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By: Pat Whitfield, Board Member
For: Red Rock News
Date: July 16, 2010

Sampling the Arizona Collection: Hopi Perspective

Living in Sedona provides us many opportunities to learn about, visit, and value the many historical and anthropological sites in and around our community. One of the richest cultures in Arizona’s history is that of the Hopi. Their homeland is just little more than a two-hour drive from Sedona located at First, Second, and Third Mesas, and provides insights into a complex and inspiring way of life. Sedona Public Library’s Arizona Collection can enable a potential visitor to Hopi to become enlightened and to learn appropriate protocol when visiting the mesas.

To learn about Hopi culture and traditions, there is a rich and comprehensive collection. A sampling includes:

In search of the old onesExploring the Anasazi world of the Southwest by David Roberts takes the reader back more than 1000 years through the canyons of the Southwest, exploring the sites once inhabited by the “ancient ones”, now commonly known as the Anasazi and who are believed to be the ancestors of the Hopi. Roberts recounts the history of archaeological discoveries, the theft of artifacts, the cave paintings, and other remnants of this culture’s way of life, believed to date back more than 5000 years. The author shares with readers his awe at the region’s beauty, with its sheer cliffs, canyons, and mesas. Certainly, the region has been fruitful for the efforts of archaeologists for many years.

The fourth world of the Hopis: the epic story of the Hopi Indians as preserved in their legends and traditions by Harold Courtlander, a folklorist, chronicles traditional accounts of epic events and adventures in the life of Hopi clans and villages, from legendary to historical times. Book of the Hopis by Frank Waters shares stories told by 30 Hopi elders about the Hopi world-view of life, which had been kept secret for generations. Sun in the sky: The Hopi Indians of the Arizona Mesa lands by Walter Collins O’Kane gives an interpretation of Hopi daily life, native arts, and explains the intricate clan systems.

For readers especially interested in understanding Hopi art, particularly the symbolism inherent in pottery, basketry, rock art, weavings, and other forms, a good starting place is Hopi Pottery Symbols by Alexander Patterson. His volume is based on an unpublished manuscript from 1890,Pottery of Tusayan Catalog of the Keam Collection, written by Alexander M. Stephens and the Keam Collection of Hopi Pottery in the Peabody Museum at Harvard University. Hopi Painting: The world of the Hopis  by Patricia J. Broder delights the eye with 32 color plates and 200 black and white illustrations of Hopi paintings. For those interested in learning more about kachinas (katsinasin Hopi) check out Hopi kachina tradition: Following the sun and moon by Alph H. Secakuku in which he describes the spiritual beings and dolls of Pueblo Indian religions. Alph was a long-time trading post owner whose abandoned building stands at the junction of Hwy. 87 and SR 264 as you enter the Second Mesa area.

If your favorite art form is dance and you wish a greater understanding of ritual, read Dancing gods: Indian ceremonials of New Mexico and Arizona by Edna FergusonChapter 5 is totally dedicated to Hopi dances with special attention to the Snake Dance and to Lalakonti, the women’s ceremony.

Picturing Arizona: the photographic record of the 1930s  by Katherine G. Morrissey looks at Hopi and other sites through a camera lens, visually documenting regions of the State and places the photography of local Arizonans alongside that of federal photographers to illuminate the impact of the Depression on the state’s distinctive racial and natural landscapes and to show the impact of differing cultural perspectives on the photographic record. The essays and photo-essays bring together authorities in history, art, and other fields to provide diverse perspectives on this period in history.

I was fortunate recently to be able to visit Awatovi, a site usually closed to the public. It began as a small village in the 12th century and developed into an important Hopi town by the time Spanish explorer Coronado’s expedition arrived in 1540. By the early 1600s Franciscan friars arrived and built a large church and friary using Hopi labor. Their mission lasted until 1680 when, fearing that their culture would be destroyed, Hopi villagers joined their New Mexico neighbors in successfully overthrowing Spanish rule, wrecking the Awatovi church, and killing most of the priests.

Spaniards reestablished the mission in 1700, but other Hopi villages became so enraged by this continued alien influence that they banded together and destroyed Awatovi. Of the 800 inhabitants, almost all the men were massacred and the women and children moved to other Hopi villages. Spanish troops retaliated a year later with little effect. Awatovi was never resettled. The ruin sprawls across 23 acres on the southwest tip of Antelope Mesa, with piles of rubble strewn about, some higher than a man’s head. Even today there are massive amounts of pot shards, flints, turquoise beads, and other artifacts lying about.

While Remembering Awatovi: the story of an archaeological expedition in Northern Arizona 1935-1939 by Hester A. Davis is not available in our Arizona Collection, it can be ordered from the Yavapai College Library through Interlibrary Loan. The book accounts the experiences associated with a major archaeological expedition renowned not only for the data uncovered but also for the interdisciplinary nature of the expedition. The book is part history, part archaeology, and part social history as it describes the dynamics of the individuals involved in the project. It is enriched by numerous photographs and personal memoirs with vignettes about the team members. All in all, a fine read.

There is much, much more in the Arizona Collection to inform and inspire readers about Hopi life. Before you head to the mesas next time, check one – or two – or more out and become a well informed visitor to this ancient culture.

Pat Whitfield
Pat Whitfield, author of this week's article,
is a Member of the Board of Trustees of the Sedona Public Library.

Library News appears each Friday in the Red Rock News
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