What is the Hopi Reservation?

Liz Fernandez

Hopi Native Americans are a tight-knit, religious society that identifies with their villages and clans. The Hopi Reservation is located in Northern Arizona and occupies many acres in Navajo and Coconino counties. It is completely encircled by the Navajo Indian Reservation and is neighbored by the cities of Phoenix and Tucson. Founded in 1150, the Old Oraibi settlement on the reservation is believed to be the oldest continuously inhabited village in the United States (US).

The Hopi Reservation is in Arizona, which is located in the American West.
The Hopi Reservation is in Arizona, which is located in the American West.

There are 12 traditional villages that house about 10,000 tribal members on the Hopi Reservation. The Walpi village, also one of the oldest settlements in the US, is known for its scenic high-rise dwellings. Each village has its own government, rules, and clans.

Some social dances on the Hopi Reservation are open to outsiders.
Some social dances on the Hopi Reservation are open to outsiders.

All of the Hopi Reservation villages are divided into three areas that are referred to as mesas. Walpi, which was founded in 1690, resides in the First Mesa. These villages are known for white hand-coiled pottery. The Second Mesa is comprised of three villages and is known for talented silversmiths and coiled plaques. Old Oraibi is part of the Third Mesa.

Within the Hopi Reservation, there are 34 living clans. Each clan passes along its history through oral stories and is responsible for honoring sacred objects specific to the clan. Holding office in the Hopi Reservation depends on the clan to which a tribal member belongs. Certain offices must rotate between different clans. The Hopi cannot marry members of their own clan because they are all considered family.

Cultural celebrations on the Hopi Reservation, such as religious ceremonies, snake dances, and flute ceremonies, are closed to the public. Some social dances, however, remain open to curious outsiders. Photography, video, audio recording, note-taking, and sketching are not allowed within the reservation.

Kachina ceremonies are performed by men wearing masks for the purpose of bringing rain to water the crops. The Hopi believe these ceremonies bring good health, happiness, and harmony to the universe. A snake dance involves tribal members that handle poisonous and nonpoisonous snakes during the ceremony, which lasts 16 days. Hopi men form pairs of dancers where one carries the snake in his mouth while the other uses an eagle feather to distract the reptile. The snakes are believed to carry prayers for rain to the underworld spirits.

Many visitors make their way to the Hopi Reservation to purchase baskets, pottery, and silver jewelry crafted by Native American. Guided tours of the Walpi village are also available. These tours inform visitors about the history of the village and about the local culture. Ceremonial rooms, known as kivas and ruins, are off limits to visitors.

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