The Ark On Superstition Mountain

By Charles M. Skinner in 1896

A Pima Ki, or home, in Pima, Arizona, 1907

A Pima Ki, or home, in Pima, Arizona, 1907.

The Pima Indians of Arizona say that the father of all men and animals was the butterfly, Cherwit Make (earth-maker), who fluttered down from the clouds to the Blue Cliffs at the junction of the Verde and Salt Rivers and from his own sweat made men. As the people multiplied, they grew selfish and quarrelsome so Cherwit Make was disgusted with his handiwork and resolved to drown them all. But, first, he told them, in the voice of the north wind, to be honest and to live in peace. The prophet Suha, who interpreted this voice, was called a fool for listening to the wind, but next night came the east wind and repeated the command, with an added threat that the ruler of heaven would destroy them all if they did not reform.

Pima Woman by Edward S. Curtis, 1905

Pima Woman by Edward S. Curtis, 1905.

But the evil was not all gone. There was one Hauk, a devil of the mountains, who stole their daughters and slew their sons. One day, while the women were spinning flax and cactus fiber and the men were gathering maize, Hauk descended into the settlement and stole another of Suha’s daughters. The patriarch, whose patience had been taxed to its limit, then vowed to slay the devil. He watched to see by what way he entered the valley. He silently followed him into the Superstition Mountains; he drugged the cactus wine that his daughter was to serve to him; then, when he had drunk it, Suha emerged from his place of hiding and beat out the brains of the stupefied fiend.

Some of the devil’s brains were scattered and became the seed for other evil, but there was less wickedness in the world after Hauk had been disposed of than there had been before. Suha taught his people to build adobe houses, dig with shovels, irrigate their land, weave cloth, and avoid wars. But on his deathbed, he foretold to them that they would grow arrogant with wealth, covetous of the lands of others, and would wage wars for gain. When that time came, there would be another flood, and no one should be saved–the bad should vanish, and the good would leave the earth and live in the sun. So firmly do the Pimas rely on this prophecy that they will not cross the Superstition Mountains, for there sits Cherwit Make — awaiting the culmination of their wickedness to let loose on the earth a mighty sea that lies dammed behind the range.


Compiled and edited by Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, updated April 2024.

Also See:

Folklore & Superstition

Legends, Ghosts, Myths & Mysteries

Native American Legends & Tales

Native American Tribes

About the Author:  Charles M. Skinner (1852-1907) authored the complete nine-volume set of Myths and Legends of Our Own Land in 1896. This tale is excerpted from these excellent works now in the public domain.