Hopi Indians

The Hopi Indians are the westernmost group of Pueblo Indians, situated in what is now northeastern Arizona, on the edge of the Painted Desert.

As of the 2010 census, there were 19,338 Hopi peoples in the United States.

The Hopi language is one of 30 in the Uto-Aztecan language family. The majority of Hopi people are enrolled in the Hopi Tribe of Arizona but some are enrolled in the Colorado River Indian Tribes.

The Hopi encountered Spaniards in the 16th century, and are historically referred to as Pueblo people, because they lived in villages (pueblos in the Spanish language).

The Hopi are descended from the Ancestral Puebloans (Hopi: Hisatsinom), who constructed large apartment-house complexes and had an advanced culture that spanned the present-day Four Corners region of the United States, comprising southeastern Utah, northeastern Arizona, northwestern New Mexico, and southwestern Colorado.

The primary meaning of the word “Hopi” is “behaving one, one who is mannered, civilized, peaceable, polite, who adheres to the Hopi Way.”

Hopi is a concept deeply rooted in the culture’s religion, spirituality, and its view of morality and ethics. To be Hopi is to strive toward this concept, which involves a state of total reverence and respect for all things, to be at peace with these things, and to live in accordance with the instructions of Maasaw, the Creator or Caretaker of Earth.

The Hopi observe their traditional ceremonies for the benefit of the entire world. The Hopi have always viewed their land as sacred, seeing themselves as caretakers of the land that they inherited from their ancestors.

Many Hopi feel an intimate and immediate connection with their past. For many Hopi, time does not proceed in a straight line, as most people understand it. Rather, the past may be past and present more or less simultaneously.

In the present Fourth World, the Hopi worship Masauwu, who admonished them to “always remember their gods and to live in the correct way.”

The Hopi did not have a conception of land being bounded and divided.

Agriculture is a very important part of their culture, and their villages are now located atop mesas in northern Arizona. The Hopi Reservation is surrounded on all sides by the Navajo Reservation.

The Hopi people originally settled near the foot of the mesas but in the course of the 17th century moved to the mesa tops for protection from the Utes, Apaches, and Spanish.

The first recorded European contact with the Hopi was by the Spanish in A.D 1540. 

Pueblo Revolt of 1680

Spanish Roman Catholic priests were only marginally successful in converting the Hopi and persecuted them in a draconian manner for adhering to Hopi religious practices.

The Spanish occupiers in effect enslaved the Hopi populace, compelling them to endure forced labor and hand over goods and crops.

Spanish oppression and attempts to convert the Hopi caused the Hopi over time to become increasingly intolerant towards their occupiers.

During the period of Franciscan missionary presence (1629-1680), the only significant conversions took place at the pueblo of Awatovi.

In the 1670s, the Rio Grande Pueblo Indians put forward the suggestion to revolt in 1680 and garnered Hopi support. The Pueblo Revolt was the first time that diverse Pueblo groups had worked in unison to drive out the Spanish colonists.

In the Burning of Awatovi, Spanish soldiers, local Catholic Church missionaries, friars, and priests were all put to death, and the churches and mission buildings were dismantled stone by stone.

It took two decades for the Spanish to reassert their control over the Rio Grande Pueblos but the Catholic Inquisition never made it back to Hopiland.

In 1700, the Spanish friars had begun rebuilding a smaller church at Awatovi. During the winter of 1700–01, selected teams of men from the other Hopi villages sacked Awatovi at the request of the village chiefs, killed all the men of the village, and removed the women and children to other Hopi villages.

They completely destroyed the village and burned it to the ground.

Despite intermittent attempts in the course of the 18th century, the Spanish failed subsequently to ever re-establish a presence in Hopi country.

Family Lineage:

Traditionally, Hopi are organized into matrilineal clans. The children are born into the same clan structure as the mother. These clan organizations extend across all villages.

Children are named by the women of the father’s clan. After the child is introduced to the Sun, the women of the paternal clan gather, and name the child in honor of the father’s clan. Children can be given over forty names.

The village members decide the common name. Current practice is to either use a non-Hopi or English name or the parent’s chosen Hopi name.

A person may also change the name upon initiation to traditional religious societies, or after a major life event.


Traditionally the Hopi were (and some still are) micro or subsistence farmers. The Hopi also are part of the wider cash economy today. A significant number of Hopi have mainstream jobs.

Others earn a living by creating Hopi art, notably the carving of Kachina dolls, the crafting of earthenware ceramics, and the design and production of fine jewelry, especially sterling silver.

The Hopi practice a complete cycle of traditional ceremonies, although not all villages retain or had the complete ceremonial cycle. These ceremonies take place according to the lunar calendar and are observed in each of the Hopi villages. Some are closed to the public, but many are open to outsiders to promote Tourism in the area.

The Hopi collect and dry a native perennial plant called Thelesperma megapotamicum, known by the common name Hopi tea, and use it to make an herbal tea, as a medicinal remedy and a yellow dye.


The Hopi have a high rate of albinism. Primarily in Second Mesa and west villages towards Hotevilla, about 1 in 200 individuals have this genetic defect.

Famous Hopi


Article Index:

Hopis, Navajos end 40-year battle over Bennett Freeze Area

AUTHORS: Mark Shaffer and Betty Reid

An accord has been reached between the Navajo and Hopi tribes to end a
bitter 40-year struggle over Hopi religious sites on more than 700,000 acres of
the western Navajo Reservation.

Reading the rocks: Hopi history in petroglyphs

Joe Ben Sanders has spent 27 years looking at the Wind Mountain Hopi petroglyphs at Three Rivers, N.M. He has made controversial connections with the Hopi tribes of New Mexico and Arizona and the ancient site of Casas Grandes in Mexico.

Sanders believes that the ancient Mogollon and the Hopi share the same story, that they are indeed the same people. He believes that the ancestors of the Hopi gradually migrated through southern New Mexico on the way to sacred Hopi lands.

“We have three archeologies not three cultures,” Sanders said of the currently held archeological belief that three different groups of peoples roamed early New Mexico.

Visiting the Hopi Tribe

Hopi Villages are found at both the base and the top of the three mesas dominating the landscape. These mesas project to the north from the enormous Black Mesa formation like fingers on a giant hand.In addition to the mesas and villages, the Hopi people are internationally acclaimed as artisans.