The Hopi are an agricultural Native American tribe of about 7,000 members, located on three towering mesas in northeastern Arizona. The tribe is thought to share common ancestry with the Zuni, who once lived in massive pueblo houses with anywhere from two-hundred to more than a thousand rooms.
The name Hopi, or Hópitu, translates to “peaceful people.” Hopi history is relatively calm: with the exception of mild disturbances over the English schooling of Native American children and land disputes with the neighboring Navajo, the tribe has led a harmonious existence consistent with their name.
When learning about Native American Indian history, the Hopi are esteemed more than any other Southwest tribe for their farming practices. While the Navajo amassed herds of grazing animals, Hopi farmers focused on cultivating vegetables and grains. They are regarded as the best dry-farmers in the arid desert region of the Southwestern United States. According to AccessGenealogy.com, over 2,500 acres of maize are planted by tribe members each year. Terrace farming also played a role in Hopi history; terrace gardens dating back to 1200CE are still in operation at Paaqavi.
Like most Native Americans, the Hopi have a matrilineal culture in which new husbands move in with their wife’s family. Any resulting children are considered part of the wife’s clan. Religion has remained a tangible part of everyday life throughout Hopi history. Many Hopi still participate in ancient spiritual ceremonies thought to ensure rain or a good harvest. This worship often involves katsinas (or kachinas), doll-like figures that represent spirits.
Hand-carved and painted kachina dolls are among the Hopi crafts popular with tourists. Tribal artisans are also known for their basketwork and pottery, which includes stunning golden pots made from First Mesa clay. Sityatki “yellow ware” with geometric patterns painted on an orange or gold background has also seen a recent resurgence.
Another thing about Native Americans, they are skilled jewelry makers. The Hopi were exposed to the silversmithing in the late 1800s and soon mastered the craft. However, the silver overlay designs found in modern Hopi jewelry are the product of a 1930s program instituted by Museum of Northern Arizona founders Harold and Mary-Russell Colton. They aided the Hopi in developing a distinct jewelry style.
The Hopi remain a friendly tribe, welcoming visits from outsiders as they did centuries ago with Spanish explorer Antonio de Espejo. Along with natural resources, tourism is one of the tribe’s major sources of income. Cultural activities, tours, and a hotel opened near Tuba City, Arizona, in 2010 provide the opportunity to experience Hopi culture firsthand.