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Hopi: “The Peaceful People”
Let me walk in beauty, and make my eyes ever behold the red and purple sunset. Make my hands respect the things you have made and my ears sharp to hear your voice. Make me wise so that I may understand the things you have taught my people. Let me learn the lessons you have hidden in every leaf and rock. I seek strength, not to be greater than my brother, but to fight my greatest enemy —Myself— Make me always ready to come to you with clean hands and straight eyes.
The Hopi are a Native American nation with blindingly rich and important history laced with complex tales of mythology, culture, warfare and more. They are a western group of Pueblo Indians who live in Northeastern Arizona primarily in clustered towns situated on high mesas. The name Hopi is short for Hopi’sinom which translates to “people who live in the correct way.” Hopi village life revolves around this concept. To be Hopi involves revering and respecting all things and is deeply rooted in religion, spirituality, morality and ethics. They are one of the few groups of Native Americans who have generally maintained their culture despite many historical and modern obstacles.
In 1540, Spanish Conquistadors invaded Hopi territory in search of vast wealth and a rumored city made of gold. To the Spaniards disappointment, the Hopi region was considerably poor. They stayed, however urged by the notion of conquering vast amounts of uncharted land. Meanwhile, Spanish missionaries were dispatched onto the Hopi people to spread Catholicism and Spanish militia patrolled their settlements. Tensions grew between the two cultures and war broke out. Yet through it all, the Hopi managed to survive and maintain their traditions.
The entire world is intended to benefit from the traditional ceremonies of the Hopi people. These ceremonies “keep the world in balance” by providing rain and good crops thus eliminating chaos. The Hopi Mother Nature, Mother Earth, Corn Mother, Spider Woman and Sand Altar Woman are conceived to be mothers of all things and their mythical stories form a fundamental state of community throughout the Hopi villages. These beautiful stories are passed along from generation to generation using spoken word.
The Hopi language is an Uto-Aztecan language spoken by only about 5000 people, 40 whom are monolinguals. The Hopi writing system uses Latin letters to signify phonemes. The Language currently faces endangerment and correspondingly so does the Hopi culture and history. According to Benjamin Lee Whorf, a famous linguist who is recognized for his study of southwestern versus Central American language “one’s world-view is affected by one’s language and visa versa.” Whorf studied Hopi at length and one of his noted conclusions was that Hopi has an entirely different concept of duration or succession of time as we do in Western culture. The Hopi world-view is extremely unique and should be preserved!
Today here are twenty-one Native American tribes nationally recognized. The Hopi population consists of around 7000 people. The Hopi Cultural Preservation Office is located on the site of the Hopi Reservation and is dedicated to insuring the existence of Hopi tradition. Modern society and technologies are influencing youth to stray from Hopi practices and become involved with the outside world. Modern education and economics also strain traditional Hopi life.
Steps to preservation such as Hopi educational facilities, a published Hopi-English dictionary, the Hopi Literacy Project and service groups such as the Hopi Foundation focus on promoting and sustaining the language.
It is important to realize that the Hopi still walk the planet and we must treat them as people with a past, a present and a future. Regardless of their numerous struggles, the Hopi people are still the true owners of their culture