Hopi Tribe

“On Thursday, January 27th, the Hopi people voted down a new proposed constitution by a wide margin. The people have spoken to honor the age old traditions of the Hopi Way of Life. In the end, the future of the Hopi was decided by the Hopi people, not a court or a judge. They have chosen their own path. Much work lies ahead for the Hopi but together they will persevere.The Hopi would like to thank each of you for your continued prayers and support”.– Jerome Longbottom

A Hopi Brave.

Hopi Pueblo Flag

The Hopi live in northeast Arizona at the end of the Black Mesa. Evidence suggest that the Hopi consist of the descendants of various groups that entered the country from the north, the east, and the south, and that a series of movements covered a period of probably three centuries, and perhaps considerably longer. Their ancestors, the Anasazi, appear to have been related to the Aztecs of Mexico, and may have arrived in their current location 5 to 10 thousand years ago.


Related to people of the various Pueblos to the east, the Hopis never actually had a single group identity–they were independent villages, sharing with the Zuni and other Pueblos a basic culture and view of the sacred, while sharing among themselves their own (Uto-Aztecan) language base.

They first became known to white men in the summer of 1540, when the Spanish General Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, then at Cibola (Zuni), dispatched Pedro de Tobar and Fray Juan de Padilla to visit 7 villages. A few years later the Spanish explorer Garcia Lopez de Cardenas investigated the Rio Grande and met the Hopi people. The Spaniards were not received with friendliness at first, but the opposition of the natives was soon overcome and the party remained among the Hopi several days, learning from them of the existence of the Grand canyon of the Colorado, which Cardenas was later ordered to visit.  It is not known with certainty what villages were inhabited when the Hopi first became known to the Spaniards.

Francisco Sanchez Chamuscado visited Zuñi in 1581 and speaks of the Hopi country as Asay or Osay. Two years later, however, the province was visited by Antonio de Espejo, who journeyed  from Zuñi to the first of the Hopi pueblos in 4 days. The Hopi presented Espejo with quantities of cotton “towels,” perhaps kilts, for which they were celebrated then as now.

The next Spaniard to visit was Juan de Oñate, governor and colonizer of New Mexico, who took possession of the country and made the Indians swear to obedience and vassalage on Nov. 15, 1598. Their spiritual welfare was assigned to Fray Juan de Claros, although no active missions were established among the Hopi until nearly a generation later. The first actual missionary work undertaken among the Hopi was Aug. 20 in 1629,  when Francisco de Porras, Andrés Gutierrez, Cristobal de la Concepcion, and Francisco de San Buenaventura, escorted by 12 soldiers, reached Awatobi, where the mission of San Bernardino was founded in honor of the day, followed by the establishment of missions in other areas.  Porras was poisoned by the natives of Awatobi in 1633. All the Hopi missions seem to have led a precarious existence until 1680, when in the general Pueblo revolt of that year four resident missionaries were killed and the churches destroyed. Henceforward no attempt was made to reestablish any of the missions save that of Awatobi in 1700, which so incensed the other Hopi that they fell upon it in the night, killing many of its people and compelling its permanent abandonment.

Hopi Culture

Maize being the basis of their subsistence, agriculture is the principal industry of the Hopi.  Perhaps one-third of the annual crop is preserved in event of future failure through drought or other causes. There are also peach orchards, beans, melons, squashes, pumpkins, onions, chile, and sunflowers. Cotton, wheat, and tobacco are also raised in small quantities, hut in early times native cotton was extensively grown. In years of stress desert plants, which have always been utilized to some extent for food, form an important part of the diet. The Hopi have of late become more or less pastoral. They herd goats, sheep,  cattle,  chickens and turkeys. The Hopi are skilled in weaving, dyeing, and embroidering blankets, belts, and kilts.  The dark-blue blanket of the Hopi woman is an important article of commerce among the Pueblos, and their embroidered ceremonial blankets, sashes, and kilts made of cotton have a ready sale among neighboring tribes. The Hopi are excellent at making masks and other religious paraphernalia from hides, and excel in carving and painting dolls, representing kachinas, which are adorned with bright feathers and cloth. They likewise manufacture mechanical toys, which are exhibited in some of their dramatic entertainments. The Hopi language is melodious and the enunciation clear. Although they accompany their speech with gestures, few of the Hopi understand the sign language.


The Hopi are preeminently a religious people, much of their time, especially in winter, being devoted to ceremonies for rain and the growth of crops. Their mythology is a polytheism largely tinged with ancestor worship and permeated with fetishism. They originally had no conception of a great spirit corresponding to God, nor were they ever monotheists; and, although they have accepted the teachings of Christian missionaries, these have not had the effect of altering their ancient beliefs. Their greatest gods are deified nature powers, as the Mother Earth and the Sky god—the former mother, and the latter father, of the races of men and of marvelous animals, which are conceived of as closely allied.

These are known as “kachinas,” a term referring to the magic power inherent in every natural object for good or for bad. Many of these kachinas are personifications of clan ancestors, others are simply beings of unknown relationship but endowed with magic powers. Each kachina possesses individual characteristics, and is represented in at least six different symbolic colors. Ceremonies are also divided into those with masked and those with unmasked participants, the former, designated kachinas, extending from January to July, the latter occurring in the remaining months of the year. The chief of each fraternity has a badge of his office and conducts both the secret and the open features of the ceremony. The fetishes and idols used in the sacred rites are owned by the priesthood and are arranged by its chief in temporary altars, in front of which dry-paintings are made.

The traditional Hopi are organized into matrilineal clans. When a man marries, the children from the relationship are members of his wife’s clan. The Bear Clan is one of the more prominent clans. The Hopi, more than most Native American peoples, retain and continue to practice their traditional ceremonial culture. However, like other tribes, they are severely impacted by the surrounding American culture. A Hopi bride grinds corn for three days at her future husband’s house to show she has wife skills. The groom and his male relatives weave her wedding clothes. After they are finished, the bride to be walks home in one wedding outfit, and carries the other in a container. Women are also buried in their wedding outfit so when they enter the spirit world they would be dressed appropriately. A Hopi man wears several bead necklaces on his wedding day.

Tribalpedia’s Questions for Comprehension and Discussion

1. Who are the ancestors, of the  Hopi?

2. In 1540, the Hopi encountered which group of people?

3. Juan de Oñate, was the governor and colonizer of New Mexico. What did he do with the Hopi in 1598?

4. When did the first missionaries (Francisco de Porras, Andrés Gutierrez, Cristobal de la Concepcion, and Francisco de San Buenaventura) encounter the Hopi?

5. Why was the mission of San Bernardino was founded?

6. In the Hopi culture, what foods do they eat?

7. Are the Hopi very religious?

8. What are “kachinas,”?

9. How are the members of the tribe organized?


Hopi Pueblo


Hopi Today

Today there are 12 Hopi villages on or below the three mesas, with eight Hopi pueblos, all of them on the tops of mesas. The Hopi pueblos were established on their present almost inaccessible sites for purposes of defense; and with the same object in view the builders formerly never left a door in the outer walls of the first story, access to the rooms invariably being through hatchways in the roof.

Each village has its own village chief, and each contributes to the annual cycle its own ceremonies. Each village has maintained its own balance of engagement with the Euro-American culture and traditional Hopi practices and views.

The Hopi Indians are divided into traditional –which preserve ancient lands and customs, and new – who work with outsiders. The Hopi Indians  love their traditions, arts, and land, but also love the modern American life. Their kids go to school and they use medical centers.  They live and work outside of the reservations. Troubles with the Navajo whose reservations surround the Hopi still continue today.

Lori Piestewa of Hopi People Kocha-Hon-Mana (Hopi name) (December 14, 1979-March 23, 2003)

Ms. Piestewa was a U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps soldier killed during the same Iraqi Army attack in which fellow soldiers Shoshana Johnson and Jessica Lynch sustained injuries. A member of the Hopi tribe, Piestewa was the first Native American woman in history to die in combat while serving with the U.S. military and the first woman in the U.S. armed forces killed in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Arizona’s Piestewa Peak is named in her honor.

Hopi Myth: The Mission of Two Brothers

This Bow Clan chief had two grown sons. When they learned of their father’s misdeed, they were very sad. Their knowledge of the teachings which they had received from him was all in order. Now they were left alone to lead their people,  for the very next day their father died.

They asked their mother to permit them to carry out the order of their instructions for an event of this nature. She replied that it was up to them, for their knowledge was complete. Upon agreement, the younger brother was to continue in search of Maasau’u, and to settle where he found him. There he would await the return of this older brother, who was to travel eastward toward the rising sun, where he would rest briefly. While resting, he must listen for the voice of his younger brother, who would expect him to come to his aid,  for the change in the life pattern will have disrupted the way of life of his people. Under the pressure of a new ruler they will surely be wiped off the face of the earth unless he comes.

So today we are still standing firmly on the Great Spirit’s instructions. We will continue to look and pray toward the East for his prompt return. The younger brother warned the elder that the land and the people would change “But do not let your heart be troubled,” he said, “for you will find us. Many will turn away from the life plan of Maasau’u, but a few of us who are true to his teachings will remain in our dwellings. The ancient character of our heads, the shape of our houses, the layout of our villages, and the type of land upon which our village stands, and our way of life. All will be in order, by which you will find us.”

Before the first people had begun their migrations the people named Hopi were given a set of stone tablets. Into these tablets the Great Spirit inscribed the laws by which the Hopi were to travel and live the good way of life, the peaceful way. They also contain a warning that the Hopi must beware, for in time they would be influenced by wicked people to forsake the life plan of Maasau’u. It would not be easy to stand up against this, for it would involve many good things that would tempt many good people to forsake these laws. The Hopi would be led into a most difficult position. The stones contain instructions to be followed in such a case. The older brother was to take one of the stone tablets with him to the rising sun, and bring it back with him when he hears the desperate call for aid. His brother will be in a state of hopelessness and despair. His people may have forsaken the teachings, no longer respecting their elders, and even turning upon their elders to destroy their way of life. The stone tablets will be the final acknowledgment of their true identity and brotherhood.

Their mother is Sun Clan. They are the children of the sun. So it must be a Hopi who travelled from here to the rising sun and is waiting someplace. Therefore it is only the Hopi that still have this world rotating properly, and it is the Hopi who must be purified if this world is to be saved. No other person anyplace will accomplish this. The older brother had to travel fast on his journey for there was not much time, so the horse was created for him.

The younger brother and his people continued on in search of Maasau’u. On their way they came to a land that looked fertile and warm. Here they marked their clan symbols on the rock to claim the land. This was done by the Fire Clan, the Spider Clan, and the Snake Clan. This place is know called Moencopi. They did not settle there at that time. While the people were migrating, Maasau’u was waiting for the first ones to arrive. In those days he used to take walks near the place where he lived, carrying a bunch of violet flowers (du-kyam-see) in his belt. One day he lost them along the way. When he went to look for them he found that they had been picked up by the Hornytoad Woman. When he asked her for the flowers she refused to give them back, but instead gave him her promise that she would help him in time of need. “I too have a metal helmet,” she told him, (possibly meaning that certain people with metal helmets would help the Hopi when they get into difficulty).

Often Maasau’u would walk about a half mile north of his du-pa-cha ( a type of temporary house) to a place where there lay a long rock which formed a natural shelter, which he must have picked as the place where he and the first people would find each other. While waiting there he would amuse himself by playing a game to test his skill, the name of which (Nadu-won-pi-kya), was to play an important part later on in the life of the Hopi, for it was here that the knowledge and wisdom of the first people was to be tested. Until recent times children used to play a similar game there, something like “hide-and-seek.” One person would hide, then signal by tapping on the rock, which would transmit the sound in a peculiar way so that the others could not tell exactly where the tapping was coming from. (Some years ago this rock was destroyed by government road builders.) It was here that they found Maasau’u waiting.

Before the migrations began Maasau’u had let it be known, though perhaps not by direct instructions, that whoever would find him first would be the leader there. Later it became clear that this was a procedure by which their true character would be specified. When they found him, the people gathered and sat down with him to talk. The first thing they wanted to know was where he lived. He replied that he lived just north of there at a place called Oraibi. For a certain reason he did not name it fully. The full name is Sip-Oraibi, meaning something that has been solidified, referring to the fact that this is the place where the earth was made solid. They asked permission to live there with him. He did not answer directly, for within them he saw evil. “It is up to you,” he said. “I have nothing here. My life is simple. All I have is my planting stick and my corn. If you are willing to live as I do, and follow my instructions, the life plan which I shall give you, you may live here with me, and take care of the land. Then you may have a long, happy, fruitful life.”

Then they asked him whether he would be their leader, thinking that thus they would be assured a peaceful life. “No,” he replied, “the one who led you here will be the leader until you fulfill your pattern of life,” (for he saw into their hearts and knew that they still had many selfish desires). “After that I will be the leader, but not before, for I am the first and I shall be the last.” Having left all the instructions with them, he disappeared.


Hopi website