Cibola 100

This entry is part 99 of 119 in the series Cibola


Reader (16): Depositions

When Esteban had approached within one day’s journey of the city of Cí­bola, he sent his envoys ahead with his gourd to the lord of Cí­bola, making himself known, announcing that he had come to bring peace and to heal them. [But] when they gave him the gourd, and he saw the cascabeles [probably copper bells, manufactured by other tribes], he turned furious and hurled it to the floor, saying, “I know these people! These cascabeles aren’t a thing WE work with! Tell them to go back immediately, or not a one of them will be spared!” Thus he continued to rage unabated.

So the envoys returned, downcast, hardly daring to tell Esteban what had happened. But when they did tell him, he told them not to worry, that he [still] intended to go there, because, regardless of how badly they had responded, they would [still] welcome him.

So they went on until they reached the city of Cí­bola. The sun had already gone down. With all the people he brought along, there were more than three hundred men, and many women besides. They weren’t permitted to enter the city, but were put up in a large house with good rooms outside the city. And they stripped Esteban of everything he brought, saying that their lord had ordered it. All that night they gave us nothing to eat or drink.

The next day, when the sun [had risen] the width of a lance, Esteban left the house, and some of the chiefs with him, upon which a great number of people came out of the city, and when he saw them, he decided to flee, and we as well. That’s when they gave us all these arrow wounds and gashes and we fell, and other dead bodies fell on top of us, and thus we remained until night without daring to move a muscle. We heard loud voices from the city, and saw many men and women looking out from the rooftops. We didn’t see anything more of Esteban, but we believe he was shot with arrows, as were those who went with him. We alone escaped.



The death of the Negro is perfectly certain, because many of the things which he wore have been found, and the Indians say that they killed him here because the Indians of Chichilticale said that he was a bad man, and not like the Christians who never kill women, and that he killed them, and because he assaulted their women, whom the Indians love better than themselves.

FRANCISCO Ví?SQUEZ DE CORONADO, August 3, 1540, writing from “this city of Granada and in the province of Cí­bola” (Hammond and Rey translation)


[T]he lord of Cevola inquired of him whether he had other brethren: he answered he had an infinite number, and that they had great store of weapons with them, and that they were not very farre from thence. Which when he had heard, many of the chiefe men consulted together, and resolved to kill him, that he might not give newes unto these his brethren, where they dwelt, & . . . for this cause they slew him, and cut him into many pieces, which were divided among all those chiefe lords, that they might know assuredly that he was dead; and also . . . he had a dogge like mine [i.e. a greyhound, like Alarcon’s], which he likewise killed a great while after.

COLORADO RIVER INDIAN INFORMANT OF ALARCí“N, November 1540 (Hakluyt translation)


As the Negro had told them that farther back two white men, sent by a great lord, were coming, that they were learned in the things of heaven, and that they were coming to instruct them in divine matters, the Indians thought he must have been a spy or guide of some nations that wanted to come and conquer them. They thought it was nonsense for him to say that the people in the land whence he came were white, when he was black, and that he had been sent by them. So they went to him, and because, after some talk, he asked for turquoises and women, they considered this an affront and determined to kill him.

PEDRO CASTAí‘EDA Y Ní?í‡ERA, member of the Coronado expedition, recalling ca. 1563 what the Ashiwanni had told him


. . . [B]ut with these Black Mexicans came many Indians of Sóno-li [Sonora], as they call it now, who carried war feathers and long bows and cane arrows like the Apaches, who were enemies of our ancients; therefore these our ancients, being always bad tempered and quick to anger, made fools of themselves after their fashion, rushing into their town and out of their town, shouting, skipping and shooting with sling-stones and arrows and war clubs. Then the Indians of Sóno-li set up a great howl, and they and our ancients did much ill to one another. Then and thus, was killed by our ancients, right where the stone stands down by the arroyo of Kia-ki-me, one of the Black Mexicans. . . . Then the rest ran away, chased by our grandfathers, and went back to their country in the Land of Everlasting Summer.



Just as the sun went down, I’itoi came and sang there again. Then more people gathered and joined him. And before the night was half over, he made the dancers run because he knew it was time for Siwani to come again. As he stepped up the pace with his rattle, I’itoi said many things so that through this the people would learn that he truly had supernatural powers.

Sure enough, Siwani came with his friends and took I’itoi out and knocked him down and beat him until morning. The sun was already up when Siwani left him, saying, “Whoever takes this corpse, I’ll do to you just what I did to him.”

DOLORES, an O’odham storyteller, 20th century

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