Screening BEYOND THE MESAS at Upper Moencopi

Photograph by Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

On Saturday September 18, 2010, I had a special opportunity to screen BEYOND THE MESAS and give a presentation to my family at the village of Upper Moencopi’s Community Center. The screening and presentation were part of the Sakiestewa/Honanie Annual Family Reunion. About 60 people attended the event.

I have screened BEYOND THE MESAS at several universities in the United States, and I have shown it at other locations on the Hopi Reservation, but this was the first time the documentary was screened at Upper Moencopi. The film was well received and it led into a discussion on the benefits and negative consequences of Hopi attendance at off-reservation Indian boarding schools.

After the screening I passed out student case files that I collected at the National Archives in Laguna Niguel, California (now located in Perris, California). The files belong to members of the Sakiestewa and Honanie families who attended Sherman Institute or the Phoenix Indian School from 1906 to the 1940s. Most of the files included school applications, report cards, and handwritten and typed letters.

As a Hopi professor at the University of Illinois I am thankful for the opportunities that I have to bring my research back to the Hopi community. This has always been a driving force behind my work.

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

Hopi filmmaker and photographer at the University of Illinois

Photograph by Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

On September 9, 2010,  Victor Masayesva, Jr. from the village of Hotevilla screened a short film and gave a presentation at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Masayesva’s visit was part of a university sponsored initiative titled “Sovereignty and Autonomy in the Western Hemisphere: National & Regional Struggles for Power, Identity and Space.” The American Indian Studies Program organized the event.

Masayesva is known throughout the world as an accomplished Hopi photographer and filmmaker. Some of his award winning films include Hopiit, Itam Hakim Hopiit, Ritual Clowns, Imagining Indians, and one of my favorites, Paatuwaqatsi: Water, Land & Life, a film on Hopi running, the sacredness of water, and Hopi relationship with the indigenous people of Mexico.

In addition to directing films, Masayesva has published a book titled Husk of Time: The Photographs of Victor Masayesva with the University of Arizona Press.

To learn more about Masayesva and his work, please visit the following website: http://www.nativenetworks.si.edu/eng/rose/masayesva_v.htm

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

Photographs of the 37th Annual Louis Tewanima Footrace

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Photographs by Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

I arrived at the village of Shungopavi at 5:30 in the morning. A crowd of people gathered at the baseball field. An event volunteer welcomed everyone to the race and gave instructions to the runners.

“The 10K race will begin in 20 minutes” he announced.

A large camera and flash hung around my neck. “Hey, are you with the press?” one man asked. “No, ” I replied, “I am working on a project with the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office on runners. I’m here to photograph the event.”

“The 10K race will begin in 5 minutes” the person behind the megaphone announced.

The runners gathered around the start line. The race had officially begun. Ten seconds later, the runners were gone.

I made my way to the southeast side of the village. The sun had not yet risen over First Mesa. In the valley below, a running trail etched its way through the rocky landscape.

“Any sight of the runners” I asked. “Not yet” a man replied. Everyone waited.

After 25 minutes, the first runner appeared in the distance. It was Hopi runner Juwan Nuvayokva from Oraivi. He ran with ease and strength, showing few signs of fatigue.

On the opposite end of the village 5K runners were climbing their way up the mesa. I arrived to see my father make the final push to the top.

Back at the baseball field the 1 and 2 mile fun runs had started. Children of all ages ran toward the camera.

People clapped and cheered as the youngest runner approached the finish. It was a perfect way to end the race.

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

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Throughout the week I will be adding more photographs to the slideshow, so be sure to check back.

If you or a family member are pictured in the above slideshow, and you would like a high resolution copy of the photograph, please email me at sakiestewa@gmail.com. I want to also extend a special thanks to Bonnie Talakte, Catherine Talakte, and other event organizers for granting me permission to photograph the 37th Annual Louis Tewanima Footrace on Second Mesa.

Photographs of the 2010 Hopi Show

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Photographs by Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

Every year before I attend the annual Hopi Show at the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, I intend on taking many photographs of the event. However, once I arrive at the venue, I end up spending most of my time visiting with family, friends and talking to the artists and vendors.

Prior to photographing someone at the Hopi Show, I ask their permission and explain to them how I plan on using their photo. This year I gave people my business card with the BEYOND THE MESAS web address written on the back. I told people that their photo would appear on my blog within the next few weeks.

Many thanks to everyone who agreed to have their picture taken for this post.

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

Hopi radio KUYI 88.1 FM live stream

Photograph by Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

Last weekend I attended the 77th Annual Hopi Show at the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff and spoke with volunteer DJ “Jimbo” (pictured on the left) and Richard Alun Davis (pictured in the center), Station Manager for KUYI 88.1 FM, the official radio station of the Hopi Tribe. They informed me that the radio station is now being transmitted via a live stream on the internet.

In addition to playing a variety of music from rock-n-roll, reggae, country western, and religious selections, KUYI is committed to  broadcasting programs in the Hopi language. Other programs focus on Hopi health, education, farming, and youth.

When I spoke with Davis at the Hopi Show, I asked him if KUYI would be willing to transmit the audio of Beyond the Mesas. He seemed very interested in the idea. Once we finalize the details, I will make an announcement on my blog.

To listen to the live stream of KUYI, please click on the following link: http://www.kuyi.net/listen-online

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

A Hopi runner and his marathon trophy

Photograph by Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

Most people who visit the Sherman Indian Museum in Riverside, California, see this first place trophy without knowing who won it. Marathon officials did not engrave the athlete’s name on the trophy, but they did include the date and the event, which was the Vallejo Pre-Olympic National Marathon held in California on December 22, 1929.

At one point in the school’s history, the student’s at Sherman Institute knew who won this award. But as time passed, the trophy, one of the largest in the Museum’s collection, became disassociated from its owner.

The trophy belongs to Hopi runner Harry Chaca from the village of Polacca on First Mesa. He was among the great Hopi runners of the twentieth century. Chaca attended Sherman in the 1920s and early 1930s and he earned several marathon honors while a student at the school.

I wrote about Chaca and his victory of the 1929 Vallejo Pre-Olympic National Marathon in my article “Hopi Footraces and American Marathons, 1912-1930” (American Quarterly, March 2010). I note that prior to this event, Chaca had won other prestigious marathons and his reputation as a great runner spread far beyond the United States.

In Japan, for example, a runner named Yoshikio Sudsuki heard that Chaca was the best runner in America and so he traveled to the U.S. for the sole purpose of competing against the Hopi from Polacca. But at the 1929 Vallejo Pre-Olympic National Marathon, Chaca’s speed and endurance proved too much for the forty-nine year old runner from Tokyo. In my article I write that the

Hopi runner ran at a “killing pace to win” the full marathon in two hours, forty-one minutes, and twenty-five seconds, a “full second better than the performance of Alpien Stenroos” in the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris. One of the fifty thousand spectators of the marathon recalled that Chaca’s “victory” was “all the more noteworthy for his sensational finish. After trailing for twenty-three miles it was at that mark that he applied a final burst of speed that sent him ahead” of Hopi runner Franklin Suhu. In addition to winning the race, Chaca set a new American marathon record, which immediately confirmed his place as the top long-distance runner in the nation. [p. 91]

Shortly after Chaca’s marathon victory, school officials took his trophy and displayed it in a large cabinet located in Sherman’s administration building (now the Sherman Indian Museum). According to school administrators, all individually won trophies belonged to the school.

At times Hopi students attempted to obtain their trophy cups after their terms at Sherman had expired.  During the 1940s, for example, Hopi runner Philip Zeyouma asked the school’s superintendent if he could reclaim his trophies (pictured on the front cover of American Quarterly), but school officials refused to honor his request.

More than eighty years after Chaca won the Vallejo Pre-Olympic National Marathon, his trophy remains at the Sherman Indian Museum. Although government officials consider the award to be property of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the trophy will always belong to Harry Chaca and his family.

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

Behind the camera at the Oraivi Footrace

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Photographs by Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

For the past five years, Juwan Nuvayokva, an accomplished Hopi long distance runner, has organized the Oraivi 8K Footrace and 2 Mile Fun Run and Walk on the Hopi Reservation. Both races begin and end in the village of Oraivi on Third Mesa.

Last summer I received permission from Nuvayokva to take pictures of the Oraivi Footrace, which was held on August 9, 2009. When I arrived at the venue, I was informed that the person scheduled to photograph the race was unable to attend, and so the organizers designated me as the “official photographer” for the event.

Some of my pictures are posted on the Oraivi Footrace website, including other photos by George Silas and Lavanya Polacca. The above slideshow includes 41 of the nearly 1,800 photographs that I took of the race.

This year’s Oraivi 8K Footrace and 2 Mile Fun Run and Walk will take place on Sunday August 8, 2010. All individuals are encouraged to participate. There will also be a new race called the 1/2 Mile Kids Dash. For more information, please visit the Oraivi Footrace website at http://oraivifootrace.com/1.html

If you are pictured in the slideshow, and you would like a high-resolution copy of the photograph, feel free to contact me and I will send you the picture via email:   sakiestewa@gmail.com

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

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