> Skip to content
  • Published: 28 January 2015
  • ISBN: 9780143106050
  • Imprint: Penguin Classics
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 240
  • RRP: $49.99

The Origin Myth of Acoma Pueblo



In the fall of 1927, a Pueblo Indian man named Edward Proctor Hunt, from Acoma Pueblo in western New Mexico, recited over a period of two months the traditional origin myth of the Acoma Indians to Smithsonian Institution scholars in Washington DC. Born in 1861, Hunt was the son of a highly traditional medicine man in Acoma, and passed his childhood on the secretive isolated mesa-top village. He himself was eventually initiated into the medicine men's, Katsina, and sacred clown societies, but then later broke with his people's codes to become a storekeeper and a controversial culture broker between white and Indian worlds.

The Origin Myth of Acoma Pueblo offers a unique window into Pueblo Indian belief, ritual, metaphysics, and ethics. From its beginnings with the birth of twin sisters in a dark underground place before the creation of the world, the origin myth proceeds through the twists and turns of all kinds of creation of mountains and deserts, humans, gods, animals, ritual practice and food-gathering to strife between supernatural beings and humans, and through the proto-Acoma people's wanderings and sufferings, until they ceremonially transfer their families and culture to the safety of their mesa-top. The myth reveals how one of the world's pre-modern societies, with origins that go back thousands of years, made sense of itself to itself, answered key existential themes about the origins of life and death, formed its customs and codes of ethics and modes of social organization and self-governing, and worked out its accommodations with the unpredictable.

The government eventually published Hunt's narrative in 1942 as a Bureau of American Ethnology monograph, but in a greatly truncated form, and without identifying Hunt as the narrator, nor his two sons who helped translate. Nabokov, one of the premier scholars of Native American history in the world, has here put together a definitive edition that rearranges the material into a more accessible format and restores missing text, as well as providing an introduction that gives the reader background on Acoma Pueblo and offers information on the myth's narrator.

A masterpiece of Pueblo Indian mythology, now in a restored edition

Edward Proctor Hunt, a Pueblo Indian man, was born in 1861 in the mesa-top village of Acoma, New Mexico, and initiated into several secret societies, only to later break with his people’s social and reli­gious codes. In 1928, he recited his version of the origin myth of the Acoma Indians to Smithsonian Institution scholars. Hailed by many as the most accessible of all epic narratives recounting a classic Pueblo Indian story of creation, migration, and ulti­mate residence, the myth offers a unique window into Pueblo Indian cosmology and ancient history, revealing how a premodern society answered key existential questions and formed its customs. In this new edition, Peter Nabokov renders this important document into a clear sequence, adds excerpted material from the original storytelling sessions, and explores the creation and roles of such myths in Pueblo Indian cultures.
 
The remarkable life of Edward Hunt is the subject of Peter Nabokov’s companion volume, How the World Moves, which follows Hunt and his sons on their passage from tradition to modernity as they strike out as native entrepreneurs and travelling interpreters of American Indian lore.

  • Published: 28 January 2015
  • ISBN: 9780143106050
  • Imprint: Penguin Classics
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 240
  • RRP: $49.99

Other books in the series

On Sparta
Love
Annals
Military Dispatches