Southwest Crossroads Spotlight
“Kwelele (Black Katsina),” Duane Dishta (Artist)
The villages of Hopi are the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in North America. Oraibi, the oldest village, dates back to about 1125 A.D. Present-day Hopis live in thirteen villages on and around three mesas in northern Arizona.
For hundreds of years, the Hopi people have told stories about their emergence from the Third into the Fourth World and their migrations. After emergence, they traveled in search of a permanent homeland and finally settled at the southern end of Black Mesa. Distinct Hopi clans and groups tell their own stories of origin.
Farming is at the heart of Hopi life. Year-round ceremonies and katsina dances are always prayers for rain. Most Hopis are members of katsina societies. As Hopi poet Ramson Lomatewama said: “Hopis don't worship katsinas. Katsinas are intermediaries between the Creator and Humankind. They deliver the blessings of life—health and happiness and hope.” “Katsinas are intermediaries between the Creator and Humankind.”
The Hopi lands were a regional crossroads for hundreds of years. Tales, designs on pottery, and paintings on kiva walls tell of encounters with other cultures over the centuries.
The Hopis speak Shoshonean, a branch of Uto-Aztecan. Other peoples also speak Shoshonean, including some Mexican and Central American Indians. Archaeological evidence tells us that peoples from all directions visited Hopi in prehistoric times. Many of these groups stayed for long periods of time and there was a rich exchange among cultures.
The Spaniards first visited Hopi in 1540 and called it Tusuyan or Moqui. As at Zuni, they were looking for gold and found none. The conquistadors moved on but Franciscan priests stayed to convert the Hopis to Christianity. The priests banned katsinam and forced the people to build mission churches. Although some Hopis converted, many continued to practice their traditional religion. “The Hopis took part in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.”
The Hopis took part in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 along with other pueblos. After the Pueblo Indians drove the Spanish out of the Southwest, the Hopis moved all their villages to the tops of the mesas, where they would be easy to defend. Many refugees from the Rio Grande pueblos fled to live among the outlying Hopi and Navajo. These included a group of Tewa people who established a village at Hopi called Hano. “Terrace Homes of Hopi Indians—Street Scene in Oraibi, Hopi Reservation, Arizona, ca. 1900,” Unidentified (Photographer)You’ll need 3-D glasses to view this Anaglyph image. Don’t have a pair? Request 3-D glasses right away!
Twelve years later, during the Reconquest, the Spanish tried to persuade refugees to return to their pueblos in New Mexico. Some returned, yet the Tewa-Hopis at Hano are living proof that some Pueblo people remained. When missionaries and government officials came back to Hopi, people began to fight with each other, often about religious differences.
When Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821, the Mexicans had few resources to govern their vast territory. As a result, people in New Mexico enjoyed greater freedom from colonial rule. On the other hand, the government could not protect them, either. During this period, raiding parties of neighboring Navajos, Utes, and Mexicans carried off women and children and depleted the Hopis fields and flocks.
Beginning with the American Occupation in 1846, the United States government spent forty years fighting “The Hopis struggled to maintain their autonomy from American rule.” Apaches and Navajos. They generally ignored the pueblos. The Hopis struggled to maintain their autonomy from American rule. Hopis continued to experience conflicts and interactions with their neighbors. A long-standing dispute over land boundaries with their Navajo neighbors resulted in the loss of Hopi land.
During the late 1800s and 1900s, the Hopis had to deal with more and more outsiders. Among them were the neighboring tribes, government officials, boarding school authorities, missionaries, anthropologists, mining companies, and tourists. Throughout, the Hopis have maintained their unique culture.