Yale University Press to publish second edition of Don C. Talayesva’s book Sun Chief: The Autobiography of a Hopi Indian

Sun Chief 2nd edition

Several months ago Yale University Press asked me to write the new Foreword to the second edition of Don C. Talayesva’s book Sun Chief: The Autobiography of a Hopi Indian. The book was originally published in 1942. Yale will release the second edition in December of this year.

Talayesva was from the village of Old Oraibi (Orayvi) on Third Mesa. As a young man, he had been educated in western schools, including Sherman Institute, but eventually returned home to live according to Hopi ways and customs.

In the 1930s and early 1940s, he worked alongside a white anthropologist named Leo W. Simmons to write and publish his autobiography.

In the new Foreword, I situate Sun Chief within contemporary Hopi studies, and explore the ways scholars have used the book since its publication more than seventy years ago.

The Hopi Tawa image on the cover is of a mural by Hopi artist Fred Kabotie of Shungopavi. I collaborated with Kabotie’s grandson, Ed Kabotie, the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office, the National Parks Service, and the Press to help get this image on the cover.

If you are interested in obtaining a copy of the book, it is now available for pre-order through several distributors, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Museum of Northern Arizona director condemns Paris auction of Hopi and other Native ceremonial objects

The following post was taken from the Facebook page of the Museum of Northern Arizona. I thank Director Dr. Robert Breunig for granting me permission to repost his letters (English and French versions) on BeyondtheMesas.com. Please distribute widely.


Museum of Northern Arizona Facebook page:

An auction house in Paris, France, Neret-Minet Tessier & Sarrou, plans to auction off 70 ceremonial katsina friends, improperly translated into English as “masks,” on April 12. Below is an open letter in both English and French to the auction house, in which Museum of Northern Arizona Director Dr. Robert Breunig voices his condemnation of this planned sale of significant religious objects, adding MNA to the public opposition to this sale by the Hopi and Zuni tribal members, the Heard Museum, and many individuals.

March 29, 2013

Étude Neret-Minet Tessier & Sarrou
8, Rue Saint-Marc
75002 Paris FRANCE

To the Directors,

I am the director of the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, Arizona. If the name of the museum is familiar to you, it is because this museum was founded by Harold S. Colton, my predecessor and the author of “Hopi Kachina Dolls,” the book you have cited as an authoritative source in the listing of 70 Hopi, Zuni, Acoma, and Jemez “masques katsinam,” properly called “katsina friends” and advertised for an auction by your firm on April 12, 2013.

I am writing to request that you cancel this auction, withdraw the katsina friends from sale, and that they be returned by the “owner” to the Hopi, Zuni, Acoma, and Jemez people. I have placed quotation marks around the word “owner,” because no one can “own” them but the Hopi, Zuni, Acoma, and Jemez people. Although katsina friends can be held and cared for by individuals, they belong to the communities from which they come or to specific ceremonial societies. Under tribal custom and law they cannot be sold or given away by an individual.

I can tell you from personal knowledge that the proposed sale of these katsina friends, and the international exposure of them, is causing outrage, sadness, and stress among members of the affected tribes. For them katsina friends are living beings; that is why they are called “friends” (kwatsi) in the Hopi language. The friends are loved, cared for, and ceremonially fed. They are a connection between the human world and the spirits of all living things and the ancestors. To be displayed disembodied in your catalogue and on the internet is sacrilegious and offensive. If one claims to value these katsina friends as “works of art,” one must also respect the people who made them and the native traditions that govern their use. And, as fellow human beings, it is my hope that you will offer understanding and empathy to the tribal people who are so deeply affected by this proposed sale. You cannot honor and value these katsina friends while dishonoring their makers. These are universal principles of cross-cultural human conduct.

On behalf of the Museum of Northern Arizona, I appeal to your sense of decency and humanity, and request that you terminate the auction and send these katsina friends to their proper homes among the native people in Arizona and New Mexico.

Robert G. Breunig, Ph.D.
Director, Museum of Northern Arizona

Ce 29 mars 2013, Flagstaff

Étude Neret-Minet Tessier & Sarrou
8, Rue Saint-Marc
75002 Paris FRANCE

Messieurs les Directeurs:

C’est dans ma capacité de Directeur du Museum of Northern Arizona (Flagstaff, Arizona, États-Unis) que je me permets de vous contacter. Le nom de notre musée vous est connu : son fondateur, mon prédécesseur Harold S. Colton, fut l’auteur du livre Hopi Kachina Dolls que vous citez comme source d’autorité dans votre catalogue de 70 “masques katsinam” – plus correctement nommés des amis katsinam – présentés pour une vente aux enchères de votre établissement, prévue pour ce 12 avril 2013.

Je vous écris pour demander dès aujourd’hui l’annulation de cette vente ; le retrait desdits amis katsinam de toute vente présente ou future ; et surtout, que ceux-ci puissent être restitués aux peuples Hopi, Zuni, Acoma et Jemez par leur « propriétaire ». Si je mets entre guillemets ce dernier, c’est que nul ne peut être en « possession » des amis katsinam, à part les peuple Hopi, Zuni, Acoma, et Jemez dont ils proviennent. Je tiens par ailleurs à vous assurer par ma propre expérience récente et personnelle, que cette vente annoncée des amis katsinam, ainsi que leur exposition publique et internationale, est source d’outrage, tristesse et angoisse – profonds et réels – parmi les membres des tribus concernées. Pour eux, les amis katsinam sont des êtres vivants : raison pour laquelle la langue Hopi les dénomme « amis » (kwatsi). Les kwatsi sont aimés, chéris, nourris de façon rituelle. Ils incarnent le lien entre le monde humain, les esprits de tout ce qui vit, et les ancêtres. Se trouver ainsi exposés – désincarnés – dans votre catalogue et sur Internet, est une offense profonde, un sacrilège. Si les amis katsina peuvent être soignés et tenus entre mains humaines, ils appartiennent seules aux communautés dont ils sont issus, spécifiquement à leurs sociétés cérémonielles. Par coutume et par loi tribale, leur vente, donation ou dation par qui que ce soit, est proscrite.

Quiconque prétend estimer ces amis katsina comme « œuvres d’art » se doit en parallèle de respecter les peuples qui les ont crées, et les traditions amérindiennes qui gouvernent leur utilisation. Aussi, sur un plan purement humain, devriez-vous étendre votre compréhension, voire votre empathie, envers les peuples tribaux si profondément affectés par cette vente dont vous êtes l’organisateur. On ne peut apprécier et estimer ces amis katsina tout en déshonorant leurs créateurs. Il s’agit de principes universels, et d’une conduite humaine digne de ce nom…

Au nom du Museum of Northern Arizona, je fais appel à votre sens de décence et d’humanité en vous priant de supprimer cette vente, et de faire parvenir ces amis katsina à leur seul vrai lieu d’appartenance : chez les peuples amérindiens de l’Arizona et New Mexico, afin que ceux-ci puissent en disposer selon leur rite et coutume.

Je vous prie, Messieurs les Directeurs, de recevoir l’expression mon sentiment respectueux et profondément déconcerté.

Robert G. Breunig, Ph.D.
Director, Museum of Northern Arizona

Arizona Daily Sun: Auction Offends Hopi

Auction Offends Hopi

April 2, 2013 5:05am – CYNDY COLE – Sun Staff Reporter

More than 70 sacred artifacts from tribes in the Southwest, mostly from Hopi, are slated to head to auction in Paris next week over tribal objections.

The Hopi items are mostly worn on the head in religious ceremonies that continue today. They are widely held as living beings that connect people to ancestors and the spirits of other living things.

The artifacts at issue in this case date from the 1800s and 1900s and are typically handed down from one generation to the next.

“These are items that should be home with our people, and that’s where they rightfully belong,” said Hopi Chairman LeRoy Shingoitewa.

The Hopi tribal government is asking the Paris auction house, Neret-Minet, to return them.

It is slated to auction them April 12.

Items from the Jemez Tribe, of New Mexico, are also up for bidding.

Shingoitewa is also working with embassies, he said, and does not know how the artifacts wound up in Europe, other than to guess they long ago were acquired by an individual outside the tribe.

“All we’re doing is trying to find a way to stop that auction … we’re asking for them to honor Hopi by not doing any selling of any kind,” Shingoitewa said.

He has instructed members of his government not to comment on the issue.

The items are worn about the face or head, but use of the word “mask” is deeply offensive to some Hopis, Shingoitewa said.

The keepsakes are kept in kivas and most often worn by Hopi men, who sometimes fast for days before the ceremonies.

Museum of Northern Arizona Director Robert Breunig posted a letter online Friday calling on the auction house to return the items.

“… they belong to the communities from which they come or to specific ceremonial societies. Under tribal custom and law they cannot be sold or given away by an individual,” Breunig wrote.

His letter had received nearly 13,000 reads as of Monday.

“I guess to use a common term, it went viral,” he said.

Cyndy Cole can be reached at 913-8607 or at ccole@azdailysun.com.

Originally published at: http://azdailysun.com/news/local/auction-offends-hopi/article_36ae0624-5233-527e-be1a-f94c5720125a.html


See also:

“French plan to auction Hopi masks stirs furor” by Dennis Wagner, The Republic, April 2, 2013

“Hopis seek return of artifacts at auction” by Felicia Fonseca, The Associated Press, April 3, 2013

“Museums join Hopi Tribe to oppose Paris artifact sale” by Agence France-Presse, April 3, 2013

“71 Hopi and Zuni Masks to be Auctioned in Paris” by ICTMN Staff, March 7, 2013