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About the story
What’s with this “Wren” thing?
   The oldest extant version of the fable we are presenting here appeared in 1913 in the first volume of a two-volume anthology of Low Saxon folktales (Plattdeutsche Volksmärchen “Low German Folktales”) collected by Wilhelm Wisser (1843–1935). Read more ...

Yoem Noki

Yoeme (Hiaki, Yaqui)

Many Yoemem retain their ancestral shamanist traditions alongside Christianity. The coat of arms of the Mexican state of Sorora includes an image of a Yoeme deer dancer.

Language information: Traditionally, the Yoeme language has been referred to as “Yaqui” after the speakers’ homeland, which they call Hiakim, and the Yaqui river (Yoeme Hiak Vatwe) that runs through it. The speakers call themselves Yoemem, which is the plural form of Yoeme, basically meaning “human being” or “person”. Among linguists and anthropolists the name “Yoeme” (with the plural form “Yoemem”) is now current instead of “Yaqui”. In Mexico, “Yoreme” is sometimes used as well, but most of the time this refers to the closely related Mayo language and its speakers, so confusion can arise in this regard.
     There are indications that the Yoemem’s ancestors migrated extensively and mingled with numerous other indigenous North Americans, apparently including the Zuñi (A:shiwi). Their earliest known homeland is on the central coast of what is now the Mexican state of Sonora, in the general area of Guaymas and Ciudad Obregón, mostly in the municipality of Cajeme, in the Yaqui Yalley. This is still the main abode of the Yoemem of Mexico. Some Yoeme communities can be found south of there, in the state of Sinaloa.
     It took Spanish colonial forces decades to “pacify” the rather well organized Yoemem. After Jesuit missionaries were admitted on Yoeme soil, the people soon came to live in eight pueblos around mission churches: Espiritu Santo de Cócorit (Ko’oko’im), La Asuncion de Nuestra Señora de Rahum (Raahum), La Navidad del Señor de Vícam (Vikam), San Ignacio de Tórim (Torim), San Miguel de Belem (Veenem), Santa Barbara de Huirivis (Wiivisim), Santa Rosa de Bácum (Vahkom), and La Santisima Trinidad de Pótam (Potam).
     However, Spanish colonial interference with Yoeme affairs and its expulsion of the Jesuits from Yoeme land led to repeated conflicts, in which at times the Yoemem fought in an alliance with their neighbors, the Mayo (Yoreme), Ópata, and Pima (Akimel O’odham) whose languages and cultures are fairly closely related to their own. Mexican independence (1821) did not see an end to the resistance of the Yoemem and their allies, the zenith of which was a rebellion that lasted from 1825 to 1833. The government’s chicanery and brutality against the Yoemem continued. In 1868, the army burnt 150 Yoemem to death inside a church. An unsuccessful Yoeme uprising under the leadership of Cajemé (Kahe’eme, José Maria Leyva, 1835–1887) provoked various reprisals. In the “ethnic transfer” program to make room for European immigration, tens of thousands of Yoemem were transported to the Yucatán peninsula where they were sold as slaves and perished in large numbers under horrendous working conditions.
     At that time, many Yoemem sought refuge in the United States of America. Most settled in Arizona. In 1964, the US government granted the Yoemem 202 acres of land near Tuscon, Arizona, and in 1978 it recognized the local Yoemem as the Pascua Yaqui Tribe. YOEME (geographical)Many Yoemem also moved to other parts of the state, notably to Guadalupe (Yoeme Waluupe) and Scottsdale (Yoeme Eskatel). It has been claimed that some Yoemem have been living on the US side of the border since before that time, even prior to European settlement.
     To a large extent, the Yoeme language continues to be the primary carrier of oral literature, although it has been written for a half millennium now. It plays an important role also in shamanist ceremonies that continue alongside Christianity, or rather interwoven with it. All of these convey and celebrate Yoeme cosmology according to which there are four worlds: those of animals, humans, flowers and death. The deer plays an important role as a connection with the world of flowers, a type of paradisical utopia. Deer dancing and singing ceremonies (maaso bwikam), led by a deer dance elder (pahko’ola ‘ceremony elder’), are of paramount importance and have become iconic of the Yoeme people. Much of modern Yoeme literature, especially poetry, uses such traditional themes. Aside from authentic ceremonial songs, there are folksongs as well as modern entertainment songs in mainstream Mexican styles but sung in Yoeme.
     Belonging to the Cáhita sub-branch of the Taracahitic branch of Uto-Aztecan, Yoeme is the closest relative to the language of the Mayo people (Yoremem). On purely linguistic grounds one might go as far as regarding them as being two dialect groups of the same language. Yoeme is also fairly closely related to O’odham (Pima, Papago, which is also used on the US side of the border) and Tarahumara, less closely to Nahuatl (Aztec, Nāhuatlahtōlli). The largest Uto-Aztecan language area is in the western part of the United States of America, better known member languages being Cahuilla (Kawia), Comanche (Nųmų tekwapų), Hopi (Hopilàvayi), Northern Paiute (Numu), Southern Paiute (including Ute) and Shoshone (Newe daigwape).
     Virtually all Yoeme speakers of Mexico are also quite proficient in Spanish (Castilian). Most of those on the US side of the border are proficient in both Spanish and English. In Mexico, Yoeme has contacts primarily with its close relative Mayo (Yoreme), also with Tarahumara and with O’odham, besides Spanish. The Yoeme call the Tohono O’odham Hua Yoeme (“wild people”) and their language Hua Yoem Noki (“wild people’s speech”). They call the Mayo Maayo, their language Mao Noki and their land Maayom. A “non-indigenous” Mexican is Yori or Yoi, the same name for ‘Spaniard’, and the Spanish language is Yoi Noki. An American is a Ringo, from Spanish gringo, and the English language is Ringo Noki.
     Yoeme sentence structure is SOV (subject-object-verb). A notable morphophonological feature is truncation of compounds; e.g. Yoeme > Yoem Noki ‘Yoeme language’, wooki ‘foot’, ‘claw’, ‘toe’ > wok sutum ‘toenail’. Another interesting feature is reduplication; e.g. vamse ‘hurries’ > vamvamse ‘usually hurries’, wiúta ‘tear it down’ > wiwiúta ‘usually tears it down’, wíuta ‘wave it’ > wíuwiuta ‘usually waves it’, bwiika ‘sing’ > bwibwika ‘occasionally sing’. Remarkable is sound symbolism involving positive /l/ and negative /r/. For instance, chukuli means ‘black’ in a positive sense, while chukuri is its derogatory equivalent. This can play a role for instance in the use of the deverbal noun suffix -leo ‘one who’, as in the case of yeuleo and yeureo which mean ‘player’ (from yeewe ‘to play’) in a positive and negative sense respectively. The Mexican Spanish feature of realizing syllable-final /s/ as [h] has been adopted by Yoeme to some extent and seems to have affected the native phonology in that it applies before consonants; e.g. Spanish Pascua ‘Easter’ > pahko ‘ceremony’, Spanish Dios > Lios ‘God’ (nominative) > Liohta ‘God’ (objective), vaso ‘grass’ > (*vastesia >) vahtesia ‘tied grass bundle’. In some dialects and idiolects non-native [g] is used in place of native /w/. This is perceived as sounding Mexican because it is more common in Sonora.
     Historically, Yoeme seems to have lost intervocalic /r/, apparently since Spanish colonization. This can be seen for instance in the place name Wiivisim. The Spanish equivalent Huirivis seems to point toward older *Wirivis (apparently a type of bird) with the plural form *Wirivisim. Another instance is the word yoeme ‘human being’ whose cognate in the closely related Mayo language is yoreme. In fact, yoreme may still occur dialectically in Yoeme, and not only the Mayo but also the Yoemem (Yaqui) are often referred to as “Yoremem”. And there is also the word Yoi for ‘Spaniard’ or ‘Mexican’ that alternates with apparently older Yori. Yoreme and yori are sometimes pronounced yoleme and yoli respectively because, as mentioned above, [l] connotes a positive tone while [r] connotes a negative tone, and this applies in both Yoeme (Yaqui) and Yoreme (Mayo).

Genealogy: Uto-Aztecan > South > Taracahitic > Cáhita

Historical Lowlands language contacts: English

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Author: Reinhard F. Hahn

© 2011, Lowlands-L · ISSN 189-5582 · LCSN 96-4226 · All international rights reserved.
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