Hopi traditional stories say they came to this Fourth World after an arduous journey in which they changed places for living before finally settling where they are today.

 Because many of the Hopi rituals are carried out in great secrecy, the details of the ancestors of the Hopi are uncertain. It is believed that they descended from the Ancestral Pueblo

American writer Frank Waters, famed for his novels as well as historical works offering insights on the American Southwest, notes in one of his books that the Hopis “regard themselves as the first inhabitants of America,” and “their village of Oraibi is indisputably the oldest continuously occupied settlement in the United States.” For many other Native Americans too, the Hopis are perceived as worthy of such a description. A book entitled Hopi, and penned by Suzanne and Jake Page, says that other Native Americans regarded them as “the oldest of the people.”

Science and archaeology have affirmed that the Hopi tribe has been present in the Southwest for the last thousand years, possibly even longer than that. It was around the 14th and 15th centuries when the Hopi introduced chieftains to their villages as a means of better coordinating daily activities. This need arose as the villages grew in size. Farming is an essential part of Hopi everyday life, but there were other mounting tasks that demanded serious management. For instance, as one source notes: “coal was mined from mesa outcroppings, requiring unprecedented coordination.” And coal indeed found several uses, included firing up pottery, distinguishing the Hopi among the first peoples around the planet to start doing so.

It was around the same period when the Hopi started using the kivas as sanctuaries for their rites, as well as when Oraibi gained prominence as sort of a center of the Hopi culture. This happened following the demise of a couple of other villages, but regardless of the changes, the traditional way of life never ceased.

In the fields, the Hopi would take care of dozens of varieties of corn. Squash is also important, as much as a food as for producing tools, instruments, or kitchen appliances. Other favorites: pumpkins, beans, cotton, and sunflower.

The Hopis “first contact” with Europeans affected the community. It happened in 1540 when explorer Francisco Vásquez de Coronado brought with him a troop of Spanish soldiers. The Spaniards had reached the lands of the Hopis in a quest to find gold. It was a short first stay, in which the visitors were disappointed in finding no gold, so they decided to destroy a part of one village on their way back.

They came, of course, to preach Christianity, which the Hopi people pretended to accept, and meanwhile, continued their own rituals clandestinely. They did not tolerate the foreign preachers endlessly, however. Perhaps several decades passed, but the Hopis made sure to eradicate all missionaries.

Today, the Hopi count themselves as sovereign and live across a space of over 1.5 million acres located in the northeastern parts of Arizona, and east of the Grand Canyon.

Oraibi village, circa 1899

Very old abandoned house and panoramic view on the outskirts of Oraibi village

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