Archive for December, 2009

“Kwa’a, kwakwha’ um nuy siiva maqa”: Speaking Hopi to Grandpa

When I received my advanced degree in history from UC Riverside my grandparents made the trip from Moencopi to Southern California to see me graduate. We had a big celebration and one of the gifts my grandparents gave me was a card with a check inside. After opening the card I immediately thanked my grandmother, but I waited to thank my grandfather until I was able to do so in Hopi. As my grandfather was sitting in his truck, ready to make the trip back to the reservation, I said to him: “Kwa’a, kwakwha’ um nuy siiva maqa” (“Grandpa, thank you for the money that you gave me”). He looked up at me and said one word: “owi’.” The literal English translation of “owi'” is “yes,” but in this context it meant much more. At that very moment I connected with my grandfather at a level that would have been impossible in English. Hopi was his first language and it is the language that he prefers.

Growing up in the mountain community of Flagstaff, I thought my grandfather was a man of few words. I do not recall having long conversations with him when I was a child. But as I got older I realized that my grandfather was a man of few words in English and not Hopi. I sometimes wonder how my relationship with my grandfather would be different if I knew how to speak more Hopi. In my immediate family we say that kwa’a only listens to my dad, because my dad speaks to him in Hopi. We say this jokingly, but there is truth to it. Even today when our family gets together my dad and his father can be heard conversing in the Hopi language.

A lifelong goal of mine is to be able to speak fluent Hopi. I have a long way to go before I reach this goal. Hopis are proud that much of our culture remains intact. Many of our ceremonies continue, we remain on portions of our ancestral lands, and Hopi is still spoken. But our parents and grandparents will tell you that fewer and fewer Hopis are able to speak their language. Fortunately, efforts are being made by people such as Sheilah E. Nicholas of the Hopilavayi Project and many others to encourage and help Hopis reverse this problem.

On a related note, Louellyn White, one of our American Indian Studies postdoctoral fellows at the University of Illinois, and Teresa McCarty of Arizona State University, recently informed me about a new story that National Public Radio (NPR) released on Hopi language and youth. The title of this program is “Hopi Teens Worry About Loss of Culture.” This program briefly examines Hopi language loss at U.S. government schools and the issues Hopi youth face as they try to live as Hopis in today’s world. It is a fascinating story. If you would like to listen to the 5 minute program and/or view the transcript, click here.

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

“But we never spoke to each other” Elizabeth Mosier on the Phoenix Indian School

This evening I want to direct you to a blog post by novelist Elizabeth Mosier on the Phoenix Indian School. Much of what has been written about off-reservation Indian boarding schools is told from the perspective of Indian students or government officials. But non-Natives lived in the communities where the schools were located, and their perspectives about the students and schools are not often highlighted. On her blog, Mosier describes attending Central High School in Phoenix, which was right next to the Indian school. She occasionally saw the students from a distance, but never spoke to them, and they never spoke to her.

Mosier’s opening paragraph reminds me of the Preface to David Wallace Adams’ Education for Extinction. Adams begins his book by describing what it was like for him to drive past Sherman Institute as a kid – fascinated that “real” Indians went to school there. So take a few minutes and head on over to Mosier’s blog and read her post.

Hopis and Christmas at Indian schools

Over the years I have come across several documents and other sources, including children’s books and newspaper accounts, that involve Hopi students and Christmas at Sherman Institute and the Phoenix Indian School. Many Hopis at off-reservation Indian boarding schools looked forward to Christmas, but not every Hopi enthusiastically celebrated the holiday.

In the children’s book Climbing Sun (1980), Marjorie Thayer and Elizabeth Emanuel note that prior to Hubert Honanie’s first Christmas at Sherman in the late 1920s, the school’s superintendent, Frank M. Conser, mandated that students attend church the Sunday before Christmas day. While Hubert sat in the chapel service, he listened carefully to what the minister said about the birth of Jesus, but he did not see why this baby was so important. Hubert concluded that Christmas held little significance. Although he liked having the day off from school and he enjoyed eating the traditional Christmas food of turkey and cranberries, he would have “preferred stewed rabbit or mutton and corn” prepared according to Hopi custom.

By the 1930s the tradition of Christmas had become very popular among Hopi children on the reservation. In The Hopi Indians of Old Oraibi (1972), anthropologist Mischa Titiev observed that in December 1933, Hopi women walked to Kykotsmovi at the foot of Third Mesa to purchase Christmas presents for the Orayvi children. Titiev noted that several children had taken part in “Christmas programs” at places such as Sherman and the Phoenix Indian School, and several of their parents enjoyed giving them presents on Christmas. Afraid that the children would be disappointed if they did not receive gifts, the women purchased enough presents for each child in the village.

Although the Christmas tradition continues with many Hopis today, Hopis incorporate their culture into the holiday as well. Hopi artists demonstrate this through their art, and some Hopis, particularly those who belong to church congregations on the reservation, still sing Christmas carols in the Hopi language.

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

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[Portions of this post were adapted from a newspaper article that I wrote titled "Christmas experiences at Sherman Institute and Phoenix Indian School", Hopi Tutuveni, December 21, 2005, Issue 26, p. 6]

“I is for Indian Village” – Photographs and Hopi protocols

[UPDATE: Dec. 20, 2:36PM CST - The blog post that I refer to below has been removed from the Craftista website]

This morning I received a Google Alert that directed me to a blog called Craftista. The author of the blog belongs to a blogging group that is currently doing a A to Z meme, and so the author decided that “I” would stand for “Indian Village.” In November, the author visited the Hopi Reservation, took a picture of a village, and posted it to the author’s blog. The photo does not have a caption, but the author refers to the village as a “quaint Indian village.” The picture is of Lower Moencopi near Tuba City, Arizona. A kiva is clearly visible in the photo. About a hundred yards from where this picture was taken, a sign welcomes visitors to the village. The sign reads:

WELCOME TO MOENKOPI VILLAGE, TO ALL VISITORS, YOU ARE WELCOME TO RESPECTFULLY VISIT OUR VILLAGE AND OBSERVE OUR CEREMONIES = ABSOLUTELY NOT PERMITTED = 1. NO SOUND RECORDINGS, 2. NO SKETCHING, 3. NO PHOTOGRAPHY OF ANY KIND, 4. NO REMOVAL OF ANY OBJECTS, 5. NO VIDEO TAKING

The purpose of this post is not to blast the author of Craftista for posting a photo of Moencopi on the author’s blog. Many people who visit our village do so respectfully. Rather, I want to inform people about protocols that Hopi villages ask visitors to follow and respect. Hopis established these protocols to protect their intellectual property, privacy, and to keep people from publishing photographs of village structures, shrines, and ceremonies.

The producers of BEYOND THE MESAS received permission from the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office to include old black and white photos of Hopi villages in the documentary, but we did not film or photograph exterior shots of present-day villages, kivas, or other religious sites.

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

Beyond the Mesas co-executive producer publishes new book

Stewart B. Koyiyumptewa, Carolyn O’Bagy Davis, Hopi Cultural Preservation Office. The Hopi People. Arcadia Publishing, 2009. 128pp. paper, $21.99

This past summer Stewart B. Koyiyumptewa, archivist for the Hopi Tribe and co-executive producer of Beyond the Mesas, published a book along with Carolyn O’Bagy Davis and the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office (HCPO) titled The Hopi People. The book was released by Arcadia Publishing as part of its “Images of America” series. With nearly two hundred black and white photos and several pencil drawings and paintings, The Hopi People provides a concise introduction to Hopi history and culture. Consistent with other books in the “Images of America” series, The Hopi People utilizes photographs and captions to tell a historical narrative. In this book the narrative centers on Hopi life, religion, art, farming, and current issues. One of the chapters is dedicated entirely to Hopi schooling. In Chapter 5, “We Got Real Homesick”, the authors describe the ways Hopis resisted the U.S. government’s policy that required Hopi children to attend schools on and off the reservation. Topics in this chapter include the Hopi day school system, industrial and domestic training, curriculums based on Hopi culture, the Keams Canyon Boarding School, Polingaysi Qoyawayma, and former Senator Barry Goldwater’s support of education efforts on the Hopi mesas. Accompanied by a number of previously unpublished photographs, Chapter 5 is primarily about Hopi schooling on the reservation and not at off-reservation Indian boarding schools. Published with the cooperation and involvement of the HCPO, and several Hopis who provided photos and information on specific pictures, The Hopi People is truly a remarkable publication and it is sure to receive high praise from other reviewers. To learn how you can order a copy of The Hopi People, click here.

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

Hopi Tribe has new chairman

Earlier this month LeRoy Shingoitewa from Upper Moencopi was sworn in as the new chairman of the Hopi Tribe. Chairman Shingoitewa has a long history of promoting education among Hopi and non-Hopi people. Throughout his career he has served as the principal for Kinsey Elementary School in the mountain community of Flagstaff, Arizona, Moencopi Day School, and the Tuba City High School. Herman Honanie from Kykotsmovi was elected to be the Vice Chairman.

According to a recent report in the Navajo-Hopi Observer, Chairman Shingoitewa and Vice Chairman Honanie will be revisiting the passing of last month’s budget that eliminated funding for the Hopi Tutuveni. When asked in a public forum about the closure of the Hopi paper, Chairman Shingoitewa said: “Vice Chairman Honanie and I will be looking at the entire 2010 budget that was approved recently. Many of these budget decisions will need a second [visit] and the Tutuveni is only one of the areas we will take a second look at.” To read the entire story in the Navajo-Hopi Observer, click here.

[Chairman Shingoitewa's father, Samuel Shingoitewa, attended Sherman Institute in the 1920s. In 2004, I had the priviledge of interviewing Samuel at his home for my book on the Hopi boarding school experience at Sherman.]

Remembering Polingaysi Qoyawayma

Nineteen years ago on December 6, 1990, Polingaysi Qoyawayma (Elizabeth Q. White), passed away with family at her side in Phoenix, Arizona. Born in 1892, Polingaysi was from the village of Orayvi on Third Mesa, and she is perhaps best known for her book (as told to Vada Carlson) No Turning Back: A Hopi Woman’s Struggle to Live in Two Worlds. I never had the honor of meeting Polingaysi, but her story is often told among our people. In November 1906, shortly after an internal dispute in her village, Polingaysi left by wagon with a group of Hopi children to the small town of Winslow, Arizona. From there she boarded a Santa Fe train to San Bernardino, California, then traveled south to Sherman Institute in Riverside. She experienced a different life in the “land of oranges,” and she wrote at length about her time at Sherman in No Turning Back. After spending almost three years at the school, Polingaysi returned to Orayvi and found it difficult to acclimate to reservation life. She eventually became the first Hopi to teach at a Hopi day school, and she encouraged her students to take the best of Hopi and American culture to succeed as a people. Although Polingaysi is often associated with No Turning Back, she also wrote a second book in 1941 titled The Sun Girl, which was illustrated by Hopi artist Komoki. In this children’s book, Polingaysi retells a story of a young girl named Dawamana (“Sun Maiden” or “Sun Girl”) from Orayvi who learns the Butterfly Dance at the village of Moencopi. In the foreword to the book’s 1978 edition, Robert Breunig of the Museum of Northern Arizona notes that “Mrs. Qoyawayma told this story many times to her school children. They became so enthralled with it that they asked that it be repeated again and again, and they learned it almost word for word, correcting deviations from one telling to the next. Finally, Mrs. Qoyawayma wrote the story down in the hope that all children would enjoy it.” Nineteen years after her passing, Polingaysi’s life and work are still remembered. She is one of the most revered teachers and writers in Hopi history, and her example and words continue to have great meaning and relevance for those in the present.

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert


Copyright Notice

© Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert and BEYOND THE MESAS, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert and BEYOND THE MESAS with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

About the author

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert is enrolled with the Hopi Tribe from the village of Upper Moencopi in northeastern Arizona. He is an associate professor of American Indian Studies & History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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A Second Wave of Hopi Migration (History of Education Quarterly, August 2014)

Sun Chief: An Autobiography of A Hopi Indian by Don C. Talayesva, New foreword by Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert (Sept. 2013)

Marathoner Louis Tewanima and the Continuity of Hopi Running, 1908-1912 (Western Historical Quarterly, Autumn 2012). Winner of Spur Award for Best Western Short Nonfiction, Western Writers of America (2013)

“Hopi Footraces and American Marathons, 1912-1930″, American Quarterly, Vol. 62, No. 1, March Issue 2010 (Click image to download article)

Hopi runner Philip Zeyouma’s trophy cups featured on cover of American Quarterly

Education beyond the Mesas: Hopi Students at Sherman Institute, 1902-1929 (University of Nebraska Press, 2010)

Education beyond the Mesas – Introduction (click image to download)

“‘The Hopi Followers': Chief Tawaquaptewa and Hopi Student Advancement at Sherman Institute, 1906-1909″, Journal of American Indian Education, (Click image to download article)

The Indian School on Magnolia Avenue: Voices and Images From Sherman Institute (Oregon State University Press, 2012)

Arizona English Teachers Association highlights Hopi authors (click image to download)

Constitution and Bylaws of the Hopi Tribe (With all amendments, click to download)

Click to listen to KUYI On-Line

Matt’s Goodreads

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