Kahente Horn-Miller is of Akskare:wake (Bear Clan) descent from the Kanien:keha’ka (Mohawk) Indigenous community of Kahnawake, a First Nations reserve located near the city of Montreal, on the banks of the Kaniatarowanenneh (great waterway) known since colonization as the St. Lawrence River. Horn-Miller is an associate professor at Carleton University’s School of Indigenous and Canadian Studies, in Ottawa, Ontario, in the Algonquin Territories, where she is also the first Assistant Vice-president, Indigenous Initiatives. Horn-Miller is a collaborative artist who presented an exhibition entitled “My Mom, Kahntinetha Horn, the ‘Military Mohawk Princess'” at an Ottawa gallery in 2018.
Horn-Miller’s Sky Woman story is a first-person version of a creation story that has many earlier versions, but never in the first person. This tale, part of the oral literature of the Indigenous people of Abya Yala, is the story of the genesis of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) people. Horn-Miller says that her version came to her suddenly in an intimate moment with her daughter, and she felt a compelling need to write it down. The Sky Woman Story is also part of her PhD thesis (Concordia University, Montreal, Canada, 2009). When presenting her version of the story, Horn-Miller’s performance is quite striking.
Sky Woman’s Story
I am the daughter of the Great Spirit. I am Sky Woman. I was born in the Sky World far above the earth at the beginning of time many centuries ago. As a child I was known as Mature Flowers. I was born with the caul covering my face, which made me very special to my people, the Sky Dwellers. I was expected to do great things. My people believed that I had been born by the way of the spirits and not through a physical act. After my birth I was put into protective seclusion by my mother so that I would grow strong and focused. They call this being hidden under the husk, referring to the protective husk surrounding a cob of corn. My uncle, my mother’s brother, was given the duty to advise me and prepare me for adulthood. When he died his body was put at the top of the Great White Pine tree, where he continued to keep a protective watch over me. When I needed his guidance I would call his name three times and climb to the top of the tree and we would talk.
My life in the Sky World was happy. I remember that there was always enough food to eat and no one ever got sick. There was no jealousy or hatred. Every person I knew had special talents and gifts that were nurtured and used for the good existence of everyone. When I and my brothers and sisters were young my mother would carry her babies on her back in a cradle board and hang it in a tree as she and my father worked alongside the men and women of the Sky World cultivating the corn, beans and squash. When I was strong enough, I began to work in the gardens with everyone else. I learned from all the women, and whom I called ‘mother’. I would also help my mothers and sisters in the preparation of the foods. I never wanted for anything. Everything was provided for us to survive. It is said that all the plants and animals that exist on the earth are the same as the ones that exist in the Sky World.
One day, everyone in the Sky World was summoned by The Keeper of the Celestial Tree or Tree of Light by a messenger who came to the people. When the people went to see him, they were told that a dream needed to be deciphered before the flowers on the tree stopped blooming forever. If this were to happen, there would be darkness that would disrupt creation in the Sky World. After this event great calamity and hardship would come and things would change forever. The meaning of the dream, it was told, would have an effect on everyone in the Sky World. Many people tried to interpret the dream but failed. The Keeper tossed them into a hole near his tree that led to the world below where they were transformed into new beings. My mother went to the council but didn’t bring me as I had asked. As a young adult, I was too distraught at having to be involved in such a great responsibility as dream interpretation. I wanted so desperately to be a child for much longer. I went instead to see Uncle at the top of the Great White Pine.
I walked through the forest, watching the light and shadows through the trees as I thought about the dream and the council. When I arrived, I slowly climbed the Great White Pine. To reach the top took all my strength. I pulled myself up onto one of the topmost branches and I saw Uncle lying there.
“Uncle,” I asked. “What should I do? A very important meeting has been called. The Keeper has asked the People to help him interpret an important dream. I don’t want to be burdened by such seriousness. I am just a child.”
“It is almost time for you to fulfill your destiny,” he told me. “You are almost old enough, you are almost strong enough and you are certainly wise beyond your years. Soon, you will be asked to go to the Keeper of the Tree of Light. When you go, tell him who you are and that you have come to help him. Tell him you have the power to bring new life to the blossoms that light up the Sky World.”
Uncle instructed me that the Keeper and I would look over the things that had been thrown out of the Sky World and were coming to life in the world below. Uncle cautioned me closely.
“Do not sleep on any mat he offers you.”
I looked at Uncle with questioning eyes, but I nodded my head in agreement. Little did I know that once the creative process began, things would change in the Sky World and the world below—Light would dim in the Sky World as light grew below. Only when light began to dim below, then the light would renew itself in the Sky World, which I couldn’t understand. Uncle told me of many other things that would occur when I went to see The Keeper. I listened closely because I trusted and loved Uncle.
This story I am telling you is one that comes from my long memory, the memories of my children, and the collective memories of my many great granddaughters. I can look back on my life and see it with such clarity, as if it happened yesterday. The memories are vivid and still very much alive, kept in the minds and hearts of my descendants. Through them, I pass on my knowledge.
As I climbed down the Great White Pine and walked away back to my lodge, I felt calm for the first time. Shortly after I arrived home, Mother came back from the council.
“We were not able to help The Keeper,” she told me. “So those of us who were left, we talked amongst ourselves. Daughter, we all know you are meant to do something special. People of the Sky World have counseled and we agree that when you are old enough, you are to go to The Keeper of the Tree of Light to help him interpret his dream so that balance and light will remain in the Sky World.”
I looked at her with wondering eyes but I didn’t question her. Uncle had prepared me for this.
When I was old enough a messenger came from The Keeper, a feast was to be given and I was invited. I went to see the Keeper of the Tree of Light as instructed.
“Who are you?” he asked. “What are you doing? Why are you doing that?”
“I am the girl they call Mature Flowers. I have come to help you as Uncle instructed me.”
“I heard you were giving a feast.”
The Keeper seemed to know me as though he had been expecting me. I was surprised when he told me that I was the reason for the feast. He looked at me and smiled.
“You were born with a great gift. You are the Sky World’s only hope of keeping the Tree of Light lit.”
As he said these words, he pointed to the blossoms on the Tree of Light. I looked at them closely, cradling one in my palm. I saw that their beauty and light was dimming. The Tree was beginning to die. I felt saddened by their dimming beauty. I had tears in my eyes.
“How is it that I can help you?”
The Keeper told me to prepare for the feast some mush made from chestnuts that we would eat together. As I was cooking the mush it sputtered and stuck to my body, burning me. I didn’t cry out but whimpered under my breath in pain. My breath came in small short gasps as the white hot searing pain of the burning mush brought tears to my eyes. I held back my tears and continued to push the air through my teeth as I worked to prepare the mush. When it was finished I called out that the mush was ready. When The Keeper saw me, he was shocked to see my burned body.
“The mush sputtered and burned me. I am in pain.”
The Keeper immediately called out two white dogs that came forward and licked the mush from my body. As the dogs’ tongues cleansed my body I remained motionless and didn’t wince. With the dogs’ saliva coating my burned flesh, I began to feel less pain and my skin began to heal quickly. Their work brought me peace.
When I was well enough, I brought the mush into The Keeper’s lodge and we sat to eat. We ate. As we ate, The Keeper spoke:
“Many people are on their way to play a game called The Little Brother of War.”
“The game will divert my mind from the problems at hand. I will ask that you not speak to anyone who comes to play or to watch the game. If you do this then you can stay.”
I agreed to his request. We finished our food and walked to a clearing a short distance away. As we walked I could hear the voices of the men calling to each other over the field. As the game went on, many of my people came up to speak to me but I remained silent as requested. It was hard for me to do.
After a while, The Keeper asked me to go to the stream and get him some water. I found the stream and crouched at the shore as I filled a wooden bowl. I stood up and as I turned a player came up to me and asked me for a drink. Naturally, I replied that he could have some. Suddenly a cold feeling came over me. I realized that I had broken The Keeper’s request that I not speak to anyone. I refilled the bowl and headed back to The Keeper. He was angry with me for disobeying his request and he sent me back to my mother with instructions.
Piam are the stories that are passed from generation to generation, and reveal meaningful events in the Mapuche’s history. Many of the piam happened in the historical time of the persecution and genocide of Mapuche families during the so called “conquest of the desert,”perpetrated by the Argentine nation-state between 1878 and 1885. Piam are a type of counter-history and counter-memory that stand counter to the official history of that invasion and colonization of Puelmapu, Eastern Wallmapu, Mapuche ancestral territory, in what is now known as Argentine Patagonia.
Unlike academic and well-documented studies that confirm state terrorism in Argentina, piam, as oral histories, are passed from generation to generation, or are recorded, and they reconstruct a specific time. Here we offer one of these piam, transcribed for us to counter forgetfulness. As they are told to us and as we hear the piam, we believe it: we don’t need to verify it because we know that it happened in this way and it is in the collective memory of our people.
Although they seem like stories from a remote past, they are current for today’s generations. They are revitalized in every new gathering, because the signs of those events are part of a symbolic and effective violence that renews the invasion daily. For instance, in the Villa Llanquin rural elementary school, there is a human skull on display in a glass case. Until recently the skull had a sign that said “head of an Indian.” Another example is that a lake, a city in Patagonia, a train line, and many streets and parks are named after Julio Roca, the Argentinian Minister of War, who led the invasion of Wallmapu, and who continues representing Argentinian society. Furthermore, there are several equestrian statues of Roca in uniform throughout the country, one which is even located in the Civic Center of Furilofche City–an emblem of the power that is exercised today against the Mapuche nation in their own territory.
The following piam, told by Cornelio Puelman, was told to him by his grandfather, who belonged to the generation that witnessed the beginning of the end of that ancestral world that was once still free and autonomous. Puelman belongs to the generation of grandfathers and grandmothers, chachay ka pu papay, who left this world around 2011. Daughters and sons, nephews and nieces of Puelman’s generation are now mothers and grandmothers, fathers and grandfathers of the generation who are revitalizing the language, the land and the memory, and who are speaking Mapuzungun, a language that suffered from the Argentinian policies of the silencing and prohibition of Indigenous languages.
The story that Cornelio Puelman is telling us is not an isolated one. Stories like these have been heard in many places, such as among the Rankülche in the Province of Buenos Aires, or in the Pewenche areas, as well as in other regions of Wallmapu where people witnessed similar events.
These stories are told in Mapuzungun with the grammatical suffix “em” or “yem”, which is used to report something that is old or that is no longer here. It also carries a connotation of sadness and nostalgia for that world that is gone. It is customary in Mapuche philosophy to reflect upon the kuifike che yem, because Mapuche thought is always thinking toward the past, on what the ancestors would have done if they were here in the present. This is a way for the ancestors to continue speaking to the present, so that the past returns and the circle closes. This is why it is important to rescue this piam.
PUELMAN CORNELIO ÑI NGÜTRAN ~ English version below
Feychi zungu ta mülele faw mu, fey mu ta müley ta tufa zungu. Fechi zugu ta mülele, inche ta laku zuam ta ngülam ta tufi. Ngey mapu em ta tufa mo, inchiñ ta kupay ta winka chew weshake kuzaw ta kupay. Müley ta kulliñ. Inche ta mülen…, inche ta ngen mapu, fey entuy taiñ paisano em. Inche ta nielay ta fey paisano em. Inche ta feychi zungu, ta niey ta tio em. Kupaygün kupay winga inche nga entunge mapu pi em, entunge mapu.
Fey miawngey mapu em, pia em, winka. Tüfa mari kiñe tripantu nien, mari küla tripantu, miawunge mapuzuam. Entuy mapun tiewtüfa kangelu mapu tati.
Consejalu ka winka entungeiñ mapu em. Ka winka mapuche tiew mülele, küme rüpü tüfaw pülle, inche feychi kampu, inche ta rangi pingey mu, tüfaw mu ta entungen, piam . Fey mo ta inche ta em.
Amuen tüfy ta tüfachi tüken ta tüfy, ta tüfachi mapu, fewla tañi mapu nien. Tükulen fewla ngülam müten kampu ta tafy, anay. Femgechi ta conseja ñi ta che, fey ta consejo feyta küme amuy ka. Consejaniele che inchiñ taiñ paisano em. Kiñe ta ka pülle amuy ka anüy ta kay müley pu che. Fey mu ta inchiñ ta winka ta kiñer, pim, pülle ta winka. Kom fey mincheawchi amuley, fey mu ta winka awüwün ta kelluy ta tüfey.
Así es.. unos con otros los winka no se tratan de joder. El paisano trata de joder al que está bien, trata de joderlo. El winka no, el winka se ayudan unos con otros, al jodido lo ayuda, por eso levanta, y nosotros no.
Felelay pues… felelay, felelay.
Inchiñ müley ta tüfey. Ilkungey feyta müley ta che ta tüfey. Feychi wule ta trawayu kom ta kiñelzungu pülle kom fey pülle. No, trawayu inche kupalan, inche amulan, well weza zomo, tiew weza ka mo ngelay ko ka tiew nielu lelfun mew. Fey mu ta tripalay fey. Kiñelzungu ta pilen, fey kiñelzungu, ¡ta müley fey! –¿Amuay pülle? –¿Amuayu? –¡Amuaiñ!
Fütra kuifi ta müley pichi paw llazkünun ta tüfi. Fey mu ta tripalay ti pu che. Inchiñ taiñ mapuche ngeiñ ta tüfa. Kom ta feychi kiñelzungun ta nielay. Kiñe ta kay zungunge kangentuy ta ka zungu ka rakizuam müley. Fey mu ta inchiñ küme kuzawlaiñ. Küme kuzawlaiñ.
[…] Antiguamente estaban todos unidos, todos unido. ¿No ve? Hoy estábamos conversando cuando yo tuve conocimiento tendría unos 10 años, 11.
Pütuiñ may, ngolliiñ, zunguiñ. Peleao, peleao may tati peleolaiñ tati. Küme nguntrankaygün, tayültuku faw, tayültuygün, ngollygün, ulkantuygün, paylanaygün, pero weza zungulay. Fewla, kiñentuku pichikeche, pichikeche wüneltun me quieren pelear. Fey winkangefuy ta tüfey. Eso ha sido antes así.
Kuifikeche müley inche ñi fütra laku em nomen nga cruzafiy, rumen nga trentrenün zafiy, pi. Chew wefürpun pun gelle fulle, epu gelle fulle. Tripay nga lewfun mo nga amuaygün kiñe ngillañ engu. Kintuy nga chew müley rume nentuy sale fey mu tüfay müley pi, fey mu akufuy ñi puwükey.
Inche nga pikey ñi fütra laku em. Puwi nga winka nga inawlfiy katan ñi kawell pi, mollfunkawell mu nga bebiiñ. Müley nga la kulliñtufuy iloentufiy fey ñi fütra laku em zomo nga kütrangeiñ, fütra nga kütrangeiñ laku em tañi kushe laku em. Femgechi nga rupay pikey fütrakeche. Fewla nga ngtrumka mu ngelelle nge che koilaniefige “inche pelafi koila tati”, pingen tati. Así fuy.
Yo digo así fu. Son mentiras, dicen, yo no lo he visto. Pero uno que ha conversado está como un libro abierto, mi hijo. Clarooo… eso contaban los antiguos, que sufrían tanto, comían caballo muerto, punzaban su caballo. Si iban diez personas, diez kawell punzan, y si no, no alcanza la sangre. Mollfüñ kawell para matar el hambre. Si estaban sin comer, ellos, van dos, tres días, si no matan ningún bicho tienen que punzar el caballo. Punzan al lado de la vena. Si lo punzan del guargüero por lo menos cuatro litros de sangre sale. Ahí van tomando en jarro, sal y sangre, sal y sangre.
Pasaban tanto hambre porque tenían que andar disparando. Disparaban cuando vino este… ¿Cómo es que se llamaba el que vino a acaparar el país acá? ¿Los españoles? ¿Colón…? ¿Cristóbal Colón no es? …No, Roca, cuando vino ese.
Ka müna weshaley winka.
Una vuelta creo que kuifikeche piam müleygün, müley ta wütan, wütan ta müley. Amuaiñ fey mu winka nga müley fey mu, inche nga lay nga ñi pu che, pi. Nga kasike amuaiñ nga ñi kasike kechu mari …kechu pataka …kechu waranka wentru, piafi em. Kechu waranka wentru, piam,langümeymu, piam.
Tranawüftuy nagtuy, nagüntun, nagentual. ¿Chumafungechi? Trafyeymu lanza mu trawil mu. ¿Chumafuy? Traka mu müley tralkatuy. Kechu waranka piam lay.
Cinco mil personas le mataron al cacique. Murieron, dicen. Que le dijeron un wütan, wütan antes de ir hubo, un wütan. Y wütan es cuando le late un brazo o le late donde quiera, y le va ir mal, no, no vaya. No, voy ir nomas. Voy a atropellar a los winka, decía. ¿Que van a hacer con los Remington de los winka? Los agarraron en fila, así los mataron. Caían como pajaritos. ¿Y las lanzas y las trawilche, qué van a hacer los paisanos? Cinco mil mataron, dicen, volvió con mil. Seis mil personas, creo que atropellaron. ¿Qué va a hacer con el winka?
Wütan mu piam mu. Müley ta müley ta zugun wentru zomo fey zugunge. ¿Chumngechi amuan ta tüfa? ¿Küme amuan ka weza amuan? Weza amuaiñ, pita, weza wütan. Weza amuaiñ. No, amuan müten. La wütantufe le había dicho, la adivina ya le ha dicho que le va a ir mal. ¿Y usted cómo sabe?, dice el lonko. Venían por él. Si yo tengo un wütan, zugun wütan, zungulu wütan ¿küpaley winka? Küpaley. Wütan ta tüfy, küpay nga tiew. ¿Chew küpaley winka? ¿Küpay winka? Küpaley ta winka ta tüfa.
¿Mirador pürayaiñ? May, püray mirador. Püraaiñ mirador piam. Resultó ser un mirador, para el sur. Püray nga, piaeymu. Küpaley winka püralu winka tüfa mu imulüy kümey kura kay lamngümaiñ winka.
Küpay, piam mu. Küpaley, piam mu. Küpaley, piam mu, pu winka. Küpaley winka. Itrokom kelü rangiñ, kelü rangiñ. Tiew faw küpaley tati. Püraley ñi kiñelke pu che, los matan. Kansau pi ta winka, müna kansau. Katripel, katripeliel lanza mu, winka piwke lanza mu. Püraiñ. Rupay winka. Rupalu winka, si disparalew kawellun wiñotuy. Volvieron para atrás otra vez, en el mirador.
Antiguamente, eh, cuando andaban disparando de la expedición, subieron para el cerro y dice que si llegan a subir vamos a hacer rodar una piedra desde allá arriba. Van a pasar, llevando caballos, gente, y cuántos. Püraley winka, püraley antü. Pülle nga ta antü ta purraygün lamgümfiy.
Si llega la hora suben. Todos no van morir, algunos dos, tres pueden subir allá, los matan a esa gente, van a salir disparando. Püra antüley che. Chumgechi nge montuy. Montuy. Feychi zapiley.
THE NARRATION OF CORNELIO PUELMAN
If we were to talk about this matter that we are dealing with here. If we were to talk about this topic, my grandfather would give me this advice. We were the keepers of this land before, but the winka [non-Mapuche] brought bad works wherever he settled. Before there were animals. And being here…, and being from this land, the winka took the land from the Mapuche, as we were here and of this place. Those things didn’t happen among us. That was how my late uncle told me. They arrived, the winka, and although we were from here they took the land from us–they say–that’s how they took the territory from us.
The old ones used to say that the winka were trying to get land. I was eleven years old, I was thirteen, and they, the winka, were going around with the intention of taking land. They took away our rights to our land and to other lands as well.
The winka had been instructed to take away the old lands from us. Also the winka took the land of those Mapuche who had been on the good path, or that field in the middle. I remember those sad memories.
When I first came to this land where I am now, I planted this. Now I have this land. I only have this advice about the land: sow, friend. This is how people used to be counselled, so you will continue to be fine following this advice. The old Mapuche used to counsel us in this way. Some of them went and settled near the winka, and there were all the people. It is said, then, that we and the winka began to be together. The winka all went one on top of the other, so if a winka is harmed by himself or by others, they help each other, that’s what they do.
That’s how it is… the winka don’t try to screw one another. The paisano tries to screw someone who is doing well, they try to mess him up. The winka, no, the winka help one another, they help the one who is screwed, this is why they go forward, and we don’t. This isn’t any good…. It’s not good, no good at all.
We live in this way. There are folks that get angry, folks that are just like that. If someone says:
“Tomorrow we’ll get together to address the same question-united- one with another.”
“No, I’m not going to get together, I’m not going… suddenly my wife is sick, the one from over yonder is still ill: I don’t have water.”
So the matter never comes out. I would like to bring these things out all together, united. In this way, if someone says, “Let’s meet over there?” Everyone answers, “Come on! Let’s go!”
In former times, we nearly grieved over these things. Now these folks don’t come out. We are Mapuche here. We no longer have matters that we work on all together. When there is a concern, it is not like it was before, things are different, it’s another kind of thinking. So we don’t do good work, we don’t work well.
The old folks. The elders, those who came before, cousins, uncles, helped one another, we helped ourselves together. The sons, the daughters, my uncle, they walked all together as if they were one, they say. All of them! That’s how.
Yes, that’s how. Because before, I was already forty, and even so my deceased father told us what to do as if we were children. “Do this!”, he ordered, and I did it. He wasn’t my father, he was my uncle. And today a fifteen year old son, what does he do? If he wants to do something, he does it, if he doesn’t want to, he doesn’t do anything. How are things going to go well in this way, my Friend? It’s because of that that it goes so badly.
…In the olden days, they were all united, all united. Can’t you see? What we just said, when I would have had understanding, I would have been ten or eleven. Sure, we drank before, we got drunk, we talked. But fight? Fight amongst ourselves? No, no, we never fought. We had good conversations, then we’d start the tayül, sing the tayül, sing romanceadas, and rest.1 But there weren’t any problems. Nowadays the kids drink and the first thing they want to do is fight. This comes from the winka. That’s how it was before.
1 The tayül is a ceremonial and sacred song. Every element of nature has a sacred song: the lake, the river, the rain. People also have a tayül. The romanceadas are spontaneous songs that relate to or narrate everyday situations and are told in a sharing and funny way. Sometimes they are sung in counterpoint. There are many kinds of songs about a diverse range of situations that are sung as romanceadas.
(Puelman now tells what the violent occupation of the territory was like and about the stalking and persecution of families during the invasion of the Wallmapu. He also tells the stories that he has heard from his elders.)
His brother-in-law was who crossed my great-grandfather over to the other side of the river with just enough to cure him, the elders say. Even though it was night, and they were two, they crossed to the other side. They came out of the river, and he and his brother-in-law went on together. They looked for any way out, this way, they said; that’s how they got there.2
2 For the Mapuche worldview, rivers should not be crossed at night. The situation of persecution described is so desperate that it forces them to transgress that rule.
That’s how my deceased grandfather told it. Then, later, the winka arrived there. They told of times when they were being persecuted, and they pierced their horses, they, my grandfather and his wife, found dead animals and ate their flesh. These things suffered. Many torments were set upon my deceased grandfather and paternal grandmother. In this way they got on, this is how I was told the elders survived. Even though I tell it now, people say that I am lying. “I didn’t see that,” they say ”It’s a lie.”
I tell this story and they say, “They’re lies, I’ve never seen it.” But those who have spoken are like an open book, my Son. That’s what the old folks said, that they suffered so much, ate dead horses, pierced the flesh of their own horses. Ten people would go and pierce ten horses, if they hadn’t, they couldn’t have reached enough blood. They drank their horses blood to stave their own hunger. If they didn’t eat for two, three days, and they didn’t kill any other animal, they had to pierce the horse. It is pierced on one side of the vein. If the horse is pierced by the guargüero, you get at least four liters of blood. Right there they drink from a jug: salt and blood, salt and blood.
They suffered so much hunger because they had to shoot as they went. They had to flee, escaping when the… what was he called, the one who came to devour the Mapuche nation here? The Spanish? Columbus? Was it Christopher Colombus? No, Roca, Roca it was . That winka was real bad.
One time I think that the older one, they say, who had a presentiment, a hunch, there was a wütan, when a part of a muscle pulsates.3
3 The wütan is a pulse in the muscle that is interpreted as a premonition, a sign. Having a pulsing beat on the left side of the body is considered a bad omen.
“Let’s go then, because the winka, who killed my people are here,” said the Ionko. “Let’s go,” said the chief, “with 50…500…5000 men,” the grand Ionko said. They say they killed 5000 men.
One after another they lined them up on their knees and shot them down, downhill. What were we going to do? They went with lances and trawils.4 What were they going to do? The winka were armed and they fired. They say they killed 5000 men.
4 The trawil is a weapon with a single stone that has a slot in the middle where a rhea or choyke tendon is tied.
They said that he had a feeling, a hunch; he felt a wütan before going. And the wütan is when you feel a pulse in your arm, or a pulse anywhere, and it lets you know that things are going to go badly for you, so don’t go.
“No, I’m just going to go,” they say the Ionko said. “I’m going to trample the winka,” he said.
But what were they supposed to do against the winka’s Remingtons? They lined them up. That’s how they killed them. They felt like little birds. With lances and trawilche? What were our countrymen going to do? They say they killed 5000. He came back with a thousand. I think they killed 5 thousand. What could they do against the winka?
They said that he had a feeling, a hunch. The chief brought this news to the community, and they discussed: “What do we do with this? Are we going to do well or are we going to do badly?”.
“It’s going to be bad for us. That hunch is bad presage, it’s going to be bad for us”, they told him.
The wütantufe, the one who interpreted the sign, had already told the lonko that it was gonna go badly.
“And you, how do you know?”, they say the Ionko demanded. “If I have a feeling, the feeling, what the pulsing says is that the winka is coming?”
“Yes, they are coming. This presentiment is that they are approaching from over there?”
“Where are they arriving? Are they coming here?”
“Yes they are arriving,” the wütantufe told him.
[In another persecution that the Mapuche families suffered on the prairie it is told that they said]
“Should we climb up to the lookout?”
“Yes, let’s climb up to the lookout.” “Let’s climb on up!” they say they said.
It just so happened that there was a lookout, to the South.
“Climb up!” they shouted. “When the winka arrive and are climbing up we’ll roll down a hefty rock, that’s how we’ll kill the winka.”
[He sings] “They’re coming, they say they said/ They’re approaching, they say./ The winka, they’re arriving, they kept on saying/ The Winka comes.”
Half the people were covered in blood. Here they come! They climbed on up. Those that climb up are killed. They say that the winka were tired, very tired. With their spears they went for their necks and their hearts. That’s how it happened for the winka that climbed up. When the winka passed through, they had to run away, they returned riding. They retreated again, in the lookout.
Long ago, when they were fleeing from the expedition, they climbed into the hills. It is told that they said if they manage to climb after us let’s roll a good-sized rock from above. They’re likely to go by with horses, people, everything. And if the winka should come up, their hour has arrived. If that day arrives when they come up, they’ll kill them.
If they go up once they reach the lookout, not all will die, some, those who go up. Two, maybe three, will keep on climbing, they’ll be killed, they’ll be the ones to be killed, shot. That’s how it went at that time, that’s how the Mapuche people saved themselves. That is how they freed themselves. That was the way they took care of themselves.
FOR MORE ABOUT THE STORYTELLER AND THE TRANSLATORS
Cornelio Puelman is Teodora Puelman’s brother. His mother was a machi, that is, a traditional Mapuche healer. He lived in the area of Fütra waw, fütra lelfun mew, in a rural area located in the prairies, near Comayo, Puelmapu, today the Province of Río Negro, in the so-called Argentine Patagonia. He belongs to the generation of grandfathers and grandmothers who left in the 2000s. Many of his great-nephews and his descendants continue to live in that area known as Línea Sur. They are reclaiming their Mapuche identity and the Mapuzungun after years of “shaming policies.”
Sandro Rivas Pichicura was born in Furilofche, Nawel wapi lafken mapu mew, in Puelmapu, also known in Spanish as Bariloche, Province of Río Negro, in Argentine Patagonia. His father was born in Fütra ruiñ, Cabestro Quemado. His mother was born in Pilawe. Both–Fütra ruiñ and Pilawe–are located in the rural area of the great prairie of the so-called Línea Sur. He has been a member of different Mapuche organizations and is currently an activist for the revitalization of the Mapuzugun. He teaches Mapuzungun at the Highschool Level and works in different linguistic revitalization projects. He has worked as a radio communicator and has participated cultural innitiatives, such as the microdocumentaries Mapuzungun. El habla de la Tierra.
Violeta Percia was born in Buenos Aires. She currently lives in Nawel wapi lafken mapu mew. She is a poet, audio-visual artist, and scholar. She works as a professor of Literary and Comparative Studies at the University of Buenos Aires. She studied film at the Cuban EICTV Alternative Cinema. She recently translated and wrote the introduction of I Am a Damned Savage, by the Innu writer An Antane Kapesh (2023). She also has published Ideorrealidades. Poemas y papeles dispersos de la obra futura de Saint-Pol-Roux (2013); El narcisismo del arte contemporáneo de A. Troyas y V. Arrault (2020), the poetry books Clínica enferma (Buenos Aires, 2003), and Poesía del Tanti Rao (Mexico DF, 2019); and the novel Como nubes (Córdoba, 2021).