Hopi, which means the “Peaceful People,” have lived in the Black Mesa region of the Colorado Plateau since their emergence into this, the fourth world. Living in this world is therefore referred to as the “Fourth Way of Life” and is reflected in the fact that when Maa’saw offered groups of people ears of corn, the Hopi were given a short, blue ear. After a period of clan migrations, the People settled on the mesas, where they still reside today and follow the Hopi way—Hopivotskwami—the Hopi Path of Life, to preserve the good things of Hopi life. In Hopi philosophy, all life is a journey, and each group of people has a path that should be followed with humility, cooperation, and respect. According to Emory Sekaquaptewa, Hopivotskwami includes every part of Hopi society and culture and is a comprehensive philosophy that touches the lives of Hopi on a daily basis. It gives Hopi a strong sense of security in an often-troubled world by relating the past to the present and ensuring cooperation with super-naturals, who provide rain, abundant crops, health, and well-being.
The Hopi speak a Uto-Aztecan language related to O’odham (Pima) and Ningwi (Southern Paiute), called Hopiikwa. This language has dialectical difference among the communities. Hopi population has grown throughout the 20th century, from a low of about 2,200 in 1900. In 1995, the Hopi numbered 7,785 tribal members, with a labor force of 2,170. A highly educated group, 63% are high school graduates. Many Hopi work in Southwestern urban areas, returning frequently to Hopi to fulfill social and religious obligations. It is in this way and through oral tradition that the Hopis transmit the essential parts of their history and the perspectives needed to follow Hopivotskwani.
A basic tenet of Hopi philosophy is that humans live in harmony with nature. In their view, religion permeates all aspects of an inextricably interwoven life. Nature, gods, spirits, animals, plants, the land, and the people are one in an unchangeable relationship. This philosophy is community based, and each of the 13 Hopi villages, located in the mesa and canyon country of northern Arizona in Coconino and Navajo counties, is ritually considered to be the center of the world, and each respects the others’ independence. The Hopi belief that mankind evolved during life in four underground worlds, with a final emergence of the Hopi in the Grand Canyon, through a sipapu (place of entry to the present world), Hopi villages in their layout and architecture serve as living reminders of their emergence.
Hopi villages are located on three mesas, extending south from the southern escarpment of Black Mesa (First Mesa: Walpi, Sichomovi, and Tewa-speaking Hano, with Polacca located at the mesa base; Second Mesa: Shipaulovi, Mishongnovi, and Shungopavi; Third Mesa: Old Oraibi, Hotevilla, Bacabi, Kykotsmovi/ New Oraibi) and 40 miles to the west, along the Moencopi Wash (Lower and Upper Moencopi). Each village consists of a series of multistoried, terraced structures, containing a number of living units, arranged in long rows or irregularly around a central plaza, the kisoni. The kihu, the individual matrilineal/matrilocal residence, is a rectangular structure constructed of sandstone and adobe mortar, with a roof of timber, cedar bark, and adobe mud. Today, such traditional houses are supplemented by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) concrete block housing below the mesa tops, especially in new communities, such as Polacca and Kykotsmovi. There are larger houses with hipped roofs, electricity, and indoor plumbing. Some of the more traditional villages have decided not to introduce such evidence of the outside world into their religious centers on the mesa tops.
Each village is situated around kivas, semi-subterranean religious structures built in the form of a rectangular keyhole, located in the plaza, in the broad street, or at the ends of the house-blocks. The architecture of the kiva is highly symbolic of Hopi origins, and the sipapu is represented in each as an opening in the floor. The ladders that stand against the doorless walls or extended above the entrance into the kiva remind Hopis of the trees they climbed during their emergence to this world. It is predominantly a man’s space. The sipapu and kivas are the centers of each village, and the plazas and houses are built around them.
The central plaza of each village is the focal point for a complex ritual calendar that is basically composed of two sections. These are divided by the summer and winter solstices, with priestly ceremonies involving the Snake, Antelope, Wuwutsim (ceremonies of the four men’s societies), and women’s societies in the summer and fall and kachina (katsina) ceremonies in the winter and spring. Niman (Home Dance), which takes place in July, is the last katsina dance of the cycle. At the end of this daylong ceremony, the katsinam return to their spiritual home at the San Francisco Peaks, Kisiau, and Waynemai. “Social Dances” include the Buffalo Dance, a winter ceremony that deals with hunting and immediately follows the winter solstice, and the Butterfly Dance, which immediately follows the summer solstice and is associated with agriculture. Hopi rituals constitute communication and exchanges (prayers and offerings) between the world of the living and the world of the spirits, to the mutual benefit of both. Many ceremonies seek to maintain harmony with nature, enhance prospects for good health and a long, happy life, or are supplications for rain. Through the rituals that include dancing, Hopi celebrate the renewal of life, their history, and their spiritual connection with their ancestors.
Much of Hopi religion is concerned with fertility and sustaining life. In this regard, corn is an exceedingly important symbol. In fact, corn provides Hopi with a central metaphor: how to survive and grow in a difficult world. Hopi ceremonies are founded in an emergence text and clan traditions. This sacred knowledge (wiimi) is given expression in prayer offerings and ritual. Only those who have been initiated into the religious societies or members of the clan who have access to certain bodies of knowledge and the sacred objects that embody it are allowed to use it. The Hopi have been extremely vigilant in protecting this powerful knowledge so that it will not be used inappropriately by those without the right and sacred protections to use it properly.
All of Hopi land is bounded on four quarters by holy mountains. Within this area are sacred shrine, trails, pictographs that mark the activities of ancestors, and places from which Hopis gather sustenance. This is the landscape in which the Hopi reside in harmony with spirits contacted through sacred rituals performed to ensure prosperity and the proper functioning of Hopivotskwani. It is in this area that the Hopi welcomed the Tewa and let them establish the village of Hano on First Mesa in 1775. Today, the people of Hano are tied to the Hopi through their social and ceremonial system in complex ways that allow each to retain their independence. Supernaturals have designated the land on which Hopis live and over which their ancestors have walked as sacred. It cannot be bought or sold, and Hopis cannot give it away, for they are entrusted with preserving it. The Hopi have an extensive body of oral tradition that underlies and reinforces this belief.
The Hopi are the westernmost Puebloan people. Their reservation, a subset of their sacred land, was established by executive order on December 16,1882, with an area of 2.6 million acres. They were surrounded by the Navajo reservation. About 300 Navajos lived within the boundaries at the time, and more moved in over the years, settling closer and closer to the villages. In 1936, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) divided the Hopi and Navajo reservations into 18 land management and grazing units, reserving for the Hopi only one, District 6, a mere one fifth of their original allocation. This action and later court decisions establishing a joint use area in 1962 have meant the Hopi have had to spend a great deal of time regaining control of their original lands. The Navajo-Hopi Land Act Settlement (1974) led to the partitioning of the land. Today, Hopi land covers over 1,561,213 acres and is bounded on four sides by the Navajo reservation. Land issues have continued up to the present day.
Hopi social structure is a complex of important interlocking social groups. Some of these are named and some unnamed. Named groups include villages, clans, and religious societies; unnamed groups are households, lineages, and phratries. Kinship and relatives are the most important part of Hopi social organization and form its core. Phratries (groups of clans that emerged together from the underworld or migrated together) and clans are exogamous and carry obligations and responsibilities for members. Clans consist of multiple families who trace their origin to a common ancestor. Membership is traced through a mother, and women inherit property through their mothers’ clans. Originally, there were approximately 75 clans, of which 34 still exist, extended throughout the current villages. Clan members must take care of each other and treat relatives with great respect. While the father’s relatives are important (they care for a mother after a child’s birth and name the child), an individual’s primary responsibilities are to the natal clan.
Each clan has its own village, which documents how they came to be and recounts their migrations to the Hopi mesas. The first clans that came from the ancestral Pueblo territories to the north and east have seniority. The Water clan and others came from the south. Clans came to each village one at a time and were admitted based on negotiations and commitments for certain ceremonial and secular services to the people. There is a prime clan in each village, and others cluster around this social group in arrangements of dependency and support. Each clan is important, however, since it protects ritual knowledge, hosts ceremonies, and protects sacred objects. Each clan has critical responsibilities to ensure that it functions in accordance with Hopivotskwami. Clan membership requires specific duties be performed and ceremonial offices be fulfilled. Flexibility is inherent in the system to take advantage of environment opportunities or overcome demographic problems. Satellite clans may shift from one grouping to another, based on changing conditions and opportunities. The prime clan has the responsibility to make reassignments of any ceremonial office or duty not being carried out. Of primary importance is that continuity is ensured.
Hopi is a federally recognized tribe with a BIA agency at Keams Canyon, 32 miles east of First Mesa, even though each village considers itself an autonomous political and social entity. The Hopi are also governed separately in each village by traditional means, based on social and religious structures. The
Hopi Tribal Council was established by constitution in 1936, under the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act; prior to this, the separate villages did not constitute a single political entity or “tribe.” After lying dormant for a number of years, it was reorganized in the mid-1950s. Today, the government is composed of a chairman and vice-chairman, each serving for 4 years, and council members with 2-year terms. Representatives from four districts (First Mesa, Second Mesa, Third Mesa, and Moenkopi District) meet quarterly at the tribal headquarters in Kykotsmovi.
The Hopi are noted traditionalists who have spent a great deal of time and effort preserving their way of life on their isolated lands and deciding after careful reflection which part of the global economy and popular culture to embrace. This does not mean that they are unsophisticated about television, cellular phones, or VCRs. They have simply considered carefully which parts of American culture and society work for them. Housing has also changed, with many families living at the base of the mesas in order to make it easier for children to attend schools, obtain electricity, and to drive to work. The traditional villages are still important, however, and serve as the sites of social and religious integration.
The Hopi were traditionally agriculturalists, hunters, and sheepherders, supplemented by trade, and while farming has declined, many families still plant corn, beans, squash, and tobacco on clan lands every year. Many still raise a small number of cattle and sheep. Gardens near the villages are tended by women; men care for cornfields and livestock farther away. The Hopis also engage in wage work, both on and off the reservation, in skilled and professional jobs. Many Hopi earn their living as artists, specializing in silver and gold jewelry, pottery, carving, painting, and basketry. Producing beauty is a long-standing tradition, and there has been a ready market in Anglo-American society since the 1880s for both utilitarian and fine art. Many Hopi artists are internationally famous, and different villages are noted for particular art forms. The Hopi also produce significant pieces for themselves, for trade with other Indian communities, and for kinship and ritual purposes. Fathers and uncles produce kachina dolls (tithu) for children, a groom produces a special dress for a bride, and a bride’s family supplies baskets or pottery to the groom’s family, cementing all important social relationships.
The tribal government has undertaken several economic development projects as the Hopi economy changed from subsistence activities to wage work. While the Hopi have few natural resources that an industrial society values, in 1966, the tribal council allowed the Peabody Coal Company to strip-mine 25,000 acres on Black Mesa. There was great opposition to this lease, however, in many sectors of Hopi society. The Hopi tribe also engages in housing construction, industrial parks, retail facilities, and tourism. Hopi are employed by the mines, the government, and in service and tourism industries. Like other rural areas, unemployment is unfortunately high: 27% in 1995.
The Hopi have six elementary, one middle, and one high school on the reservation. They have a substantial scholarship program to help members attend accredited colleges, and an adult vocational training program. There are two health clinics and two full-service hospitals in Keams Canyon and Tuba City. Residents are served by a weekly and a biweekly newspaper. The Hopi tribe has recently established a Hopi Water Utility Authority. Arizona Public Service Company provides electricity to most villages, and water and sewage services are obtained from the U.S. Public Health Service and the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority. There is also an airport, laundromats, gasoline stations, and small retail stores. Residents still need to travel to Winslow, Tuba City, or Window Rock to shop at large grocery stores.
The Hopi government operates a very active cultural preservation office, which regulates archaeological activity, protects sacred sites, and conducts projects of interest to tribal members. Hopis are actively working on language preservation through the development of a Hopi dictionary and courses in the Hopi high school. On Second Mesa, they run a small museum and an arts-and-crafts establishment. Tourism and the sale of art fulfill economic functions and serve as a source of identity.
The Hopi way of life is a living tradition that shapes every aspect of their lives. The preservation of this way of life and the protection of sacred place is paramount.
- Kelsea, J., & Vivian, R. G. (1995). Guide to American Indian museums and cultural centers of Arizona. Tucson: University of Arizona.
- Rushforth, S., & Upham, S. (1992). A Hopi social history. Austin: University of Texas Press.
- Sheridan, T., & Parezo, N. (Eds.). (1996). Paths of life: America Indians of the Southwest and Northern Mexico. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.
- Tiller, V. E. V. (1996). Tiller’s guide to Indian Country. Economic profiles of American Indian reservations. Albuquerque: BowArrow.