The Hopi Tribe

The Hopitu Shi-nu-mu, known to much of the world as the Hopi, means “Peaceful People” or “Peaceful Little Ones.” They were well-known dry farmers, gatherers, and hunters, and much of the world knows the Hopi for the large, apartment-style housing complexes, found on their ancestral lands in Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado.

“When people first emerged into this Fourth World, they asked Maasaw (the Earth Guardian) if they could live here. Maasaw offered a bag of seeds, a water gourd, and a planting stick, and explained that the people’s way in the Fourth World would be hard, but that this way would provide a long and good life. Therefore, the ethic of self-sufficiency became the root of the present day Hopi people.” – (The Hopi Foundation)N15

Hopi group inside house. Arizona. ca. 1905. Photo by Fred Harvey Company. Source – Southern Methodist University, Central University Libraries, DeGolyer Library

The Hopi Indians are descended from the Hisatsinom, or Ancient Pueblo Peoples, who abandoned their large villages around 1100 – 1300s A.D.N16 The Navajo referred to them as the “Anasazi,” which means, “ancient enemies.” The Hopi, unlike their modern neighbors, the Navajo, spoke a Uto-Aztecan language, from a linguistic group that pre-dates the appearance of the Navajos in the region. Once the Spanish came to the region, they labeled these people as Pueblo people because they lived in villages. The Spanish word for village, or populated area, is “pueblo.”

Today, most of them live on the Hopi Reservation, a 2,531 square mile area nearly surrounded by the Navajo Reservation, in northeastern Arizona. As of 2010 fewer than 19,000 persons comprised the Hopi peoples. They built their pueblos upon three mesas, and one of the ancient villages, Old Oraibi, founded before 1100 AD, is the oldest known continuously inhabited community in the United States. Other villages on the Third Mesa include Kykotsmovi, Hotevilla, and Bacavi. The Hopi pueblo of Moenkopi, lies 45 miles to the west near Tuba City, Arizona.N17

Distant view of the Hopi village of Mishongnovi on top of a mesa. ca.1900-1901. Arizona. Photo by George Wharton James C.C. Pierce. Source – University of Southern California Libraries

On the First Mesa one finds another old village, Walpi, which the Hopi have inhabited continuously during more than 1100 years, since 900 A.D. to date. It does not have running water or electricity, and its residents walk to Sichomovi to wash and get water. Other villages on this mesa include Sichomovi and Tewa. Shungopavi, Mishongovi and Sipaulovi lay on the Second Mesa.S3

Early Spanish contact with the Hopi was irregular, until the Franciscan Period, when missionaries tried to convert them and other Pueblo Indians to Catholicism, resulting in the Pueblo Revolt, in 1680. The Hopi villages suffered regular raids from the Navajos, and they actually benefitted from the United States government’s suppression of the Navajo Peoples. However, the invasion of the white man’s culture and education in the Hopi Pueblos met with resistance well into the late 1800s, and they have managed to retain many of their customs and important parts of their lifestyle.

Contributing Author – Jeffery Bacon