The Hopi live in Northeastern Arizona on First, Second, and Third Mesa, at an elevation of 6000 feet and one hundred miles west of the moisture-bringing San Francisco Mountains. These islands in the sky rise above the surrounding treeless land so that vistas of a hundred miles in every direction become possible. The high desert, dry islands contain a few sacred and guarded springs that provide the moisture needs for all—people, animals, and plants. The plateau below the mesas provides room for fields, where dry land farming includes crops of traditional varieties of corn, melons, beans, squash, carrots, onions, and peas.
Hopi Lands lie on a 2.5 million acre reservation, surrounded by the Navajo Nation. These mesas have perhaps the oldest known, continuously occupied community in the United States. Oraibi, at least 1000 years old, looks similar to what it did when the Spaniards arrived in the early 1600’s, though now sitting atop the ruins of the former stonework homes. Throughout the mesas and 14 villages, today’s homes are either stone or, more recently, unpainted grey cinder blocks or wood framed homes. Multiple shades of yellow, from orange gold to Venetian yellow imbue the surrounding rock and boulder landscape, backgrounds to the dark green scrub pines on the mesas.
Timeless, mystical, and elevated … might offer somewhat accurate initial concepts, when trying to grasp an awareness regarding the Hopi People. Although, the term Hopi, at best, describes a general area of northeastern Arizona, where there are somewhat similar villages on three mesas, and the traditional Peoples of these mesas live in villages that share a mostly common heritage and language, which is basically agreed upon but practiced as each sees the need to perform it.
One notion that needs to be dispelled is that there is a ‘Way of The Hopi.’ This is the title of a poorly conceived and even more poorly researched book, and it is one of the few things that the Hopi universally agree upon—We are Hopi; we ourselves do not attempt to categorize, reveal, or describe ourselves as some sort of finite society.
A few things that can be said about them—the Hopi are matriarchal. Upon marrying, the man goes to live with the woman’s family, adopting her clan. They are a sovereign, if dependent nation to the Federal Government, with each village considering itself sovereign or independent within the tribe. Each village has a chief who leads the day to day governing of the village. A person’s family belongs to a clan, and these are led by a headman who takes on the role of spiritual leadership.
The Hopi attribute their success in surviving to their spiritual ways, sometimes referred to as the Kachina Religion. Their sacred ceremonies and traditional dances include prayers for moisture, germination, and the well-being of all People. The Hopi People do believe that their land is the center of the universe, and their prayers are essential to the health and harmony of all humanity.