Cultural Anthropology

The Importance of the Hopi Perspective

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"The Importance of the Hopi Perspective"
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Traditional approaches to learning, coupled with archaeological research and modern technology, can contribute a great deal in the preservation of tangible and intangible cultural resources. Oral histories are one of the primary foundations of many cultures; a far richer perspective of the value of Homol'ovi can be realized by reaping the benefits of Hopi oral traditions. Information for this project was collected by readings, the Hopi tribal website, the Hopi Cultural Preservation website, and by talking to Hopi individuals of various ages in casual and class lecture environments.

The Hopi are the direct descendants of Hisatsinom (the Ancient Ones), and the ancestors of several clans trace their migration stories from Homol'ovi. Hopi oral tradition recounts that Homol'ovi was a stopping point for the clans that traveled north from Palatkwapi (an ancestral village to the south of Hopi Country).In an interview, Hopi advisor Dalton Taylor said, "Ruins are very important. These aren't just old ruins-it's the history of our migrations, and how our ancestors traveled"(Colwell-Chanthaphonh and Ferguson, 2006:148). Hopi scholar Micah Loma'omvaya explained, "It (ancestral sites) signifies places we used to live- our homeland. It helps us connect to the past, the condition in which ancestors used to live. They serve as monuments to our history; it is a textbook to open each time we go back" (Colwell-Chanthaphonh and Ferguson, 2006:148).

All methods of recording the past have value, and oral traditions account for a large portion of this method of recognition in all societies and cultures. Mythological or symbolic aspects may be added to emphasize specific events or lessons. Micah Loma'omvaya averred, "This fusion of past and present supports our ability to pass on a legacy to the next generation of Hopi and to find ways in which we can share our complex history with others." The history of the Hopi, beginning with their emergence stories (Yayniini,which means the Hopi Beginning), clan migrations (Ang Kuktota, which means We Make Footprints Here), and a multitude of other aspects of Hopi society are indeed highly complex. Only a person who has been born into the Hopi society is privy to his/her clan stories, however today it is possible to find some of these stories and other valuable information through the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office website and the Hopi Tribal website. According to oral traditions some clans emerged from the third world through the sipapuni, the hole in the sky through which the people emerged into the Upper (fourth) World (Courlander, p. 238, 1971). Other clans tell of arriving in the Fourth World after traveling over water. However, not all groups arrived at the same time and the footprints, village ruins, pottery, and petroglyphs that were left behind are still considered the dwellings of their ancestors (Micah Loma'omvaya, personal communication, July 7,2006).

Each and every Hopi has a different opinion of the benefits and detriments of sharing their oral histories with outsiders. In the past antiquarians, pothunters, new-agers, vandals, and curiosity seekers have taken a heavy toll on Homol'ovi and the current Hopi community. Many Hopi are beginning to view these fields in a little bit different light as archaeological and anthropological methods have changed over the past decades.

Researchers now realize that respect, sincerity, and a collaborative and reciprocal relationship with the Hopi are a benefit to everyone. After talking to Hopi people from different villages, I've learned that the 'Hopi Perspective' is not easily defined. There's a lot of diversity between traditional and contemporary viewpoints. Each clan within each village has it's own knowledge, migration story, and varying perspective on multiple issues. Some information is for members of a particular clan, and is not shared with anyone else. Because of this tradition everyone is a piece of a greater whole, which when put together creates an integrative society, hi light of this situation, we could take a lesson from the San Pedro Valley Project, which incorporates a combination of literature review, readings of ethnographic, archaeological, and historical sources, interviews with tribal members, and traditional narratives. Our role as anthropologists and archaeologists is not merely discerning the past through scientific study but to also understand how people make the past meaningful in their lives today (Colwell-Chanthaphonh and Ferguson, 2006: 150). We should all practice the Hopi value of sumi'nagwa, which means to come together to do things for the benefit of all. For in doing so perhaps more doors will open, more stories can be told, and our future will be all that much better because of it.
Several Hopi individuals currently hold positions in anthropology and archaeology and are building bridges with the Arizona state parks, the public, non-Indian researchers, and their own communities. Traditional beliefs coupled with current field techniques and US federal laws such as NAGPRA (the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act) creates a complex situation. As Hopi archaeologist Lyle Balenquah with the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office said, "When it comes to
repatriating the bones and sacred objects of our ancestors, it's considered taboo to handle them. Well, someone has to do it, and if it were my bones I'd rather it be one of my relatives taking care of it" (My 2006). Today the mission statement of the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office is: "The goal of cultural preservation at Hopi is to maintain the knowledge and continuity of a living culture. Avenues to maintain this continuity include traditional approaches as well as modern technologies" (HCPO/NAU project website, July 2006). By incorporating Hopi life values, such as to approach life with humility, cooperation, respect, and earth stewardship, into 'every' research question and project, trust can be fostered and knowledge may be shared, sumi'nagwa (HCPO and Hopi Tribal website, July 2006). Incorporating the Hopi language in conjunction with park signage, brochures, and audio or video outlets could help foster public education. Also, including the migration stories, available on the HCPO and Hopi tribal websites, at the Homol'ovi visitors center would help expand awareness regarding the importance of the area.

Many Hopi clans have ties to Homol'ovi supported by things such as corroborating oral traditions and petroglyphs. Embedded within these narratives are the values that different communities imbue in the past and on the archaeological landscapes on which we now dwell (Colwell-Chanthaphonh and Ferguson, p. 150, 2006). Oral traditions are densely coded and speak in a variety of cultural registers (Whiteley, p.408, 2002). In other words, it's not 'just' an oral history but also a means to soothe the spirit, teach moral lessons, recount the past, and to remind the living of their ancestral value. In remembrance ofHisatsinom and the many who traveled from Palatkwapi to Homol'ovi:
"When a stranger comes to the village, feed him. Do not injure one another, because all beings deserve to live together without injury being done to them. When
people are old and cannot work anymore, do not turn them out to shift for themselves, but take care of them. Defend yourselves when an enemy comes to your village, but do not go out seeking war. The Hopi shall take this counseling and make it the Hopi Way " (Palatkwapi Story, Courlander, 1971).

Whitely, Peter M., 2002, "Archaeology and Oral Tradition: American Antiquity", 67 (3): 405-415.
Colwell-Chanthaphonh, Chip and Ferguson, T.J., 2006, "Memory Pieces and Footprints: Multi-vocality and the Meanings of Ancient Times and Ancestral Places Among the Zuni and Hopi: American Anthropologist".
Loma'omvaya, Micah, 2000, "Homol'ovi Revisited: Archaeology Southwest".
Hopi Cultural Preservation Office, recommended readings, .
Hopi Tribal website,
Udall, Louise, 1969, "Me and Mine: The Life Story of Helen Sekaquatewa".
Courlander Harold, 1971, "The Fourth World of the Hopis".
Villages: Songoopavi and Moencopi

More about this author: Katalina Narvaez

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