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Hopi Indians

Group of Pueblo Indians in Arizona

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Hopi Indians (from HOPITA. “peaceful ones” their own name; also frequently known as Moil, or MoQUI, an alien designation of disputed origin), an interesting tribe of Pueblo Indians of Shoshonean stock, occupying seven communal pueblo towns situated upon high mesas within a reservation in northeast Arizona. One of these pueblos, Hano, is occupied by immigrants from the Tewa tribe of New Mexico, speaking a distinct language. Like all the Pueblos, they are sedentary and agricultural in habit, and although the entire surrounding country is a desert of shifting sand, they carry on successful farming with the aid of water supplied by numerous small springs which issue from the base of the mesa. Besides their abundant crops of corn, beans, squashes, tobacco, and peaches (the last an inheritance from the former missionaries), they manufacture a fine variety of pottery and basket-work, and excel in woodcarving and the weaving of native cotton. Many of them are also skillful metal-workers. Their houses are square-built and flat-roofed structures of stone or adobe, sometimes several stories in height, with a sufficient number of rooms to accommodate hundreds of persons, and with store-rooms filled with provisions sufficient to last for a year. For better protection from hostile attack, most of the outer walls are without doors, entrance and egress being through a hole in the roof by means of a ladder, other ladders being let down at the outside. In former times also the steep trails which constitute the only means of approach to the summit were effectually closed at night or when danger threatened, by removing the ladders which are necessary in the most difficult places.

The Hopi are of kind and peaceable disposition, with the possible exception of the more truculent Oraibi on the westernmost mesa. They are industrious, fond of amusement and pleasantry, and entirely lacking in the stern dignity common to the more eastern tribes. They have an elaborate system of clans and phratries, each with certain distinguishing ritual forms, bearing out the tradition that the Hopi were originally a confederation of distinct tribes. They have many secret societies, with a well-organized priesthood, and a spectacular ritual. Living in an arid region, yet depending upon agriculture, their prayers are naturally addressed chiefly to the rain gods, of whom the snakes are the messengers. The celebrated Snake Dance, held once in two years by the initiates of the Snake Society, is intended as a propitiation to bring rain upon the crops. A principal feature of this ceremony is the carrying of living and venomous snakes in the mouths of the dancers. Elaborate masks of mythologic significance are worn in most of the dances, and many of them take place in underground chambers known as kivas. Monogamy is the rule and the woman is the mistress of the house. In person, the Hopi are of medium stature, but strongly built and of great endurance. Several albinos of blond skin with light hair and eyes are found among them. They may have numbered at one time 6000 souls, but by wars and frequent epidemics are now reduced to about 2200, of whom nearly one-half dwell in Oraibi pueblo.

The first white men to make acquaintance with the Hopi were a detachment from Coronado’s expedition in 1540, accompanied by the Franciscan Father Juan de Padilla, afterwards murdered while preaching to the wild tribes of the plains. They were visited by Espejo in 1583, at which time they occupied five pueblos. In 1598, they were brought regularly under Spanish authority by Governor Ofate of New Mexico, who appointed a priest to take charge of their spiritual welfare, but no regular mission was attempted in the tribe until 1629, when the mission of San Bernardino was established at Awatobi by a party of four Franciscans headed by Father Francisco de Porras. Other missions were founded later at Shongopovi (San Bartolome) and Oraibi (San Francisco) with visitas at Walpi and Mishongnovi. The missions sustained an uncertain existence until the Feat revolt of the Pueblos in 1680, when the four resident missionaries were killed and the churches destroyed. The rising was put down twelve years later, but no attempt was made to reestablish the Hopi missions, excepting at Awdtobi, with 800 souls, which was visited in the spring of 1700 by Father Juan Garaycoechea, at the request of the inhabitants, but with-out permanent result. Later in the same year, on account of the evident friendship of Awatobi for the missionaries, the warriors of the other pueblos attacked it by night, setting fire to the pueblo, slaughtering all the men, many of whom were smothered in underground chambers, and carrying off all the women and children to be distributed among the other pueblos. Awatobi can still be traced in its ruins, including the walls of the old church. In 1726 permission was given to the Jesuits to undertake work in the tribe, but with no result, and in 1745 the field was again given over to the Franciscans, with as little success, the Hopi stubbornly refusing to allow the establishment of a mission.

In 1778-1780 a three years drought with consequent famine and pestilence, almost extinguished the tribe for a time, the survivors scattering among the neighboring tribes but still steadfastly refusing any help from the Spaniards. In 1850 they sent a delegation to the newly arrived representative of the American Government at Santa Fe, and in 1858 an American expedition under Lieutenant J. C. Ives visited their towns. In 1869 they were brought under agency control. While uniformly friendly to the Americans, they retain the old hatred for the Spaniards and their Mexican descendants, and, despite schools and some more recent’ evangelizing effort, hold fast to their ancient beliefs and ceremonies. In 1899, after an absence of a century and a quarter, visiting Franciscans from the Navaho mission were allowed to celebrate Mass in public near Walpi with-out molestation. In 1909 the resident Mennonite missionaries were obliged to withdraw from Oraibi on account of the hostility of the conservatives.

JAMES MOONEY


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