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Religious Practices of the Diegueño Indians, by T.T. Waterman, [1910], at


The Eagle dance or ceremony, expa ima, is a mourning ceremony held on the anniversary of the death of a kwaipai, or leader of the dances. 90

An Eagle dance which was observed by the writer at Mesa Grande, occurred at the end of a three-day festival. During each of the first two days the people in holiday attire loitered about the fiesta grounds, busying themselves in a general way with the usual "fiesta" events. A peon gambling game 90a was running during most of the time; and in the afternoons and

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evenings there was considerable gambling with poker and chuck-a-luck. Every afternoon, however, a Whirling or Tapakwirp dance was held, and after nightfall, a War dance or Horloi. In a cage under a brush shelter or "ramada" off to one side, there was kept a large bald-eagle. Some months before he had been purchased in readiness for this ceremony from the people to the southward. This had been in accordance with well established usage. If a village used an eagle from a nest near by, it would be hard, it was thought, to make the spirit leave his body when he was killed. It would have an attachment for its old home and would therefore linger about.

Each afternoon before the Tapakwirp or Tatahuila dance, the daughter of the old leader or kwaipai wailed for some time. This was the only indication that a mourning ceremony was in progress.

On the third evening, toward nightfall, an extra large fire was kindled, and for two or three hours the old men danced the Horloi. The final part of the dance was, however, omitted. The dance-circle was then cleared, and one of the oldest men announced: "All will sit down and smoke tobacco." After some time an old man, said to be called the kaponail91 who sat on a stool to one side, exclaimed "mwau." Several others then went to the middle of the dance-circle and motioned upward three times, grunting as they did so. Then a so-called "capitan" made a long and very emphatic harangue. He said that the ceremony they were about to perform was very ancient. He explained that it had not been held for a long time, but that they were going to perform it just as had always been done. The kwaipai had died, he proceeded, and the old men had determined to get together clothes and property and send it to him, and to kill the eagle and send it with messages of respect to him. The eagle, he explained, in this ceremony, though he appeared to be a bird, was really a man. He was not to be killed by ordinary means, but would be "witched to death" by the dancers. Nobody therefore was to move about or make a noise, but all were to remain quiet and see this wonder. It was

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extremely hard to kill the eagle in this way, and the dancers could do it only because they had a great deal of "power."

Soon after the close of this speech the oldest one of the dancers began singing and sounding his rattle off in the darkness beyond the light of the fire. Soon he appeared in the dance-circle at the head of a line of old men. One of these carried the eagle. The other people of the rancheria fell in line behind them and all marched around the fire, twisting from side to side. As the eagle was carried into the circle, the daughter of the deceased kwaipai wailed and threw some new calico over him. The song was as follows:

otolyi wam
emi.lyi wam

flapping he-is-gone 92
on-his-feet he-is-gone
my eagle
my eagle 93

After this song had been repeated a number of times, there was a ceremonial pause or rest, during which the eagle was passed to another old man. 93a During these pauses there was a general wailing. The dancing continued in this way without change until seven songs in all had been sung. They were obtained as phonograph records on the day following the ceremony, the order being established by notes and texts taken down at the time of singing. Although the arrangement was afterwards learned to be fortuitous, 94 the reader can see that these songs seem to outline a myth or story.

wumi wam
icpa kukonyil

crying he-is-gone 95
eagle black



expa kunumsup
ewel hakwimp

Said to mean: White Eagle puts his nest on big cliffs. Eagle from the West puts his nest on sycamore trees along the edge of creeks. 96

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wumi amai yiwama

crying up-in-the-air he-is 97



kwonyūwai mayiwa
expa apakwal.

(the)-nest there-it-is 98
eagle chicken-hawk



amu tcapuk xatca tcapuk
wiu amai inyau purkak

Orion(?) coming-out Pleiades coming-out 99
now up-in-sky sun (he)-finishes



expa lamalama kiwiw!

eagle is-a-man, look! 100

In the pauses between several of these songs, one man held the eagle aloft while another took his stand some distance away and pointed a small stick at the bird. He aimed this stick as a man aims a rifle, twisting it over and over, however, with his thumb and forefinger. At the same time he exclaimed "ahahaha! ahahaha!" Some of the dancers dipped the end of the stick in the fire before they pointed it at the eagle. In this way death is supposed to be conveyed through the stick. Following this action a second man always approached the eagle and waved his feather tuft in front of it. Then he brushed or "dusted" its head three times 101 with the plume. At the same time they blew or made a laughing sound. Several of the old men at various times blew tobacco smoke over the bird. All this was done "to brush away death, so they could tell him more." 101a

At the conclusion of the last song above, several people, relatives of the dead kwaipai, approached the eagle and threw new calico over it, wailing at the same time. The most muscular one of the old men then took the eagle, and held it aloft at arm's length. Another dancer took a position across the dance-circle. Raising his stick this second man pointed it slowly and impressively at the eagle. After a pause, he broke into a sudden shout, " ahahaha!" and made his stick quiver. At the same moment the man who was holding the eagle pressed his finger in over its heart and killed it. The muscular exertion required showed in the trembling of his arms as he made the effort. The attention

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of the onlookers had of course been attracted to the other man by his peculiar actions and his sudden shout. The real cause of the eagle's death seemed not to be understood by the onlookers.

As the eagle sank forward dead, many of the company wailed. Someone threw another piece of calico several yards long over the bird. The daughter of the old leader in whose honor the ceremony was made scattered considerable money in small change among the crowd. This was gathered up by anybody who wanted it.

Soon the old man who directed the ceremony began to sound his rattle again. The singing and dancing continued far into the night. The old men took turns carrying the dead eagle around the fire. The songs were as follows:

awir amanha

wings he-flies 102



axa inyau winyau kiwiw

water I am-beating look! 103



axa wakum wakumu
mixa-i wakumu

water rolls rolls 104
your-water rolls



axa kaiakwiru-u
mixa kaiakwiru

water its-edge 105
water-of-ocean its-edge



expa ruara kiwiw
expa manamana kiwiw

eagle is-swooping look 106
eagle is-flying look



kwinyora kwinyora
axwata kwinyora
inya expa

colored colored 107
red colored
my eagle



waiyu il waiyu
wam il wam
ik-apa namcap
wam-i wam
axawi ik-aspa
inya il waiyu

coming black (-eagle) coming 108
going black (-eagle) going
eagle white
going going
to-water eagle
my black (-eagle) is coming



iū nya axa

eye my water 109

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An important part of the ceremony remained yet to be performed. That was the burying of the eagle. This was not done, through some misunderstanding, until the following morning. The grave for the eagle was dug by one of the old men in the center of the dance-circle. Its long axis was north and south. No songs or ceremonies of any kind accompanied the digging. The dead eagle, wrapped tightly in a new piece of red calico, was laid on the west side of the grave. After the first part of the ceremony had been completed, and before the eagle was thus brought out for the burial, the longest feathers had been ceremonially plucked, in order to make a dance-skirt. This had been done by the old men in a private place. During the operation no word was spoken, in order "not to bring bad luck."

The leader took his place, kneeling, on the west side of the grave and facing it. Four other old men knelt about, completing the circle. The leader then took the eagle in his hands and waved it three times in a circle, saying each time "wu—o." The other men grunted deeply after each circling motion. The leader then raised it aloft three times, while the others grunted again each time. Finally he waved it first to the left and then to the right, while the others grunted each time as before. Then he began to pat the bird with both hands together, while the others imitated his movements with their own hands, but did not touch the eagle directly. As this patting progressed, the men chanted in a curious choppy monotone:

wesi wesi
ki-i kiya
papyau wesi
kiyi kiyi

done done
... ...
... done
... ...

At the end of three repetitions of this song, they all expelled their breath very forcibly three times. The whole was then repeated three times. Then the leader exclaimed "tca," and all said together, in deep guttural tones, "hi u hi," or something to which these sounds are an approximation. The eagle was then put in the hole and the dirt pushed in from all sides. Another piece of red calico was thrown in the air by the daughter of the dead leader.

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The old man who had led the singing then pressed the mound of earth three times with his hands, saying " Once I put it, twice I put it, three times I put it." All grunted once at each phrase. Then all stood up and began pressing the grave with their feet. This movement gradually assumed the form of a march around the grave, circling from right to left. The women had in the meantime gathered on the west of the dance-circle, and as the old men marched both men and women chanted.

toki toki
aso aso

[paragraph continues] Their utterance in this song was very abrupt, sounding like "to! ki! to! ki! a! so! a! so!" When this had been repeated three times, the old men motioned away into the air with a grunt. Throughout this song the man who led in the singing made a steady long roll with his rattle.

At the end of the song there was a short pause. Then the dancers turned sideways to face the grave, and stepped sideways to the right. The song, in which both men and women took part, was as follows:

mero romki
hiyau tcaau
alwe potaxau

[paragraph continues] This was repeated three times, then three grunts and stamps were given by all the dancers. After the song the dancers broke up and transferred their interest to a peon game which was then progressing. The Eagle dance was over.


314:90 Luiseño accounts in the present series, VIII, pp. 7, 113, 114, 182, 227; Am. Anthr., n.s. VII, 625, 1905. An early reference is in the present series, VIII, 1-27, 1908, A. L. Kroeber, "A Mission Record of the California Indians," in which see p. 4.

314:90a See below.

315:91 Cf. preceding, p. 294.

316:92 Said of a bird hopping along on the ground before he launches himself into the air.

316:93 University of California phonograph record 707(2).

316:93a These brief but frequent intermissions are characteristic of all Diegueño ceremonies.

316:94 The leader explained that he had not heard the songs for years, and sung them just as he could remember them.

316:95 University of California phonograph record 711(1).

316:96 Ibid., 712(2).

317:97 Ibid., 713(1). The song refers to the young eaglets in the nest.

317:98 Ibid., 713(2). The song is to explain that "Eagle and Chickenhawk once were friends".

317:99 Ibid., 709(1).

317:100 Ibid., 712(1).

317:101 One man did it four times instead of three.

317:101a More messages for the deceased kwapai?

318:102 University of California phonograph record 703.

318:103 Ibid., 705(2). The waves say this to the eagle.

318:104 Ibid., 706(1).

318:105 University of California phonograph record 706(2). The eagle says this as he walks in the edge of the surf.

318:106 Ibid., 706(3).

318:107 Ibid., 707(1).

318:108 Ibid., 708(1).

318:109 Ibid., 708(3). Sung as they wept for the eagle.

Next: The “War” Dance