Hopi Women: Then and Now

 

The Pueblo People live the Southwestern part of the United States.  There are 21 Pueblos (means towns) today who live around the Four Corners area – Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah. The Navajo Pueblo is the largest, followed by the Hopi.  These people were ranchers and farmers and still continue to be, but many have moved to the cities.  Each group has its own way of life and philosophy.  Women’s roles are not consistent between the Pueblos but the importance of extended family or clan ties are essential and felt by all as being vital their survival.  In addition, “…ties to the land, sanctioned religious beliefs are also important” (Sheridan and Parezo 1996).  The focus will be on the historical role and current role of women in the Pueblo.

HOPI

Females are important in the Hopi origin stories.  Mother Earth gave birth to all living things ranging from insect to people and all tried to live the Hopi Way: peace and goodwill, spiritual knowledge, adherence to religious practices and responsibility as Earth stewards.  The Hopi culture places great value on family cohesion, stability and generosity, humility and respect, a work ethic of self-reliance, and valuing and honoring the needs of the entire community (Hopi Foundation).  They weren’t successful in living the Hopi Way and were living in darkness  so Spider Grandmother helped them create the sun and the moon and once they were warm they chose different colors of corn which gave each of them a way of life and they went to search for the promised land. (Parezo and Hilpert  248-9)

The Hopi area considered one of the more traditional Indian societies in the continental United States. The social organization of traditional Hopi society is based on kinship clans determined through the woman’s side of the family.  Women are the backbone of Hopi society.    Women own the farming and garden plots, though men are responsible for the farming as well as the grazing of sheep and livestock. Women are also centrally involved in Hopi arts and crafts. By tradition the women’s products are specialized and determined by their residence. Women make ceramics on First Mesa, coiled basketry on Second Mesa, and wicker basketry on Third Mesa. Hopi men do the weaving.  (Countries)

Many of the courtship and marriage rituals of the Hopi have evolved over the last fifty years, but there are still several marriage customs still in practice:  a four-day stay by the bride with her intended in-laws. During this time she grinds corn all day and prepares all the family’s meals to demonstrate her culinary competence. Prior to the wedding, the aunts of both the bride and groom engage in a sort of good-natured free-for-all that involves throwing mud and trading insults, each side suggesting the other’s relative is no good. The groom’s parents wash the couple’s hair with a shampoo of yucca in a ritual that occurs in other ceremonies as well. A huge feast follows at the bride’s mother’s house.  Marriage to non–tribal members is extremely rare, a fact that has helped preserve Hopi culture.  (Lassieur

The clan system is matrilineal, meaning that clan membership is passed down through the mother. One cannot be Hopi without a clan of birth, so if the mother is not Hopi, neither will her children be. Adoption into the tribe is also extremely rare.  In the past, Women owned the house and the agricultural fields, food, seed for next year’s planting, springs and cisterns and  were responsible to maintain the household, cooking and taking care for the gardens; men are responsible for caring for government and religion, hunting, herding and faring away from the village and owned the livestock.  Working together even today, their focus is on achieving the common good.  If a woman dies, her property is passed down and the husband as no rights to it and moves back to the house of his mother or sister.

As the senior member of the clan, a woman makes all of the clan’s decisions and passes on to her son the knowledge of the clan’s ceremonies.  She is the keeper of religious equipment.  Women belong to different religious societies and perform women’s ceremonies each year.  Women make the baskets and pottery that are gifted, sold or traded.

Grandmothers have a special place in Hopi society and have great loving relationships with their grandchildren; the hold a position that receives the highest respect by all.

Today, many Hopi have left the villages and moved to urban areas seeking education and jobs, however all return fulfilling their responsibilities to their clan keeping one foot in tradition and the other in modern day society.

References Cited

French, Ellen and Richard C. Hanes

Countries and their Culture : Hopi.  Electronic document, http://www.everyculture.com/multi/Ha-La/Hopis.html, accessed 24 April 2013.

Lassieur, Ellen

2002  The Hopi.  Capstone Press, Mankaato.

Parezo, Nancy j., and Bruce Hilpert.

1996  Paths of Life: American Indians of the Southwest and Northern Mexico.  “Women’s Roles: the Heart of Hopi Society”.   University of Arizona Press, Tucson.

Sheridan, Thomas R. and Nancy J. Parezo

1996  Paths of Life: American Indians of the Southwest and Northern Mexico.  University of Arizona Press, Tucson.

The Hopi Foundation.  Electronic document, http://www.hopifoundation.org/the-hopi-way, accessed April 26 2013.

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