Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 5.djvu/365

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AMONG the aboriginal tribes of the Southwest is that of the Moquis, an isolated remnant of a former wide-spread nation. These Indians are of particular interest, especially as a study for the ethnologist, on account of their peculiar manner of living, strange customs, etc., as well as in being little known and seldom visited by the white man.

While the literature of American ethnology teems with interesting accounts of the aboriginal race of this country, and is replete with the history of the various other tribes, but little is said regarding the singular and romantic branch of the Pueblos who call themselves "Moquis." Year after year military expeditions have traversed the far West, yet few have been led to the hidden recesses of this tribe; moreover, theirs is a region seldom visited by civilians, and of these the few coming thither are principally New-Mexicans.

It was the sixth day after leaving Fort Defiance, that our party, under Lieutenant Russell (of the "Expedition for Explorations and Surveys west of the One Hundredth Meridian," in charge of Lieutenant George M. Wheeler, U. S. Engineers), began to near the Moquis villages, concerning the inhabitants of which we had listened to so many thrilling and marvelous stories. Immediately before us was spread a wide, sandy basin, whose loose, dusty surface offered no verdure to delight the eye, or relieve the wearisome monotony of the barren landscape. Ten miles away over this trackless desert loomed up, on the western horizon, wide and precipitous cliffs whose heights it would seem impossible to climb. "On those cliffs," said our Navajo guide, "live the Moquis." A few hours later, and we had crossed the sterile waste, and were at the base of the sandstone masses whose outline we had previously traced in the far distance, there to find perched on lofty summits the habitations of the singular people we had come so far to see.

As we approached, human beings began to throng the rim of the precipitous bluffs, their dusky features betraying curiosity over an event so novel and unexpected as the presence of white men at the very threshold of their citadel. We now began the ascent to the villages; a narrow path led, by a serpentine route, up the dizzy heights, and, in single file, we soon gained the summit; not, however, until we had passed several Moquis posted, sentinel-like, along the approach. Once up the steeps, we were soon surrounded by Indians, when, no-lens volens a hearty hand-shaking ensued, and friendly intercourse forthwith began.