"Here in Arizona, we trace our history back two millennium. We emerged here over 100 generations ago, making us one of the oldest cultures in North America." -The Hopi
As we pointed out in our brief history, the Hopi once occupied the land stretching from the Grand Canyon to Toko' navi (what is now called Navajo Mountain), toward the Lukachukai borderlands, south to the Mogollan Rim. Their ancestral ruins and clan markings clearly distinguish their traditional homeland boundaries.
In 1882 a rectangular tract of land was designated as the Hopi Reservation. Since that time, the Hopi have had a continual struggle to maintain the land granted to them. As you can see by the map (not an exact rendering), the once rectangular portion of land originally set aside as the Hopi Reservation has been gradually diminished by the Navajo, who have tried to claim everything outside the portion marked Section Six as their own. These lands contain ancient sacred sites still used in traditional ceremonies by the Hopi, who have strong ties to this ancestral land.
The effort to keep control of their homelands has been a difficult, ongoing struggle for the Hopi, a small group whose religious beliefs and daily lifestyle are firmly meshed, keeping them from extensive contact with the modern world. Their desire to handle their problems in traditional ways has put them at a disadvantage to the Navajo, people who quickly adapt to changes and are not hesitant to take advantage of partnerships with the "outside world." Therefore, the Hopi have been receiving what definitely appears to be the "short end of the stick."
During their effort to keep control of their ancient lands, the Hopi have witnessed the destruction of mesas containing sites which they consider sacred or sanctified ground. These mesas have been destroyed for the production of amalgam, used in the making of asphalt highways. Ironically, despite their outrage and pleas for preservation of these important and historic sites, construction companies under contract to the state of Arizona are using this material to pave Route 264, which passes through the center of the Hopi Reservation.
In addition to the assaults on their land, the Hopi have also become the target of fortune seekers who have raided ancient sites and stolen sacred items used in religious ceremonies. Ceremonial masks and other items used in spiritual practice have been sold in the "art market" and have fallen into the hands of collectors or museums. To the Hopi, these items are living entities and their absence can hinder or even prevent sacred rites from taking place. Some items have been recovered in cooperation with the FBI under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, but the tracking and recovery of the items takes years, during which their absence seriously affects the spiritual health of the Hopi people.
Hopi village life revolves around their religious calendar which divides the year based on the visits of the Kachinas. These Ancestral Spirits arrive after the winter solstice and leave at the peak of summer. During their stay, colorful ceremonial dances take place in the village plazas for the benefit of all people, plants, animal and spirit life. Upon their departure, carved images of the Kachinas are given as spiritual gifts. The Katsinam, who perform the public dances, are sacred to the Hopi people, as are the carved Kachinas which have been ceremonially sanctified.
Only the Hopi and their pueblo relatives have esoteric manifestations called Kachinas within their culture, but it has become the practice of non-Hopi Indians, as well as Caucasian craftspersons, to try to "cash in" on the tribe's religious practices by creating imitation kachina dolls. Over 70% of the Hopi people earn a part of their income from the creation of arts and crafts such as kachinas, baskets, pottery and jewelry. An individual Hopi doll carver makes less than 50 high quality kachinas per year meant for sale to the public, yet over 100,000 imitation kachina dolls are placed into the stream of the Indian art market. Highways are scattered with signs advertising "authentic kachinas."
The activities described thus far are enough to keep the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office staff busy year 'round. Operating with a very small staff and antiquated equipment, the office has its hands full trying to handle the legal aspects of all the above-mentioned situations, which need to be handled quickly when they arise. Most old documentation is hand written in quill pen and quite fragile. This documentation needs to be put into electronic format so that it can be easily accessed and printed when needed. The office is lacking state-of-technology computer equipment, modems, scanners, printers and faxes which could make their huge task much easier. (We ask our readers who have connections to computer equipment to pitch in here and help this office get some badly needed equipment.)
Other concerns of the Cultural Preservation team center around insuring the continuance of Hopi cultural heritage which has suffered, not only from the examples mentioned, but from the influences of modern society as well. Television has caused a lack of interest in Hopi practices and encouraged a desire to become involved in the outside world, as well as a trend of disrespect for the Elders. The impact of modern education and economics have also put a strain on the Hopi style of life. According to the Public Relations Office of the Hopi Tribe, "when a man has a full-time job there is little time left over to tend his fields and take part in the yearlong religious ceremonies."
Prior to the construction of Jr./Sr. high school facilities on the reservation, students attended off-reservation schools, border town public schools or the boarding schools of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The Hopi language was never taught in these schools, nor were the children allowed to speak in their native tongue. Violating this rule met with severe punishment. As a result, a whole generation has fallen off from learning the language or being able to teach it to their children. Since the language has no written form and was traditionally taught by the grandmother, introducing it into the school system will be a complicated task.
Some of the ancient Hopi language has already been lost. Ceremonial songs contain some words which are no longer understood by older Hopi, but are still sung by tradition. If no attempt is made to revive the language in Hopi youth, the refined concepts and religious traditions that are the very foundation of Hopi identity will eventually be lost.
Several years ago a team of linguists approached the Hopi with an offer to prepare a dictionary of their language. Many were happy to cooperate with this effort, believing that it would help preserve and sustain their culture. When the dictionary was completed it was put on sale in the public market, and profits given to the universities and foundations that started the project. Complaints from the Hopi netted them 24 copies and instructions to purchase more copies if they were needed. "They have even sold our language," remarked one of our hosts.
The Hopi are the true owners of their cultural heritage. They are now beginning to fight back by investing in lawyers who are securing proprietary rights to their language, art and cultural practices. One concerned Hopi stated, "In the old days our people would circle around the invading enemy and they would shoot bullets at us from the wagons. I see our job now is to be inside those wagons and to be loading blanks in the enemy's guns."
This is the daily struggle of the Hopi against constant infringements on their basic rights to practice their religion, maintain their lands and secure their way of life. Some members have educated themselves in the ways of the outside world and are seeking to correct the wrongs that have taken place. This in itself has caused some division with those who prefer to deal with the outside world in the old, traditional ways- to ignore it. But these moves may be necessary to save an endangered culture.
If Vice President Gore can commit our tax funds to place a modern computer per student in our school systems by the year 2000, then certainly one or two concerned businesses should be able to provide this ancient culture with the tools they need to insure their future existence. We ask our readers to support this effort by furnishing the computer equipment necessary. If you can be of help, contact the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office at P.O. Box 67, Second Mesa, Arizona, 86043, or e-mail us at ViewZone.
We were surprised and honored to learn that we would be allowed to enter one of the Hopi's ancient sacred sites. Join us for our next upload and witness an historic first as we are allowed to photograph, for the first time ever, some of the ancient rock inscriptions still visible in this sacred place.--NEXT-- || Viewzone