I meet Antonia Torres Gonzalez who runs the little cultural center of the native Cucopah tribe. I feel like she is skeptical at first and I soon understand why. It is something I have witnessed on this trip, whenever talking to representatives of the Native American tribes. There is a way “we” want to see them, and there is a way they are, which many times their want to protect from the outsider, because they have been misinterpreted, misunderstood and their image has been manipulated many times over. It is a conflict that I will try to describe in more depth when I take the time to write my book.
However, after we have spent some time together, Antonia opens up to me and I get to listen to her tell me the story of how the Colorado River was created, according to the Cucopah native narrative. I will try to share a short version with you as best as I can.
Antonia start by telling me “Well, we think the river actually flows upstream.” She laughs. “I will tell you why.”
Near San Felipe there was a serpent in the sea that had very big testicles. And there was a Cucopah kid, who always went out with his family, to look at the serpent that was out there in the sea. And he noticed, that the one of the testicles was red and one was blue. He set out to hunt and aimed at the blue testicle of the serpent. And he shot it with his arrow. That’s what formed the Sea of Cortez. And then he aimed at the red testicle and shot that with an arrow too. And that is how the Colorado River was created and this is also why the river is red. The water went wild with waves, because the serpent was in so much pain, that it was raging around and turned into a turned into a sea monster, seeking revenge. The sea monster sent its waves higher and higher, racing them after the kid who was running away. The kid was screaming for help from his aunt, the mountain peak next to the sea. He screamed and screamed and his aunt heard him and him and she wanted to help. So she took earwax from her ear and made a big ball. When the sea monster came closer, she threw the ball at the monster and she broke its neck and it died. So the biggest mountain here is this monsters head, that has stayed here ever since. That is why we have the Colorado River and that is how it was born here. — You can watch Antonia tell the story herself here.
Antonia takes me further down into the delta and shows me where they used to fish. There is no more water in any of those places. It is mostly just saline and cracked soil.
Antonias mother is one of the last Cucopah who speak the ancient language. There are hardly any funds to keep the culture alive, and according to Antonia the government really doesn’t care about that. So Antonia has formed her own initiative wheee she teaches the ancient songs and the dance to local Cucopah kids. She has no aim of making it bigger or even getting governmental funding for it, as she has made the experience that this always comes at a price of authenticity.