The Hopi

The Hopi are an ancient people who are descendents from the Hisatsinom (or Ancient Puebloans). They have lived on the mesas of what is now northern Arizona for over a thousand years. The villages of Walpi on First Mesa and Old Oraibi on Third Mesa are considered two of the oldest inhabited villages in North America.

The Hopi have a very unique culture that they have struggled over the years to maintain. They are a matrilineal society and all family ties and responsibilities are traced through their mothersí side of the family. Families are grouped into "clans" based on what clan their mother was from. All members of a clan are considered "family" and there are responsibilities assigned to each member.

The Hopi have an oral tradition of story telling and it is through this tradition that their history has been passed down through the generations. In addition, it is through this tradition that children are taught the rules of behavior, as most stories have a moral.

The Hopiís beliefs are based on their religion, which is an integral part of their lives. They live simple, humble lives while following the teachings of their supreme deity "Maasawu" (earth god). The Hopi believe that they were given the land to take care of by Maasawu and it is their responsibility to keep all things in balance through prayer and ceremony.

Ceremony days are determined by the ceremonial calendar and the position of the sun and moon. Special blessings are given before a ceremony is announced. The blessing acts as an official declaration of a ceremony and a town crier announces it. All ceremonies are preceded by secret rituals in the "kiva", a special gathering place for the elders of the tribe. This ensures that the proper spirituality is obtained for the prayers to the "kachinas". After the proper rituals, ceremonies are performed to give the people an opportunity to mediate and offer prayers.

The kachinas are a very important part of Hopi religious beliefs. They are benevolent spirits who live among the Hopi for six months out of the year. The other six months they live in their ancestral home in the San Francisco Peaks (northwest of Flagstaff, AZ). The kachinas begin arriving in December and by February all have arrived. It is at this time that the Bean Dance occurs.

At sunrise on the day of the ceremony, the kachinas appear bearing gifts. The kachinas go house to house bearing kachina dolls for girls, bows & arrows for boys, moccasins, rattles and other traditional gifts. There are also gifts of bean sprouts for the matriarchs signifying the coming of a good growing season.

Following the ceremonial calendar, ceremonies are held that emphasize harvest time and the kachinas bring gifts of food such as baked sweet corn, and other fruits and vegetables.

The cycle of ceremonial rituals comes to an end in July with the Niman ceremony. This ceremony also celebrates the bounty of harvest and special gifts are presented to newborns and brides. The day after the dance, the kachinas return to the San Francisco Peaks.

The Hopi life is based on humility, cooperation, respect and stewardship of the earth. They are a spiritual, peaceful and tightly knit group of people who respect each other and revere their spirits. Their culture is their religion and it is upheld in every aspect of their day-to-day living.

Read about a grassroots effort to preserve the water on the Hopi Mesas and the in the Navajo Nation.

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Sources: Following The Sun & Moon, by Alph H. Secakuku; Hopi: Story of our People, Special Visitors Guide: Welcome to Hopiland, The Official Hopi Website: www.hopi.nsn.us/