An Indian Bible (1940)

An A/O grandfather tells his grandson about wedding customs and other things depicted in petroglyphs; also what may be a mock wedding ceremony. Narration incl. the roles of family members (esp. wives) using saguaro and cholla cacti as illustrations.

Image of large saguaro cacti over which is superimposed the opening credits “An Indian Bible, Produced by Arizona Western Pictures, Inc., Copyright MCMXL. Edited by Geo. Halligan, Musical Score — Lee Zahler, Narrator — Gayne Whitman,  Written and Directed by Wayne Davis, Photography — Roland C. Price ‘The Vagabond Cameraman’, Produced by Cinecolor;” wide shot of a dirt road leading past an Akimel O’odham/Pima (A/O) village with one-story log cabins, shrubs and desert landscape beyond; same scenery but with an adobe wall in the foreground and a church (possibly Presbyterian Church?) in the background; overhead view of an aqueduct with water flowing then panning over to a one-story log cabin with large trees in the yard and an agricultural field, two adults and a child in white walking nearby; two people in a horse/kawiyu and carriage driving down a rural road lined with trees and electricity poles, a dog/gogs runs alongside; an A/O woman (oks) and man (cheoj) dismounting from a carriage parked alongside others, a child sits on the carriage seat, buildings in the background; a man walking with a cane (identified as “Norris”) and holding a child’s (identified as his grandson “Natachee” or “Natashi”?) hand, and others walking or standing nearby a wooden cabin with thatched porch, carriage in foreground; hill covered with trees and surrounded by saguaros and cholla cacti; panning past boulders at the base of the hill with petroglyphs on them, piles of other rocks, boulders and desert landscape around; Norris and Natachee walking through into this area, a large boulder with petroglyphs clearly visible, one being the petroglyph (representing marriage?); the elder pointing out something off camera with his cane and the boy sitting atop a large flat rock wall (the wedding alter) with petroglyphs; large rocky mound atop a large hill surrounded by smaller rocks and cacti and camera pans to the surrounding landscape; close-up of a petroglyph on a large rock face of five persons standing in a row;  another rock with other characters including a spiral, a crossed bar, a goat perhaps and other figures; another rock with horses, human figures, circles within circles, maybe trees and other animals; a pointy rock face with petroglyphs of two horses; angular rock face with concentric circles with crossbars and other figural petroglyphs; another smaller rock face with petroglyphs that look like a river and other landscapes; boulders with a variety of petroglyphs — one clearly a long snake/wamad fitted onto a long narrow rock face; a pan over a long rock face with circles with radiating lines and human, animal, and other figures; Norris pointing with his cane to the long form fit onto a narrow rock of the same shape, Natachee standing behind; close-up of the cane’s tip pointing to the glyph with a series of squares with circles inside and along a central line connecting them, ends with crossbar at the bottom; back to wider shot of same; wide view of landscape and pointed large hill/rock formation; closer view of smoke billowing from atop the hill; view from on top of the hill where a group of women and a group of men standing on either side of a path leading to the large flat rock (or alter) from before where a man now stands, then a man and woman walk up the path toward the wedding alter; closer view of the man atop the alter who is identified as a priest with what look like tapestries hung on rocks around him; the two who had been walking up the path now kneel with others at the alter; back to the priest gesturing to the skies with one arm/nowi and talking; everyone watching then kneels; back to the priest in profile gesturing with his arms up and pan down to two men and two women standing at the alter, then the woman move next to a partner; back to close-up of the priest with upraised arms which he then lowers and crosses while talking; various views of two women throwing rocks at the alter; back to Norris pointing with his cane and the boy seated on the alter, including close-up of the boy looking; back to the saguaros from the opening shot of the film, followed by other shots of saguaros; close-up of the cacti’s needles; close-up of a cholla cacti; closer view of a saguaro with downward facing arms; wider shot of same, surrounded by trees, with a man on horseback riding up; similar shots of another saguaro with a a group of smaller upwardly facing arms at the top; another saguaro with downward facing arms; saguaro with one upward facing arm, and a group of downward facing ones, others in the background; closer view of straight saguaro tops without much for arms, and the camera pans down to a fallen dead one; close view of a rounded, fan shaped top saguaro top; wide shot of an A/O man walking with his horse towards a saguaro, pointy surrounded by hills, including a very pointy one in the distance, the man stops to inspect a baby saguaro and then keeps walking; wide and then closer view of a giant saguaro with numerous arms; close-up of Natachee rubbing his eye/wuhi, looking tired; he and his grandfather stand on either side of a long rock face over which they tower, as the elder points out petroglyphs with his cane; closer shot of Norris talking; back to the both of them as Norris turns to point out a whole in the ground then off-camera; shot of a boulder with glyphs off away from where they’re standing; a close-up of the others of the rock covered in glyphs; back to Norris talking and pointing off-screen with his cane; wide shot of an agricultural field and some tall saguaros; the two walking down a dirt path between chollas and saguaros, end credits “The End” over the open shot of saguaros.

Cultural Narrative: 

Narrated by Yvonne Carlos Taylor, Tohono O'odham, facilitated by Mary Taylor.

Language of narration is Tohono O'odham.

Summary below provided by Yvonne Carlos Taylor:


My name is Yvonne Carlos Taylor, and I am of the Tohono O’odham (tribe). Tohono O’odham is one of four sister tribes: Akimel O’odham, Onk Akimel O’odham, Hia Ced O’odham, and Tohono O’odham. They were all one tribe but were split by reservations.

                  In the video, the narrator calls the O’odham [Pima] people superstitious. My grandmother was superstitious too, and my mom would say I had been brainwashed by her. We prayed religiously and went to [Catholic] church. She told me not to fidget and to sit still; it was boring and I listened to the priest read bible verses that I didn’t understand.

                  My other grandmother, who raised me, didn’t make me go to church and prayed with me. My favorite story was the one with the kids crossing the bridge-- and whoever we were in trouble, someone would watch over us.

                  Then when I met my [late] [ex]husband, the father of my children, he made me feel like a crazy old lady with my beliefs, so I let that go.

                  There’s a difference between religion out of fear and religion out of comfort. The nuns once substituted our elementary school class when our teacher was away for some reason. The nuns hit us while our teacher was away, they hit us for speaking O’odham. I remember getting hit by a nun when I answered a question wrong. It made me not want to go to church, and I was so happy when our regular teacher came back. I think perhaps the nuns had put fear into my [paternal] grandmother and others, making them [very] superstitious,

                  O’odham had their own god, I’ithoi. He was local, and not white [as the narrator claims]. Also, the written calendars would have been based off of the harvest.

                  My [maternal] grandmother was forced to get married to a 30-year-old man when she was only sixteen. She had fourteen children total, and all but five girls passed away-- either by miscarriage or stillbirth. No hospitals were around at the time. She had known that she would be a wife to someone she didn’t know, so there was no use falling in love. It’s almost like rape, being forced to have children with someone [you don’t know]. But they were hard-workers. I’m fortunate to have been raised by my [maternal] grandmother. I didn’t ever want to go with my [biological] mother-- I would hide behind my grandmother until she left.

                  The Jehovah’s Witness [missionaries] would come around. [At that time] I had never seen white people before, and I thought they looked like Dick and Jane. My grandmother always said they [and their doctrine] were evil. We would hide under the bed when they knocked on our door until they went away.

                  Saguaros aren’t necessarily sacred in the sense that they contain the souls of living beings [as the narrator claims]. We treat everything with respect. When we would go to pick the fruit, we would take it and tell the saguaro ‘thank you’ for providing us with their fruit.

                  When my grandfather would chop wood-- which was also the only time he would smoke, I think it made him nervous-- he would talk in O’odham to the trees he was about to chop down.

                  Men [in my village] would ride south to Rocky Point [in Mexico] to get salt. They revered the ocean because it was so much larger than man; it could kill you. Of course, only men could go.

                  Every tribe has a flood story. Lots of things overlap between the O’odham and Miligan [EuroAmericans]. The Noah’s Ark story in the old testament is similar to the story of the Coyote, I’ithoi and Jewed Makai. The creation stories from Genesis sound similar to our stories as well.

Traditional Knowledge: 

Akimel O'odham/Pima