a place of arrival and departure

the Hopi - a gift to us all

I AM a non-Hopi, not an insider, not close to them in terms of personal realtions or friendships. But I have lived in three countries, travelled in twenty; studied the world's religions, politics, philosophies, revolutionary movements, and many forms of ideal or utopian societies-- and I can truly say there are none which have more of my respect and admiration than the world and the ways of the Hopi People.

I HAVE visited them on their Mesas more than once. I remember from my childhood their presence at the Grand Canyon, but as explained in The Author's Journey, I rediscovered them through their art-- their kachinas, overlay silver and their pottery. But I'm a historian, have looked into their history, and it's a beautiful and impressive record-- truly a people of peace and belief-- yet to say that about them seems stupidly arrogant. It's hard to explain. They have chosen to live in one of the most marginal areas of the continent and they are still there 1,000 years later; they maintain a series of ancient and very rich rituals in the sincere belief that a life which reflects the true ways of the universe (and a true humility) will allow "our" world to continue... the way it's meant to be....Sound vague? Yes, perhaps, but that's because what I was taught about the "world", "us" and "time" was all about somebody else's idea of "progress"-- notions inextricably tied with Euro-Christian religious "manifest destiny" and the "supremacy of reason and science". But what is most impressive is that in spite of the ravages imposed on them by this american/european culture over the last four centuries, this ancient culture and belief system remains intact-- generation after generation after generation-- and its existence centers on the belief that they are the custodians (among a few others) of the keys to beatific survival on this beautiful earth, the universe, with God, and with all the peoples and races of mankind.
ASK A HOPI what he is or what he's made of and he or she will probably reply, "I am corn". Mother Earth is the Corn Mother. Sun, Earth, Rain, Corn-- and humankind obliged to live "the Hopi way" in a natural harmonic rhythm with the universe in which we have been giftedly placed. Through the transmutation of food (corn), our blood is the liquified energy of the sun and stars; it comes to us through the shifting patterns of the cosmos and the ecological phases of the earth before it delivers the essences of life to us through our arteries-- thereby setting within us a rhythm which should be observed and respected.

I'M GOING to try to present a picture of the Hopi to you here because I've found so much material scattered in many places-- small though valuable fragments, mostly-- and, as a former professor, I've tried to stick to "reliable" sources-- those with the most credibility and documentation. I'd rather hear and see all this direct from the Hopi themslves, and maybe someday this will come to pass, but for now, this is just my effort and I welcome any criticism-- just email me.
THE TWO published sources (books) on which I have relied most are Frank Waters' Book of the Hopi, originally published in 1963 and widely available in paperback; and Susanne and Jake Page's book, Hopi, first published in 1982 (reprinted 1994). This latter book was published with the approval of the Hopi Tribal Council and contains many contemporary photographs of life on the Mesas now-- the first sanctioned essays of the Hopi way since photography was discouraged on the reservation in 1910.
THE BEST internet-available picture of them as a tribal culture can be found in Notes From "The North American Indian", by Edward S. Curtis - Volume 12: The Hopi (1907). But the most stunning series of photographs of them can be found in the book Dwellers At The Source: Southwestern Indian Photographs of A.C. Vroman, 1895-1904, by William Webb and Robert A. Weinstein, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 1987 [ISBN 0-8263-1009-5]. For an excellent essay on "anglo" discovery of the Hopi, their culture and artifacts-- actually an inclusive piece on the life of their greatest potter-- see Nampeyo, Hopi Master Potter.
AN UNDERSTANDING of the Hopi is not possible without learning their story of how they came to be here... so I have extracted portions of Frank Waters' Book of the Hopi to bring you The Hopi Creation and The Four Worlds. There is a shorter "Outline of Hopi Origins and Migrations" in the "Pasts" section of the Page's book, Hopi, but there are some contradictions within it's context. If you consult both, you'll see there are considerable variations-- reflections on the nature of oral history/mythology, and perhaps also on the thirty-year time-span between the two books. An internet-accesible version of a different creation story, is an excerpt from Harry C. James's Pages From Hopi History.
MOST OF Hopi history is contained within the legends of the clan migrations, and is written and discussed at some length in Waters' Book of the Hopi-- often citing the petroglyphic evidence at other sites around the country which corroborate clan legends and symbols. Some writers seem reluctant to accept this evidence as conclusive, yet I see no reason to dismiss it as inconclusive. It is odd that in an area with so many pueblo ruins dating from about 700 AD to about 1350 AD, many "scholars" refer to the builders of these magnificent remote settlements as having been built by the Anasazi-- "ancient strangers" or "enemies" in Navajo. They didn't vanish; some were of One Heart-- some were Hopis or became Hopi because they chose to live that life on the Black Mesas-- and some may have migrated to the Zuni and other of the numerous pueblos along the Rio Grande. Some like the Tewa, have colonies both on the Rio Grande and on the Hopi Mesas.
MOST OF the "ghost" pueblos seem to have been abandoned around the time of the great drought from 1276 to 1299 AD. The earliest date scientifically established for the Hopi village of Oraibi, taken from tree-ring chronology is 1150 AD, though some contemporary Hopis (in Waters' time) maintained there are three successive ruins below the present village of Oraibi-- and there are those who believe the widely-recorded super-nova of the Crab Nebula of 1054 was the star the returning migrant clans followed to that region; there is some nearby rock-art which appears to record such an observance.
SO THE Hopis had been where they are now for some half-millenium before the white men arrived-- the Spaniards in 1540-- though according to the Hopi prophecies they were twenty years late, and did not greet them with the handshake of brotherhood which would have marked them as their lost white brother from the east. They found neither gold nor hostility from the Hopi and moved on, maintaining sporadic contact until a handful of Spanish missionaries and soldiers arrived in 1629. A mission was built at Awatovi, and in the 1670s another was built at Oraibi-- referred to as the "slave church"-- possibly due to the fact that the Hopi were forced to drag the huge roof beams some forty to one hundred miles by the dogadee (the dictator). Yet they apparently pretended to accept the Spanish religion, taking their ceremonial materials off to Kachina Point some miles to the west to carry out their ceremonies.
THE SPANIARDS attempted to suppress the native religions in virtually all the pueblos of the southwest, and in August of 1680, they all rose up, slaughtering missionaries, ranchers and soldiers, laid seige to Santa Fe, and forced the governor and a thousand refugees to flee to El Paso. The Hopis too killed their soldiers and missionaries, then completely obliterated the church at Oraibi, down to the last stone. The Spaniards were gone, and would not return for some twelve years.
IN 1692 the Spanish drove to reconquer the pueblos, and by late that year the new territorial governor, De Vargas, reported the subjugation of seventy-three, by promising forgiveness for the massacres of the 1680 uprisings and offering gifts of sheep, cattle and horses to all pueblos which accepted submission to Spanish rule. The Hopi villages of Awatovi, Walpi, Shongopovi, and Mishongnovi accepted-- Oraibi refused.
IN SPRING of 1700, a Spanish priest visited Awatovi, then an important village of nearly 800 inhabitants, and persuaded seventy-three Hopis to take Christian baptism. The effort to re-establish Christianity aroused resentment among the majority in the Hopi villages. So after waiting for the Padre to return to Zuni pueblo, they sent a delegation to Santa Fe to ask for religious toleration, requesting that the padres should not be sent to live with them permanently but should visit one village each year for six years. When the delegation returned with word of Spanish refusal of these requests, the Hopi hatred for the "slave church" ignited.
ACCORDING TO the Page's book, Hopi, "The [Awatovi] village chief became so distressed by the Christianizing of... his village and... the resulting corruption of Hopi values that he ventured to enlist the aid of the other villages to exterminate the Christians. People from Shongopavi, Walpi, and Oraibi agreed, and one night swept down on Awatovi, trapping [and] killing all the Christianized men, and sacking the village. The women and children were led away and divided up among the other villages; Awatovi clan lands were distributed among the villages as well.... Awatovi was allowed to crumble into a ruin, and Hopi habitation on Antelope Mesa was essentially at an end. The ruins can still be visited (with a Hopi guide), but many Hopi prefer not to go there."
[Continuing from Page's Hopi]:

"After a century of contact, the people of the mesas had taken what they found useful from the Spanish-- sheep, burros, metal, various fruits and vegetables-- but had given up little. Indeed, they had, after Awatovi, achieved an unprecedented unity among the various villages-- if only a unified determination to remain free of Spanish domination. And [they] had moved to the mesa-tops out of fear of the Spanish.

"Another reason that moving the villages up on the mesas had seemed prudent was that from about the early 1600s on, raids from the Ute and Apache [and Navajo] had been increasingly common. By the early 1800s these warlike nomads had virtually cut the Hopi and Zuni off from contact with the east.... The life of the Hopi went on as it had for centuries, the ceremonial cycle intact and its twin, the agricultural cycle, generally prosperous. Other white men, Anglos, began to show up now and then, [some mountain men and other explorers-- and some who took the short, dark people of the mesas to be isolated Welshmen living in caves at the tops of the mesa cliffs]. The main scourge that the Hopi faced, besides the nomadic raiders, was another cultural heritage brought by the pahana-- smallpox. Periodically the population of the mesas was reduced from thousands to hundreds by this scourge, and one can only imagine the horror, the fear, the recriminations, the accusations of witchcraft and evil-heartedness, the pleas to the gods that must have accompanied these catastrophes."
AS SPANISH influence in the world diminished, Mexico gained its indepence in 1822. After nearly two years of war between the USA and Mexico, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo of 1848 gave the US all the territory north of the Rio Grande from the Gila River to the Pacific; and in 1850 the Hopi found themselves a part of the new Territory of New Mexico-- and a part of the United States.
Less than a month after the formation of the Territory, the Hopis sent a delegation to the first Indian Agent at Santa Fe to ascertain the attitude of the new goverment toward them. They complained "bitterly of the depredations of the Navajos", but were evidently satisfied with the purposes and views of the new government toward them-- and were relying on them to protect them from the Navajos.
ACCORDING TO Waters, the Hopis came away from this meeting believing that the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed by Spain, Mexico, the United States, and the Hopi Nation. "By the terms of the treaty it was agreed that: 1. The United States must respect the religious and land rights of the Hopis and defend the Hopi province at all times. 2. The United States and any party and tribe which trespassed on the Hopi province should be punished by death. 3. If the United States at any time took, divided, or sold any part of the land which the Hopis claimed by religious rights, it agreed to be punished by an unseen power-- by the Creator." They said they had sealed the treaty "by words which were sacred bonds and by ceremonial smoking, which was a signature put into the ether with smoke."
TO THE Hopis, land tenure was religious-- promised to them at their Emergence, claimed by them after their migrations, defined on their sacred tablets. Spain had recognized the rights of all pueblos to their land by providing land grants to each, and confirmed them with water priveleges, lands and mountains, entrances and exits, farming and herding lands and rights, through codes and councils of 1551 and 1687-- and Mexico confirmed these titles and grants when it gained independence. The USA promised to honor them too, but almost before the ink was dry gold was discovered in California and the whole country was moving westward; sixty thousand people passed through New Mexico Territory in 1851; two years later a route for a transcontinental railroad was being sought through the territory, and by 1861 the area was subdivided with the western portion created as the Territory of Arizona. According to Waters, "It was a tide that could not be stopped-- certainly not by a few tribes of native Indians who stood in the way of a materialistic people who could never comprehend the religious tenets of the peaceful Hopi."
BY THE 1870s the Mormons had established a "sizeable" presence northwest of the mesas near Moenkopi and the Santa Fe railroad had built its westward line through Winslow, seventy miles to the south of the Hopi villages. In 1882 a reservation was established by executive order of President Arthur, setting aside an area of 2.4 million acres (3863 square miles) for the use of the "Moqui [Hopi] and other such Indians as the Secretary of the Interior may see fit to settle thereon." This wording left the door open to at least another century of unhappy relations between the Hopi and Najavo, and, of course, with the establishment of the Hopi Reservation, the presence of the US government increased.
IN 1887 the first school was opened in Keams Canyon, but attendance initially was poor (Waters says only three attended at first)-- ostensibly because they felt the goverment was not sufficiently protecting them against incursion by the Navajos. It was decided to send four or five clan chiefs to Washington, where they would receive assurances on the Navajo issue, and in turn, would guarantee to fill the school with their children. Thus began a new rift among the Hopi-- the "friendlies" or "progressives" who accepted the white man's schools (and other demands) in return for seeming concessions (such as security from Navajo raids), and the "hostiles" or "traditionalists" who viewed any further compromise with the white man as interference with their religion and ways.
ACCORDING TO the Pages (in Hopi), the Indian Agents had "rarely much understanding or affection for the Hopi in their charge. Based on the belief that Hopi ceremonies were pagan and inappropriate, the federal policy was not only to get all Hopi children away from their homes to the white man's school, but also to pressure them to convert to Christianity and forswear their traditional religion and ceremonies. The agents handed out land to various missionaries, invariably interfering with ancient Hopi beliefs about ownership of land and thus causing friction. Further friction developed when Hopi parents found out that their children could not go to school on Sunday and the Christian holidays, but had to go to school on the days of Hopi ceremonies. The Oraibis... soon [refused] to send their children to the school." In December 1890 troops were called in from Fort Defiance, "and 28 soldiers forcibly rounded up 104 children and hauled them off to school."
IN 1891 the Indian Agency tried to institute the policy of land allotment. This system was the brain-child of Massachusetts Senator Henry Dawes, after a visit to the Cherokees' "new home" in Oklahoma. He reported (according to Waters) "that there was not a family in that whole nation that had not a home of its own. There was not a pauper in that nation, and the nation did not owe a dollar.... Yet the defect of the system was apparent. They have got as far as they can go, because they own their land in common.... There is no selfishness, which is at the bottom of civilization. Till this people will consent to give up their lands, and divide them among their citizens so that each can own the land he cultivates, they will not make much more progress."
[from Page: Hopi]:

"Hopi were offered free lumber for building homes if they agreed to take on the ownership of pieces of land carved out of the map by the agents. Traditionally, no Hopi owns land. All the land around the mesas... is clan land-- originally handed out by the Bear Clan to other clans, and within the clan system, parceled out to individuals for their use.... The clans are in frequent conflict over such matters, but to offer... white culture's notion of ownership of land, with all its exclusivity and individualized authority that it implies, was a brilliant and subtle attack on the basic fabric of [Native American] and Hopi culture. Fortunately, there were few takers."

BY 1894 this land allotment policy was largely abandoned (completely by 1911), partly due to many Hopis pulling up the surveyors' stakes as soon as their backs were turned, and also through "hostiles" refusing to send their children to school and taking fields away from "friendlies"-- acts which resulted in the arrest and shipment of nineteen "hostiles" leaders to Alcatraz for seven or eight months. A new Indian Agent (Charles Burton), decreed in 1900 that any Hopi man or boy who refused to have his hair cut would have it cut by force.
IN 1901 the Mennonites completed their church near Oraibi (struck by lightning and destroyed in 1942)-- invited there a few years before by the "progressive" Oraibi Bear Clan chief Lololma, who had been one of the four or five in the delegation to Washington years earlier-- ostensibly because they, like the Hopis, did not believe in war. The Mennonite leader, H. R. Voth, spent most of his time seeking out every secret of Hopi ceremonial, including pushing his way into kivas during sacred rituals. Thrown out bodily, he would force his way in again, even measuring and recording Hopi altars, sand paintings and sacred objects, and had much of his work published by the Field Columbian Museum in Chicago. As Waters says, "A white man and leader of a new church, he... cracked the centuries-old secrecy that had enveloped Hopi religious ceremonialism; he profanely exposed to [white] public view their most sacred beliefs and customs, their very altars and ritual objects, now displayed in the Natural History Museum in Chicago." And he created another major aggravation in the rift between "friendlies" and "hostiles". At Oraibi, following the death of Lololma, both factions had strong leaders, and each began to hold Soyal ceremonies of their own, dividing clans and families. A short time later each faction at Oraibi gained strength from "dissidents" of other villages, and by the summer of 1906 it seemed as if another possible catastrophe like that of Awatovi was imminent.
CROWDS GATHERED. On September 8th, 1906, after having been asked to leave Oraibi by the "progressives", the "hostiles" leader drew a line on the ground, stepped across it toward Oraibi, and challenged his foes to push him back over the line. (From Hopi) "If they couldn't, they would have to leave Oraibi forever-- or vice versa. There ensued a shoving match during which the hostiles' leader was pushed straight up and then back over the line away from Oraibi. The hostiles were required to leave the village at once, taking with them whatever they could carry.... about eight miles north of Oraibi... they paused while a woman had a baby, and there they remained, founding the village of Hotevilla. Soldiers went... [there], arrested the hostiles' leader, and put him in the Keams Canyon jail, a place he would inhabit often over the next two decades. The leaders of the friendlies were sent to the Sherman Institute in Riverside, California, to learn English, thus being deprived of the fruits of their victory."
THE HOTEVILLA people survived the winter, but when their leader returned from jail, he found part of the group sought rapprochement with the progressives of Oraibi. In 1907 they led a contingent back to Oraibi, but unsuccessful negotiations led them to found yet another new village in the fall of 1907: Bacabi, about a mile southeast of Hotevilla.
[from Page: Hopi]:

"In 1910, the leader of the friendlies, Tewaquaptewa, returned to Oraibi, feeling betrayed by the white government that had exiled him to Riverside, and with a radically changed attitude. He began to encourage the friendlies to hostility, and... finally turned against them, believing that Oraibi and its tradition would and should die out with him. Those remaining in the village who intended to... or had become Christians were ordered to leave, and they founded Kykotsmovi, at first called New Oraibi, below the mesa-- now one of the largest Hopi villages and the seat of the Hopi Tribal Council. Tewquaptewa left his succession in some disarray-- a situation that began in the early 1940s, when he relinquished his position as kikmongwi, and remained controversial until the late 1970s, when his adopted son, Stanley, returned from California to take up the post. Where Oraibi used to be... stands an imminent ruin presided over by bitter elders still feeding on the old antagonisms, brooding from the mesa-top...."

"In 1929 the old leader of the hostiles died, also leaving his succession up in the air, where it remains. It is a common joke-- on the other mesas-- that anyone going to Hotevilla to pay respects to the kikmongwi will have to stop off in four or five places. The largest of the Hopi villages in population, Hotevilla, is a stronghold of the traditionalists, and considerably factionalized. A new village is planned, to the northwest, on Howell Mesa, to be peopled largely by Hopi from present-day Hotevilla. It will be a secular village, where ceremonies will not be performed."
IT HAS been a tough life for native americans. They have undergone many indignities at the hands of the white man, yet they still speak to us by their simple and very human presence there, and in a modern world, this truly means something when, for example, though they did not gain the right to vote in Arizona until 1948, they are drafted for military service in World War II, refuse to serve, and are sentenced to prison because the US courts do not recognize their centuries-old religion. There are Vietnam Veterans among them. But what I remember and carry with me of them, is their straight-forward humanity to all who go there-- watching them meet their children after costume day at school-- and witnessing the deep and easy warmth these people carry so deeply inside them it seems to be there on an almost molecular level.
I WISH them well, and hope the rest of us may someday reach the levels of acceptance and understanding so clearly expressed by this wonderful cultural gift to us all.
The Hopi Creation and The Four Worlds
Tokpela: The First World Tokpa: The Second World
Kuskurza: The Third World Tuwaqachi: The Fourth World
The Migrations


The OFFICIAL Hopi Cultural Preservation Office
The Hopi Information Network
The Prophecies of the Hopi People
Hopi Prophecy

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