Visit the culture of indigenous people - 1 : Country of Hopi (Hopi Reservation, Arizona, USA)

The place with which I was most impressed in the travel to the Southwest was "the country of Hopi".

The Hopi reservation located in the dried semi-desert area in northern Arizona is called "the country of Hopi".

Many plateaus tower from a dried and rocky plain around 1500 meters above sea level. Green is few and the earth and a cliff dye ocher.

Three of the tops on the flat plateaus are residential areas from the past and are called as First Mesa, Second Mesa and Third Mesa. Oraibi in Third Mesa is the oldest village among the villages where people keeps living in the United States and derives from the middle of 12th century before the arrival to the new continent by Columbus. However, Taos Pueblo also professes as the oldest village in the United States. Which would be the originator ?

First Mesa on the narrowest plateau is 2 kilometers long and 50 meters width at the widest point and 3 meters width at the narrowest point. Both side falls in a plain by a sheer cliff. It has three villages, Walpi, Tewa and Sichomovi. The village which keeps largely in the old configuration among them is Walpi located at the farthest point.

In Walpi, houses that are built with stone collected at the foot of a cliff overlay, and the scenery of the village seems that a rocky plateau becomes united with a house. It is hard to believe in existing such kind of village in the United States in the 21st century. In a part of houses, the surface is finished with clay in the old one and stucco in the new one and its look is similar to Montezuma Castle.

Here is the place where they keep maintain such peculiar culture. Nonetheless, people who visit here must feel a locked-up feeling.

It was before Columbus arrived to the new continent when the plateaus were chosen as a place to live to protect themselves from the conflict with other tribes. So, the American government didn't necessarily send them there. However, the actual state seems that people who had independent culture had lost the balance by a contact with the different civilization.

Now, villages are also in a plain. Those attributed to Spanish missionary's and American government's coming since 16th century. They infiltrated into the region through the religion and the education. That caused the confrontation between the conservative party who protected tradition of Hopi tribe and the reform party who insisted on accepting a new wave, and, as the result, a part of them went down a plateau and built a new village in a plain.

Such subtle balance continues now. In a plain is a supermarket which sells frozen food, perishable food and fast food, meanwhile Walpi has received neither electricity nor water service. The village on the plateaus also has no restroom and they drop filth on the foot of a cliff from small huts dotted with an edge of a cliff and leave sun drying.

The small scale of agriculture only depends on a little rain. The tourism would not be a big power since here is away from the main route and no place popular for usual people. A lot of young people left the villages and people who didn't leave have no other choice but engaging in public service, folk handicraft and agriculture which can't expect to expand. The friction between the tradition and the civilization doesn't allow that they either seclude themselves in the tradition or introduce the large scale modern technology. They can't make sure of the way in such situation.

After I visited the country of Hopi, I think what the United States would be.

The essence of the United States seems to be not racial discrimination but non-tolerance to people who deviates from a context of Western civilization. The United States which had got close to them by kindness as enlightenment and improvement enclosed them, divided them and made lose them. If that was not done by a big power like the United States, the state of Hopi tribe might also be vivider.

The desolate landscape as a machine cut a rocky mountain derives from time immemorial, but, now it looks like their imagined scenery with strong sense of loss.

The American citizen at whom I encountered in the travel to Southwest was amazingly warm and kind. However, the meaning of the warmth in the small scale is different from that in the large scale. The enlarged warmth by the American might had cornered them.

In Hopi country, it is forbidden to take pictures. Therefore, this page has no photos.

To Japanese Version

Google Maps

4 hours by car from downtown Phoenix.
2 hours by car from Flagstaff.

Hopi Cultural Center

Hopi Cultural Center


2018.01 Photos and text in English version and Japanese version


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Google Map of the Hopi Reservation