Hopi Tribe

Hopi Indians (contraction of Hópitu, ‘peaceful ones,’ or Hópitu-shínumu, ‘peaceful all people’: their own name). A body of Indians, speaking a Shoshonean dialect, occupying 6 pueblos on a reservation of 2,472,320 acres in north east Arizona. The name “Moqui,” or “Moki,” by which they have been popularly known, means ‘dead’ in their own language, but as a tribal name it is seemingly of alien origin and of undetermined signification – perhaps from the Keresan language (Mósǐcha in Laguna, Mo-ts in Acoma, Mótsǐ in Sia, Cochiti, and San Felipe), whence Espejo’s “Mohace” and “Mohoce” (1583) and Oñate’s “Mohoqui (1598). Bandelier and Cushing believed the Hopi country, the later province of Tusayan, to be identical with the Totonteac of Fray Marcos de Niza.

Hopi Tribe History

The Hopi first became known to white men in the summer of 1540, when Coronado, then at Cibola (Zuni), dispatched Pedro de Tobar and Fray Juan de Padilla to visit 7 villages, constituting the province of Tusayan, toward the west or north west. The Spaniards were not received with friendliness at first, but the opposition of the natives was soon over come and the party remained among the Hopi several days, learning from them of the existence of the Grand canyon of the Colorado, which Cardenas was later ordered to visit. The names of the Tusayan towns are not recorded by Coronado’s chroniclers, so that with the exception of Oraibi, Shongopovi, Mishongnovi, Walpi, and Awatobi, it is not known with certainty what villages were inhabited when the Hopi first became known to the Spaniards. Omitting Awatobi, which was destroyed in 1700 with the possible exception of Oraibi none of these towns now occupies its 16th century site.

Francisco Sanchez Chamuscado visited Zuñi in 1581 and speaks of the Hopi country as Asay or Osay, but he did not visit it on account of the snow. Two years later, however, the province was visited by Antonio de Espejo, who journeyed 28 leagues from Zuñi to the first of the Hopi pueblos in 4 days. The Mohoce, or Mohace, of this explorer consisted of 5 large villages, the population of one of which, Aguato (Ahuato, Zaguato=Awatobi) he estimated at 50,000, a figure perhaps 25 times too great. The names of the other towns are not given. The natives had evidently forgotten the horses of Tobar and Cardenas of 43 years before, as they now became frightened at these strange animals. The Hopi presented Espejo with quantities of cotton “towels,” perhaps kilts, for which they were celebrated then as now.

The next Spaniard to visit the “Mohoqui” was Juan de Oñate, governor and colonizer of New Mexico, who took possession of the country and made the Indians swear to obedience and vassalage on Nov. 15, 1598. Their spiritual welfare was assigned to Fray Juan de Claros, although no active missions were established among the Hopi until nearly a generation later. The 5 villages at this time, so far as it is possible to determine them, were Aguato or Aguatuybá (Awatobi), Gaspe (Gualpe=Walpi), Comupaví or Xumupamí (Shongopovi), Majananí (Mishongnovi), and Olalla or Naybí (Oraibi).

The first actual missionary work undertaken among the Hopi was in 1629, on Aug. 20 of which year Francisco de Porras, Andrés Gutierrez, Cristobal de la Concepcion, and Francisco de San Buenaventura, escorted by 12 soldiers, reached Awatobi, where the mission of San Bernardino was founded in honor of the day, followed by the establishment of missions also at Walpi, Shongopovi, Mishongnovi, and Oraibi. Porras was poisoned by the natives of Awatobi in 1633. All the Hopi missions seem to have led a precarious existence until 1680, when in the general Pueblo revolt of that year four resident missionaries were killed and the churches destroyed. Henceforward no attempt was made to reestablish any of the missions save that of Awatobi in 1700, which so incensed the other Hopi that they fell upon it in the night, killing many of its people and compelling its permanent abandonment.

Before the rebellion Mishongnovi and Walpi had become reduced to visitas of the missions of Shongopovi and Oraibi respectively. At the time of the outbreak the population of Awatobi was given as 800, Shongopovi 500, and Walpi 1,200. Oraibi, it is said, had 14,000 gentiles before their conversion, but that they were consumed by pestilence. This number is doubtless greatly exaggerated.

Hopi Indians Culture

The pueblos of Walpi, Mishongnovi, and Shongopovi, situated in the foothills, were probably abandoned about the time of the Pueblo rebellion, and new villages built on the adjacent mesas for the purpose of defense against the Spaniards, whose vengeance was needlessly feared. The reconquest of the New Mexican pueblos led many of their inhabitants to seek protection among the Hopi toward the close of the 17th century. Some of these built the pueblo of Payupki, on the Middle mesa, but were taken back and settled in Sandia about the middle of the 18th century. About the year 1700 Hano was established on the East mesa, near Walpi, by Tewa from near Abiquin, New Mexico, who came on the invitation of the Walpians. Here they have lived uninterruptedly, and although they have intermarried extensively with the Hopi, they retain their native speech and many of their distinctive tribal rites and customs. Two other pueblos, Sichonlovi on the First mesa, built by Asa clans from the Rio Grande, and Shipaulovi, founded by a colony from Shongopovi on the Second or Middle mesa, are both of comparatively modern origin, having been established about the middle of the 18th century, or about the time the Payupki people returned to their old home. Thus the pueblos of the ancient province of Tusayan now consist of the following: Walpi, Sichomovi, and Hano, on the First or East mesa; pop. (1900) 205, 119, and 160, respectively, exclusive of about 20 who have established homes in the plain; total 504. Mishongnovi, Shongopovi, and Shupaulovi, on the Second or Middle mesa; estimated pop. 244, 225, and 126; total 595. Oraibi, on the Third or West mesa; pop. (1890) 905. Total Hopi population (1904) officially given as 1,878.

Maize being the basis of their subsistence, agriculture is the principal industry of the Hopi. On the average 2,500 acres are yearly planted in this cereal, the yield in 1904 being estimated at 25,000 bushels. Perhaps one-third of the annual crop is preserved in event of future failure through drought or other causes. There are also about 1,000 acres in peach orchards and 1,500 acres in beans, melons, squashes, pumpkins, onions, chile, sunflowers, etc. Cotton, wheat, and tobacco are also raised in small quantities, hut in early times native cotton was extensively grown. In years of stress desert plants, which have always been utilized to some extent for food, form an important part of the diet.

The Hopi have of late become more or less pastoral. Flocks (officially estimated in 1904 at 56,000 sheep and 15,000 goats), acquired originally from the Spaniards, supply wool and skins. They own also about 1,500 head of cattle, and 4,350 horses, burros, and mules. Dogs, chickens, hogs, and turkeys are their only other domesticated animals. All small desert animals are eaten; formerly antelope, elk, and deer were captured by being driven into pitfalls or corrals. Communal rabbit hunts are common, the animals being killed with wooden clubs shaped like boomerangs. Prairie dogs are drowned out of their burrows, coyotes are caught in pitfalls made of stones, and small birds are captured in snares.

The Hopi are skilled in weaving, dyeing, and embroidering blankets, belts, and kilts. Their textile work is durable, and shows a great variety of weaves. The dark-blue blanket of the Hopi woman is an important article of commerce among the Pueblos, and their embroidered ceremonial blankets, sashes, and kilts made of cotton have a ready sale among neighboring tribes. Although the Hopi ceramic art has somewhat deteriorated in modern times, fair pottery is still made among the people of Hano, where one family has revived the superior art of the earlier villagers. They weave basketry in a great variety of ways at the Middle Mesa pueblos and in Oraibi; but, with the exception of the familiar sacred-meal plaques, which are well made and brightly colored, the workmanship is crude. The Hopi are clever in making masks and other religious paraphernalia from hides, and excel in carving and painting dolls, representing kachinas, which are adorned with bright feathers and cloth. They likewise manufacture mechanical toys, which are exhibited in some of their dramatic entertainments. Nowhere among the aborigines of North America are the Hopi excelled in dramaturgic exhibitions, in some of which their imitations of birds and other animals are marvelously realistic.

Hopi Indians Language

The Hopi language is classified as Shoshonean; but, according to Gatschet, it “seems to contain many archaic words and forms not encountered in the other dialects, and many vocables of its own. “The published vocabularies are very limited, and comparatively little is known of the grammatical structure of the language; but it is evident that it contains many words of Keresan, Tewa, Pima, Zuñi, Ute, Navaho, and Apache derivation. As among other Southwestern tribes a number of words are modified Spanish, as those for horse, sheep, melon, and the names for other intrusive articles and objects. Slight dialectic differences are noticeable in the speech of Oraibi and Walpi, but the language, of the other pueblos is practically uniform. The Hopi language is melodious and the enunciation clear. The speech of the people of Awatobi is said to have had a nasal intonation, while the Oraibi speak drawlingly. Although they accompany their speech with gestures, few of the Hopi understand the sign language. The Keresan people have furnished many songs, with their words, and Zuñi and Pima songs have also been introduced. Some of the prayers also have archaic Tanoan or Keresan words.

Hopi Tribe Religion

The Hopi are preeminently a religious people, much of their time, especially in winter, being devoted to ceremonies for rain and the growth of crops. Their mythology is a polytheism largely tinged with ancestor worship and permeated with fetishism. They originally had no conception of a great spirit corresponding to God, nor were they ever monotheists; and, although they have accepted the teachings of Christian missionaries, these have not had the effect of altering their primitive beliefs. Their greatest gods are deified nature powers, as the Mother Earth and the Sky god – the former mother, and the latter father, of the races of men and of marvelous animals, which are conceived of as closely allied.

The earth is spoken of as having always existed. In Hopi mythology the human race was not created, but generated from the earth, from which man emerged through an opening called the sipapu, now typified by the Grand canyon of the Colorado. The dead are supposed to return to the underworld. The Sky Father and the Earth Mother have many names and are personated in many ways; the latter is represented by a spider; the former by a bird—a hawk or an eagle. Such names as Fire god, Germ god, and others are attributed designations of the great male powers of nature, or its male germinative principle. All supernatural beings are supposed to influence the rain and consequently the growth of crops. Every clan religion exhibits strong ancestral worship, in which a male and a female ancestral tutelary of the clan, called by a distinctive clan name, is preeminent. The Great Horned or Plumed Serpent, a form of sky god, derived from the south, and introduced by the Patki and other southern clans, is prominent in sun ceremonies. The number of subordinate supernatural personages is almost unlimited. Thee are known as “kachinas,” a term referring to the magic power inherent in every natural object for good or for bad. Many of these kachinas are personations of clan ancestors, others are simply beings of unknown relationship but endowed with magic powers. Each kachina possesses individual characteristics, and is represented in at least six different symbolic colors. The world quarters, or six cardinal points, play an important role in Hopi mythology and ritual. Fetishes, amulets, charms, and mascots are commonly used to insure luck in daily occupations, and for health and success in hunting, racing, gaming, and secular performances. The Hopi ceremonial calendar consists of a number of monthly festivals, ordinarily of 9 days duration, of which the first 8 are devoted to secret rites in kivas or in rooms set apart for that purpose, the final day being generally devoted to a spectacular public ceremony or “dance.” Every great festival is held under the auspices of a special religious fraternity or fraternities, and is accompanied with minor events indicating a former duration of 20 days. Among the most important religious fraternities are the Snake, Antelope, Flute, Sun, Lalakontu, Owakultu, Mamzrautu, Kachina, Tataukyamu, Wuwuchimtu, Aaltu, Kwakwautu, and Kalektaka. There are also other organized priesthoods, as the Yaya and the Poshwympkia, whose functions are mainly those of doctors or healers. Several ancient priesthoods, known by the names Koyimsi, Paiakyamu, and Chukuwympkia, function as clowns or fun-makers during the sacred dances of the Kachinas. The ceremonial year is divided into two parts, every great ceremony having a major and a minor performance occurring about 6 months apart; and every 4 years, when initiations occur, most ceremonies are celebrated in extenso. The so called Snake and Flute dances are performed biennially at all the pueblos except Sichomovi and Hano, and alternate with each other. Ceremonies are also divided into those with masked and those with unmasked participants, the former, designated kachinas, extending from January to July, the latter occurring in the remaining months of the year. The chief of each fraternity has a badge of his office and conducts both the secret and the open features of the ceremony. The fetishes and idols used in the sacred rites are owned by the priesthood and are arranged by its chief in temporary altars, in front of which dry-paintings are made. The Hopi ritual is extraordinarily complex and time consuming, and the paraphernalia required is extensive. Although the Hopi cultus has become highly modified by a semi-arid environment; it consisted originally of ancestor worship, embracing worship of the great powers of nature – sky, sun, moon, fire, rain, and earth. A confusion of effect and cause and an elaboration of the doctrine of signatures pervade all their rites, which in the main may be regarded as sympathetic magic.


Hodge, Frederick Webb, Compiler. The Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office. 1906.

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3 thoughts on “Hopi Tribe”

  1. I believe I am Hopi. How can I find out. My mother passed . But my mom handed me down a lot of Indian jewelry. A lot with Hopi symbols. I always wore moccasins as I grew up. Played with Indian dolls. And my grandfather called me Kachina . My nickname in high school was Indian.

  2. thechaoschronicles

    I am a young photographer, currently working on an artistic documentary essai. It consist of cycle short movies, entitled The Chaøs Chrønicles – Fragments, during our trip we had the chance to meet up with a women who lived on hopi reservation. He story is really pure and touching, i think can be interesting for your blog !
    Please take a minute to take a look at the video:

    The full project:

  3. I am trying to find my ancestors on my grandmother’s side. I believe she is part of the Hopi Tribe. Her name is Candilaria Rubio. Any and all information will be greatly appreciated

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