Hopi Religion

Doctrines Hopis believe that the world was created by Taiowa (the sun-father) and Sotuknang, his nephew. The first creature was Kokyangwuti, spider woman, who created humanity. As humanity multiplied it forgot Taiowa and became corrupt, forcing Sotuknang to destroy the surface of the world. A small faithful minority were preserved through taking shelter in the world, only emerging when the upper world had been restored. This scenario was repeated twice prior to the creation of the present (fourth) world. After the creation of the fourth world people wandered over the earth until they reached the Black Mesa of the Colorado Plateau.
Hopi ceremonial practice is governed by the belief in the absolute interdependent relationship between the upper and lower worlds. Day and night, summer and winter alternate between the two realms. It is believed that when people are born they emerge out of the lower world and when they die their souls descend into the lower world. Cooperation between these realms is essential to maintain the cycle of seasons. The ceremonial cycle of the Hopi calendar is observed in order to maintain this cooperative relationship. Ceremonial dances are made to the spirits of the dead in order that they will reciprocate by sending rain.

History The Hopis (Peaceful People) are members of the Uto-Aztecan language family and inhabit three high mesas on a rock land table called the Black Mesa. They are believed to have descended from the Anasazi (which means "ancient enemies" in the Navajo language). The oldest permanent Hopi settlement is Oraibi which is believed to have been established in about 1150. The first contact with Europeans occurred in 1540 when a company of soldiers moved north from Mexico under Francisco de Vasquez de Coronado. In 1598 the Hopis were forced to submit to the Spanish crown.
Missionary efforts began in 1629. Enforced conversions and extreme maltreatment of the Indians inspired a revolt in 1680 which drove the Spanish back into Mexico. Independence was short lived, however, and in 1692 the Spanish returned. This, and the encroachment of the war-like Navajos into Hopi land, forced the Hopis to withdraw further up the Black Mesa.
The Hopis' relative freedom from foreign domination came to an end in the middle of the nineteenth century. The secession of the south-western states from Mexico to the United States in 1848, and the discovery of gold in 1850, encouraged a tide of people to flow into the west, creating conflict between the new settlers and the Indians over land ownership. This was resolved through the provision in 1882 of a Hopi reservation which comprised some 2.5 million acres.
The establishment of the reservation heralded the rapid decline of the Hopi way of life. The presence of Mormon and Mennonite missionaries encouraged the Hopis to abandon traditional religious practices. In 1890 the American government passed the Dawes Act which required Indians to give up communally owned land and farm individually allotted plots of land. In 1898 a small pox epedemic broke out which severely reduced the population.
More recent governments have gone some way to reversing the restrictive and regressive previous administrations. The Roosevelt government passed the Indian Reorganisation Act of 1934 which provided for a degree of tribal self-government and funds to develop schools, hospitals and cultural amenities. This represented the beginning of a series of government initiatives to improve the material quality of life the Indians which reached their height during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations in the 1960s. The policy was reversed during the Reagan administration, which reduced federal funding to reservations with the purpose of encouraging closer integration with mainstream American culture. Hopi traditional life has been further threatened by extensive coal mining on their land, which has led to the relocation of some Hopi and neighbouring Navajo communities and conflict between Hopis and the Navajo. In spite of such difficulties the Hopi people endeavour to maintain their own distinctive cultural identity. The Hopi language continues to be spoken and traditional religious ceremonies are still carried on to this day.

Symbols The belief that humanity emerged out of the earth has led the Hopis to perceive the earth as its mother. The most important Hopi symbol is the Mother Earth symbol. It consists of a square maze from which a straight line emerges. The maze represents the earth as a womb, and the straight line represents the path of emergence from the stage of the unborn child to its birth.
A structural parallel to the Mother Earth symbol is the kiva, a ceremonial chamber used to commemorate the emergence of humanity into the upper world. The kiva is a rectangular or square building, partly underground, which contains a small hole in the floor to denote the umbilical cord leading from the earth and the path of humanity's emergence from the underworld. A ladder ascends from the roof to represent the bamboo reeds used to emerge to the fourth world.
An important aspect of Hopi culture is basket making. Hopi baskets often contain geometric designs or animals such as the eagle or the crow. Hopi pottery sometimes depicts a thunderbird (or rainbird), an image which reflects the central practice of calling for rain in Hopi religious ritual.
In various religious ceremonies Hopi men will dress up in costumes and painted masks to represent the Kachinas, or spirits of nature, with the purpose of asking the Kachinas to assist the growth of crops and to send rain. In the course of these ceremonies the masked dancers become identified with the spirits they represent.

Adherents The 1980 census for American Indian tribes and Alaska Native Villages estimated the Hopi population to 8,930 (Snipp 1989, 329). There are no figures available indicating the number of those who continue to practise Hopi religion.

Main Centre
 Hopi Tribal Headquarters, P.O. Box 123, Kykotsmovi, Arizona 86039 U.S.A. Information on contemporary Hopi life can also be obtained from the Hopi Foundation, P.O. Box 705, Hotevilla, Arizona, U.S.A.