The Hopi Tribe of the American Southwest

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  • Topic: Hopi, Hopi mythology, Kachina
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The Hopi Tribe of the American Southwest

By

Tim Gola

Introduction to Cultural Anthropology

Professor Holly Ricker

February 22, 2010

The Hopi Indians are a Native American tribe from the American southwest and now reside on a 1.5 million acre Hopi reservation in northern Arizona. The Hopi or the "Hopituh Shi-nu-mu" meaning "The Peaceful People" or the "Peaceful Little Ones” are very peaceful and spiritual tribe whose reservation lies somewhat in the center of the Navajo Nation (Hopi 1). The Hopi have a unique history and culture which is deeply associated with religion, spirituality and family. The Hopi people believe in a clan system and consider all members of their tribe relatives and base their daily life on their religion of anti-war and helping others while living in harmony with the land. The Hopi’s concept of morality and ethics is very influenced by the afterlife and this concept is one where you are in a state of total reverence and respect for all things, to be at peace with all these things and to be Hopi is to strive toward this concept, but one never achieves in this lifetime (Hopi 1).

The Hopi’s live in northeast Arizona at the southern end of the Black Mesa (Appendix A).  A mesa is the name given to a small isolated flat-topped hill with three steep sides called the 1st Mesa, 2nd Mesa, and the 3rd Mesa.  On the mesa tops are the Hopi villages called pueblos.  The pueblo of Oraibi on the 3rd Mesa started in 1050, and is the oldest in North America that was lived in continuously.  They live in pueblos that are made of stone and mud and stand several stories high ( Smith 1) (Appendix B). The original origin of the Hopi Indians suggest that their ancestors, the Anasazi were related to the Aztecs of Mexico and may have moved to the land between five and ten thousand years ago (Hopi 1). Hopi’s say their ancestors migrated from many areas and could have entered the country from the north, east and south. The language of the Hopi is a Shoshonean language, which is part of the Uto-Aztecan languages and many dialects of this language was spoken in a vast area that stretched from parts of Oregon through parts of California and the southwest.

The Hopi’s peaceful way of life lasted until 1540, when the first contact was made between Hopi’s and Europeans. A group of Spanish explorers led by Spanish General Francisco Vasquez de Coronado explored the land and the Hopi land and culture remained relatively safe until 1629, when the Spanish began to build Christian missionaries across the land (Hopi 2). During this time, the neighboring Navajo began to come under pressure from the Spanish as well, and they began attacking the Spanish as well as the Hopi and other neighboring tribes. The Hopi people were forced to fight for their survival. This long period of fighting lasted until 1824 when Spain recognized Mexico and the Hopi lands were given to the new Mexican government.   In 1870, the U.S. government laid claim to the lands of the Hopi, and they were forced to fight, until finally being forced onto the reservation in Black Mesa, where they live today (McNair 1).

The culture and family ethics of the Hopi people is extremely unique compared to other tribes and other parts of the world in those times. Traditional Hopi society was matrilineal, which meant that the mother determined field inheritance and social status. When a man marries, the children from the relationship are members of his wife's clan and the man goes to live with his wife and her family, but still remains close to his relatives or his clan (Hopi 1). The women and men each have specific jobs or duties they perform within the society. The women owned the land and the homes and also cooked and weaved baskets while men owned livestock such as horses and sheep, fruit trees, weaved cloth and performed the ceremonies. Women also cared for the children, made pottery, bowls and prepared...
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