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First Posted: Jan 29, 2011
Mar 6, 2011

Hopi People

Total population: 6,946 (2000)
Regions with significant populations: United States ( Arizona)
Languages: Hopi, English
Related ethnic groups: Pueblo peoples

Hopi Chief

The Hopi are a group of indigenous Native American people who primarily live on the 2,531.773 sq mi (6,557.262 km²) Hopi Reservation in northeastern Arizona. The Hopi Reservation is entirely surrounded by the much larger Navajo Reservation. The two nations used to share the Navajo-Hopi Joint Use Area. The partition of this area, commonly known as Big Mountain, by Acts of Congress in 1974 and 1996, has resulted in longterm controversy.


OraibiOraibi is the oldest Hopi village and the oldest continuously inhabited village within the territory of the United States. In the 1540s the village had 1,500-3,000 residents.

The first recorded European contact with the Hopi was by the Spanish in 1540. Spanish General Francisco Vasquez de Coronado had come to North America to explore the land. While at the Zuni villages, he learned of the Hopi tribe. De Coronado dispatched Pedro de Tovar and other members of their party to find the Hopi villages. The Spanish wrote that the first Hopi village they visited was Awatovi. They noted that there were about 16,000 Hopi and Zuni people. A few years later the Spanish explorer Garcia Lopez de Cardenas investigated the Rio Grande and met the Hopi people. The Hopi warmly entertained de Cardenas and his men and directed him on his journey.

In 1582-1583 the Hopis were visited by Antonio de Espejo's expedition. He noted that there were five Hopi villages and around 12,000 Hopi people. During these early years, the Spanish were exploring and dominating the southwestern region of the New World. There were never many in the Hopi country. Their visits to the Hopi were random and spread out over many years. Many times the visits were from military explorations. The Spanish colonized near the Rio Grande and, because the Hopis did not live near rivers that gave access to the Rio Grande, the Spanish never left any troops on their land. The Spanish were accompanied by missionaries, Catholic friars. Beginning in 1629, with the arrival of 30 Friars in Hopi country, the Franciscan Period started. The Franciscans had missionaries assigned and built a church at Awatovi. The Hopi Indians originally were against conversion. After an incident where Father Porras purportedly restored the sight of a blind youth, by placing a cross over his eyes, the Hopi at Awatovi believed in Christianity. Most Hopi in the other villages continued to resist conversion, wanting to maintain their own ways.

Pueblo Revolt of 1680

The priests were not very successful in converting the natives, and persecuted the Hopi for keeping their religion. The Spaniards took advantage of Hopi labor and the products they produced. The harsh treatment by the Spanish caused the Hopis to become less tolerant of them. The only significant conversions were at the pueblo of Awatovi. Eventually the Rio Grande Pueblo Indians suggested a revolt in the year 1680, and Hopi supported them.

This was the first time that all the Pueblo people worked together to drive the Spanish colonists away. The Hopi revolted against the Spanish, attacking missions, killing friars and destroying the Catholic churches. After the revolt it took two decades for the Spanish to reassert their control over the Rio Grande Pueblos. Spanish influence in the distant Hopi country was limited, but by 1700, the friars had built a new, smaller church at Awatovi. During the winter of 1700-01 the other Hopi villages sacked Awatovi, killed the men of the village and carried off the women and children. Despite intermittent attempts in the course of the 17th century, the Spanish failed to reestablish a presence in the Hopi country.

Hopi-U.S Relations, 1849-1946

In 1849, John S. Calhoun was appointed official Indian agent of Indian Affairs for the Southwest Territory of the U.S. He had headquarters in Santa Fe and he was responsible for all of the Indian residents of the area. The first formal meeting between the Hopi Indians and the U.S Government happened in the year 1850 when seven Hopi leaders made the trip to Santa Fe to meet with Calhoun. Their objective was to ask the government for protection against the Navajo Indians. At this time, the Hopi leader was Nakwaiyamtewa. As a result of this meeting, Fort Defiance was established in 1851 in Arizona and troops were placed in Navajo country to deal with the Navajo threats. General James J. Carleton, with the assistance of Kit Carson, was assigned to travel through the area. They "captured" the Navajo natives and forced them to the fort. As a result of the Long Walk of the Navajo, the Hopis were able to enjoy a short period of peace. In 1847, Mormons founded Utah and tried to convert the Indians to Mormonism. Jacob Hamblin, a Mormon missionary, first made a trip into Hopi country in 1858. He was on good terms with the Hopi Indians and in 1875 a Mormon church was built on Hopi land.

In 1875, an English trader by the name of Thomas Keams escorted the Hopi village leaders to meet President Chester A. Arthur in Washington D.C. Lololoma, acting chief at the time, was very impressed with Washington. He believed that education allowed the whites to be able to live in such a way. This belief caused him to want a school built for the Hopi children. In 1886, twenty of the Hopi leaders signed a petition sent to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs requesting that a school be built on their land. In 1887, Thomas Keams opened Keams Canyon Boarding School at Keams Canyon for the Hopi Indians. The Oraibi people were not supportive of this school. They refused to send their children to a school that was 35 miles (56 km) away from their villages. The main objective of Keams School was to teach the Hopi youth the ways of civilization by pushing Anglo-American values on them. This boarding school was a way to rid the Hopis of their Indian past. The children were forced to abandon their tribal identity and completely take on the white American culture. They received haircuts, new clothes, took on a "white" name and learned English. The boys learned farming and carpentry skills, while the girls were taught ironing, sewing and "civilized" dining. Keams School also reinforced American religions. The American Baptist Home Missionary Society provided the students with services every morning and religious teachings during the week. In 1890, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs arrived in Hopi country with other government officials to investigate the progress of the new school. They saw that few students were enrolled. They later returned with federal troops who threatened to arrest the Hopi parents if they refused to send their kids to school. The parents backed down and the Commissioner took children to fill the school.

The Hopis have always viewed their land as sacred. Agriculture is a very important part of their culture and their villages are spread out across the northern part of Arizona. The Hopi and the Navajos both never knew of land boundaries, including state boundaries, and just lived on the land that their ancestors did. On December 16, 1882 President Arthur passed an executive order creating a reservation for the Hopi Indians. Their reservation was much smaller than the Navajo reservation, which was the largest in the country. The Hopi reservation was originally a perfect rectangle 55 by 70 miles (110 km), in the middle of the Navajo Reservation with their village lands only taking up about half of the land within their reservation. This reservation kept white settlers from coming through their land, but it did not protect the Hopis against the Navajos. Significant amount of time has been spent between the Hopi and the Navajos fighting over land. Eventually the Hopis went before the Committee of Interior and Insular Affairs to ask them to help provide a solution to the dispute between the two tribes. The tribes argued over around 1,800,000 acres (7,300 km²) of land in northern Arizona. In 1887 the U.S Government passed the Dawes Allotment Act. The purpose of this Act was to divide up tribal land into privately owned individual family plots of 640 acres (2.6 km²) or less. The remaining land would be free for U.S citizens to purchase. For the Hopis, this Act would destroy their ability to farm, which was their main means of income. Fortunately the attempt of the Bureau of Indian Affairs to set up land allotments in the Southwest never resulted in the division of Hopi land.

Oraibi Split

The history of the Oraibi split is one of the most famous about the Hopi tribe. The chief of the Oraibi at this time, Lololoma, was very enthusiastic regarding Hopi education but the Oraibi people were divided on this issue. Most of the village was conservative and refused to allow their children to attend school. These Indians were referred to as the "hostiles" because they opposed the American government and their attempts at assimilation. The rest of the Oraibi Hopis were called the "friendlies" because of their liberal attitude and acceptance of the white people. The "hostiles," unlike the "friendlies," refused to let their children attend school. In 1893, the Oraibi Day School was opened in the Oraibi village. Even though this school was within the village, the hostile parents still refused to allow their children to attend. In 1894, a group of Hopi parents announced that they were against the ideas of Washington and did not want their children to be exposed to the culture of the White American people. They also said that this argument couldn't be settled peacefully, so the government sent in troops to arrest the nineteen parents and sent them to Alcatraz Prison where they stayed for a year. Another main Oraibi figure at this time, Lomahongyoma, competed with Lololoma for village leadership. Eventually the village split in 1906 after a battle between Hostiles and Friendlies. The conservative Hostiles were forced to leave the village and form their own village, called Hotevilla.

At the turn of the century, the U.S Government put a policy into effect that created day schools, missionaries, provided farming assistants and physicians on every Indian reservation. This policy required that every reservation set up its own Indian-police and Tribal courts, and appoint a chief or leader who would represent their tribe within the U.S Government. In 1910 in the Census for Indians, the Hopi Tribe had a total of 2,000 members, which was the highest in 20 years. The Navajos at this time had 22,500 members and have consistently increased in population. During the early years of this century, only about 3% of Hopis lived off the reservation.[ In 1924 Congress officially declared Native Americans to be U.S citizens. The Indian Reorganization Act helped the Hopis to establish a constitution for their tribe and in 1936 also helped them to create their own Tribal Council. The Preamble to the Hopi constitution states that they are a self-governing tribe, focused on working together for peace and agreements between villages in order to preserve the "good things of Hopi life." The Constitution consists of thirteen different "Articles" all with a different topic of interest. The articles cover the topics of territory, membership, and organization of their government with a legislative, executive and judicial branch. The rest of the articles discuss the twelve villages recognized by the tribe, lands, elections, Bill of Rights and more.

From the 1940s to the 1970s, the Navajo kept moving their villages closer and closer to Hopi land, causing the Hopis to once again bring up the land issue with the U.S Government. This resulted in the establishment of "District 6" which placed a boundary around the Hopi villages on the first, second, and third mesas, thinning the reservation to 501,501 acres (2,029.50 km²). In 1962 the courts issued the "Opinion, Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law and Judgment" which stated that the U.S government did not grant the Navajos any type of permission to reside on the Hopi Reservation that was declared in 1882 and that the remaining Hopi land was to be shared with the Navajos. Between 1961-1964, the Hopi tribal council signed leases with the U.S Government that allowed for companies to explore and drill for oil, gas and minerals within Hopi country. This drilling brought over 3 million dollars to the Hopi Tribe. In 1974, The Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement Act was passed and begun the Navajo-Hopi Indian Relocation Commission that made sure every Hopi and Navajo Indian living on the other's land was to be removed. In 1992, the Hopi Reservation was increased to 1,500,000 acres (6,100 km²).

The Hopi tribe is federally recognized and headquartered in Kykotsmovi, Arizona. Their current tribal chairperson is Leroy Shingiotewa. The tribal council was established on December 19, 1936, and the current administration is as follows:

Upper Moencopi:
Everett Calnimptewa
Danny Humetewa Sr.
Wayne Kuwanhyoima
Leroy Sumatzkuku

Velma Kalyesvah
Arvin Puhuyesva
Mike R. Puhuyesva

Danny Honanie
Norman Honanie
Phillip R. Quochytewa, Sr.
Nada Talayumptewa

Emma Anderson
Archie Duwahoyeoma
Leon Koruh
Owen Numkena
First Mesa
Alvin Chaca
Leroy Lewis
Dale Sinquah
Celestino Youvella

Tribal Secretary: Mary Felter
Sergeant at Arms: Violet Sinquah
Tribal Treasurer: Russell Mockta, Jr.

The Hopi tribe today receives most of its income from natural resources. On their 1,800,000-acre (7,300 km²) reservation, there is a significant amount of coal mined yearly. Peabody Western Coal Company is one of the largest coal operations on Hopi land, with long-time permits for continued mining.] The tribe's 2010 operating budget was $21.8 million, and projected mining revenues for 2010 was $12.8 million.

The Hopi Economic Development Corporation is the tribal enterprise tasked with creating diverse, viable economic opportunities for Hopi people. The HEDC oversees the Hopi Cultural Center and Walpi Housing Management. Other HEDC businesses include the Hopi Three Canyon Ranches, between Flagstaff and Winslow, and the 26 Bar Ranch in Eagar; Hopi Travel Plaza in Holbrook; three commercial properties in Flagstaff; and the Kokopelli Inn in Sedona.

Tourism is a source of income, and the tribe's opening of 100-room Moenkopi Legacy Inn and Suites in Moenkopi, Arizona, near Tuba City, Arizona, is the second hotel on the reservation, which provides non-Hopis a venue for entertainment, lectures, and educational demonstrations, as well as lodging. The project is projected to provided 400 jobs. The tribe also operates the Tuuvi Travel Center and Tuuvi Café in Moenkopi.

The Hopi Tribe has repeatedly voted against gambling as an economic opportunity.


The name 'Hopi' is a shortened form of what these Native American people call themselves, Hopituh Shi-nu-mu, "The Peaceful People" or "Peaceful Little Ones". The Hopi Dictionary gives the primary meaning of the word "Hopi" as: "behaving one, one who is mannered, civilized, peaceable, polite, who adheres to the Hopi way." In the past, Hopi sometimes used the term "Hopi" and its cognates to refer to the Pueblo peoples in general, in contrast to other, more warlike tribes. Hopi is a concept deeply rooted in the culture's religion, spirituality, and its view of morality and ethics. To be Hopi is to strive toward this concept, which involves a state of total reverence and respect for all things, to be at peace with these things, and to live in accordance with the instructions of Maasaw, the Creator or Caretaker of Earth. The Hopi observe their traditional ceremonies for the benefit of the entire world. This notwithstanding, it was common in Hopi societies for children to torture animals for amusement's sake.

Traditionally, Hopi are organized into matrilineal clans. When a man marries, the children from the relationship are members of his wife's clan. These clan organizations extend across all villages. Children are named, however, by the women of the father's clan. On the twentieth day of a baby's life, the women of the paternal clan gather, each woman bringing a name and a gift for the child. In some cases where many relatives would attend, a child could be given over forty names, for example. The child's parents generally decide the name to be used from these names. Current practice is to either use a non-Hopi or English name or the parent's chosen Hopi name. A person may also change their name upon initiation into one of the religious societies such as the Kachina society.

The Hopi still practice a complete cycle of traditional ceremonies although not all villages retain or ever had the complete ceremonial cycle. These ceremonies take place according to the lunar calendar and are observed in each of the Hopi villages. Nonetheless, like other Native American groups, the Hopi have been impacted by Christianity. The Hopi have been affected by the missionary work carried out by several Christian denominations, however, with relatively little impact on Hopi religious practices.

Traditionally the Hopi are highly skilled micro or subsistence farmers. The Hopi also interact in the wider cash economy; a significant number of Hopi have mainstream jobs; others earn a living by creating high quality Hopi art, notably the carving of Kachina dolls, the expert crafting of earthenware ceramics, and the design and production of fine jewelry, especially sterling silver.

For More Information:

Hopi Indians