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The Hopi Indians

The Hopi Indians
Author: Hough Walter
Title: The Hopi Indians
Release Date: 2018-07-14
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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Front cover of the book


Curator Division of Ethnology, United States National Museum,
Washington, D. C.

Publisher's device




Number Four


By Oscar H. Lipps
Supervisor in Charge, U. S. Indian School, Carlisle, Penn.

With map and illustration in three colors

By William Harvey Miner

With map and illustrations in halftone

By Alanson Skinner
Assistant Curator of Anthropology, American Museum of
Natural History, New York

With a map of the region

Each Volume 12mo, $1.00 net   Delivery extra

A Hopi woman and child sit in a doorway

Photo by P. G. Gates


To My Wife


The Country, Towns, and Peoples 13
Social Life 28
Food and Rearing 49
The Workers 69
Amusements 102
Birth, Marriage, and Death 114
Religious Life 132
Myths 179
Traditions and History 201
Brief Biographies 218
The Ancient People 250
Index 263




Whoever visits the Hopi falls perforce under themagic influence of their life and personality. If anyoneentertains the belief that “a good Indian is a deadIndian,” let him travel to the heart of the Southwestand dispel his illusions in the presence of the sturdy,self-supporting, self-respecting citizens of the pueblos.Many sojourns in a region whose fascinations are secondto no other, experiences that were happy and associationswith a people who interest all coming incontact with them combined to indite the followingpages. If the writer may seem biased in favor of the“Quaker Indians,” as Lummis calls them, be it knownthat he is moved by affection not less than by respectfor the Hopi and moreover believes that his commendationsare worthily bestowed.

The recording of these sidelights on the Hopi farfrom being an irksome task has been a pleasure whichit is hoped may be passed on to the reader, who mayhere receive an impression of a tribe of Indians livingat the threshold of modern civilizing influences andstill retaining in great measure the life of the ancienthouse-builders of the unwatered lands.

To Mr. F. W. Hodge of the Bureau of American[12]Ethnology of the Smithsonian Institution, a fellowworker in the Pueblo field, grateful acknowledgmentsare due for his criticism and advice in the preparationof this book. The frontispiece is by that distinguishedamateur P. G. Gates of Pasadena. Under the auspicesof the explorations carried on by Dr. J. WalterFewkes, for the Bureau of American Ethnology, thewriter had in 1896 his first introduction to the Hopi, afavor and a pleasure that will always be rememberedwith gratitude on his part. The indebtedness of scienceto the researches of Dr. Fewkes among the Hopiis very great and this book has profited by his inspirationas well as by his counsel.



The Hopi, or Peaceful People, as their name expresses,live in six rock-built towns perched on threemesas in northeastern Arizona. They number about1,600 and speak a dialect of the language called theShoshonean, the tongue of the Ute, Comanche, andother tribes in the United States. There is anothertown, called Hano, making up seven on these mesas,but its people are Tewas who came from the Rio Grandevalley in New Mexico more than two centuries ago.

There are a number of ways of reaching the Hopipueblos. If one would go in by the east, he maychoose to start from Holbrook on the Santa Fé PacificRailroad, or Winslow (two days each), or by the westfrom Canyon Diablo (two days), or Flagstaff (threedays). The estimates of time are based on “travelinglight” and with few interruptions. A longer journeymay be made from Gallup, during which the Canyonde Chelly, with its wonderful cliff dwellings, may bevisited if one has a sufficient outfit and plenty of time.

The home-land of the Hopi, known as Tusayan fromold times, is a semi-desert, lying a mile and a quarter[14]above sea-level. It is deeply scarred by canyons andplentifully studded with buttes and mesas, thoughthere are vast stretches which seem level till one getscloser acquaintance. From the pueblos the view isopen from the northwest to the southeast, and uninterruptedover the great basin of the Colorado Chiquito,or Little Colorado River, rimmed on the farhorizon by the peaks of the San Francisco, Mogollon,and White Mountains, while in the other quartersbroken mesas shut out the view.

The rainfall almost immediately sinking into thesandy wastes, determines that there shall be no perennially-flowingrivers in Tusayan, and that springsmust be few and far between and the most valued ofall possessions. Were it not for winter snows andsummer thunder-storms, Tusayan would be a desertindeed.

The hardy grasses and desert plants do their best tocover the nakedness of the country; along the washesare a few cottonwoods; on the mesas are junipers andpiñons; and in the higher lands to the north smalloaks strive for an existence. At times, when the rainsare favoring, plants spring up and the desert is paintedwith great masses of color; here and there are stretchesgreen with grass or yellow with the flowering bunchesof the “rabbit brush” or gray with the ice plant. Insheltered spots many rare and beautiful flowers maybe found.

The Hopi enjoy a summer climate the temperature[15]of which is that of Maine and a winter climate that isfar less severe than the latter, since most days arebright and the sun has power. Even in the warmestseason the nights are cool, and an enjoyable coolness isfound by day in the shade. The dryness of the regionrenders it ideal for healthful sleeping in the open air.A pure atmosphere like that of the sea bathes Tusayan;no microbes pollute it with their presence andit fills the body with good blood and an exhilarationlike wine.

Perforce the Hopi are agricultural, and since thereis little game to be hunted, they are also largely vegetarians,their chief food being corn. When the corncrop fails the desert plants are relied on to preventstarvation. The Hopi thus form a good example of apeople whose very existence depends on the plants ofthe earth, and it speaks well for their skill as farmers,in so unfavorable an environment, that there are anyof them living in Tusayan at this day.

Out of this environment the Hopi has shaped his religiousbeliefs, whose strenuous appeal is for food andlife from the grasping destroyers of nature that whelmhim. And in like manner he has drawn from thisniggard stretch his house, his pottery, baskets, clothingand all the arts that show how man can rise above hisenvironment. But let us have a closer view of thisIndian who is so worthy of the respect of his superiorsin culture.

The Hopi man is moderate of stature, well-framed,[16]hard-muscled, and agile, since he depended on his ownfeet for going anywhere and on his arms for work beforethe day of the burro and the horse. Black,straight hair worn long, brownish skin, the smoothand expressive face in the young men, intensifying asthey grow older, bringing out the high cheek-bones, thenose, the large mouth and accenting them withwrinkles, but never developing a sullen, ferocious castof countenance, always preserving the lines of worthand dignity and the pleasing curves of humor andgood-fellowship to the end of life,—these are thesalient characters of the Hopi.

The same remarks apply to the other sex, who fromchildhood to old age run the course in milder degree.Many of the maidens are pretty and the matrons arecomely and wholesome to behold. The old, wrinkledand bowed go their way with quiet mien and busythemselves with the light duties in which their experiencecounts for much.

In spite of the luxuriant hair that adorns the headsof this people, one may notice the difference of headshape which distinguishes them from the tribes of theplains. The cradle-board is partly responsible forthis, since, from infancy, the children are bound to thecradle and obliged to lie on the back for longer orshorter intervals, and thus begins the flattening of theback of the skull. But the heads of the women arerarely flattened, probably because the girls are not sowell cared for as the boys.

[17]There are among the Hopi a greater number ofalbinos in proportion to the population than may befound almost anywhere else. They go about theiravocations like the rest and are in no way regarded asdifferent from their kin. The impulse is to addressthem in English, and one feels surprised when they donot comprehend. One albino maiden of Mishongnovihas a marvelous growth of golden hair which shows togreat advantage in her ample hair whorls. Manystudents believe that albinism has its origin in thenervous system, and perhaps the timidity of the Hopiexplains the number of these remarkable people intheir midst; but this is a theory, based on a theory.It has been observed that some of the albinos are belowthe average in intelligence, and it has been ascertainedthat the larger proportion of them are secondin order of birth in a family.

From the number of old people in the pueblos onewould gain the impression that the Hopi are long-lived.All things considered, this is doubtless thetruth, but there are no statistics to settle the matter;besides, the question of age is a doubtful one amongthe Hopi themselves. If “sans everything” is anycriterion of a centenarian, there are such among thePeaceful People. One must conclude that, on passingchildhood, the average Hopi is due for a second termof the helpless period.

“Welcome” is not written over every Hopi door,but the spirit of hospitality pervades the entire[18]population. This is one of the pleasant features of thePueblos and is the chief reason why the Hopi are heldin friendly remembrance by visitors. An acquaintancewith the Indians in the different pueblos of theSouthwest will convince one that there is a considerablerange of disposition among them. Perhaps theextremes are the untractable Santo Domingans and theimpressionable Hopi. It seems to be a matter of theelements of which the tribes have been made up andof their past experiences and associations.

High up on the gray rocks the Hopi towns look asthough they were part of the native cliff. The seventowns,—though twenty miles and three distinct mesasseparate the extremes,—Hano and Oraibi,—arebuilt on the same stratum of sandstone. The rockshows tints of light red, yellow, and brown, and cleavesinto great cubical pillars and blocks, leaving the faceof the cliff always vertical. Trails at different pointslead up over the low masses of talus and reach the flattop through crevices and breaks in this rock-wall, oftenover surfaces where pockets have been cut in the stonefor hand and foot. A very little powder, properly applied,would render these mesas as difficult of ascentas the Enchanted Mesa near Acoma.

Once on top and breathing normally after the fourhundred feet or so of precipitous climbing, one seeswhy the outer walls of the towns seem to be a continuationof the living rock. The houses are built ofslabs

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