Published on December 3, 2011 by Amy
Long ago, streams cut three mesas from Black Mesa in what is now Arizona. It is here the Hopi, “the peaceful ones,” have lived for more than a thousand years. At first, the villages of the Hopi were located in the valley but the Hopi eventually moved to the mesa tops as protection against Spanish invaders. The houses were built of adobe and three-stories high, but never higher and in long rows. The roof of one house served as a terrace for the house above it, and ladders connected the levels.
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Despite the dry climate and poor soil, corn has been at the center of Hopi life for thousands of years. But the despite the fact drought is common, the Hopi have miraculously been able to produce crops of corn, beans and squash. Gourds were grown to serve as containers and tools. The rich soil of Black Mesa that was deposited by the washes of ancient times help, as did small but permanent springs for irrigation. Garden plots were worked by the men of individual clans, who mark their territories with rocks painted with their clan symbols. Women canvassed the desert for berries, nuts and seeds.
Hunting was never held as a high priority, but sometimes the men would organize a rabbit hunt, taking the animals by tossing sticks.
To combat the heat, the men wore wide, loose cotton pants and loose shirts. Women wore knee-length handwoven belted dresses that crossed over the right shoulder, leaving the left one bare. The women also wrapped their legs in buckskin to protect them from prickly desert plants when gathering wild foods. Both wore moccasins.
The Hopi mark the winter solstice each year with a celebration that includes the telling of legends and the dance of the masked kachinas to represent the rain gods. To learn about the many different rain gods, the children are given small, carved and painted dolls that represent each kachina. The figures are for study only, and never for play.
Spanish missionaries came upon the Hopi and tried to convert them to Christianity, but failed. In 1680, the Hopi joined the Pueblo Revolt and the Spanish were driven away forever. It was during and after the Pueblo Revolt that the Hopi left the valley and moved to the mesa tops. The one Christianized village was removed.
Though the Hopi continued to live on First, Second and Third Mesa in northeastern Arizona, and remain there today, they also still owned land in the valley below. Over time, many Navajo settled on these lands and the Hopi allowed it. However, today the rights of possession are at issue.