Posts Tagged 'American Indians'



Hopi runners in the audience

I recently returned from attending the American Indian Studies Association (AISA) Conference in Tempe, Arizona. I delivered a paper titled “Hopi Footraces and American Marathons, 1912-1930.” This paper, in its article form, will appear next month in American Quarterly. I was happy to see that some Hopis came to my talk, including two students from ASU. Since I first presented on this topic, I cannot recall the last time I had Hopi long distance runners in the audience. Both of these students were runners.

After the session I talked at length with the students about how the world focuses so much attention on Louis Tewanima, but back home our people realize that while Tewanima was good, other Hopi runners were just as good or better than the famous Olympian from Shungopavi. Although these students already knew about Tewanima, they had not heard of the other runners that I mentioned in my paper. I also did not know about these runners before I started this project.

One of the most rewarding aspects of being a faculty at the University of Illinois is the opportunity I have to make my research available and meaningful to the Hopi community. This has always been the driving force behind my work.

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

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

Hopi professor earns tenure and promotion

It gives me great pleasure to announce that Hopi professor Angela A. Gonzales from Shungopavi on Second Mesa has received tenure and promotion to Associate Professor at Cornell University. This truly is an incredible accomplishment. Gonzales received her undergraduate degree from UC Riverside and her MA, EdM, and PhD in Sociology form Harvard University. Her first academic post was at San Francisco State University where she served as an assistant professor and acting chair of American Indian Studies from 1997 to 2000. In 2002 she joined the faculty in the Department of Development Sociology at Cornell where she also teaches in the American Indian Program. As an assistant professor Gonzales has had a prolific and remarkable career.

In addition to publishing chapters in many books, her articles have appeared in the Social Sciences Journal, the Public Historian, the American Indian Culture and Research Journal, and the International Social Sciences Journal. Alongside her faculty appointments, she was the director of the Hopi Tribe Grants and Scholarship Program on the Hopi Reservation from 1994 to 1995, and from 2005 to 2007 she held a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Colorado at Denver Health Sciences Center, Native Elder Research Center, and the American Indian and Alaska Native Program.

In 2009 she was awarded the Ford Foundation Diversity Fellowship for her project titled “Racializing American Indians: The Politics of Identity, Displacement, and Dispossession.” Gonzales’ tenure and promotion is a proud moment for Hopi people. She is only one of a few Hopi professors in the academy with indefinite tenure.

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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)

“Kwa’a, kwakwha’ um nuy siiva maqa”: Speaking Hopi to Grandpa

When I received my advanced degree in history from UC Riverside my grandparents made the trip from Moencopi to Southern California to see me graduate. We had a big celebration and one of the gifts my grandparents gave me was a card with a check inside. After opening the card I immediately thanked my grandmother, but I waited to thank my grandfather until I was able to do so in Hopi. As my grandfather was sitting in his truck, ready to make the trip back to the reservation, I said to him: “Kwa’a, kwakwha’ um nuy siiva maqa” (“Grandpa, thank you for the money that you gave me”). He looked up at me and said one word: “owi’.” The literal English translation of “owi'” is “yes,” but in this context it meant much more. At that very moment I connected with my grandfather at a level that would have been impossible in English. Hopi was his first language and it is the language that he prefers.

Growing up in the mountain community of Flagstaff, I thought my grandfather was a man of few words. I do not recall having long conversations with him when I was a child. But as I got older I realized that my grandfather was a man of few words in English and not Hopi. I sometimes wonder how my relationship with my grandfather would be different if I knew how to speak more Hopi. In my immediate family we say that kwa’a only listens to my dad, because my dad speaks to him in Hopi. We say this jokingly, but there is truth to it. Even today when our family gets together my dad and his father can be heard conversing in the Hopi language.

A lifelong goal of mine is to be able to speak fluent Hopi. I have a long way to go before I reach this goal. Hopis are proud that much of our culture remains intact. Many of our ceremonies continue, we remain on portions of our ancestral lands, and Hopi is still spoken. But our parents and grandparents will tell you that fewer and fewer Hopis are able to speak their language. Fortunately, efforts are being made by people such as Sheilah E. Nicholas of the Hopilavayi Project and many others to encourage and help Hopis reverse this problem.

On a related note, Louellyn White, one of our American Indian Studies postdoctoral fellows at the University of Illinois, and Teresa McCarty of Arizona State University, recently informed me about a new story that National Public Radio (NPR) released on Hopi language and youth. The title of this program is “Hopi Teens Worry About Loss of Culture.” This program briefly examines Hopi language loss at U.S. government schools and the issues Hopi youth face as they try to live as Hopis in today’s world. It is a fascinating story. If you would like to listen to the 5 minute program and/or view the transcript, click here.

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

“But we never spoke to each other” Elizabeth Mosier on the Phoenix Indian School

This evening I want to direct you to a blog post by novelist Elizabeth Mosier on the Phoenix Indian School. Much of what has been written about off-reservation Indian boarding schools is told from the perspective of Indian students or government officials. But non-Natives lived in the communities where the schools were located, and their perspectives about the students and schools are not often highlighted. On her blog, Mosier describes attending Central High School in Phoenix, which was right next to the Indian school. She occasionally saw the students from a distance, but never spoke to them, and they never spoke to her.

Mosier’s opening paragraph reminds me of the Preface to David Wallace Adams’ Education for Extinction. Adams begins his book by describing what it was like for him to drive past Sherman Institute as a kid – fascinated that “real” Indians went to school there. So take a few minutes and head on over to Mosier’s blog and read her post.

Hopis and Christmas at Indian schools

Over the years I have come across several documents and other sources, including children’s books and newspaper accounts, that involve Hopi students and Christmas at Sherman Institute and the Phoenix Indian School. Many Hopis at off-reservation Indian boarding schools looked forward to Christmas, but not every Hopi enthusiastically celebrated the holiday.

In the children’s book Climbing Sun (1980), Marjorie Thayer and Elizabeth Emanuel note that prior to Hubert Honanie’s first Christmas at Sherman in the late 1920s, the school’s superintendent, Frank M. Conser, mandated that students attend church the Sunday before Christmas day. While Hubert sat in the chapel service, he listened carefully to what the minister said about the birth of Jesus, but he did not see why this baby was so important. Hubert concluded that Christmas held little significance. Although he liked having the day off from school and he enjoyed eating the traditional Christmas food of turkey and cranberries, he would have “preferred stewed rabbit or mutton and corn” prepared according to Hopi custom.

By the 1930s the tradition of Christmas had become very popular among Hopi children on the reservation. In The Hopi Indians of Old Oraibi (1972), anthropologist Mischa Titiev observed that in December 1933, Hopi women walked to Kykotsmovi at the foot of Third Mesa to purchase Christmas presents for the Orayvi children. Titiev noted that several children had taken part in “Christmas programs” at places such as Sherman and the Phoenix Indian School, and several of their parents enjoyed giving them presents on Christmas. Afraid that the children would be disappointed if they did not receive gifts, the women purchased enough presents for each child in the village.

Although the Christmas tradition continues with many Hopis today, Hopis incorporate their culture into the holiday as well. Hopi artists demonstrate this through their art, and some Hopis, particularly those who belong to church congregations on the reservation, still sing Christmas carols in the Hopi language.

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

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[Portions of this post were adapted from a newspaper article that I wrote titled “Christmas experiences at Sherman Institute and Phoenix Indian School”, Hopi Tutuveni, December 21, 2005, Issue 26, p. 6]


Copyright Notice

© Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert and BEYOND THE MESAS, 2009-2019. 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 (Hopi) is Professor and Head of the Department of American Indian Studies at the University of Arizona.

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Revisiting the Hopi Boarding School Experience at Sherman Institute and the Process of Making Research Meaningful to Community (JAIE, 2018)

Education beyond the Mesas: Hopi Students at Sherman Institute, 1902-1929 (University of Nebraska Press, 2010)

Introduction to Education beyond the Mesas (2010)

The Indian School on Magnolia Avenue: Voices and Images From Sherman Institute (Oregon State University Press, 2012)

Foreward to Don Talayesva’s Sun Chief: An Autobiography of A Hopi Indian (2013)

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 (HEQ, 2014)

Marathoner Louis Tewanima and the Continuity of Hopi Running, 1908-1912 (WHQ, 2012). Winner of Spur Award for Best Western Short Nonfiction, Western Writers of America (2013)

Hopi Footraces and American Marathons, 1912-1930 (AQ, 2010)

The Hopi Followers: Chief Tawaquaptewa and Hopi Student Advancement at Sherman Institute, 1906-1909 (JAIE, 2005)

Constitution and Bylaws of the Hopi Tribe (With all amendments, click to download)

Click to listen to KUYI On-Line

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