One More for the Hopi

[The following post includes the first few pages of a new book that I am writing entitled Modern Encounters of the Hopi Past]

Introduction – One More for the Hopi

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Emory Sekaquaptewa, Photo courtesy of the Navajo-Hopi Observer

When I was a young scholar, I had the opportunity to speak with Hopi elder Emory Sekaquaptewa, who at the time was professor of Anthropology at the University of Arizona in Tucson. I had traveled to campus to interview for a faculty position in the Department of American Indian Studies, and he graciously took time out of his busy schedule to visit with me. He inquired about my family, and I shared with him school records that I uncovered about his father at the Sherman Indian Museum in Riverside, California.

He spoke to me as my elder. He was gracious, welcoming, and kind, but he was also very direct. He seemed disappointed that I wanted to return to Arizona so early in my career, explaining positive reasons for our people to spend time away from home. We discussed several topics during our visit. But there was one that proved especially meaningful to me and serves as the intellectual energy behind this book: “I want to write a history book with you that we can use back home,” he said to me, “for our teachers and students.” 

Emory knew the significance for Hopi people to write their own history. And he knew the importance for Hopi scholars to share that knowledge with a wide audience, including those in our village communities. Emory had grown up in the village of Hotevilla Screen Shot 2019-12-30 at 12.17.01 PMon the Hopi Reservation in northeastern Arizona. His willingness to receive an education beyond the mesas and teach at a university, paved the way for other Hopi academics such as myself. He showed us how to excel at a research institution. And he demonstrated the importance for us to meet scholarly expectations while remaining closely connected to home.

Having navigated the world of our people and that of an American university, Emory was familiar with the academic and cultural terrain that lay before me and other Hopi scholars. He realized that for us to excel in the academy, we needed to publish our work. And he knew that for me to succeed as a Hopi historian, I needed to provide research that was meaningful and useful to my people. 

The co-author of books and numerous articles, Emory also understood the power of the printed word, and of its ability to carry the Hopi voice to a diverse and sometimes unexpected audience. Not long after I started working at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, I taught a class on Native American religious traditions. Among the readings that I assigned to my students was a chapter by Emory entitled “One More Smile for a Hopi Clown.” In it, Emory explains the meaning of clowning in Hopi culture. He describes in great detail skits between the clowns, katsina dancers, and spectators in a village plaza.

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University of Illinois, Photo courtesy of E. Jason Wambsgangs, Chicago Tribune

The drama unfolding in the plaza and on the pages of Emory’s chapter captivated the minds of my students. Emory likely never imagined that forty years after he published the essay, students and a Hopi professor in Illinois would be contemplating his every word. He took us with him to a different world, a world of Hopi ceremony, laughter, and clowning. He forced us to consider the value of lightheartedness and the role of humor and self-awareness. And through story and by his example he taught us to not take life or ourselves too seriously. For as Emory so aptly reminds us, the “heart of the concept of Hopi clowning is that we are all clowns.”

To be continued…

Historians have their books

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My library. A mix of books on the Hopi, Indian education, American sport studies, Southwest Indian studies, American Indian studies, American West, and Native American history (broadly).

Over the years I have amassed a large collection of books on the Hopi. My bookcases give evidence of this obsession.

Even as I write, I am looking at these books, and they are looking back at me. Some are on Hopi religious ceremonies, language, and history. Two of them I wrote.

Still others are biographical accounts, written during a bygone time in American history.  Regardless of topic or genre, they are a reminder of those who came before and after me.

A canon that I have contributed to and have grown to appreciate. A foundation that I have built on, but that has also shaped and built me.

Carpenters have their saws and chisels.

Historians?

Well, we have our books.

Introducing Charlene Teters on Indigenous Peoples’ Day

[On October 8, 2018, I had the honor of introducing Charlene Teters of the Spokane Nation before she gave her keynote address on Indigenous Peoples’ Day at the University of Illinois. The following post is my introduction with citations. For a newspaper story on the event, visit The News-Gazette.]

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Good morning.

It is wonderful to see so many students, faculty, staff, and those from within and outside of the Urbana-Champaign community as we participate in the university’s first Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebration. 

Thank you for being here. 

My name is Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert. I am the Director of the American Indian Studies Program and Professor in the Department of History

I have the privilege of introducing our keynote speaker, Charlene Teters.

Over the years, I have been called on to introduce many individuals on this campus, but this occasion is different.

Today I have the honor to introduce someone who’s life as an artist and activist has meant a great deal to the American Indian Studies Program and to the University of Illinois.

A member of the Spokane Nation of Washington, Charlene Teters is Professor of Art and Academic Dean at the Institute of American Indian Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico. 

Throughout her long and distinguished career, Dean Teters has had her art featured in more than 20 major exhibitions; she’s received an honorary doctorate from Mitchell College in Connecticut; and she has served as a founding board member of the National Coalition on Racism and Sports in the Media.

Some 30 years ago, Dean Teters left the College of Santa Fe to pursue an MFA degree in the School of Art and Design at the University of Illinois.

While a student here, Dean Teters embarked on a lifelong pursuit of combating misappropriations of Native culture and the use of Native imagery for school mascots. 

At the Uof I, she encountered both.

Her story and experiences on this campus have been well documented in Jay Rosenstein’s film In Whose Honor, various books, and in hundreds of newspaper articles 

But for me and many other Indian people, her activist work was never truly about an image or dance taking place on a football field, but about her struggle for human dignity and Native humanity, a concept she so powerfully captures in 7 carefully chosen words:

 “American Indians are human beings,” she’s been known to say, “not mascots” [Santa Fe New Mexican, Oct 10, 1997, 1].

Time does not permit me to share more about her accomplishments as an activist and artist, of which they are many. 

However, there is one part of her life that I want to highlight and end my brief introductory comments with. 

Artists are often asked what inspires them to create the work that they do. No doubt Dean Teters has been asked this question hundreds of times.

But even early in her career, it was clear that Dean Teters’ inspiration as an artist was deeply rooted in her American Indian community, her family, and in her identity as an indigenous woman.

“My father’s special ability to create visual feelings through color and canvas awakened a magical desire in me that has remained  to this day,” Dean Teters remarked the year before she enrolled at Illinois, “Understanding of spiritual relationships came from my uncle, and from my grandmother came stories from the past and a deep appreciation for being a Native American woman.” [Rapid City Journal, April 10, 1987, V-2]

Please join me in welcoming back Dean Charlene Teters of the Spokane Nation.

Delivered by Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert on Indigenous Peoples’ Day, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, October 8, 2018

 

 

Hopi Runners wins 2019 David J. Weber-Clements Prize

I am pleased to announce that my book on Hopi long distance runners has won the 2019 David J. Weber-Clements Center Prize for “best non-fiction book on Southwestern America.”

The award is presented annually by the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies and the Western History Association. I received the award last week at the Western History Association conference, which was held at the Westgate Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.

This would not have been possible without the support of many people over the years who encouraged me as I wrote and completed the book. To them, I extend a heartfelt Kwakwha!

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Hopi Runners – Preface, Acknowledgments, and Introduction

I am pleased to pass along the Preface, Acknowledgments, and Introduction to my book Hopi Runners: Crossing the Terrain between Indian and American, compliments of the University Press of Kansas. Click image to download.

Also, for those who might be interested, the University Press of Kansas is currently having a 30% off sale (and free shipping) on all books, including Hopi Runners. The sale will last from now until December 15, 2018. Use promotion code HOLI30 when you make your order. The discount and free shipping brings the cost down to about $20 for the book.

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