Reservation Series: Hopi

Henry Peabody Collection, c1900 (at Wikipedia Commons)

“The Peaceful People”

Enrolled Tribal Members: 12,053

People on the Reservation: 6,946

Programs Partnering with NRC: 24

Sovereign Nation Since: 1882

Official Tribal Web Site:  


A Bit of Culture:  The Hopi people still live on their original land and are known for having two of the oldest continuously inhabited villages in the United States – Walpi Village and Oraibi – which date back to the 11th century AD. The Hopi lived in traditional pueblo style homes perched high upon the mesas for protection from enemies. The Hopi people are deeply rooted in their religion and spirituality, following the traditional ways of their ancestors to this day. These traditions were important enough that, despite their peaceful ways, the Hopi people held steadfast when other societies’ intruded to “educate” them and change their ways.

Edward S. Curtis, c1906 (at Wikipedia Commons)

Tribal members still speak the Hopi language, which is one of the 30 Uto-Aztecan languages. Each village has skilled artisans among them. First Mesa has potters, carvers and artists. Second Mesa has basket weavers, jewelry makers, and kachina doll carvers. Third Mesa has textile weavers and skilled villagers. Also known for their ability to run far distances very quickly, the Hopi people historically ran to hunt game and send messages to neighboring villages. Today they run for spiritual and physical purposes. One Hopi is said to have run 72 miles within 36 hours. One famous runner was Louis Tewanima. He won the silver medal in the 10,000 meter race at the 1912 Olympic games.

A Bit of History:  The Hopi are also known worldwide for their prophecy. Their Blue Star prophecy says that World War III will be started in the old countries (India, China, Islamic Nations, Africa). The war will be a spiritual conflict with material matters. U.S. lands and people will be destroyed by atomic bombs and radioactivity. Only the Hopi lands will be preserved as an oasis for refugees. Material matters will be destroyed by spiritual beings, who will then create one world and one nation under one power: the Creator. When a Kachina removes his mask and dances in the plaza before uninitiated children (the general public), he represents a blue star, far off and yet invisible, which will soon after make its appearance. This time has been foretold in songs during ceremonies, first in 1914 just before WWI, and again in 1940 before WWII. Disunity, corruption, and hatred contaminating Hopi rituals were said to be signs of the same evils spreading over the world. The song was sung again in 1961. When the “blue star” comes, it is said that for a while there will be no more ceremonies or faith. But Oraibi will be rejuvenated with its faith and ceremonies, marking the start of a new cycle of Hopi life.

Chief Dan Evemhema

The most revered and quoted leader in Hopi History is Chief is Dan Evemhem who, at 106 years of age, gave a powerful message to the Hopi people about peace and prophecies fulfilled. Another notable leader was Chief Lololoma. Despite some resistance at the time, he saw the need for a European education and opened the door for schools on the reservation. This has led to the mix of formal and culturally-relevant curricula we see in Hopi classrooms today.

The Hopi Reservation originated in 1882 with President Arthur. Since then, there have been some land disputes with the Navajo Nation, which the U.S. government stepped in to resolve. It was not until 1992 that the boundaries of the Hopi Reservation, as we know it today, were set. The Hopi people have their own government and, in the early 1930s, elected their first Tribal Council. Each of the three mesas (village) is self-governing has a representative on the Tribal Council.

The Land:  The Hopi reservation spans about 2,532 square miles in Northern Arizona and is entirely surrounded by the Navajo Reservation. The communities known as First Mesa, Second Mesa and Third Mesa actually encompass 12 traditional villages across the reservation.

Hopi Kachina Dolls

Current Economy:  The sale of high-quality Kachina dolls and fine jewelry provides a local source of income. The tribe receives the majority of its income from the coal that is mined on their land and which, sadly, has contaminated the majority of their drinking water.

The Hopi tribe is also highly skilled in dry farming, which allows them to grow strong crops on difficult soil. Dry farming is said by Hopi Elders to be less expensive and to require less water and tools. Their main crop is chili but they also raise corn and squash.

Education & Income:  The first school on the Hopi Reservation opened in 1887 in Keams Canyon. It was intended to teach Hopi children the ways of the English civilization. Many Hopi families refused to send their children to the school, in order to maintain their traditional culture. Today Hopi has an 80% high school graduation rate. The unemployment rate is 66%, and about 22% of those employed live below poverty level.

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