From Williams we took I-40 east through Flagstaff, then headed north up Hwy 89 onto the Navajo reservation. This is the largest Indian reservation in the US, covering 27,425 sq. miles of northeastern Arizona and slopping over into both Utah and New Mexico. Some of you may recall that we spent 3 months working with the Navajos at the medical clinic in Chinle a few years back. But smack in the middle of the Navajo land is another reservation, that of the Hopi tribe who claim 2532 sq. miles southeast of Tuba City as their ancestral lands and are buying more whenever they can get the funds together. We parked our rig in Tuba City for 3 days specifically to visit the Hopi Mesas, which we had not done when we were here working.
It is natural to assume that the Navajos and Hopi are closely related since they were found living in more or less the same place. But the Hopi are descendants of the ancient Puebloans. Anthropologists estimate that their people have lived in this area for over 10,000 years. Their language is related to that of the Aztecs in Mexico and they have their own culture and religion. The Navajo, on the other hand, are relative johnny-come-latelies, having migrated to the area just in the last few centuries. They originally came from northwestern Canada and eastern Alaska and their speech is derived from the Athabaskan family of languages and ultimately related to the tongues of eastern Asia. The Navajo and Apaches traveled together and when they got to Utah and Arizona some groups learned farming from the locals while others continued to be primarily hunters. The farmers were named by the Spanish as Apaches de las Nabahu, "Apaches of Cultivated Fields", which got shortened to Navajo. Both groups refer to themselves as Na Dené or "the People".
We signed up for a tour of the Hopi Mesas, of which there are three. Each mesa is the traditional home of 3 to 5 clans. While individuals may move to a different village or mesa, they can't change clans which are matrilineal, which means you are a member of your mother's clan. The clan affiliation is announced with any introduction. "My name is xxx, a Hopi of the clan of the Water Coyote." We were never really educated as to what that meant in practical terms. Apparently each clan has certain responsibilities within the overall tribe. And one cannot marry a member of one's own clan. It's like marrying your sister. Eww!
|Moenkopi Legacy Inn and Suites in Tuba City|
|Oraibi circa 1899 - it looks considerably worse now|
After lunch we went to visit a Hopi artisan who makes silver jewelry. We watched as he produced a pair of Bear Claw earrings and it was, admittedly, fascinating to see how it is done. He did have an electric polishing wheel but otherwise used hand tools and a blow torch for soldering. One of the other ladies in our group nabbed the earrings he made while we watched but Vicki got a similar pair he had in his shop.
On the way back we stopped at a place called Prophecy Rock for a lesson in Hopi mysticism and superstition, then went to view a canyon full of petroglyphs dated to the 6th century AD. These we could take pictures of but not publish. I don't really consider this blog to be "publishing" in any meaningful sense of the word so here, enjoy a few petroglyphs. What they mean is anybody's guess.
|Petroglyphs circa 600 AD|
Back in Tuba City we went to visit a Navajo museum that was originally designed as a traveling show but now sits permanently on the back lot of the Quality Inn hotel. This is actually a very well done introduction to Navajo culture and religion and if you do ever actually find yourself in Tuba City for some inexplicable reason, it is definitely worth an afternoon's exploration. Associated with this is a small museum covering the Navajo Code Talkers from WWII. We broke both the Japanese and German war codes in that conflict, which greatly contributed to our victory over the axis powers. Not wanting to have the same thing happen to us, we recruited native Navajo speakers to develop a code using the Navajo language. This was never broken and was a major factor in our island hopping victories in the South Pacific during the war. Interesting stuff.
I guess it is fine that the Hopi choose to live by traditional means on their traditional lands but I can't escape the feeling that in the 21st century that traditional lifestyle translates as inconvenience and squalor. I could chose to live like a 15th century European peon I suppose, but to me respect for my ancestors is just so much superstition and living like a serf was not really all that great. No, I'll take my electric tooth brush and air conditioning, thank you very much.