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Today's Indian reservation (above) and traditional tribal area (below) in the Grand Canyon area

The Hopi (an abbreviation of Hopituh Shinumu, the "peaceful people ") are the westernmost group of the Pueblo Indians . They live in northeastern Arizona , USA , in the middle of the reservation of the Navajo ( Diné ) on the edge of the Painted Desert , in a 12,635 km² large reservation . In the past, they were also known as moki or moqui .


The Hopi speak a language from the Uto-Aztec language family , which was examined in the 1930s by the linguist Benjamin Whorf , compared with the Indo-European languages and became the basis of his linguistic relativity theory , which is still controversially discussed - also called the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis . Thereafter, language influences or limits or expands the perception of the environment and thinking. Whorf relies on supposed differences in the understanding of time, because he assumed that the Hopi would only experience a coarse flow of time oriented towards nature and - since they did not know their age exactly and did not develop a calendar - no differentiating terms like yesterday and today or tomorrow . The Bonn linguist Helmut Gipper checked Whorf's research and found that - in addition to many correct observations - some things (such as the concepts of time) need to be corrected. Overall, he contradicted Whorf's hypothesis.

residential area

There are between 8,000 and 12,000 Hopi today, of which around 7,000 live within the reserve. There they live in their typical terraced pueblo buildings made of stone and adobe (adobe); today also houses made of hollow blocks , distributed in a number of independent locations. Most of their settlements are on tall mesas that rise from the Colorado Plateau . Since the turn of the millennium , the supply of water and electricity in residential areas has been expanded.

The Hopi country is a dry highland plain. The Hopi succeed in wresting a large number of agricultural products from this inhospitable soil, especially maize of all kinds. The Hopi are divided into ten autonomous villages on the mesas and several settlements beyond them, which lie on an area of ​​56 kilometers circumference on the southwestern edge of the Black Mesa . With Winslow West there is a settlement outside the reserve. Some of the villages have existed for centuries, others have only existed since 1910 and are home to people who are closely linked by tradition and blood ties, but differ linguistically and politically.

First Mesa
("First Mesa")
Second Mesa
("Second Mesa")
Third Mesa
("Third Mesa")
(other settlements)

Walpi (Waalpi)
Hano / Tewa (Hanoki)
Sichomovi (Sitsomovi)

Shongopovi (Songòopavi)
Mishongnovi (Musungnuvi)
Shipaulovi (Supawlavi)

Hotevilla (Hotvela)
Bakabi (Paaqavi)
Kykotsmovi (Kiqötsmovi)
Oraibi (Orayvi)

Moenkopi (Munqapi)
Keams Canyon
Winslow West
Spider Mound (Yuh Weh Loo Pah Ki)



Hopi girls on the Hopi reservation in Arizona

According to the Hopi tradition , before the earth was created, spirits lived in a limitless space called Tokpela . At the time of the earth's creation, the spirits were to assume human form and the Creator appointed those who would begin earthly life . But soon many bad people developed and disregarded the instructions of the Creator. Therefore, the First World was destroyed by fire and only the good who kept the commandments survived.

The second world came into being , but people got angry again. Once again the Creator destroyed the world, but this time with ice and snow. A new one came into being, the Third World . It wasn't as beautiful as the past world, but satisfied people lived in it. At some point, however, these people also got angry, fought against each other and no longer listened to the Creator. Some good people wanted to seek refuge in another world.

They finally found the fourth world , that was our world today , in which Masaw , the guardian of the world, lived. Masaw allowed them to stay, but warned them of the difficulties that lay ahead. They lived in many places before they reached their present home. The new land was so barren that only prayer could bring them rain and thus food.

The Hopi believe that the fifth age will begin in the near future, as prophecies about the end of the fourth world have already come true: the pumpkin full of ashes was interpreted as the atomic bomb, and the house made of glass where the peoples meet as the UN building in New York. According to the legends, it will burn all over the earth and begin a time of great upheaval. Only people who have not forgotten how to live with nature would survive. Multiple attempts by the Hopi to audition at the White House and the United Nations were ignored. These attempts to enter into dialogue with Western culture are also part of its myths.

The time of the Spaniards

When Francisco de Coronado invaded from the south (California) in 1540 , the Hopi had been living on the mesas for centuries. At that time there were nine villages - Sikyatki, Koechaptevela, Kisakovi, Sichomovi, Mishongnovi, Shipaulovi, Shungopavi, Oraibi and Awatobi - and the tribe had extracted corn, beans and melons from the barren soil. In their search for gold and pagan souls, the Hopi were subjugated by the Spaniards. They shed the kiva of the Indians , banned their pagan ceremonies and made them slaves . The suppression of the Hopi and the other Pueblo Indians finally led to the Pueblo uprising of 1680. The peace-loving Hopi also took part in the revolt . They killed all the monks in their villages and destroyed the mission buildings . The Hopi were hostile to any Spanish attempts to establish a new mission. Only the village of Awatobi welcomed the Spaniards and was subsequently attacked and destroyed by other Hopi pueblos. The survivors found refuge in various Hopi villages. The ruins of the Spanish missions are still partially preserved today.

The Hopi were on good terms with most other tribes and traveled long distances to trade with them. Their woven goods are in great demand in the Rio Grande pueblos . In times of extreme drought they left the mesas and lived with the Zuñi and Havasupai . The Diné (Navajo), by whom they were sometimes ambushed, still regard them as their traditional enemies to this day.

The American

Hopi woman hairdresses unmarried girl

The influence of the Spanish and Mexican governments had not reached the remote Hopi villages after the uprising. So they lived relatively peacefully until the Americans "disturbed their peace" on their move west. In the middle of the 19th century, the American expansion pushed Diné into Hopi territory . This incident sparked a dispute between the two tribes that is still being fought today - albeit in Congress and in the courts. The situation here is that the population has no quarrel, only the tribal councils set up by the US government.

Originally the Hopi villages were autonomous units. The US government therefore tried to influence the sole decisions of the tribal elders through appointed administrators. By means of a fictitious election, in which less than 10% of the Hopi cast their votes, a tribal council was set up before the Hopi. This tribal council is not recognized by the majority of the traditional Hopi because they do not want to support the concept of hierarchy. However, through this tribal council, the US Department of the Interior was able to obtain a mining license for uranium and coal within the reserve.

The Hopi reserve has been threatened again and again since the 1960s, as large companies are interested in the mineral resources located there. However, the Hopi have so far been able to resist this pressure (also through very good public relations). The Hopi policy towards the American government is very consistent and almost uncompromising. Nevertheless, John Sterling Boyden , a lawyer working for the Hopi, managed to sign a permit for the coal deposits in 1966. It wasn't until many years later that it was discovered that the lawyer had been bribed by the mining company for negotiating the contract .

The Peabody Western Coal set up the Black Mesa Mine after the mining license was granted . The coal was piped from the open pit mine to the Mojave coal-fired power station, 439 km away. For the transport in the pipeline, the finely ground coal had to be mixed with water, for which 1.2 billion liters were pumped out of the Navajo groundwater and the Coconino groundwater every year. The resulting lowering of the groundwater level endangered the survival of the tribe acutely. In 2006 the power plant was shut down. It was no longer enough to follow environmental regulations; the protests against groundwater consumption and coal mining had become too big.


Hopi Kachina doll

Although the Hopi ethnic religion is an earthly ( chthonic ) belief and the feminine plays an important role in the culture, the worship of a deified Mother Earth , as it is often described, did not originally exist. There were many earth goddesses , such as Tuwapongtumsi (sand altar maiden - goddess of all plants), Tiikuywuuti (child who slips out of woman - goddess of game) or Taalawtumsi (dawn woman - goddess of childbirth and growth). These three have often been equated and not differentiated, but have always been anthropomorphic goddesses. Only since the emergence of Pan-Indianism in the 20th century has the term Mother Earth been used as a synonym for her in communication with Euro-Americans.

The Hopi are deeply religious. Religion is so inextricably linked to daily life that it cannot be viewed in isolation. The tribal elders believe that they have taken over the administration and protection of "Mother Earth" as heirs. This task is performed by the secret societies , Wuutsim called. They lead religious ceremonies that ensure the earthly and spiritual well-being of all people and build good relationships with the environment and the spirits. Snakes, especially rattlesnakes, are associated with the gods who are responsible for the harvest and the necessary rain. They represent “messengers” who bring the weather god's request for rain.

Both sexes begin their ceremonial careers soon after the age of six with the introduction to the Kachina cult (Katsina cult) . The religious world of the Hopi knows a large number of such "life carriers" (meaning of the word), such as gods, spirits, dead ancestors and clouds. A kachina is represented as a doll or as a suitably costumed, masked dancer. Women seldom actively participate in ceremonies except as voluntary members in one of more than three female secret societies. But in every village men have the opportunity to join a large number of secret societies, including those that arrange strict tribal admission and celebrate an annual winter solstice (Soyal). The Soyal is so important that its leader is always entrusted with a high public office, usually that of the village chief, the chief only being the executive of the meetings of the elders and being removed at any time by the women.

The kachina are religiously very important for the Hopi. Most recently, together with the human rights organization Survival International , they tried to stop the sale of holy kachina in France , which were to be auctioned off from a private collection and which the Hopi believed to be "stolen". But the court ruled against the Hopi and the auction took place, which will make it much more difficult to return the objects.

Snake dance

The most famous Hopi ritual is the snake dance , which is performed every two years at the end of August. It is a ritual in which people pray for rain and a good harvest. The snake dance ritual, in which two secret groups of priests, the "antelope priests" and the "priests" take part, lasts nine days. Snakes from the wider area are caught for the first four days. In Arizona, this is the most common prairie rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis). After further preparations (erecting altars, “prayer sticks” as path markers, smoking ceremonies) the public will be admitted on the eighth and ninth days. Guests from Europe and the USA also attend the cult act, the most famous guest being the former US President Theodore Roosevelt . The audience only sees a short, but exciting part of a longer ceremony, most of which is celebrated in secret in Kivas.

On the evening of the eighth day the “grain dance” takes place with the request for a good harvest. On the ninth the snake ritual of the two groups of priests with the request for rain. The snakes are passed back and forth, put in the mouth and held by the neck with lips or teeth. Parts of the ceremony, so-called "sacred ablutions" of the snakes, take place in secret. The night after, the snakes are carried away in all directions and released on the "prayer sticks" so that they can deliver the prayers to the gods.

The secret of why no Hopi priest has ever been bitten and killed by a rattlesnake is difficult to explain because the snakes used in the dance are taboo and it is strictly forbidden to touch them afterwards. The snakes examined before the dance had fully functional venom glands and teeth, as studies of snakes from a Hopi- kiva by Harry C. Yarrow in 1885 showed. It was not until 1941 that the eminent herpetologist Charles Mitchill Bogert (1908–1992) solved the riddle. As he himself reports, he used binoculars to observe the priests who were carrying the snakes away and, at great danger, caught and examined a "used" snake. It turned out that the poison teeth, including all the reserve teeth, had broken out. Later studies on the few rattlesnakes used in the cult that the researchers got hold of showed the same findings to this day.


Hopi with examples of their pottery art
Hopi basket weaver

Some of the Southwest's finest ceramics, jewelry and basketry come from the Hopi. On the first mesa, particularly good pottery is made without a potter's wheel. Brushes made of yucca fibers and natural paints are used for painting with complicated patterns . The second mesa and third mesa are famous for their wickerwork made from yucca fiber and willow cane. On all mesas, kachina dolls are carved from the roots of the cottonwood tree, a type of poplar. The silversmiths have specialized in special support technology. A number of talented artists also produce inlays with (semi) precious stones (such as turquoise ), corals and mother-of-pearl .

Way of life then and now

"Eagle Song" by Hopi ( phonogram archive of the Ethnological Museum in Berlin, recorded in 1906)

For the Hopi, the line of succession was the rule ( matrilinearity ). Oraibi's population, for example, was usually divided into 30 or 31 matrilineal clans , which were grouped into nine larger social units, the phratria (clan associations), many of which no longer exist. In addition, the Hopi used to be strictly matrilocal, which means that the bride stayed in her mother's house. This custom is no longer traditionally followed today.

The Hopi supported themselves by farming. Most of the crops were corn, but they also planted beans, squash, melons, and a variety of other vegetables and fruits. Since the Europeans brought sheep and cattle with them, they have also been raising livestock. The men worked in the fields and with the flocks, built houses, did most of the ceremonies, made moccasins, and wove clothes and blankets. In addition to the usual housework, the women were responsible for basketry and pottery, they fetched water, took part in gardening and building houses. Hunting played a subordinate role.

With the end of isolation, an increasing number of Hopi have abandoned the way of life of their ancestors. Trapped in a process of rapid cultural change , they no longer direct their attention inwardly to their pueblos, but outwardly to the villages, cities and the economic and health systems of the white man. Farming and rearing are still important, but wage labor is increasingly becoming the main source of income. No other tribe produces more handicrafts than the Hopi, which are sold both in the villages and outside the reserve.

The Hopi attitude towards tourists is very reserved but polite. A visitor center at the beginning of the reserve politely points out that driving on is actually no longer necessary, but is generally permitted. However, photography, filming and drawing are strictly prohibited in the villages and in certain areas of the reserve. It has been forbidden to photograph the Hopi sacred ceremonies since 1911.


The Qatsi trilogy uses words from the Hopi language as the film title.

The main outer belt asteroid (2938) Hopi is named after the Hopi.

See also


  • Tom Bathi: Southwestern Indian Tribes. 14th edition. KC, Las Vegas 1997, ISBN 0-88714-097-1 .
  • Alexander Buschenreiter: Our end is your downfall. The Hopi message to the world. Updated and expanded new edition, Authal Verlag, Bad Vöslau 2018, ISBN 978-3-9504211-3-2
  • Alexander Buschenreiter: Traces of the Great Spirit. Indian wisdom of the present. 2nd Edition. Lamuv, Göttingen 1995, ISBN 3-88977-307-9
  • Alexander Buschenreiter: With the earth, for life. The Hopi Way of Hope. Hermann Bauer, Freiburg im Breisgau 1989, ISBN 3-7626-5714-9
  • John Gattuso (Ed.): Indian Reservations USA APA Guides, RV Reise- und Verkehrsverlag, 1992.
  • Aemin W. Geertz: The Sa'lakwmanawyat Sacred Puppet Ceremonial among the Hopi Indians in Arizona. A preliminary investigation. In: Anthropos . 77: 1-2 (1982) 163-190.
  • William C. Sturtevant (Ed.): Handbook of North American Indians . Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington:
  • Frank Waters: The Hopi Book. Myths, legends and history of an Indian people. Droemer Knaur, Munich 2000, ISBN 3-426-77444-5 .
  • Frank Waters: Masked Gods: Navaho & Pueblo Ceremonialism. 2nd edition, reprint. Swallow, Athens 1987, ISBN 0-8040-0641-5 .
  • Ulrich Wißmann: Dance with Snakes - Deadly Ceremony among the Hopi (novel), Traumfänger-Verlag, Hohenthann 2015, ISBN 978-3-941485-47-1 , 184 pages


  • James Danaqyumptewa, Anka Schmid, Agnes Barmettler: Techqua Ikachi. Country - my life. Switzerland 1989 (tells the tribal history of the Hopi from their own point of view and way of thinking; info ).

Web links

Commons : Hopi  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Website of the traditional Hopi from Shungopavi: http://traditionalhopi.org/ Website with further links in German and English: http://www.impuls-aussee.at/hopi/

Wiktionary: Hopi  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Benjamin Lee Whorf: Language, Thought, Reality. Contributions to metalinguistics and the philosophy of language. Rowohlt, Reinbek 1963.
  2. Helmut Gipper: Is there a linguistic principle of relativity? Investigations on the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis . S. Fischer, Frankfurt 1972.
  3. In fact, archeology has discovered that some abandoned pueblos, such as Sikyatki and Awatowi , were once inhabited by Hopis.
  4. Message from Hopi to the United Nations - December 10, 1992 realearth.pl (PDF; 62 kB; German).
  5. ^ A People Betrayed . In: New Times . Phoenix AZ, May 1, 1997 (English).
  6. Indigenous Action indigenousaction.org (English) - indigenousaction.org (PDF; 575 kB) page 2 (German).
  7. Mohave Generating Station on SoureWatch , accessed on 14 December of 2010.
  8. John D. Loftin: Religion and Hopi Life. 2nd edition, Indiana University Press, 2003, ISBN 978-0-253-34196-9 . Pp. 148-149.
  9. Survival takes legal action against the auction of sacred Hopi objects, accessed April 17, 2013 .
  10. Hopi Mask Auction: "A Criminal Act", accessed April 17, 2013 .
  11. Hans-Günter Petzold: Vipers and pit vipers. In: Grzimeks Tierleben, Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom . Edited by Bernhard Grzimek. Zurich 1975–1977; Volume 6 (reptiles), p. 482 f.
  12. John C. Murphy: Secrets of the Snake Charmer. Bloomington, Indiana, 2010, ISBN 978-1-4502-2126-9 (paperback).
  13. ^ Lutz D. Schmadel : Dictionary of Minor Planet Names . Fifth Revised and Enlarged Edition. Ed .: Lutz D. Schmadel. 5th edition. Springer Verlag , Berlin , Heidelberg 2003, ISBN 978-3-540-29925-7 , pp.  186 (English, 992 pp., Link.springer.com [ONLINE; accessed on September 23, 2019] Original title: Dictionary of Minor Planet Names . First edition: Springer Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg 1992): “1980 LB. Discovered 1980 June 14 by E. Bowell at Anderson Mesa. "