Misrepresenting the Hopi with photos

Earlier this week I blogged about a tourist who took a photograph of a home at Orayvi and posted it to his blog. The tourist admitted that there were signs up that forbid people from taking photos, but he took one anyway. It appears from his post that the reason he published the photo was to show his readers how poor he perceived the Hopi to be.

In my earlier post I mentioned that some Hopis do not want tourists to take photos of their villages because they desire to protect their privacy. Still others post these signs at the entrance of the village so that tourists will not misrepresent them. The sandstone homes and the condition of the village may cause outsiders to conclude that the Hopi people are poor and in desperate need of help. But is this the message that the people of Orayvi want the world to believe or hear?

I wonder if the author of Boquete Panama Guide has ever been inside an Orayvi home? During his recent visit to the reservation, did he speak to the owner of this or other Hopi homes? Did he hear their stories about how members of their families/clans built these homes in the early 1900s or earlier? Did they tell him that people from the village once traveled by foot to Nuvadakovi (San Francisco Peaks) to cut down wood beams to use for their ceilings, and carried them back to the village? If so, did he see the pride in their faces when they told him that their families have lived in these homes for more than a hundred years? Did they explain to him that many years ago the people of the village decided to live without modern conveniences such as electricity and running water? Did he care enough to ask? Did he care enough to ask why?

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

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3 Responses to “Misrepresenting the Hopi with photos”


  1. 1 Delux January 29, 2010 at 10:21 am

    What you are suggesting would require outsiders to actually connect with the people of the village as peers… come on now!

    • 3 Delux January 30, 2010 at 7:14 pm

      Now that’s just crazytalk!

      Anyway, thanks for your posts on this, and thanks for the information you provided about the history of the houses in this area and the people who call them home.

      Rereading this post I was reminded of the Amish; they choose to live without many modern conveniences but no one is mounting a rescue for them. Hmm.


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© Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert and BEYOND THE MESAS, 2009-2017. 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 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.

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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)

Click to listen to KUYI On-Line

Matt’s Goodreads

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