Chapter XVIII. Of the Life in Moqui; and a Hint of its Latter Day Troubles

Up: Contents Previous: Chapter XVII. Of the Eight Pueblos of Moqui, and the Way Thither Next: Chapter XIX. Of Hotavila, the Eighth Pueblo of Moqui, and how it Looked Blackly at us

[page 182]

AT the foot of Walpi's steep is a scattering of houses—the Government school, the field matron's, the doctor's, and a few that Indians dwell in. In one a Hopi trader keeps a little store. To Americans his name is Tom, and him we had been instructed to find and consult as to our lodging while in Moqui. As we drew up before the store, an Indian came briskly forth to greet us,—a small man with a pleasant smile, jet black hair cut square at the neck, and a clean, white shirt that bellied picturesquely in the breeze. No, he was not Tom,—he was Tom's bruzzer'n law, Percy, and yes, he sought mebbe he knew about some house if we wanted to hire one till after Snake Dance; mebbe his sister Mary, Snake Priest's wife, she would hire hers,—it was just bow-shot away,—and she would go up to the mesa and stay; he would spoke to her.

A Hopi potter preparing to fire pottery bowls. Her home is on the distant mesa top, but she has come down here because a nearby corral affords abundant fuel of dried sheep manure.

[page 183]

And so it came to pass that, in the course of an hour, we found ourselves, for a consideration of a dollar and a half a week, sole tenants of a tight-roofed, one-roomed, stone house with a little, walled front-yard, and a glorious view eastward across the yellow desert to pink and purple mountains. Here and there, amid the sands, were green patches of growing corn, beans, and melons, and far away in the sunshine an Indian was riding, warbling a Hopi yodel as he rode. An old man, naked to his breech clout this August day, was singing, too, and driving two dun pack-burros afield, to whose sober coats a touch of vivacity was given by red saddle-blankets. Children were tumbling and romping in the dunes, where wild flowers bloomed, and the air was sweet with the music of their laughter. The natural life of the Pueblo is happy and gay in his sunlit land. I want to tell you this before the Government has civilised the joy of his native life out of him.

All Moqui, like omnia Gallia, is divided geographically into three parts—three finger-like mesas which extend out into the Painted Desert, the tips approximately ten miles each from the other. Upon the eastern or First Mesa, stand three of the

[page 184]

pueblos in a line—Walpi, Sichómovi, and Tewa, so close together that they really are like one long, rambling village. Nevertheless, they preserve their respective individualities even to the extent of one employing a radically different language from the others. The Second or Middle Mesa is forked at the tip and upon it are three more villages. On one prong of the fork are perched Mishóng-novi and the acropolis-like Shipaú-lovi, while on the other prong is Shimópovi. I wish the names were less formidable-looking in print, but they are not unmusical from Hopi lips. The Third Mesa was, until recently, the site of but one pueblo—Oraibi, the largest of all in Moqui; but a new one, Hotavila, now shares the Mesa with it. Then there is a farming colony of Oraibians, known as Moenkopi, twenty-five miles or so to the westward; but it is not customarily reckoned a separate entity from Oraibi.

In all eight villages, life is much the same, though the influence of white contact is more marked in some than in others. Perhaps Oraibi and Walpi have been most affected by this—Shimópovi the least so, and our visit to this conservative place was delightful in proportion; for conservatism

[page 185]

means having a mind of your own and sticking to it, and that makes people interesting. Shimópovi internally is full of quaint bits and corners distracting to an artist, and at the time of our visit, the streets were clean and neat, and the village was the home of as peaceful and happy a primitive life as one could desire to see. It is, of course, the happiness of the unprogressive and condemnable accordingly, you will say; but then is there not apostolic authority for abiding in the same calling wherein one is called, and for being, in whatsoever state one is, therein content? All doors opened to us in Shimópovi and a smile of welcome was on every face. In one home, a mother with a tiny baby extends it for our inspection, looking at it meantime with unspeakable depths of mother love in her eyes, as she pats the little, round cheeks. In another home a family, seated on the floor at dinner, bids us enter and eat stewed mutton and piki bread with them, and receives our apologetic declination with pleasant merriment. Farther on, three old women, their wrinkled faces tender with grandmotherly kindliness, sit weaving the peculiar basketry for which the Second Mesa is famous—a weave known nowhere else on this continent,

[page 186]

though practised by certain tribes of Northern Africa. Each of the old women is dressed in a single garment of close-woven, dark-blue cloth, the typical squaw dress of Moqui, comfortable and convenient and involving none of the continual care which their sisters over at Walpi are beginning to learn under white direction goes with sundry curious pieces of underwear.

The voices of the old dames are as soft as music; they motion us to be seated, supplying us with the two stools that their little room affords, and then go pleasantly on with their gossip in the still, sunny afternoon. We are welcome to stay as long as we wish, and, when we leave, a smiling Shimópovi au revoir is chorused to us.

Chief among Pueblos, the Hopis appear to have been deemed especially needful of an all-round educational uplift, and during the last decade or two, they have certainly had an old-fashioned, allopathic dose of it. What with day schools, reservation boarding-schools, and non-reservation boarding-schools, all having their turn at training the Hopi young idea—what with professional farmers, field matrons, resident agents to cut Hopi hair, and what-not—the reconstruction of Moqui has been going on at a pace that would be found humorous in some aspects, if it did not spell the speedy death, as a distinctive class, of this "little people of peace."

A corner of a pueblo of the Second Mesa, Moqui.

[page 187]

The picturesque and healthful costume of old Moqui is being replaced by American ugliness. Overalls, suspenders, ragged coats, and more ragged trousers, clumsy store shoes, hats with hang-dog brims that the wind delights to whirl off, are now everyday features of men's attire where, but a few years ago, the loose, cotton blouse and wide, flapping, cotton pantaloons, deerskin moccasins that fit the rocky trail with the sureness of the foot itself, and the blanket that is hat, coat, and gloves in one, were the general vogue. As for the women, the sensible, native-woven "squaw-dress" of one woollen garment, free at the throat, neat-belted and short-skirted, is being systematically replaced by slovenly shirt-waists, bedraggled long skirts, and conventional undergarments of the white woman—a style of attire which is well enough in a land where the Troy Laundry has an agency at every corner, but rather out of key in the yellow dust of an unpaved Arizona desert, with forty miles between water-holes. Open fireplaces,

[page 188]

which have always been an important means of ventilation in the pueblo rooms, are being closed up and American cook-stoves are being everywhere set up, making the houses unhealthy and tuberculosis-breeding, and encouraging the introduction of American forms of food and cooking, distinctly unwholesome to a people always accustomed to a plain diet, cooked in a radically different way. The people, furthermore, are discouraged from living in their own towns on the breeze-swept mesas, and the Government has erected a number of houses for them at the mesa-foot in the sands of the desert (!). A row of these, which we visited at Oraibi, had a pathetic interest in the fact that every family inhabiting them had from one to many members sick. The good sense of the Hopis is shown by the fact that, whenever possible, they rent such houses to white people and go back to the old towns on the heights. Last but not least potent in the reconstruction of Hopi life, is the allotting agent, whose business is to apportion to each Indian a stated amount of land in severalty, and so break up the communal owning of land—an unobjectionable feature of Pueblo life, as ingrained in the people as its opposite is ingrained in

[page 189]

us.1 When he gets through, there will probably be a considerable portion of the present reservation of Moqui for sale; but any white man ought to be ashamed to be caught owning the land of a race who have gained their title to it by such hard-earned conquest of its resources.

Worse than all this, the touch of aggressive white domination is bringing about a deterioration of the Hopi spirit—the old, old story that ever attends Caucasian meddling in the native life of so-called "inferior" races—the inoculation of a fine, contented, wholesome people with the virus of "civilised" vice, unrest, and disease. The practical result is that the Hopis are developing into a body of parasites instead of perpetuating the sturdy independence of a people whom all travellers, even as late as ten years ago, spoke of with enthusiasm. At Oraibi, particularly, the evidences of white influence are simply sickening. Any one who doubts it has only to go and see for

[page 190]

himself. Seeing is a better basis for correct information than reading Government reports.

From the first appearance of the Government teachers among them, the Hopi counsellors recognised the "white peril," and the people protested against it. Why should they, with an ancient culture of their own, sufficient to their condition and hallowed to them by a thousand memories and traditions, give it up for the way of the white man with his record of broken promises and duplicity? Asking nothing whatever from our Government and willing to work and pay for all they need, what do they want with a white education for their red children? They know things enough already of real worth to put their teachers to shame; but they do not attempt to force their Indian codes upon the whites—even had they the power, they would not be so impertinent. Why, then, should they be white-jacketed? But the benighted views of this handful of Quaker Indians, of course, had no standing as against the progressive policies of an enlightened Great Republic with a hungry family of place-hunters and land-seekers to be cared for out of the public providing. So at the present time, most of the Hopis have given up the fight and have resigned themselves to what seems to be the inevitable.

A blanket weaver. Second Hopi Mesa. Among the Hopis, the men are the weavers—the reverse of the Navajo custom.

[page 191]

Not all of them, however. There is the case of Hotavila—the eighth pueblo of Moqui, four years old this year of grace 1911—a little bit of an Indian village whose less than a hundred families have dared to try to live independently of the dictation of our Government in their internal affairs, even as our own fathers aforetime resented the interference of certain over-sea kings in matters too intimate. But this is matter for another chapter.


1. Unlike the lands of the New Mexico Pueblos, which were, all or in part, Spanish grants subsequently confirmed to the Indians by United States patents, the Moqui land is a Government Reservation, existing by executive order, and accordingly liable to division, alienation, or whatever else Congress may dictate.

Up: Contents Previous: Chapter XVII. Of the Eight Pueblos of Moqui, and the Way Thither Next: Chapter XIX. Of Hotavila, the Eighth Pueblo of Moqui, and how it Looked Blackly at us

© Arizona Board of Regents