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Snow Owl September 2004



National Geographic

Long before the Christian era, the Hopis ancestors roamed the Southwest. By the turn of the 12th century several clans had gathered around Oraibi, one of the oldest continuously inhabited towns in the United States. Settled in the Black Mesa region, the Hopis enjoyed several generally peaceful centuries.

National Geographic

1700-1864: Navajo raids plagued the Southwest in the 1700s and 1800s. When Anglo settlers and Hopis demanded protection, the U.S. Army sent Col. Kit Carson to subdue the nomads. In the Long Walk of 1864, 8,000 Navajos were relocated Bosque Redondo in eastern New Mexico.

National Geographic

1868-1882: Judged a failure, Bosque Redondo closed after four years, and the Navajos returned to their homeland, now a reservation. The tribe grew in power and population, encroaching again on Hopi land. In 1882 the Hopis were allotted their reservation of 2.5 million acres, but Navajos continued to move into the area.

National Geographic

1962 As Navajos settled closer and closer to Hopi villages, conflicting claims on 1882 reservation were pursued in court. A federal panel ruled in 1962 that 1.8 million acres of the area would thereafter be owned jointly by the two tribes.


In the late 1700s the Navajos began to expand westward from present-day New Mexico. The aggressive wanderers soon surrounded the Hopis. Though their villages were clustered on the First, Second, and Third Mesas, the Hopis used vast stretches of adjacent territory for hunting, gathering, grazing their sheep and religious purposes.

The problem of Hopis-Navajo conflict fell to the U.S. Government after the Mexican War of 1848. But authorities did little to prevent the Navajo influx, even after designating separate reservations for each tribe in the late 1800s.

In this century the federal government has legislated the land dispute, principally through the partitioning of a joint-use area in 1977. But tensions remain, with the Hopis pressing their claims on the basis of historic precedence.

        National Geographic  

1982 In 1977 a U.S. district Court decision divided the joint-use area equally between the Hopis and the Navajos. But controversy lingers. The costly forced relocation of some 3,000 Navajos and 60 Hopis was expected to continue through 1986. The Navajos have dubbed it the Second Long Walk. The Hopis believe it is merely long overdue justice.



National Geographic
Cross-cultural celebrations enliven the village plazas when the Hopis add the trappings of other tribes to their own ceremonies. This eclectic spirit even overrides differences with the Navajos who surround them. A young man (above) wears a hat, necklace, and belt of Navajo design.

National Geographic
After emerging from a ceremonial chamber called a kiva, two costumed men head for a buffalo dance.
National Geographic
National Geographic

National Geographic
Compared with these Indian workers of 1921, Cape Cod fishermen are followers of an infant American industry. Ceramics have more than anesthetic significance. Pottery making for example, is indicative of a pueblo people, for the ware is too fragile for nomad use.

National Geographic
A 20th Century Phidippides of the Hopi Tribe -

Not even the messenger to Sparta showed greater endurance than the pure-blooded son of the American desert. Many of the Hopi Indians ran daily to and from their little farms, often ten or twelve miles away from the barren mesa where they lived.


National Geographic
A centuries old stairway, Acoma, New Mexico

The same races that built the splendid structures of Yucatan and Chiapas constructed the pueblos of Arizona and New Mexico, and that they did their work well is shown by the way it has defied the teeth of time.

National Geographic

National Geographic
Prayers of thanks for a salt deposit nearby are offered as the pilgrimage continues to the Grand Canyon.

National Geographic
After the placement of feather offerings, the site is sprinkled with sacred cornmeal.

National Geographic
Sending prayers to the spirits, and elder then blows smoke over the feathers after puffing on a pipe filled with ceremonial tobacco. The exact locations of the sacred sites, known only by a select few, are periodically disclosed to younger priests.

National Geographic
The ogre Chaveyo, a Kachina Spirit here depicted by a doll, carries a warning to the Hopis that misfortune will follow if their traditions are not respected. Spiritual helpmates, Kachinas send rain and other blessings from their legendary home in San Francisco Peaks.


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