The word Hopi is an abbreviated form of the word “Hopituh,” which means “peaceful ones.” Archaeologists tell us that the Hopi are descendants of the early Anasazi or Ancestral Pueblo people. Their homeland is found in what we now call northeastern Arizona. Today, many Hopi continue to live very close to their old traditional ways of life. They continue to practice their sacred religious beliefs, and they are still known for their close relationship with nature. Also, they continue to make exquisite blankets, jewelry, baskets, pottery, and kachina dolls.
The Hopis built their homes with flat roofs, and their walls were made from stones set in mud. They were forced to travel long distances for the pine and juniper roof beams. The outsides of the homes were plastered in mud, as there were no windows or doors. The Hopi entered their dwellings through holes in the roof. These dwellings were constructed much like our modern apartments are constructed. In fact, many were four and five stories. They also dug round stone lined underground rooms called kivas. Kivas were used for both religious activities and for clubhouses.
The Hopis were amazing farmers considering the harsh hot and dry environment. They usually grew corn, beans, squash, tomatoes, cotton, and tobacco at the base of the mesas were they crops could catch the runoff from rainstorms. Like other Native American cultures corn was their main crop. They had more than 50 ways to prepare it. They also domesticated flocks of turkeys, and hunted for deer, antelope, and rabbits. The women gathered wild plants, and did all of the cooking. The ancient Hopis ate from bowls that were decorated in geometric designs. Cotton was woven by the men and the thread was dyed by the women. They not only made cotton clothes, but they also made beautiful blankets. In addition, they created clothing from rabbit skins and leather moccasins.
So that there would be bountiful harvests, the Hopi conducted extensive religious rituals all year long. The most important element of the Hopi religious ceremony were the kachina dolls and dancers. The Hopis believed that the kichinas were supernatural beings who lived high up in the mountains.
The first white Europeans to discover the Hopis were two of Francisco de Coronado's men Pedro de Tobar and Juan de Padilla. This was in 1540. They discovered the Hopis while on their search for the fabled Cibola, and the Seven Cities of Gold. The Hopis let these two men, and their soldiers stay with them for a few days. A short time later, Coronado would discover the Grand Canyon.
Then in 1598, Juan de Ornate and the Spanish military arrived. They forced the Hopis to swear allegiance to the Spanish Crown and the Catholic Church. The first missionaries arrived in 1629. Shortly afterward, the Hopi were told that they had to abandon their own native religion and their kachina worship they rebelled. The first thing the Hopi did was constructed pueblos that were easier to defend. Then, they began destroying missions before joining the Rio Grande Pueblos in the Pueblo Rebellion of 1680.