The Hopi, whose name comes from hopitu meaning 'the peaceful ones,' are descendants of an ancient people, the Hisatsinom and are one of the oldest cultures in North America. Their traditional homelands included areas of Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico, in fact, most of the land now occupied by the Navajo, originally belonged to the Hopi.
Today, the Hopi live mainly in seven villages located on three mesas in the middle of the Navajo reservation. Orayvi, on third Mesa dates back to 1100 AD and is regarded as the oldest continuously inhabited settlement on the North American Continent. Hopi villages are typically eastern pueblo in design and are usually constructed from stone and mudbrick. Oral traditions state that after the Pueblo Revolt in 1680, the mesa tops were occupied because they provided a natural lookout to the east against intruders. However, today numerous Hopi families live on outlying farms and ranches.
The Hopi practice the art of dry-farming and primarily grow corn, beans, squash and melons. Most farmers have several small fields located around the base of the mesas. They sow the seeds for their crops when the snow melts. Usually, traditional fields are not plowed and "wind breakers" are placed intermittently in the fields to retain soil and moisture. Localised rain showers (about 8" - 12" p.a.) nurture the fields during the growing season. Because of the overall terrain and dryness, there are no rivers or mountain streams. The washes contain running water only after heavy rain or snowfall.
Basket-weaving and pottery are ancient traditions among the Hopi. They were made for practical, as well as ceremonial purposes and usually adorned with emblems representing the artisan's clan. These symbols were passed down in their work to future generations.
When I visited the Hopi villages in 1998, I was told that their ancestors chose to live in this arid country and the Hopi believe that as long as they can survive as a people in this harsh environment, the rest of the world will be 'safe.' They struggled hard to maintain their livelihood and protect their land. The Hopi follow Divine Instructions and prophecies received from Massau, the caretaker of this world. The villages are autonomous and have the authority to establish their own governing policies supported by the Hopi Tribal Council.