HOPI: The Real Thing

The Hopi, or Hopituh Shi-nu-mu, "The Peaceful People" or "Peaceful Little Ones," call their ancestors Hisatsinom, ("ee-SAH-tse-nom"), which means the ancient ones.

The Navajo use the word Anasazi, which means ancient enemies. As Hopi they have lived in the Four Corners area for at least 1,000 years. Oraibi, AZ was settled in 1050 and is the oldest consistently occupied community in North America. Wherever they have lived, the Hopi have always been the Hopi. It is the scientists who use other names.

A division of the Hopi, first of three prophesied, took place in 1906 when Chief You-kew-ma and his followers were forced out of Oraibi by a pushing contest and began the new community of Hotevilla.

The meaning of the name Hopi
Origin Journey Language The Hopi Way Religion
Snake Dance Flute Dance Clowns Today
A Hopi Prophecy
50,000 years old?
Villages Hopi Check List
Hopi Declaration of Peace Essence of Hopi Prophecy

How the Hopi Were Named

This is a very long story, so here are the basics.

When the Hopi were first created they had no name. They were created with everlasting life and placed upon the earth to live as one, spiritually.

All was provided for them; they did not work for their food, there was no illness, and they were to live forever.

They were given laws to live by, but they broke them. For this disobedience they were changed into body and soul, sickness came into their bodies, and they became mortal.

Some wanted to live simply, but others used cleverness to make things that were not good for them. Those who wanted only peace emerged into a new world. In this new, beautiful world the Great Spirit, Maasau'u, came to visit them and to test their wisdom.

The people were divided into groups, each with their own leaders that they had chosen. Then Maasau'u placed ears of corn of different lengths in front of each leader.

As each leader pushed forward to grab the biggest ear of corn the Great Spirit gave that group a name and a language.

The humblest leader picked the shortest ear of corn, and the name "Hopi" was given to those people: the little ones.

Hopi means to be humble and peaceful, but if the people do not live the Hopi way the name will be taken from them.

The Origin

The Hopi base their existence on faith only, and their story is a fascinating tale of that faith sustaining them: "White men come, white men go, but we shall always be here."

According to Hopi beliefs, this is the fourth creation of life; the three preceeding ending in destruction. Each time conflict, which is not a part of The Hopi Way, came about as men forgot or denied the plan of the Creator. The faithful were protected underground with the ant people, and the kivas of today are representations of those anthills.

The Hopi creation story is about a succession through underworlds and each of these is associated with a specific direction, color, mineral, plant, and bird.

For a source of research, a book entitled The Truth has some unususal ideas. There are other articles connected to this link, and a story of a trip down the Colorado River 90 years ago which led to the discovery of the Hopi connection with Egypt and Tibet.
The Journey

The story of the Hopi journeys shows knowledge that is a study in itself. They speak of struggling through jungles, of building cities and leaving ruins behind. We continue to trace these connections.

The Hopi say that their ancestors migrated from many places and settled near the Grand Canyon. Their story is an interesting one that is also partly covered in the Chaco Canyon article.

The cliff paintings at Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde are guides for Hopi clansmen to follow, and they claim to have built the snake-shaped mounds in the eastern United States.

A common thread weaves its way across this continent to lend substance to this amazing story: The "putting on of the horns," which is the phrase used by the Iroquois to denote attaining chief status, is also of the Hopi, and many other tribes.

An interesting note to all these connections: Tibet is exactly on the opposite side of the planet from the Hopi Reservation. The Tibetan word for "sun" is the Hopi word for "moon." The Hopi word for "sun" is the Tibetan word for "moon."


There are many relationships with other peoples, both in the area, and afar, that can be traced by the language. The Hopi language is of the Uto-Aztecan family, which is closely related to the Northern Paiute and the Aztecs of Mexico, and the Hopi dialect is Shoshone.

Many Pueblo people along the Rio Grande speak the Tanoan languages, which are of the second branch of the Azteco-Tanoan group. This is also the language of the Kiowa. Others in the same area speak Keresan languages, which belong to the Hokan-Siouan group. The Hopi recognize a distant relationship with all the peoples along the Rio Grande as well as with the Pima and Papago. The Kiowa-Apache share a language group with the Hopi, which leads full circle to the Navajo. An article connecting all these peoples by language is forth-coming, and far-reaching research has led to Ireland. There will be many family trees shaken.

A continuing mystery of the area are the Zuni, whose way of life is very like the Hopi, but who speak a language unlike any other Native American Indian peoples. Strangely enough, research of the Zuni has led to a Libyan connection. More to follow.

The Hopi Way

The Hopi Way is one of peace and is holistic; their name Hopituh Shi-nu-mu, can be interpreted as "The Peaceful Little People." All of daily life is part of their religion, and their belief is to help others improve their life.

Twelve clan groups, called phratries, have many clans within them, each with its own ceremonies and sacred fetishes. Though men are the religious leaders, the children inherit the clan of their mother.

Though the men own the livestock and the fruit trees, the women own all the land, even that under the fruit trees. As many as 24 varieties of corn are grown and due to arid conditions the roots may grow 20 feet down. Each plant has many ears of corn. To supplement the staple of corn the Hopi gather more than 100 wild plants.

Kivas are the center of religious life and are mostly used by the men. Stone walls line the underground chambers and a hole sipapu in the floor of the kiva symbolizes the exit from the ant people's domain.


Religion is life for the Hopi and binds the village into a solid community. Most ceremonies relate to rain. Katsinas or kachinas, of which there are about 350, are the guarding spirits that come down from their world at winter solstice, remaining in the people until summer solstice.

Instruction in the Hopi religion begins at an early age for the children. Dolls called tithu are given them to represent the katsinum. These are not toys, but reminders. First of these given to the child represents Hahai'i wuhti, the mother of the katsinum.

Through childhood obedience is instilled by rewards and punishments, which includes whippings administered by men in katsina masks. To the children these are the true katsinas. Somewhere between the ages of 8 to 13 the men behind the masks reveal themselves to the child and so begins their initiation into the adult world; they will become the men behind the masks.

The religious dances also feature men wearing masks to portray these katsinas, with the snake dance as the final ceremony. There is a prophecy tied to the katsina dancers: When the Saquasohuh (Blue Star) katsina removes his mask in front of the uninitiated all Hopi ceremonies will end and faith will end also. A renewing will take place in Oraibi, beginning a new cycle of Hopi life.

Saquasohuh is believed by some to represent the Hale-Bopp comet. The Wuwuchim ceremony includes a song that tells of this, and this song was sang in 1914, preceeding WWI, in 1940, pre WWII, and again in 1961. The Hopi say that the emergence into the Fifth World of the future has begun.

There are nine prophecies connected with the nine worlds. Four have been fulfilled by the previous three worlds and the present world; the Fifth is being fulfilled. The future prophecies are of the worlds to come, and the world of the Creator, Taiowa, and Sotuknang, the Creator's nephew.

The Hopi wear their hair in bangs as a window to recognize the True White Brother, and also as a sign for him to recognize them.

Editor's note: I have a viewpoint on this and express it in the Clamor Seven:
The True White Brother

SEE: Ancient Prophecies

The Ceremonial Calendar

Preparation for the ceremonies begins in the kivas, some of which are rectangular, with the eastern pueblos kivas being round or oval. Prayer is offered before the altar, and sacred cornmeal, tobacco, and feathered prayer-sticks are used in this offering. Tobacco smoke is rain clouds.

The ceremonial dancers send a prayer to the spirits below by stamping on a cottonwood covering of the sipapu before coming out to dance.

The Crier Chief comes forth to announce all ceremonies. Kachina dances begin with the dance leader following "grandfather" into the plaza. Drummers join in and all move in a counter-clockwise direction, with the dance leader in the center. In the social dances the singers and drummers remain apart.

Hopi Snake Dance

The Snake Dance requires two weeks of ritual preparation, and the snakes are gathered. They are kept watch over by children until time for the dance. By percentage of the local snake population most are rattlesnakes, but all are handled freely.

The dancers then take an emetic and dance with the snakes in their mouths, with an Antelope Priest in attendance. He strokes the snakes with a feather and sometimes helps support the weight of the larger snakes. After the dance the snakes are released to carry prayers. According to people who have investigated, the emetics are not an anti-venom.

Hopi Flute Dance

The Flute Dance is a nine-day ceremony that begins at the main village spring, with the Flute Boy and the Flute Maidens followed by the Flute Priests. Then the Flute Society enters the plaza walking over sacred cornmeal, which represents rain clouds. This group is led by the Kaletaka, the warrior.

Hopi Clowns

The sacred clowns of the Hopi have a unique function in their society and the religious right to enact by negative example what should not be done. Humiliation and ridicule are their methods, and no one is immune to their rudeness. Stripping another naked is not going too far. Misbehavior of people in the community is dramatized, and the culprit takes the hint.

The clowns are the ultimate tradition keepers. If work needs to be done the clowns recruit the workers. They cannot be denied.

White ways, such as money, missionaries, and teachers sent to the Hopi have been the subject of the clowns' derision.

In the 1960's an unusual drama was inspired. An eerie sound was made by twirling a piece of hose, and two aluminum pie tins were thrown over the houses. The clowns came down from the clouds (over the rooftops) dressed in shiny silver and painted green, demanding to be taken to the leaders. All this was done to make fun of a leader at a nearby village who was making a public uproar about UFO's.

Many Hopi ceremonies were photographed in 1904 - 1906, but beginning in 1911 all cameras were forbidden. This now includes recording and sketching of Hopi villages and ceremonies. At last report 10 of the villages no longer allow visitors for religious ceremonies. Some are closed entirely.

The Hopi and Navajo have these beliefs in common:

The Hopi Today

In 1882, President Chester A. Arthur "settled" the land dispute with the Navajo/Hopi Partition and the Hopi reservation was established along the southern end of Black Mesa, where families had lived at least 650 years ago (circa 1340). Now they are completely surrounded by the Navajo Reservation.


What the map does not show is there is a small Navajo Reservation inside the Hopi Reservation.

Because land is part of each tribe's religion complications arose concerning the use of land by people living on land that is considered to be holy. And so came about The Bennett Freeze. Nobody is happy.

All tribes have factions. There has always been the concept of "friendly" as opposed to "hostile." Here are generalized definitions of those:

With that in mind you will understand these figures better: The Hopi annual budget is about $28 million, with one-half of that coming from the U.S. Federal Budget, and the other main revenue is from the Peabody Coal Company.

Hopi Villages

This is on-going research and far from complete:

There are eleven Hopi villages in NE Arizona on Black Mesa, a rock land table, and the major ones are on three high mesas. The current Hopi population is between 10,000 and 12,000, and some information says that there are 12 villages. We will have further information on the origin and development of these villages.

Each Hopi village is independent, with its own style of government. Style of crafts vary by village, but Kachina dolls (tithu) are made by all. Any dolls that are sold always have errors in them, as the true tithu are not for sale.

First and Third Mesa are separated by 15 miles, with a total land area of about 500 square miles. The names in parentheses are the commonly used Anglo spelling according to pronunciation.

First Mesa: Their craft specialty is polychrome pottery.

Second Mesa: Craft specialty is silver overlay jewelry and coiled basketry. Third Mesa: Craft specialty is wicker and twill basketry.

Many of the villages are now closed to visitors for the religious ceremonies and it is best to inquire first. Photos, sketching, and video and sound recording are prohibited, and questions are disrespectful. The Hopi share some religious beliefs with other tribes, but there is no world like the Hopi and it must be seen first-hand. Anthropologists agree that the Hopi are "the real thing."

If you have read this far and want to really know the Hopi, see our Links Page.
Also Techqua IkachiThe Official Hopi Newsletter

My research on the above page is a bare glimpse at the Hopi Way, and much of it is through eyes that are not Hopi. As with all of The Four Corners Postcard, research on these pages continues, and updates are forthcoming.

For further visitor information contact:
Hopi Tribe's Office of Public Relations:
Box 123, Kykotsmovi, AZ 86039
Telephone 520-734-2441
Ext. 190 or 191.
Hopi Cultural Center:
Box 67, Second Mesa, AZ 86043
Telephone 520-734-2401

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