Hopi Code Talker Rex Pooyouma

Today, as we consider the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, I want to take a moment and remember Hopis who served their village communities and the United States in World War II. One of these individuals was Rex Pooyouma from the village of Hotevilla on Third Mesa. During the War, Mr. Pooyouma served in the Native American Code Talker Communications Network. He was one of at least 10 Hopi code talkers who used their language to transmit critical messages that saved the lives of countless people and helped to end the War.

In November 1945, Mr. Pooyouma received an honorable discharge from the military at the rank of Private First Class.  He was a decorated soldier and earned several medals, including the American Campaign Medal, the Philippine Liberation Medal, and a Bronze Star. In October of this year, Mr. Pooyouma, the last known surviving Hopi code talker, passed away at the age of 93. He will always be remembered as a hero among our people and one who ventured beyond the Hopi mesas to serve his community and nation.

For more information on Mr. Pooyouma’s involvement in World War II and his role as a Hopi code talker, please visit the following website: http://nhonews.com/Main.asp?SectionID=1&SubSectionID=1&ArticleID=12971

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

Hopi scholars publish articles

I am pleased to report that Hopi scholars Sheilah E. Nicholas of the University of Arizona and Lomayumtewa C. Ishii of Northern Arizona University recently published the following articles:

Nicholas, Sheilah E., “Language, Epistemology, and Cultural Identity: ‘Hopiqatsit Aw Unanguakiwyungwa‘ (‘They Have Their Heart in the Hopi Way of Life’)”, American Indian Culture and Research Journal, 2010, Vol. 34, No. 2, pp. 125-144.

This article provides an in-depth “on the ground” look at the Hopi language shift—“becoming accustomed to speaking English”—through the lenses of the study participants who represent the youth, parent, and grandparent generations. The article also gives attention to Hopi oral tradition and the Hopi identity-formation process in order to articulate the link among language, epistemology, and identity, spotlighting what of the traditions, practices, and religion remain salient and why they remain salient. [p. 127]

Ishii, Lomayumtewa C., “Western Science Comes to the Hopis: Critically Deconstructing the Origins of an Imperialist Canon,” Wicazo Sa Review, Fall 2010, Vol. 24, No. 2, pp. 65-88.

The number of western texts written about Hopi culture is enormous. The work of Jesse Walter Fewkes, beginning in the 1890s, marks a key starting point in the articulation of a western perspective of Hopi culture, initiating a canon rooted in nineteenth-century anthropological thought. Fewkes’s work also illustrates how the establishment of a “cultural archive” was pragmatically related to his research, which included excavations of Hopi sites (notably the village of Awatovi), as well as through his personal commentary. This article examines nineteenth-century anthropological theory, Fewkes’s employment of that theoretical orientation, and how his work established the foundation of a “cultural archive” that constitutes a canon in the study of Hopi culture. But more importantly, by critically reading these texts a decolonization process reveals a western imperialistic mind at work. [p. 65]

Hopi runners article available for download

Over the past year, several people have stumbled across my blog looking for information on Hopi runners. For those who might be interested, I have made my article “Hopi Footraces and American Marathons, 1912-1930” (American Quarterly, March Issue 2010, Vol. 62, No. 1, pp. 77-101) available for download. Simply click on the above image to download the article as a PDF document.

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

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

On Monday of this week the University of Nebraska Press released my book Education beyond the Mesas. My book examines the Hopi experience at Sherman Institute in Riverside, California, from 1902 to 1929. It is a story of resistance, accommodation, and ways Hopi pupils navigated within their village communities, U.S. government policies, and an institution that was designed to destroy their identities as American Indian people. Furthermore, my book is a story of agency, and it demonstrates how Hopi students used their culture to succeed at school, and examines the challenges the pupils faced when they returned to their homes on the reservation.

Thirty one years ago historian David Wallace Adams remarked that a “ study on the federal Indian boarding school system does not exist.” Today the field of Indian boarding schools has grown substantially with contributions from scholars such as Adams, K. Tsianina Lomawaima, Brenda Child, Clyde Ellis, and many others. Recent studies have focused on Indian health, literature, education policies, and the ways Indian pupils “turned the power” at schools originally designed to destroy American Indian cultures. A term used by historians Clifford E. Trafzer, Jean Keller, and Lorene Sisquoc, “turning the power” describes the ability of Native students to turn their educational experiences to their advantage, which often included bringing helpful knowledge and skills back to their indigenous communities.

In my book I examine the ways Hopis “turned the power” at Sherman Institute, and I build upon the work of several scholars including those who have written about the mandatory enrollment of Hopi students at U.S. government schools. While many books on Indian boarding schools examine the experiences of Native students who came from several communities, Education beyond the Mesas is a community specific book that seeks to understand the Hopi experience at Sherman Institute through a Hopi historical and cultural framework.  In the book’s Introduction, I argue that a community specific book on the Hopi places

the history and culture of the Hopi people at the focal point of the narrative. It asks how a student’s culture and tribal history influenced their experience at an Indian school, and builds upon the contributions of other scholars to uncover the complex ways that Hopi history and culture intersected with U.S. government policies. Apart from providing the reader with a historical narrative, this book challenges the notion that a study on the Indian boarding school experience must be understood primarily through a defined framework of Indian education policies. Community-specific books begin with the history and culture of Native people and attempt to determine how students understood their unique experiences at Indian boarding schools as Zunis, Navajos, Apaches, or other Indian people. [Education beyond the Mesas, p. xxix]

I would not have been able to complete this book without the help and support of many individuals. I am especially thankful to my wife, Kylene, and our daughters Hannah, Meaghan and Noelle, and other family members. My colleagues at the University of Illinois, in both the American Indian Studies Program and the Department of History, have provided me with tremendous support since I arrived at Illinois in Fall 2006.

I further extend appreciation to the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office, the Hopi Education Endowment Fund, and the Hopi Tribe Grants and Scholarship Program who so generously made available resources for me to pursue an education beyond the mesas. There are also many Hopi and non-Hopi scholars, students, and community members who have helped and encouraged me along the way, which includes the incredible editorial staff at the University of Nebraska Press. Finally, I wish to acknowledge my grandfather, Victor Sakiestewa, Sr. from Upper Moencopi, who gave me the inspiration and reason to write on his alma mater, “dear ole Sherman.”

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

Hopi Summer, 2011 Nominee for OneBookAZ

Several months ago I posted a very positive review of a book by Carolyn O’Bagy Davis titled Hopi Summer: Letters from Ethel to Maud (Rio Nuevo Publishers, 2007). Her book is currently a finalist for the OneBookAZ 2011 award. I have always been supportive of Davis and her work, and Hopi Summer is certainly worthy of this and other awards. If you are a resident of Arizona, and you would like to vote for Hopi Summer, you can do so between September 27 and October 15 at the following website: http://www.onebookaz.org

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

Hopi Footrace on Second Mesa

Louis Tewanima standing with his many trophies and medals. He is wearing his Carlisle track suit. Photo courtesy of the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame

In less than a week, family members of Hopi runner Louis Tewanima will host the 37th Annual Louis Tewanima Footrace at the village of Shungopavi on Second Mesa. Tewanima is one of the most celebrated runners in Hopi history and he is best known for winning a silver medal at the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden. As I think about the upcoming footrace, I am reminded of another Hopi footrace on Second Mesa that involved Tewanima.

In a previous post, I wrote about a Hopi runner named Philip Zeyouma who competed for Sherman Institute at the same time Tewanima ran for the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania. In April 1912, Zeyouma won the Los Angeles Times Modified Marathon of 12 miles, which earned him an opportunity to compete for the U.S. team in Stockholm. On the other side of the country, Tewanima, who by this time had won several running events, was also scheduled to run in the Olympics.

When news that the two Hopi runners would race against each other in Sweden, excitement spread among the students at both schools. Students at Sherman Institute gloried in the thought that one of their Hopi runners would defeat the famous Louis Tewanima, and the pupils at Carlisle had great confidence that Tewanima would outrun the Hopi runner from Sherman. But the showdown between Zeyouma and Tewanima at the Olympic Games in Sweden never took place.

Shortly before Zeyouma was supposed to leave for Sweden, his father expressed disapproval of his son’s participation in the Olympics. Not wanting to disappoint his father, Zeyouma honored his request and went back to the Hopi Reservation for the summer. However, in my article “Hopi Footraces and American Marathons, 1912-1930,” I note that the

rivalry between the two Hopi runners did not cease when Tewanima migrated back to the Hopi mesas as an Olympian. In September 1912, shortly before they returned to their schools, Tewanima and Zeyouma challenged each other to a race on the Hopi Reservation.  On the day of the race, Hopis from the surrounding villages gathered around the starting line and anxiously watched as the two runners made their mark for the twelve-mile course. Zeyouma proudly wore his “Sherman colors,” while Tewanima “appeared in his Carlisle track suit.”

By wearing their running uniforms, the Hopi athletes saw the event as a race between the two schools and identified themselves according to their school affiliation. However, such a display of school loyalty did not go unchallenged by the other Hopi runners in the crowd. Seconds before the race began, some of the older Hopi men remarked that the “boys did not look like [Hopi] runners” at all, and teased Zeyouma and Tewanima for wearing their running outfits. A New York Times reporter noted that when Tewanima heard the men’s insults, Tewanima replied, “If you don’t like our looks get in, and show what you can do.”

The men promptly accepted his challenge and entered the race with no shoes or track suits, and wore “merely discarded” clothes. Six miles into the race, the older men proved too much for the young runners and Zeyouma and Tewanima quit and left the “race to the barefooted runners in the lead.” Coach Joe Shoulder recalled that the winner was about fifty years old, and he looked like he was “dying of consumption” (tuberculosis).

The outcome of the race provides a telling commentary on running in Hopi culture, as well as the relationship between older and younger runners. While the younger runners migrated to off reservation Indian boarding schools, the vast majority of the Hopi people, including older men who were known for the ability to run long distances, remained at home. Consequently, some of the best long-distance runners in U.S. history received little or no attention by those outside of the Hopi community. Although newspaper reporters seemed surprised that men in their fifties had the ability to defeat the younger athletes, the people knew that other Hopis could easily outrun the Hopi Olympian and the track star from Sherman Institute. [“Hopi Footraces and American Marathons, 1912-1930,” American Quarterly, March 2010, vol. 62, no. 1, p. 87, 88]

On Sunday September 5, 2010, runners of various ages will come together to run a footrace on Second Mesa. They will once again make their mark on the start line and run a course similar to the one taken by Tewanima, Zeyouma, and the older runners of the village. In honor of Tewanima, who still inspires thousands of individuals to run, the annual Louis Tewanima Footrace gives testimony to Tewanima’s legacy as an Olympic runner and the continuation of footraces among the people.

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

Philip Zeyouma after winning the 1912 Los Angeles Times Modified Marathon. Photo courtesy of the Sherman Indian Museum

Receive 20% off EDUCATION BEYOND THE MESAS

Receive 20% off each copy of Education beyond the Mesas: Hopi Students at Sherman Institute, 1902-1929, if you order from the University of Nebraska Press. Mention promotion code 6AF10 to obtain the discount. For more information, please click on the following link to download the book’s promotional flyer: Education beyond the Mesas – flyer

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

The search for Polingaysi Qoyawayma

When I started researching on the Hopi boarding school experience at Sherman Institute, I thought for sure that I would come across many references of Polingaysi Qoyawayma (Elizabeth Q. White) at the Sherman Indian Museum. She is, after all, one of the school’s most famous alums. I looked in the Sherman Bulletin, the school’s student-written newspaper. I examined various letterpress books and other school records, but I never came across her name.

While conducting research at the National Archives in Laguna Niguel, California, I uncovered a file with a name similar to Polingaysi Qoyawayma written on the tab. I thought I found the documents that I had been searching for. But when I examined the records closely I discovered that the file belonged to someone else.

In an attempt to find clues that would lead me to archival information on Qoyawayma, I reread Don Talayesva’s autobiography Sun Chief. Talayesva and Qoyawayma attended Sherman at the same time. They both came from Orayvi and likely traveled with each other to the school in November 1906. But nowhere in Talayesva’s book does he mention her name.

Fortunately, one does need to depend on Talayesva or an archive to learn about Qoyawayma’s experience at the Indian school in Riverside. Although the archival record may appear to be silent, at least in reference to her time at Sherman, her story remains with her family, others who knew her, and in her book No Turning Back.

The documents that I searched for may never surface. They may not even exist. But Qoyawayma has already shared with us about her school days at Sherman Institute. She has already provided us with the archive, the documents, and the narrative of her life.

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

Review of Hopi Summer: Letters from Ethel to Maud (Rio Nuevo Publishers, 2007)

Carolyn O’Bagy Davis, Hopi Summer: Letters from Ethel to Maud. Tucson: Rio Nuevo Publishers, 2007. 160pp. paper, $15.95.

In January 1927, Carey E. Melville, a mathematics professor at Clark University in Worchester, Massachusetts, his wife Maud and their three children, left the comforts of their suburban home for a nine month adventure across the United States. Traveling in a newly purchased Model T Ford, the Melvilles drove south to Florida and then made their journey out West. In the summer of 1927, the Melvilles arrived at the Hopi villages of Sichomovi, Walpi, and Polacca in northeastern Arizona. At Polacca, Maud Melville met several Hopi artists, including a Hopi-Tewa pottery maker named Ethel Salyah Muchvo, her husband, Wilfred, and their children Minerva and Clifford. Unlike other tourist who had visited the Hopi villages in the past, Maud remained in contact with Ethel and her family after the Melvilles returned to their home in New England. In Hopi Summer, historian and biographer Carolyn O’Bagy Davis uses Maud’s journal entries, Ethel’s letters to Maud, letters written by Christian missionaries, and Hopi oral interviews to tell the story of Ethel’s friendship with Maud. However, Hopi Summer is more than a story about a friendship between two very different people. It is a story about survival, death, life, and a Hopi woman’s determination to care for her family and ill husband.

In the late 1920s and 1930s, diseases killed many Hopis on the reservation. Ethel’s husband, Wilfred, suffered from tuberculosis and his illness had a devastating effect on their children. Having experienced the pain and sorrow of losing eleven children to the disease, Ethel reached out to her pahaana (“white person”) friend, Maud, for comfort and compassion, while Maud responded with charitable acts and words of kindness. On several occasions Ethel wrote and asked Maud if she would send her extra clothes, winter coats, and blankets. In return Ethel sent Maud her pottery, Wilfred’s katsina dolls, and other pieces of Hopi craftmanship as gifts. After the Melvilles returned home Maud gave several lectures about the Hopis, and sold Wilfred’s art to people she had met at various speaking events. Maud sent the earnings from the sales to Ethel and Wilfred and the family used the money to purchase food and needed supplies. Ethel’s friendship with Maud had a business element to it that reflected Ethel’s commitment to provide for her family.

Although other women have written about the Hopi people during this period, including the Christian missionary Abigail E. Johnson and the Christian biographer, Florence Crannell Means, Davis masterfully highlights the Hopi “voice” and provides the reader with a deep sense of Hopi ways and customs. Davis’s’ ability to write about the Hopi people, while at the same time not lead the reader into the “kiva” (metaphorically speaking), stands as a testimony to her sensitivity to certain aspects of Hopi religious culture. Davis’s research methodology is highly commendable, and serves as an example for individuals who desire to conduct research with an indigenous community. In this regard, Davis follows in the footsteps of Hopi scholars Sheilah E. Nicholas, Angela A. Gonzales, Patricia Sekaquaptewa, Lomayumtewa C. Ishii, and anthropologists Peter M. Whiteley and Wesley Bernardini. Each of these individuals have conducted extensive research on the Hopi Reservation and did so with the involvement and cooperation of the Hopi Tribe. Furthermore, Hopi Summer supports the understanding that Hopi intellectual property belongs with the Hopi people. In addition to sharing letters and pictures with Ethel’s family, including Ethel’s daughter, Vivian, Davis provided the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office with copies of her research and sought the assistance of Hopi scholars Hartman Lomawaima, former director of the Arizona State Museum, and Emory Sekaquaptewa.

Hopi Summer is beautifully written and illustrated with several previously unpublished photographs, maps, and letters. Scholars, students, and people who are interested in Native American history, the history of the West, women’s history, cultural history, and American Indian Studies, will certainly gain from Davis’s work on the Hopi people. While readers could have benefited from a deeper interaction with the literature on Hopis during this era, Hopi Summer remains a fascinating account of a “bygone time in Hopi history.”

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Portions of this review originally appeared in American Indian Quarterly (Winter 2009, vol. 33:1, pp. 163-64)