History, Department of


Date of this Version

September 2008


Published in Hopi Nation: Essays on Indigenous Art, Culture, History, and Law, edited by Edna Glenn, John R. Wunder, Willard Hughes Rollings, and C. L. Martin (Lincoln, NE: UNL Digital Commons, 2008). Copyright © 2008 the Estate of Edna Glenn, Willard Hughes Rollings, Abbott Sekaquaptewa, Barton Wright, Michael Kabotie, Terrance Talaswaima, Alice Schlegel, Robert H. Ames, Peter Iverson, and John R. Wunder. All images and artwork are copyright by the individual artists; for a listing see pages 9-14.


A typical Hopi ceremonial day offers a visual reality. At Walpi, a village on First Mesa, it is summer and Niman time, and a thanksgiving ritual is beginning. The Kuwan Heheya Kachinas set the first foot movements. Their body actions of their dance begin while their “uncle,” Tu-uqti,1 vigorously performs his solo act in front of their dance lines. A cluster of Koshari clowns,2 starkly visible in their body-paint stripes, collect their parade paraphernalia for antics later in the day. The plaza is crowded, action is anticipated. It is a Hopi celebration day.

The all-encompassing character of the scene itself intrigues; the complexities overwhelm. The Kuwan Heheya Kachinas move into Walpi plaza at the left, an environment pre-energized by the presence of tribal leaders, dancers, musicians, onlookers, and meandering Hopi. With mighty but disciplined movements, seemingly measured and transfixed by centuries of rehearsal, they begin their strenuous ritual routines. Present off on the right is a second dance line composed of female Alo Manas.6 The two distinct line-dance groups are chosen for this special occasion on First Mesa. It is only one ceremonial event, the major public event, in an ongoing Niman observance which consumes sixteen days.

This day proclaims harmony within the universe, dramatizes the unity of dualistic vital forces, confirms the structured course of an evolutionary past within the sanctioned present; and for the individual journeying on the Hopi “Road of Life,” it marks one more-step in an experience through space and time. No living thing is denied the blessings—the land, the waters, the plants and animals, and humans, wherever they may be.