The Three Mesas of the Hopi Reservation
The Hopi villages are divided into three areas called mesas. Here is a visitor’s guide to the mesas which comprise the Hopi Reservation and some tips on travel accomodations and etiquette when visiting these areas.
The First Mesa
The community of Polacca lies about eleven miles west of Keams Canyon. Atop the mesa, there are also the older villages of Hanoki (Hano or Tewa), Sitsomovi (Sichomovi), and Waalpi (Walpi).
The village of Hanoki was originally settled by Rio Grande Tanoan-speaking pueblo people from New Mexico shortly after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. Close to Hanoki is the village of Sitsomovi. It was founded in 1750. The village of Waalpi was established in 1690. First Mesa villages are world-renowned for their hand-coiled, white pottery.
The Second Mesa
Second Mesa is comprised of three villages, Musungnuvi (Mishongnovi), Supawlavi (Shipaulovi), and Songoopavi (Shongopovi). Munsungnuvi and Supawlavi occupy the mesa top on the East and West respectively.
A few miles west of the Second Mesa Store is Songoopavi. Said to be the first of all the Hopi villages, Songoopavi was originally at the base of the mesa, but moved to its present site after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. This village is also well known for it’s remarkable silversmiths and coiled plaques.
The Third Mesa
The villages of Orayvi (Oraibi), Kiqotsmovi (Kykotsmovi), Hoatvela (Hotevilla), and Paaqavi (Bacavi) are located on Third Mesa. Although removed, Munqapi (Moencopi) is also considered one of the Third Mesa villages.
Munqapi is located 40 miles northwest of Third Mesa near Tuba City. It is considered a satellite of Orayvi. Kiqotsmovi is the seat of the Hopi Tribal Government. Orayvi is the oldest continuously-inhabited village in North America.
Every village is separate and autonomous. Vehicles are limited to certain parking areas within each village, just ask. Please be aware of the rules and regulations before entering the villages. Some Hopi villages may be closed to the public due to religious ceremonies. If this is the case, please respect their wishes and their privacy and do not enter.
Etiquette when visiting Hopi Villages
Please remember common courtesy.
Looking into windows or wandering into homes is as rude at Hopi as it would be if a stranger helped himself to a tour of your home. Remember that when you visit Hopi, you are a guest on private land. Liberties taken by visitors in the past have led to strict enforcement of regulations by the Hopi.
It is a privilege to visit Hopi communities, especially during ceremonies, and visitors must respect regulations. With respect, the visitor to Hopi can enjoy a rewarding experience unlike any other in the world. Some special restrictions might not be so obvious, however, and these simple points should help visitors avoid embarrassment:
Absolutley No Recording.
Visiting Hopi is a wonderful time to use your mind and heart to record what you are privileged to see. Please note, publication of these observations and/or recordings is both exploitative and prohibited without prior consent from the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office.
Witnessing a Hopi ceremony is a privilege, not a right.
In this information age, we are concerned with protecting our own ideas. These ideas may be in speeches, music composition, computer programs, television, and other media. Our nation’s courtrooms are filled with cases in which someone allegedly breached that intellectual property right.
Through the decades the intellectual property rights of Hopi have been violated for the benefit of many other, non-Hopi people that has proven to be detrimental. Expropriation comes in many forms.
For example, numerous stories told to strangers have been published in books without the storytellers’ permission. After non-Hopis saw ceremonial dances, tape recorded copies of music were sold to outside sources. Clothing items of ceremonial dancers have been photographed without the dancers’ permission and sold.
Choreography from ceremonial dances has been copied and performed in non-sacred settings. Even the pictures of the ceremonies have been included in books without written permission.
Designs from skilled Hopi potters have been duplicated by non-Hopis.
<>Katsinas dolls have also been duplicated from Hopi dancers seen at Hopi.
Although the Hopi believe the ceremonies are intended for the benefit of all people, they also believe benefits only result when ceremonies are properly performed and protected.
All of these actions are breaches of Hopi intellectual property rights, used by non-Hopi for personal and commercial benefit without Hopi permission.
Through these thefts, sacred rituals have been exposed to others out of context and without Hopi permission. Some of this information has reached individuals for whom it was not intended (e.g., Hopi youth, members of other clans, or non-Hopi).
Please be mindful of the personal ethics involved in and laws surrounding this issue.
Wear appropriate clothing.
Just as you would when going to a wedding or other ceremony, you should consider what you wear when you go to a Hopi ceremony. Long pants or a long skirt are favored over shorts or a short skirt, for instance.
The desert Southwest is prone to extreme temperature swings, so if you are spending an evening be sure to bring warm clothes and many layers. Sunblock is a good idea year-round.
Do not interrupt ceremonies.
First of all, please note that not all ceremonies are open to the public. Often posted signs indicate who is welcome. If no signs are posted, seek information from local shops or the village community. At ceremonies open to the public, be aware that there are behavorial guidelines to follow.
Well-meaning people, who would never think of going up to the altar during a wedding to ask questions, have nonetheless interrupted, distracted, or simply gotten in the way of Hopi ceremonies.
Unless you are invited, the simplest rule is to stay out of kivas (ceremonial rooms) and stay on the periphery of dances or processions. Remember that you are here to watch. There is no more rewarding or thoughtful way to visit ceremonies than to be inconspicuous and quiet.
If you aren’t sure, don’t touch it. A visitor to the Southwest might see shrines from many different cultures, including highway-side markers remembering lost loved ones, which is a thoughtful memento left by Hispanics, Native Americans, and other southwesterners.
Some types of shrines are more easily recognized than others, however.
Hopi spirituality is very intertwined with daily life, and objects that seem ordinary to you might have deeper significance to the person who placed them.
Shrines are placed by sincere individuals and not meant to be disturbed. If you come upon a collection of objects at Hopi and you aren’t sure what to do, respect the wishes of the person who left the offerings and take your attention elsewhere.
What to bring with you when you visit the Hopi Reservation
If you are planning to visit the Hopi Reservation in the summer, please take certain precautions. Bring lots of water, a hat, and sunscreen. The sun can be very intense, and the air is very dry. Wear comfortable walking or hiking boots because vehicles are not generally allowed in all villages.
In the winter months, please dress warmly especially at night. It can get bitter cold and windy on the mesas. Bring extra layers; you can always leave them in your vehicle if you don’t need them.
Lodging on the Hopi Reservation
There are two motels on the Hopi Reservation. One is located near Keams Canyon and the other on Second Mesa.
The Keams Canyon Motel has twenty-four units, a cafe and gift shop. The Hopi Cultural Center Motel, located on top of Second Mesa, has thirty-three units, a restaurant, museum, and a camping area.
Both motels are extremely busy in the summer; therefore, it is strongly recommended that reservations be made at least three weeks in advance.
Other accommodations can be found in Tuba City, Winslow, and Flagstaff, fifty to one hundred miles away.
Dining on the Hopi Reservation
There are several dining facilities on the Hopi Reservation. There is a cafe in the Keams Canyon Shopping Center.
At the Second Mesa Store, there is a small restaurant, while there is also a large restaurant serving American and traditional Hopi food at the Hopi Cultural Center.
Additionally, several families in each village serve traditional food from their home. For snacks, the village stores and privately owned stores located in villages are options.
Facilities on the Hopi Reservation
There are five gas stations on the Hopi Reservation. If you are traveling from the South, the first station is at Keams Canyon. It is located next to McGee’s Store and Cafe.
The second is at the Circle M convenience store in Polacca.. The third is a Texaco approximately one quarter mile past the juction of Highways 264 and 87. This gas station also has a garage.
The fourth is at the Kyqotsmovi Village Store inside the village of Kykotsmovi and the fifth is at the Hoatevela Co-Op Store. There are several stations in nearby Tuba City approximately 46 miles from Hoatevela.
Arts and crafts can be purchased throughout the Hopi Reservation along Highway 264.
Pottery and other arts and crafts are sold directly from villagers’ homes and in galleries. Signs posted on house windows reading, “Pottery sold here” or “Katchina dolls sold here” are invitations to stop and view merchandise directly in homes or in small adjacent shops. Look for these shops on the mesas and in the villages.
Public phones are scarce, but they can be found near most convenience stores in villages like Hotevilla and Polacca. There is also a phone located inside the Hopi Cultural Center Restaurant.
See Kachina ceremonial dances for a partial listing of Hopi ceremonial dances by month.