Arizona: Hopi


Referred to as the “Peaceful People,” the Hopi are an ancient culture. They are deeply spiritual and believe that everyone must live in peace and harmony with nature. Many in the Hopi community retain their beliefs, traditional ways and distinct language, which has Uto-Aztecan influences.  

The Hopi have strong family units and reject most outside cultures as well as colonial visions of democracy. The U.S. government installed several sham tribal governments to rule the Hopi, who openly resisted. Even today, the 12 villages on the three Hopi mesas have considerable autonomy from the tribal government. 


The Hopi, Navajo, Apache, and Pueblo People occupied similar territories with a broad range across Northern Arizona and New Mexico. Hopi affluence attracted raiders, forcing them to maintain strong and constant defenses. Although many of the Hopi villages were widely disbursed, they eventually settled on the top of three mesas that were very difficult to attack. The Hopi call their sacred land Hopitutskwa. 

The Hopi are one of the oldest living cultures in documented history. A Hopi settlement called Old Oraibi is the oldest continually occupied village in the United States and has been in existence since 1150 A.D. Many Hopi live their lives centered around traditions and ceremony. The Hopi were monogamists with maternal-based clans. They used peer pressure and cultural values to maintain law and order, and liars were ostracized. Even today, the Hopi maintain a rich cultural tradition and set of values that govern their daily lives.

From early on, the Hopi were ingenious hunters. Not only did they use bows and arrows but also pits and corrals to capture their game. They were also notable agriculturists who raised wild turkeys and grew squash, beans, corn, cotton and fruits. Located on high and dry land, the Hopi developed a unique agricultural practice known as “dry farming,” a system of relying on water-retentive tillage methods rather than irrigation. They also developed the means to store food in case of drought or other crop failure. 

Rain is a major preoccupation of the Hopi, especially with the importance they place on corn. According to Hopi culture, rain means the Hopi have performed their ceremonies properly and have lived a good life. In addition, the Hopi have always been outstanding weavers and artisans. They cultivated cotton to make cloth, which they traded with other Indian peoples as far south as Northern Mexico. The Hopi are experts at dyeing and embroidery, and they have been refining the art of pottery-making for nearly a thousand years. 

The Hopi people have developed a way of life rooted deep in the traditions and experiences of their ancestors. We look to the wisdom of the past to assist us in those decisions which determine the future of ourselves and our children. To follow another course would be untrue and would bring upon us those troubles which fall upon a people who are not true to themselves and their beliefs.

- Hopi Elder Shongopovi

The Hopi Pueblo is located on 1.5 million acres in northeastern Arizona, surrounded entirely by the Navajo Reservation. The remote and landlocked nature of the pueblo has led to a lack of economic development opportunities, leading to a 60% rate of joblessness. The average annual income is $46,000, but 30% percent of residents live below the federal poverty level. The Hopi have more than 14,000 enrolled tribal members, about more than 8,600 reside in one of the 12 villages.