H. R. and George A. Dorsey. The Oraibi Soyal Ceremony, 1901.

Whiting, Alfred F. Ethnobotany of the Hopi, 1939.

1. Red amaranth plants have been buried by snow twice this season; 23 November 2014.

2. The Hopi did not cultivate a pure red corn; instead they treated ears of all red kernels as something special. The Italians are the ones who created a red flint corn in the Valsugana valley. Floriana was given to seed companies in this country by William Rubel.

3. The meal has red shells mixed with yellow and white interiors; from Mohr-Fry Ranches and Ian Johnson, Lodi, California.

4. Recently, Carl Barnes, bred Glass Gem specifically for its brilliant colors. Barnes was a part-Cherokee agricultural extension agent in Kansas. He developed the corn after he retired to Oklahoma. He thinks it came from crossing Pawnee miniature corn with an Osage red flour corn and another Osage corn called Gray Horse.

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