The Moqui Tribe in History 1858-1864

Search Fold3 for your
Native American Records

The Moquis 1858

In 1857-1858 Lieutenant J. C. Ives topographical engineers, United States army, made a survey of the river Colorado of the west (Colorado River) from its mouth on the Pacific coast up and to the Moqui villages. In May 1858 he crossed from Colorado River to Fort Defiance via the Moqui pueblos or villages a desperate journey through a country, which he called “the deserted and ghastly region”. The men and mules were almost famished with thirst so he had to go back to the river for water. May 8 he resumed his march and passed several salt springs near an Indian trail and afterward found that there the Moquis obtained their salt.

The description of the country and the Moqui pueblos which Lieutenant Ives gives is so accurate and correct that it might have been written in1890. Especially interesting is the description of the country adjacent to the Moqui pueblos. If anything the country is in a worse condition now than in 1858. Lieutenant Ives and party on approaching the Moqui pueblos were famishing for water and in a desert with no signs whatever of being near a supply, and yet they were only 3 miles from the spring at the base of Mishougnavi. Of the visit to the Moqui pueblos Lieutenant Ives writes:

Camp 92, Limestone Spring
May 10, 1858.

As the still went down and the confused glare of the mirage disappeared. I discovered with a spyglass 2 of the Moqui towns 8 or 10 miles distant, upon the summit of a high bluff overhanging the opposite side of the valley. They were built close to the edge of the precipice, and being of the same color as the mesa it would have been difficult to distinguish them, even with a glass but for the vertical and horizontal lines of the walls and buildings. The outlines of the closely packed structures looked in the distance like the towers and battlements of a castle, and their commanding position enhanced the picturesque effects.

Moqui Pueblos
May 11, 1858.

The trail crossed the valley making straight for the pueblos. For 6 miles not a sign of life was perceived but while ascending a hill near the base of the bluff 2 Indians mounted on 1 small horse charged suddenly upon us, the riders shouting vociferous welcomes and both insisting upon Shaking hands with the whole company. One was respectably dressed wearing a blue coat, cotton pants, a hat, a belt of circular brass plates and a variety of ornaments, and armed with a flintlock musket of ancient pattern. The little horse was nearly as thin as our males, but garnished with red trimmings and a Mexican saddle and bridle. The most remarkable feature about both men was their neatness. Their hair was finer than is usual with the race and carefully combed. They were arrayed to be sure in their beat attire but, cleanliness is seldom considered by Indians, as forming any part of the most elaborate toilet.

I asked the leader to be directed to water and he pointed to a gap where a ravine appeared to run up the bluff, rather behind the pueblos and signified that there we would find an abundance. He further informed. me that there was an excellent grass camp at the same place. A great deal of pantomime brought about this understanding and then he signified that we must leave the trail and follow him, which we accordingly did, diverging a little to the left from our former course. Our new friend had a pleasant intelligent face which expressed however, misgivings as to our character and object in coming into that unvisited region; but he rode along humming to himself, with a palpable affectation of being cool and unconcerned, occasionally glancing back with a dubious air to see what was going on behind. The 2, who had been selected to bear the brunt of the first interview, had I suppose brought the horse as a means of escape, for soon others of the tribe satisfied of our pacific intentions came up on foot. All were running at the top of their speed. They approached to the very sides of the mules, greatly to the alarm of those animals, and suddenly brought up to shake hands commencing with Inc and continuing through the train. They were clean and nice looking, but no particular costume prevailed. Every available article acquired by trading with other Indians (for they have no communication with whites) had been converted into raiment or material for personal adornment. Their figures were of medium size and indifferently proportioned their features strongly marked and homely, with an expression generally bright and good-natured. Thirty or 40 joined us and the cortege in a little while became of considerable length.

The face of the bluff upon the summit, of which the town was perched, was cut up and irregular. We were led through a passage that wound among sonic low hillocks of sand and rock extending halfway to the top Large flocks of sheep were passed. All but 1 or 2 were jet black, presenting when together a singular appearance. It did not seem possible while ascending through the sand hills that a spring could he forted in such a dry looking place, but presently a crowd was seen upon it mound before a small plateau in the center of which was a circular reservoir 50 feet in diameter, lined with masonry and filled with pure cold water. The basin was fed from a pipe connecting with some source of supply upon the summit of the mesa. The Moquis looked amiably on while the mules wore quenching their thirst, and then my guide informed me that he would conduct us to a grazing camp. Continuing to ascend we came to another reservoir smaller but of more elaborate construction and finish. From this the guide said they got their drinking water the other reservoir being intended for animals. Between the two the face of the bluff had been ingeniously converted into terraces. These were faced with neat masonry and contained gardens each surrounded with raised edge so as to retain water upon the surface. Pipes from the reservoirs permitted them at any time to be irrigated.

Peach trees were growing upon the terraces and in the hollows below. A long flight of stone steps with sharp turns that could easily he defended was built into the face of the precipice, and led from the upper reservoir to the foot of the town. The scene rendered animated by the throngs of Indians in their gaily colored dresses was one of the most remarkable I had over witnessed. My state of admiration was interrupted by the guide who told me to my astonishment that we had reached the camp ground. Besides the danger of the mules trampling upon and ruining the garden it was no place to stop inasmuch as there was not a blade of grass. I called the attention of the Indian to the latter fact, which he did not appear to have considered. While he was reflecting upon the matter we were joined by a pleasant looking middle aged man, with a handsome shell suspended from his neck and a kind of baton in his hand, whom I supposed to be a chief. Like the rest he shook hands all around and held a consultation with the guide and with the crowd generally about the grass. They finally concluded that there was plenty a little farther ahead and we proceeded around the ascent by a side trail that led away from the pueblo. In 10 minutes a spot was reached which all agreed was the best grazing camp the country afforded. I no longer wondered that their 1 horse looked thin. A single animal could have scarily have existed for 3 days upon all the grass in the neighborhood. Some distance back in the valley I bad seen a small patch of grass and now signified to the troubled looking Indians that I would send the train back and let the mules be driven to the reservoir when they needed water I also told him that Dr. Newberry, Mr. Egloffstein and myself would visit the houses before following the rest of the party to the camp. This arrangement seemed satisfactory and the chief accompanied by several friends led the way with an inconvenient alacrity, considering the steepness of the ascent. The stone steps being surmounted we came upon a level summit, and had the walls of the pueblo upon one side and an extensive and beautiful view upon the other. Without giving its time to admire the scene the Indians led us to a ladder planted against the center of the front face of the pueblo. The town is nearly square and surrounded by a stonewall 15 feet high, the top of which forms a landing extending around the whole. Flights of stone steps led from the first to a second landing upon which the houses open. Mounting the stairway opposite to the ladder the Chief crossed to the nearest door mid ushered us into a low apartment from which 2 or 3 others opened toward the interior of the dwelling. Our host courteously asked us to be seated upon some skins spread along the floor against the wall, and presently his wife brought in a vase of water and a tray filled with a singular substance that looked more like sheets of thin, blue wrapping paper rolled up into bundles than anything else that I had over seen. I learned afterward that it was made from corn meal ground very fine made into a gruel and poured over a heated stone to be baked. When dry it has a surface slightly polished like paper. The sheets are folded and rolled together and form the staple article of food with the Moqui. Indians.

As the dish was intended for our entertainment and looked clean we all partook of it. It has a delicate fresh bread flavor mid was not at all unpalatable particularly when eaten with salt. After eating and drinking Mr. Egloffstein took a pipe from his pocket, which was filled and passed around. I noticed then and afterward that the Moquis when commencing to smoke, bow with solemnity toward each point of the compass. While they were engaged with the pipe we had a chance to examine the contents of the apartment. The room was 15 by 10 feet the walls were made of adobes the partitions of substantial beams and the floor laid with clay; in one corner a fireplace and chimney. Everything was clean and tidy. Skins bows and arrows quivers antlers blankets articles of clothing and ornaments were hanging from the walls or arranged upon shelves Vases flat dishes and gourds filled with meal or water were standing along one side of the room. At the other end was a trough divided into compartments in each of which was a sloping stone slab 2 or 3 feet square for grinding corn upon. In a recess of all inner room was piled a goodly store of corn in the ear. I noticed among other things a reed musical instrument with a bell shaped end like a clarionet and a pair of painted drumsticks tipped with gaudy feathers. Another inner room appeared to be a sleeping apartment but this being occupied by females we did not enter though the Indians seemed to be pleased rather than otherwise at the curiosity evinced during the close inspection of their dwelling and furniture.

While Mr. Egloffstein was making a sketch of the place and its owners I had a talk with the latter Spreading a map of the country we had been exploring I pointed out our route and the place with which I supposed they were familiar. They seemed to comprehend and the chief designated upon the map the position of the other 6 Moqui pueblos I told him that we wished to go farther to the north and he signified that 4 days travel in that direction would bring us to a large river. Whether there were watering places between it was difficult from his signs to determine. I then asked for it guide promising a mule to any one that would accompany me whereupon he said that he would be ready to go himself early the next morning. A bargain was likewise made for some sheep, which they agreed to send to camp receiving a blanket in exchange for each animal.

We learned that there were 7 towns; that the name of that which we were visiting was Mooshahneh [Mishongnavi] A second and smaller town was half a mile distant 2 miles westward was a third, which had been seen from camp the evening before. Five or 6 miles to the northeast a bluff was pointed out as the location of 3 others and we were informed that the last of the 7 Oarybe [Oraibi] was still farther distant on the trail toward the great river.

From the heights the ascent to which is so difficult and so easily descended the Moquis can overlook the surrounding country and descry at a vast distance the approach of strangers. The towns themselves would be almost impregnable to an Indian assault. Each pueblo is built around a rectangular court in which we suppose are the springs that tarnish the supply to the reservoirs. The exterior walls, which are of stone, have no openings and would have to be scaled or battered down before access could be gained to the interior.

The successive stories are set back one behind the other. The lower rooms are reached through trapdoors from the first landing. The houses are 3 rooms deep and open upon the interior court. The arrangement is as strong and compact as could well he devised but as the court is common and the landings are separated by no partitions it involves a certain community of residence The strength of the position unfortunately does not protect the animals upon the plains below and our friends informed us with rueful faces that the
Comanches and Navajos had driven off a great deal of their stock during the previous year. ‘The Moquis do not look warlike and bet for their natural and artificial defenses would doubtless long ago have been exterminated by their powerful and aggressive neighbors.

Curious faces were peering at us from the openings and landings during these observations. Many of the women and girls made their appearance all but 1 or 2 having previously kept out of sight. The hair of the young girls is gathered into large knots or rather knobs, one at each corner of the forehead which give them an odd appearance not their skins are rather fair and their faces pretty. They are quiet and retiring neat in appearance and prepossessing in expression and manner. The members of the tribe are of a much lighter hue than any Indians met upon our route.

Having made a long visit we descended to camp inviting the chief and 2 of his friends to go with us which they did taking us clown by a more direct route than that by which we had ascended. The sheep were soon forthcoming to agreement and several brought bags of corn and little packages of dried peaches to trade. Some beautiful and really valuable Navajo blankets were also offered and readily exchanged for a woolen shirt or some common article of apparel.

The 3 who accompanied us down 1 invited into my tent and regaled with bread and molasses, which they ate greedily. They had scarcely commenced eating when suddenly as many Indians as the tent could hold entered without invitation and joined in the repast.

Like the Zuni Indians the Moquis have albinos among them. A woman with a fair light complexion and hair has been in camp this evening. It seemed incredible that she could be of Indian parentage but such cases are by no means rare in the pueblos of New Mexico.

Satisfied with the conduct of the chief I gave him a red sash, which excited great admiration. Ile then departed promising to he in camp early in the morning ready to accompany us as guide.
The day has been still and clear and the heat intense. It is hard. to realize that the region about us was covered with snow but 48 hours ago and that we were nearly frozen by the cold wind and pelting sleet.

Camp 94 Maybe [Oraibi]
May 12, 1858

This morning the Moquis were in camp exhibiting an insatiable curiosity to see everything that was going on. Our promised guide did not come with the others and I suppose he was preparing himself for the journey. Corn meal was brought in fir trade alit one individual opening his blanket disclosed a dozen fresh eggs for which he found it ready sale.

Starting for Oraybe it was difficult to decide being without a guide which direction to take. I inquired of the Indians for the trail to Oraybe but they could or would not understand find no one would consent to lead the way. Concluding to pursue a northwest course we started through the sand hills following as nearly as possible that direction but had scarcely ridden a hundred yards when the chief appeared over the brow of a hill running as the Indians had done on the day before at frill speed. He rushed to the head of the train shook hands told me that he had to go back to his house but would soon overtake us by a short cut ordered a boy near by to guide us meanwhile and disappeared as rapidly as he hall approached.

Under the guidance of the lad we followed a sinuous and difficult road through the hills that form the slope from the bluffs to the plain below The trail led close to a second town whose inhabitants were gathered on the walls and housetops to gaze at as we passed.

Two more reservoirs and several gardens and peach orchards were seen. A few miles of tedious traveling brought us to the edge of the valley. The chief overtook us here and a mule was furnished to him upon which lie mounted and led the way.

The country now traversed was the most promising looking for agricultural purposes than any yet seen. It had nearly all been under cultivation. Immense fields were passed and our guide stopped constantly to gossip with his neighbors who were busy planting corn. Their method of doing this was very primitive. With a sharp stick a hole was punched in the ground a foot deep and the corn dropped in and covered up No women were engaged in the labor. Unlike other tribes of Indians the men do the outdoor work leaving to the females the care of the households the spinning weaving [the men do the weaving] sewing etc. At the end of a few miles Oraybe [Oraibi] came in sight. It was larger than the other pueblos. Though we had made but a short march several mules gave out and could not be driven even without their packs. The scanty grass of the 3 preceding days had taken away the remnant of strength left to them. We had to camp though the pasturage was neither good nor abundant.

The Oraybe Indians are more quiet than their brethren of Mooshahueh [Mishougnavi]. They collect in a circle to witness anything that may be going on but are almost silent and when they speak or laugh do so in a suppressed tone like children under restraint. There is much uniformity of dress. All were wrapped in Navajo blankets with broad white and dark stripes and a crowd at a distance looks like the face of a stratified rock.

The external and internal arrangements of the houses are like those of the other town but there is generally less neatness and thrift in the appearance both of the place and its inhabitants.

Camp 95 Oraybe Gardens
May 13, 1858

We were off soon after sunrise but had proceeded only a mile when an Indian came running after us. He said that he had been dispatched by the Oraybe chief to conduct us to the next water.

Selecting a course among numerous intersecting trails that would have puzzled a stranger considerably, he led the way to the east of the bluff on which Oraybe stands. Eight or 9 miles brought the train to an angle formed by 2 faces of the precipice. At the foot was a reservoir and a broad road wound up the steep ascent. On either side the bluffs were cut into terraces and laid out into gardens similar to those seen at Mooshabuch [Mishougnavi] and like them irrigated from an upper reservoir. The whole reflected great credit upon Moqui ingenuity and skill in the department of engineering. The walls of the terraces and reservoirs were of partially dressed stone well and strongly built, and the irrigating pipes conveniently arranged. The little gardens were neatly laid out; 2 or 3 men and as many women were working in them as we passed.

While on the road today the guide pointed out a Place where the Navajos had recently made a descent upon the Moqui flocks. He had himself been herding at the time and showed me 2 sears upon his sides from wounds received at the hands of the conquerors who made off with their stock

Camp 97 Oraybe Gardens
May 15 1858

The top of the mesa on which we had been encamped proved to be very narrow and before we had traveled a mile we came to its northern edge, where there were the usual precipice and foothills forming the descent to a broad valley. Here also the bluffs had been formed into terraced gardens and reservoirs. The descent was steep and difficult. The valley furnished better grass than any seen since leaving Flax River, but the soil was soft and the traveling laborious. We crossed the lowland and ascended the opposite mesa. The trail was found and its coarse followed for 10 or 11 miles when most of the mules again gave out and became unable to proceed; though the weather was cloudy and cool and they had rested and had had tolerable grazing and water during the previous day and night it was evident that their strength was gone.

To fully test the practicability of proceeding further, 2 experienced water hunters mounted on the least broken down mules rode ahead to explore. If they found water they were to send up a smoke as a signal for the train to advance. They traveled about 20 miles finding a deserted Indian encampment where water had been at some seasons, but which was then perfectly dry. From the point where they halted, on the summit of a lefty plateau the country could be overlooked for 50 or 60 miles and there was every indication that it was a waterless desert. There was no alternative but to return and the next morning we retraced our way and encamped near the northern Oraybe gardens at the edge of the large valley. We remained here for a day to let the mules rest and graze before undertaking the trip to Fort Defiance.

Several of the tribe have been working in the gardens and tending the sheep during the day. In the former labor here the women as well as the men assist. The walls of the terraces and the gardens themselves are kept hi good order and preservation; the stone and earth for construction and repairs they carry in blankets upon their shoulders from the valley below. The soil is of poor character and the amount which they extract from it speaks well for their perseverance and industry. Both turkeys and chickens have been seen in the pueblos. They have the material for excellent subsistence if they choose to avail themselves of it. In the neighborhood are beds of coal, which Dr. Newberry thinks of a character to burn well.

Camp 98 Near Tegua. [Tewa]
May 17, 1858.

Climbing the Bluff south of camp and descending the opposite side of the mesa we were joined by the promised Moqui guide who came up according to what appears an invariable custom at the last moment and in a great hurry.

When the place was reached where the trail turned west to go to Oraybe, I asked the guide if he could not take a short cut to Tegua [Tewa] the most eastern pueblo which the Moqui chief said was on the trail to Fort Defiance. He said that he could and struck off toward the east. In ascending a mesa 5 or 6 miles beyond an almost impassable precipice was encountered, but the mules after sundry falls succeeded in reaching the summit. Beyond was a valley 9 or 10 miles wide, and upon the opposite side a plateau with 3 Moqui towns [Town Sichumnavi and Walpi] standing in a line upon the top. We camped 3 miles from them sending the mules to their reservoir for water. The valley was well covered with grass and large flocks of sheep attested the wealth of the citizens of this department of the Moquis. Almost the entire population came out to see us, evincing the greatest curiosity at everything they witnessed. In dress and general appearance they have a smarter look than the citizens of the other towns and seem to be more well to do in the world. All the Moquis have small hands and feet but ordinary fingers. Their hair is fine and glossy. Many have an Italian physiognomy. The men wear loose cotton trousers and frequently a kind of blouse for an upper garment over which they throw a blanket. The dress of the women is invariably a loose black woolen gown with a gold colored stripe around the waist and the bottom of the skirt. The stripe is of cotton which they grow in small quantities. The material of the dress is of their own weaving.

They seem to be a harmless well meaning people industrious at times though always ready for a lounge and gossip They are honest so far that they do not steal but their promises are not to be relied upon. They lack force of character and the courageous qualities which the Zuñians and some other Pueblo Indians have the credit of possessing. Their chiefs exercise a good deal of authority but by what tenure they hold their power or how many there are we could not learn.

A singular statement made by the Moquis is that they do not all speak the same language. At Oraybe [Oraibi] some of the Indians, actually profess to be unable to understand, what was said by the Mooshahuch [Mishougnavi] and the latter told me that the language of the 2 towns was different. At Tegna [Towa] they say that a third distinct tongue is spoken.

These Indians are identical in race manners habits and mode of living. They reside within a circuit of 10 miles and save the occasional visit of a member of some other tribe have been for centuries isolated from the rest of the world and it would seem almost incredible that the inhabitants of the different pueblos should not preserve a system of intercourse. If what they say is true it would appear that this is not done. Tegna [Tewa] and the 2 adjacent towns are separated by a few miles from Mooshahneh [Mishougnavi] and another pair [of towns]. Oraybe [Oraibi] is as little greater distance from both. Each place depending upon its internal strength is independent as regards defense. The people are indolent and apathetic and have abandoned the habit of visiting each other till the languages which with all Indian tribes are subject to great mutations have gradually become dissimilar.

Camp 101 Pueblo Creek
May 20 1858

Several Moquis who have been visiting the Navajos swelled the train today. There are now 23 accompanying us and as we proceed mounted Navajos fall into the ranks till we find ourselves moving in great force.

Countless herds of horses and docks of sheep were grazing upon time plain The Moquis said that we were entering one of the utmost thickly populated sections of the Navajo territory.

Hundreds of Navajos have come into camp and considering their natural impudence and the weakness of our party have astonished rise by the correctness of their behavior.

One old fellow was pointed out by a companion who spoke pretty good Spanish as the chief. They were curious and a little concerned to know why we had come from the west. No party of whites had ever entered their country from that direction The chief said that we must have just left the country of the Apaches who had lately stolen the Moquis’ horses, of which act the Navajos had been wrongfully accused; that the Apaches had plundered them also, and that as our animals were safe we must be friends to the Apaches, which proved that the Apaches the Moquis and the Americans wore all leagued against “the poor little Navajos” to use his own expression. The reasoning was logical but the throng of saucy vagabonds that were listening to the speech with grins that they took no pains to conceal were not calculated to enlist much sympathy, and we concluded that the pitiful harangue was intended for the benefit of the Moquis to disarm them of their suspicions in regard to the perpetrator’s of the late theft.

I perceived however that the Moquis were as unconvinced as ourselves by the plausible reasoning. We asked how far we had still to travel before reaching Fort Defiance and they said that at single day’s march would take us there.

The Navajos displayed one trait of character, which I had never seen exhibited by Indians: they paid for what they got. A crowd of women surrounded the place where the doctor and myself were sitting, and were amusing themselves by inspecting the remnant of the Indian goods and trinkets that had been brought along. Having no further occasion for the articles, as the expedition was now so nearly ended, and pleased with the unexpected civility we had experienced, I distributed most of the things to those standing about. The women were highly delighted and not long after some of the men whom I supposed to he their husbands brought into camp a quantity of cheese and joints of mutton enough to have lasted our company to week. I offered to pay for what we required but they insisted upon my accepting all as a gift.

May 22, 1858 Lieutenant Ives reached Fort Defiance.

It will be observed that in the intercourse of Lieutenant Ives with the Moqui Indians they were hospitable and generous and at all times aided and welcomed him. This is the universal testimony of all white people who lave come in contact with them.

The Moquis In 1859 to 1864

Daring the period of the fearful and bloody Navajo war in Arizona and New .Mexico 1859-1865 the Moquis aided the United States troops when necessary but most of the time they remained peacefully at home tilling the soil. They also went on the warpath against the Navajos under the command of Colonel Kit Carson.

The territory of Arizona was organized from New Mexico in 1863 and the Moqui Pueblos became a part of the population of Arizona April 1 1863. Charles D. Posten, who had been appointed superintendent of Indian affairs for Arizona made the following statement in regard to the Moqui Pueblos to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs from New York in 1864. It will be observed that Mr. Posten calls these Indians Moquins.

The Moquins are one of the most interesting tribes of Indians in Arizona. They have almost a classical reputation from the extravagant stories that were told about them by the early Spanish explorers and the interest they excited in Europe. The Moquins have continued to live in their mountain homes cultivate the maize, tend their flocks and herds and make themselves comfortable blankets for the winter and cotton for the summer. Their numbers are variously estimated at from 4,000 to 7,000.



MLA Source Citation:

Department of the Interior. Report on Indians Taxed and Indians not Taxed in the United States, Except Alaska at the Eleventh Census: 1890. Washington DC: Government Printing Office. 1894. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 18 September 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/the-moqui-tribe-in-history-1858-1864.htm - Last updated on Oct 21st, 2012


Categories: ,
Topics: ,

Contribute to the Conversation!

Our "rules" are simple. Keep the conversation on subject and mind your manners! If this is your first time posting, we do moderate comments before we let them appear... so give us a while to get to them. Once we get to know you here, we'll remove that requirement.

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Newsletter Signup

We currently provide two newsletters. Why not take both for a run?

Genealogy Update: We send out this newsletter whenever we feature a new, or significantly updated, collection or database on our website.

Circle of Nations: We send out this newsletter whenever we feature a new (or significantly updated) Native American collection or database on our website.

Once you've clicked on the Subscribe button above you'll receive an email from us requesting confirmation. You must confirm the email before you will be able to receive any newsletter.