In November 2007, the History Department at the University of California, Riverside, hosted a screening of Beyond the Mesas in the banquet room of Zacateca’s Cafe. A few days prior to the showing, I was told that I group of Hopis living in the San Diego area were planning on making the 2 hour trip for the event. One of these individuals was Nikishna Polequaptewa, Director of the American Indian Resource Center at UC Irvine. Yeseterday I heard that he recently received the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) Sequoyah Fellowship, and the National Center for American Indian Development “40 under 40” award for outstanding qualities as a Native American leader. Last week, a write-up about him appeared in the Navajo-Hopi Observer. Nikishna is doing great work at UC Irvine, but at some point he will return to Hopi. His lifelong dream is to serve as Chairman of the Hopi Tribe. Nikishna must be commended for his desire to give back to the Hopi community. He has a bright future ahead of him. To read the article in the Navajo-Hopi Observer, click here.
Beyond the Mesas is part 1 of a 2 part series on the Indian boarding school experience. The 2nd film is titled Beautiful Resistance, which examines the boarding school experience through contemporary Native art. Some of the people highlighted in this 30 minute film are Hulleah Tsinnhaghinni, Wendy Weston, Tony Abeyta, Steven Yazzie, Joanna Bigfeather, and the late Hopi artist Michael Kabotie. To learn how you can order a copy of this film, click here.
For the past several weeks I have been hearing rumors that the Hopi Tutuveni, the official newspaper of the Hopi Tribe, will be closing down. This rumor was noted in Wednesday’s edition of the Arizona Daily Sun.
Closure of the Hopi Tutuveni would be a major loss for the Hopi people. One of the most significant aspects of the Hopi Tutuveni is that it provides a Hopi voice on current issues. So much of what has been written about our people comes from non-Hopis. The Hopi Tutuveni gives Hopis a venue to write about their history, culture, and current events from Hopi perspectives.
Furthermore, not only does the paper keep Hopis and non-Hopis informed about present issues, it also has historical significance. It records and preserves Hopi history, and it is a valuable resource for future Hopi and non-Hopi scholars.
One of the ways that I have shared my research on Sherman Institute with the Hopi community is by publishing in the Hopi Tutuveni. I realize that many people back home may not have access to academic journals, or certain books. But they have access to the Hopi newspaper. If the Hopi Tutuveni shuts down, who will write the narrative?
Six years ago I came across a portion of a letter written by a Hopi student in the Sherman Bulletin, the official school newspaper of Sherman Institute. It was published in June 1909, right before a group of Hopis returned to the reservation after spending three years at the school. I first wrote about this letter in an article titled “The Hopi Followers: Chief Tawaquaptewa and Hopi Student Advancement at Sherman Institute, 1906-1909” (JAIE, Fall 2005). The following section seems fitting to post on Thanksgiving Day:
“We Hopis are about to leave Sherman. I will not forget my teachers, for they have been kind to me, and I will try to come back here next year.” (The Sherman Bulletin, June 16, 1909).
Sherman Institute marching band (1908), courtesy of the Sherman Indian Museum
Leigh J. Kuwanwisiwma of the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office once said to me that the Hopi boarding school experience is a “living history.” Some of the Hopis who attended boarding schools during the era of assimilation (1880s-1930s) are still with us today. Others are not, but their stories remain with their children and other family members. My grandfather, Victor Sakiestewa from Orayvi, attended Sherman from 1906 to 1909 and he played the clarinet in the school’s marching band. He was among the first Hopis to attend Sherman in the early twentieth century. Schools such as Sherman Institute, now called Sherman Indian High School, the Phoenix Indian School (“PI”), Stewart Indian School, Ganado Mission School, Santa Fe Indian School, and the Albuquerque Indian School, play an important role in Hopi history. The Hopi boarding school experience is indeed a “living history,” and by sharing and recording these stories we will help keep that history alive for Hopi and non-Hopi people. This conviction was a driving force behind the production of Beyond the Mesas.
One of the organizations that the film producers acknowledged and thanked in Beyond the Mesas was the Hopi Education Endowment Fund (HEEF). In addition to providing funds to support educational research, HEEF has generated millions of dollars to help Hopi students receive an education on and off the reservation. I was one of these students, and I remain very thankful and indebted to HEEF and the Hopi Tribe Grants and Scholarship Program (HTGSP) for helping me to attend college and graduate school. I would not be where I am at today without the support of HEEF and the HTGSP. Below is a brief film about the organization’s purpose and goals. A reoccurring theme in the film is that many Hopis consider education to be a tool that will ensure the survival of our people. This understanding is key to HEEF’s existence. Please consider donating to this worthy organization. To learn more about HEEF, click here.
Sheilah E. Nicholas (Hopi) from the village of Songoopavi, and assistant professor in the College of Education at the University of Arizona, recently published an article titled, “‘I Live Hopi, I Just Don’t Speak It’ – The Critical Intersection of Language, Culture, and Identity in the Lives of Contemporary Hopi Youth”, Journal of Language, Identity & Education, Vol. 8, Issue 5, November 2009, pp. 321-334. This article is a major contribution to the fields of education and Hopi studies. It is a wonderful essay to read alongside Beyond the Mesas. To view the abstract, click here.
Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert is enrolled with the Hopi Tribe from the village of Upper Moencopi in northeastern Arizona. He is an Associate Professor in the Department of History and a Dean's Fellow and Conrad Humanities Scholar in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Foreword to Kevin Whalen’s Native Students at Work: American Indian Labor and Sherman Institute’s Outing Program, 1900-1945
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)