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Hopi Tribe

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Hopi Tribe

Known as "the peaceful ones," the Hopi tribe of the southwest is famous for their religious, intellectual, and peaceful worldviews. Their "way" of life influenced all aspects of their existence, including relationships with nature, people, craftsmanship, survival, and religion. Who were the Hopi? Where did they live? And, what is their history?

A depiction of the Hopi ritual Harvest Dance. Source: Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

A depiction of the Hopi ritual Harvest Dance. Source: Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

Hopi Tribe Facts

The table below lists some brief facts about the Hopi.

Hopi Tribe Facts
Location:
Northeastern Arizona.
Language:
A dialect of the Uto-Aztecan language family.
Diet:
Corn, beans, squash, turkeys, and other fowl.
Known for:
Unique adaptations to their environment, peaceful way of life, reclusive nature, and little interaction with Europeans, their participation in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.

Hopi Tribe Location and Map

The Hopi occupied different villages on what the Hopi called the First Mesa, Second Mesa, and Third Mesa, a rocky formation carved by erosion out of the Colorado Plateau between the Colorado River and the Rio Grande. The historical territory of the Hopi is now a part of present-day northeastern Arizona.

The Hopi are the westernmost Pueblo Native Americans and are the only Pueblo peoples to speak a dialect of the Uto-Aztecan language family. Hopi is an abbreviation of their word "Hopituh," meaning "peaceful ones."

The Hopi, map of the Hopi territories, Study Smarter

This map shows the historical and current tribal lands of the Hopi. Source: About Hopi. (n.d.). Hopi Education Endowment Fund. https://www.hopieducationfund.org/about-hopi

Hopi Tribe Culture

The Hopi's unique adaptations to their natural environment profoundly impacted their culture and ways of life.

Hopi Tribe Shelters: The Pueblos

The walls of the Pueblo dwellings are made of stones and mud, then plastered the surface with more mud. Trees are rare in their homeland, so tribal members traveled great distances to find pine and juniper trees for beams. The men would provide the building materials, and the women would shape the houses. They would stretch the wood beams from one wall to another, forming a flat roof, which was filled with poles and branches and covered with plaster. The Pueblo walls are solid; family members would enter the dwelling through an opening on the roof, climbing down a notched log or ladder. Much like modern apartment buildings, the wall of one home would connect to the walls of another. So, if a family wanted more room, they had to build vertically. Some Pueblo dwellings could be four to five levels high.

The Hopi usually dug "Kivas," underground rooms lined with stone walls, near the village center. Hopi men used them as chapels and meeting rooms. Hopi women were only allowed into kivas by invitation.

Did you know that Hopi women owned their homes?

Hopi Tribe Diet

The Hopi are highly skilled farmers who supplement their diet with hunting and gathering. The men farmed and hunted; women collected wild plants and cooked. Because of the arid climate, men would study all the patches of soil for miles around their pueblos, looking for moisture areas conducive to farming. They would plant their crops at the base of the mesas, where they would catch runoff from the plateau if it ever rained. The Hopi would also search for underground springs and build fences out of branches and brush to protect their crops from sandstorms.

The Hopi grew corn, beans, squash, cotton, and tobacco. Corn is the most important crop of the Hopi, and had dozens of ways to prepare it, such as a thin bread called "piki." The Hopi also kept flocks of turkeys as a source of protein.

Hopi Tribe Craftsmanship and Hopi Tribe Clothing

A Hopi woman weaving a basket. Photograph taken by Pierce, C.C. in 1900. Source: Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

Hopi women crafted bowls of clay decorated with geometric patterns. They wove ornate baskets out of reeds and grasses. Hopi men would cultivate cotton and weave the fibers for blankets and clothing. Women would dye the cotton threads with various colors from plants, allowing the Hopi to create colorful and intricate cotton clothing. Due to its scarcity, leather was reserved for moccasins and animal skins for warmer robes. In style unique to the Hopi: young unmarried women wore their hair protruding from both sides of their heads in a shape that resembled a squash blossom.

Hopi Tribe Social Organization

A Hopi woman with the traditional hair style of those who were unmarried, shaped like a squash blossom. Source: Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

A Hopi woman with the traditional hairstyle of unmarried women shaped like a squash blossom. Photograph taken by Pierce, C.C. in 1901. Source: Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

Unlike most indigenous tribes of North America, which had a chief, a war chief, and a medicine man, for the Hopi Tribe, the shaman was the chief. Different clans made up of related families- usually named after animals such as Badger, Snake, or Deer, also helped direct the religious events and make village decisions.

Hopi Tribe Religion

The Hopi conduct religious ceremonies all year long. The purpose of most of the rituals was to affect the weather and bring enough rain for a good harvest. The Hopi believe in guardian spirits called "Kachinas," They play a crucial role in the Hopi religion. Tribe members would recreate the kachinas in masks and dolls.

The Hopi believe that the kachinas were supernatural beings dwelling in their world in the Mountains. Every year on the winter solstice, the kachinas would enter the human world and inhabit a person's body until the summer solstice. Hopi men impersonated kachinas with elaborately painted masks of wood and feathers. One of the many rain dances the Hopi celebrated was the Snake Dance. The dance is performed with live snakes wrapped around the kachinas and sometimes in their mouths. At the end of the dance, the snakes would be released outside the Pueblos, and the kachinas sent off to bring rain.

Hopi men dressed in ritual costumes as Kachinas. Source: Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

Hopi men dressed in ritual costumes as Kachinas. Source: Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

The Hopi Creation Myth

Hopi legend tells how tribal ancestors climbed up through three cave worlds along with other animals. They were helped by two Spirit Masters who were brothers. After time spent in each cave chamber of the underworld, the people and animals finally emerged from the Grand Canyon into the fourth world: Earth. But darkness blanketed all the land. And the ground was wet. The people met with different animals to trip to bring light to the world. Spider spun a ball of pure white silk to make the moon. The people bleached a deerskin and shaped it into a shield, which became the Sun. Coyote opened a jar he found, and sparks flew out of it, becoming the stars. Vulture flapped his wings, and the land dried. The Spirit Masters controlled the flow, carving the valleys and mesas. Different clans then formed with various animal names and traveled to other lands.1

Hopi Tribe History: Summary

The Hopi have inhabited their territory for nearly 1,500 years with little known conflict with other indigenous tribes. The Hopi disputes with the Spanish exemplify the Europeans' influence.

Spanish Interactions and Influence

The first interaction with the Spanish was in 1540, with two Spanish priests and their guard of soldiers. The Hopi let these two priests and their guard stay with them for several days, and it was during this initial contact that the Spanish learned of the Grand Canyon. Other explorers interacted with the Hopi in 1538, and by 1598, the Spanish explorer Juan de Onate made the Hopi swear allegiance to the Spanish crown. By 1629, Spanish missionaries began to occupy the Hopi territory, converting some of the Hopi to Catholicism.

Because of the presence of Spanish soldiers, the Hopi tolerated the new religion among them and continued to practice their traditional beliefs. When the Spanish attempted to eradicate kachina worship, the Hopi rebelled. The Hopi joined the Rio Grande Pueblos in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 and destroyed the Catholic missions in their territory. Though the Spanish reconquered the Rio Grande Pueblos twelve years later, they did not push into the Hopi territory. The Hopi remained free to practice their religion.

Did you know?

Due to their isolated and arid territory, the Hopi were spared much interaction, assimilation, and molestation by the ever-expanding European and then American influence on North America. And as such, they have held onto much of their original territory, traditions, and culture.

Hopi Tribe Today

The Hopi still controlled their original territory on the Hopi reservation and retained the three original Mesas of their land. Present-day pueblos have modern doors and windows and other modern-day conveniences. Hopi homes have much in common with their ancestors.

Of all the tribes in North America, the Hopi most likely live the closest to their traditional way of life. They are practicing the same agricultural methods, growing the same crops, with some also raising sheep. Many continue to produce traditional craftwork as a means of income. Many Hopi continues to shape their lives on the practices of their ancient religion, performing their traditional dances, some even open to the public.

The Hopi - Key takeaways

  • The historical territory of the Hopi is now a part of present-day northeastern Arizona.
  • The Hopi's unique adaptations to their natural environment profoundly impacted their culture and ways of life.
  • The Hopi are the westernmost Pueblo Native Americans.
  • The Hopi are highly skilled farmers who supplement their diet with hunting and gathering.
  • The Hopi have inhabited their territory for nearly 1,500 years with little known conflict with other indigenous tribes.
  • The Hopi's conflict with the Spanish exemplifies the Europeans' influence.
  • Due to their isolated and arid territory, the Hopi were spared much interaction, assimilation, and molestation by the ever-expanding European and then American influence on North America. And as such, they have held onto much of their original territory, traditions, and culture.

1. Source: Waldman, C, Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes (Facts on File Library of American History) (3rd ed.), (2006).

Frequently Asked Questions about Hopi Tribe

The Hopi tribe lived in the northeastern region of Present-Day Arizona.

The Hopi are known for their peaceful way of life, limited interactions with the Europeans, and unique adaptations to their arid environment.

The Hopi are the westernmost Pueblo Native Americans and are the only Pueblo peoples to speak a dialect of the Uto-Aztecan language family. Hopi is an abbreviation of their word “Hopituh,” meaning “peaceful ones.” 

The Hopi call themselves Hopi, an abbreviation of their word “Hopituh,” meaning “peaceful ones.”  

The Hopi occupied different villages on what the Hopi called the First Mesa, Second Mesa, and Third Mesa, a rocky formation carved by erosion out of the Colorado Plateau between the Colorado River and the Rio Grande. 

Final Hopi Tribe Quiz

Question

What is the most influential meteorological or environmental factor of the territory the Hopi occupy? 

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Answer

Arid desert

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Question

What rocky formations did the Hopi establish their civilization on? 

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Answer

The First, Second, and Third Mesas between the Colorado River and the Rio Grande.

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Question

What other indigenous tribe occupies the land encompassing the Hopi territory? 

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Answer

The Navajo

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Question

What the Hopi used for shelter? 

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Answer

Adobe houses

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Question

Which of the following is the most important crop cultivated by the Hopi? 

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Answer

Corn 

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Question

In Hopi society who was responsible for cultivating cotton and weaving cotton? 

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Answer

Men 

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Question

In Hopi society, who acted as the headman of the tribe? 

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Answer

The Shaman 

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Question

What is the name of the guardian spirits that are essential to Hopi religion? 

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Answer

Kachinas

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Question

Which European nation was the first to make contact with the Hopi? 

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Answer

The Spanish 

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Question

What influenced the Hopi to break their peaceful traditional ways and rebel against the Spanish? 

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Answer

The Spanish attempted to eradicate kachina worship.

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Question

What major rebellion did the Hopi participate in against the Spanish? 

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Answer

The Pueblo Revolt of 1680

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