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A Southwestern Indian Culture Among Us Today: The Hopi Indians

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A Southwestern Indian Culture Among Us Today: The Hopi Indians


Axia College

Did you know that the Ancient Indian people of the Southwestern United States have dated back to the year 10,000 BC? First appearing toward the end of the last Ice Age, they were the first “Americans.” (Noble, 1998) When Christopher Columbus arrived in the America’s in 1492 and seeing the people of this land for the first time, he thought that he had landed in India, thus giving them the name “Indians.” (Noble, 1998) However, he was nowhere near India, or that region of the world. Because the Ancient Indians were nomadic people, (people who wondered the lands with no permanent home) through the years they developed, separated, and re-located their clans, developing into what we know today as the American Indian. One group or tribe, are the Hopi Indians. Although the Hopi are still a tribe today, mostly living in Arizona, their population, traditions, skills, and crafts have dwindled throughout the years. Let us sit back, relax, and explore the ancestor’s of the Hopi tribe and learn about their traditions, skill, and crafts.

Although Arizona is the primary location of the Hopi Indian tribe today, this was not always the case. The Anasazi Indians are the ancestors of what are today’s Hopi, Navajo, and Pueblo Indians, who lived in parts of Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico.

(This map shows the four corners region of the United States, where the Anasazi Indians, ancestors to the Hopi once lived.) (Wikipedia, 2/23/05)

Although the ancestors of the Anasazi’s were nomadic people, the Anasazi began to settle and live in one place. Making it harder for them to roam and tend to their gardens and crops at the same time, farming became a staple of their lifestyle. In the harsh dessert landscape, farming required a great deal of hard work. Their crops were mostly corn, and unlike any wild seeds that spouted naturally, corn needed planting. The corn also required the daily attention of watering, weeding, and protecting the plants from dessert wildlife. Animals such as rabbits, deer, birds, and even some rodents would eat and destroy the crops if left unprotected. As the Anasazi’s skills grew, so did their crops. They soon began to grow crops of beans, squash, and cotton with techniques that included canal irrigation and handmade tools. Some of the canals dug by the ancient Indians are still in use today. They received modernization and re-dug to accommodate the needs of modern use. Even with all their advanced skills, the Anasazi soon disappeared. Studies have shown that the Anasazi people lived for approximately two thousand years. Possible reasons of their disappearance might include drought, declining resources such as food and water, and disease.

The Sinaqua Indians appeared after the disappearance of the Anasazi. The Sinaqua arrived about 1300 years ago and lived for about six hundred years. In Spanish, the word Sinaqua means without water. “Harold S. Colton, the scientist who identified this culture, called the Sinaqua when he noticed how arid the country was around some of their sites.” (Noble, 1998) Many Hopi of today believe that their ancestors once lived in the Sinaqua pueblos (adobe dwellings or houses made from a mud mixture) in Northern Arizona. Montezuma’s Castle and Tuzigoot are both surviving dwellings and evidence that the prehistoric culture of the Sinaqua once flourished. Located in the Verde Valley of Arizona, these cliff dwelling and pit houses overlooked their fields and protected them from outsiders. Providing shelter from the wind and rain, the cliff dwellings were a perfect place to store food. Built facing the south, cliff dwellings warmed by the sun in the winter, and provided cooler temperatures in the summer months. Although the Sinaqua’s staple was farming, they supplemented their lifestyle with hunting wild game and gathering wild nuts and berries. They also mined a nearby salt deposit for seasoning and trading. In the year 1064 AD, the volcano of Sunset Crater in Flagstaff, Arizona (about 100 miles north of the Verde Valley) erupted, causing many of the Sinaqua to flee their homes. (Noble, 1998) Eventually a few returned to their homes finding them covered in a thick blanket of volcanic ash. They found that the ash was helpful to their crops, acting as a mulch or ground cover that protected the seedlings and helped to preserve moisture. The Hopi believe that the volcano eruption was due to a Kachina, (a supernatural being or God) that was angry with the villagers in his wife’s tribe, for an evil thing that they had done. Wanting to scare the villager’s, the Kachina lit a large bonfire on top of the hill, which soon was out of control, burned a deep hole in the ground, connecting with the lava that lies way below the earth’s surface, and eventually erupting into a volcano. The Sinaqua people left their homelands in the 1300’s, but today many Hopi Indians live in and around Flagstaff, Arizona. (Noble, 1998)

Handed Down from their Anasazi ancestors, the Hopi are wonderful artisans. Best known for their Kachina Doll making, the craft continues today. “Kachina carvings were originally made to be given as gifts to girls during ceremonies.” (Jacka, 2001) The Hopi believe the Kachina is a supernatural being or God like figure. The Kachina is a very important part of their spiritual life, and plays an important role in their rituals. From Kachina carving, to artist paintings and jewelry making, the Kachina is the most used figure in Hopi art. Today the Hopi carve the dolls to preserve the memories of their ancestors and culture. Another important role of their heritage was jewelry making. Using turquoise and other natural and native stones of the and

The Hopi create beautiful pieces of jewelry. The Hopi also used items that they receive in trade, such as shells and beads, in their jewelry making. Beading and overlay designs are a traditional style of jewelry making for the Hopi. Basket weaving, pottery making, and cloth or textile weaving are other examples of their artistry. The Hopi used paints and dyes made from leaves, seeds, and minerals that they ground up with mortar and pestles to create colors. Woven into very detailed patterns, baskets, made from reeds and dyed, were not only beautiful, but also very useful in their lifestyle. Made by the girls and women of the tribe, pottery was made by using the clay of the earth. In textile or cloth



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