Questions in Akimel O’otham
Huhugam Heritage Center
Gila River Indian Community
In all the languages worldwide questions are used multiple times daily to ask about different information about a person, the weather and the list goes on.
Take the time to count the amount of questions that we each ask or answer on any given day. Our Hekiu O’otham also developed questions that today’s Akimel O’otham still use to communicate and inquire about certain information, which is used to calculate a response or take action. If we put ourselves in each little example we will see that O’otham history repeats itself.
Here are a few questions normally asked throughout each day: When arriving at someone’s home we always knocked on the door and asked Nap ‘i tha!?! “Are you home!?!” Questions are also used as greetings. When we first encounter someone we haven’t seen for a while we ask Sha:pai chuig? “How are you?”, as we shake their hand or give them a hug. Another more recent question is Sha:p kaij? “What do you say?”
One question parents always asked their children as they exited the doorway as they left the house was Ba:p tho hi:? “Where are you going?” If it was anywhere near a relative or the store, we would always be asked to take a note to an aunt or an uncle, or to purchase additional items at the store. Many times have I walked to the store to buy notebook paper for homework and ended up carrying multiple shopping bags of groceries home. Many times we retrieved a borrowed item from relatives and neighbors such as a wheelbarrow or stepladder. We would ask our relatives Napth ha’as hekaj itha? “Are you done using this?”
On cold rainy days we would not be allowed to go outside lest we catch a cold or some other weather related ailment. As usual, being young boisterous kids we always managed to break something such as a piece of chinaware, or home fixture. Upon hearing the breakage mom would always come into the room with that irate Mom look on her face with hands on hips and ask us Tho:th ap ju:!?! “Who did it!?!”
We encourage you to learn these simple questions and use them in your everyday lives.
Talk with an Elder or Akimel O’otham speaker and expand your vocabulary.
Remember if you don’t use it you will lose it. This month’s word match will focus on a few questions in Akimel O’otham.