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.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Since the 1930s, more than 60 artists have come together each year to sell and demonstrate their art to the public at the annual Hopi Show. Held on the 4th of July weekend at the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, the Hopi Show attracts thousands of visitors from around the world to witness and experience authentic Hopi art, dance, music, and food.
In addition to the artists, several vendors and Hopi organizations such as the Hopi Education Endowment Fund, the Hopi Foundation, and the Black Mesa Trust participate in the event. The show organizers also provide special activities for children, including crafts, ceramics, and an exhibit where kids learn to grind corn and make piki (paper-thin bread) according to the Hopi way.