The Hopi Native American Tribe is Called “the Oldest of People”

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The Hopi Native American Tribe is Called “the Oldest of People”

Hopi woman, 1922.
Hopi woman, 1922.

The Hopi Native Americans are a cultural group that other Native American tribes often refer to as “the oldest of people.”

American writer Frank Waters says in his Book of the Hopi that they “regard themselves as America’s first inhabitants” and that “their village of Oraibi is indisputably oldest continuously occupied settlement in America.”

The Hopi are mainly farmers, living in the American Southwest, mainly in Arizona where their Hopi reservation today covers an area of more than 2,500 sq mi.

They Cultivate dozens of maize, beans, pumpkins, cotton, sunflower, and squash varieties that they also use to produce tools and instruments.

The Hopi are widely known for their spirituality and beliefs rooted in Animism. They believe in powerful ancestral spirits or deities called Kachinas.

They can be animals or natural elements with the magical power to heal, bring rainfall, and protect the Hopi tribe.

“In spirit and in the ceremony, the Hopis maintain a connection with the center of the earth, for they believe they are the caretakers of the earth, and with the successful performance of their ceremonial cycle, the world will remain in balance, the gods will be appeased, and rain will come.” – The Wind Won’t Know Me: A History of the Navajo – Hopi land dispute by Emily Benedek, published in 1992.

The Hopi tribe are the guardians of their ancestors ‘ rituals and knowledge. Their ceremonies are held in so-called kivas semi-underground chambers. The Hopi wear masks and costumes in order to impersonate kachinas during their sacred rituals.

The entrance to the kivas is through a tiny hole on the surface and symbolizes the gate to the underworld, while a ladder moving up above an opening on the roof represents the pathway to this world.

Today, there are kivas in all traditional Hopi villages, which count 12, and are situated just below the central square.

Hopi Women’s Dance, 1879, Oraibi, Arizona.
Hopi Women’s Dance, 1879, Oraibi, Arizona.

Not many details about the rituals and ancestors of the Hopi are certain because they tend to carry them in great secrecy.

They are believed to have come down from the Ancestral Pueblo, just like other indigenous Americans living in the Southwest (not counting the Navajo with whom the Hopi had a long history of disputes).

The Hopi lived in many different places in their stories and traditional beliefs before finally settling on this world.

They consider this World to be the Fourth and they arrived here following a difficult journey through which they searched for a home.

They believe that the 1st World was destroyed by fire, the 2nd one by Ice, and the 3rd World by floods. They were finally led to the 4th World by their deities.

Their oral history stretches back 1000’s of years which is a big reason they are believed to have one of the oldest living cultures in the world. Archaeology has affirmed their presence in the Southwest for 1000’s of years, and possibly longer.

When they began growing in size around the 14th and 15th centuries, they introduced chieftains to their villages to improve the coordination of their daily activities.

Hopi mother, 1921
Hopi mother, 1921

Despite their savage dispute with the neighboring Navajo, the Hopi’s violent history began with their first contact with the Spaniards who disturbed the tribe’s way of living.

They began to send missionaries from Spain, and although the Hopis pretended to accept Christianity, they continued their own rituals and mixed both elements.

To this day, the Hopi tend to keep their traditions as much alive as possible. They still keep their centuries-old architecture of the emblematic terraced structures of stone and brick buildings.

They still look after the same land where their ancestors settled down and cultivated the same fields as they did centuries ago, while local craftsmen continue to create popular traditional jewelry and items.

Hopi woman dressing hair of unmarried girl, c. 1900.
Hopi woman dressing hair of the unmarried girl, c. 1900.

Source: the vintage news


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Jessica Saraceni has been a part of Histecho Since 2018, drawn to the site for its quirky character and through Articles about the Mysteries of earth and human behavior. previously, she was an assistant editor and Research fellow at Archaeology magazine, where she gained an appreciation for the field work. A master's degree in biogeochemistry and environmental science from the Center for Archaeological Research, the University of Texas at San Antonio. She enjoys all forms of exercise; reading works by her favorite author, Haruki Murakami; and playing with her sons.