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Who Are the Hopi? Part One

A love of and appreciation for Native American Blankets and Hopi Indian jewelrybecomes even more cemented when one understands the stories behind the designs and the people who traditionally created and used them. For this reason, it’s well worth gaining an insight into who the Hopi are as a Nation.

Who Are the Hopi?

The Hopi are a sovereign nation of Native Americans whose lands are located in northeastern Arizona, at the southern end of the Black Mesa. They are considered by some to be the oldest Native American tribe in the world. The Hopi Reservation encompasses more than one and a half million acres; it is comprised of twelve villages on three mesas, and it also occupies parts of counties belonging to the Navajo and Coconino Nations.

A mesa is a small isolated tableland (flat-topped hill) with three steep sides. Hopi villages which sit atop these are called Pueblos. The Pueblo of Oraibi (Orayvi) is located on the Third Mesa on the Hopi Reservation; it was founded before 1050 BC and as such is the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in the USA.

Despite outside influences, the Hopi have maintained their culture, religion, and language and have survived as a tribe. Based on the US Census of 2010, there are more than eighteen thousand Hopi living in the USA.

What Does Hopi Mean?

Traditionally, the Hopi referred to themselves as Hopitu, which means “The Peaceful People”.  This is a deeply-rooted concept in the tribe’s attitudes to ethics, morality, spirituality, and religion. The aim of the Hopi is to live with complete reverence, respect and peace for all things.

History of the Hopi

The Hopi are believed to be descended from the Anasazi, who were related to the Mexican Aztecs, and they likely arrived in what is now Arizona between five and ten thousand years ago. They developed a complex ceremonial calendar which allowed them to thrive in an environment devoid of water.

Traditionally, the Hopi were related to other Pueblo peoples to the east (including the Zuni) and they shared basic culture with other tribes but used their own Uto-Aztecan language.

The 1680 Pueblo Revolt against the Spanish saw all pueblos from the Hopi to the Rio Grande drive the Spaniards from their villages to El Paso, Texas. The Hopi of the First Mesa village of Walpi invited the Tewa people from the Rio Grande to settle with them and help in the defence of the pueblos. (The Tewa’s descendants are known as Hopi-Tewa and they remain on the First Mesa with their own language).


When the Spanish first encountered the Hopi in the 1600s, they referred to them as Pueblo People due to their village lifestyle. These villages (“pueblos” in Spanish) were apartment-style buildings crafted from stone and mud and were multi-storied, with upper stories accessed by exterior ladders. They had underground chambers called kivas which were used for ceremonies, and there was a fire pit in the centre of the kiva.

The culture and crafts of the Hopi are truly fascinating, from their spiritual beliefs to the unique designs seen in Hopi Indian Jewelry.

Come back for Part Two of this article to learn more…