Arts of Native America
About The Man In The Maze

Home Up

 Jump To Another Area  
Search River Trading Post


Subscribe To River Trading Post Times Online For Special Values .  Just Enter Your E-mail Address.

Toll Free 866-426-6901

I'itoi or I'thi is, in the tradition of the O'odham peoples, the michievous creator god who resides in a cave just below the peak of Baboquivari Mountain, part of the Tohono O'odham Nation. Visitors to the cave are asked to bring a gift to ensure their safe return from the depths. I'itoi is said to have brought the Hohokam people to this earth from the underworld, said to be ancestors of both the Tohono O'odham and the Pima. He is also responsible for the gift of the Himdag, a series of commandments guiding people to remain in balance with the world and interact with it as intended.

The Pima also refer to I'itoi as Se:he (Elder Brother). The term I'ithi is a dialectal variant used by the Hia C-ed O'Odham.

He is most often referred to as the Man in the Maze, a reference to a design appearing on native basketry and petroglyphs which positions him at the entry to a labyrinth. This labyrinth is believed by the Pima to be a floorplan to his house, and by the Tohono O'odham to be a map giving directions to his house.

The Man in the Maze motif is used liberally in the American Southwest, most prominently by Hopi silversmiths in rings and jewelry to showcase the quality of their technique and by Pima basketweavers, with whom it has been a very popular pattern since the 1900s. Every basket pattern has a "mistake" (also known as a "dau", or door) integrated into it so that the spirit of the basket can be released.

According to O'odham oral history, the labyrinth design depicts experiences and choices we make in our journey through life. In the middle of the "maze", a person finds their dreams and goals. When one reaches the center, we have one final opportunity (the last turn in the design) to look back upon our choices and path, before the Sun God greets us, blesses us and passes us into the next world.