North-South-East-West: American Indians and the Natural World

Children: Learning to be Hopi

Cumulus Cloud KatsinaKatsinas: A Perfect Friendship

For about six months each year, benevolent spirits called katsinas come to live with the Hopi on their mesa tops. At the winter solstice, the katsinas in their physical form start to enter the Hopi villages. Their presence marks the beginning of the katsina ceremonial season, which continues throughout the first half of the year. In July the katsinas depart from the villages after the last day of the Niman Ceremony, the summer solstice observance. They return to their home on the San Francisco mountain peaks, 80 miles southwest of the Hopi mesas, until the next December, when the cycle begins anew.

Each katsina can be identified by its own individual character, costume, song, or dance style. Some are funny while others are frightening, but most are benevolent friends. The number of katsinas cannot be counted, because the pantheon of katsinas constantly changes. New katsinas appear now and then, while others drop out or come only on rare occasions.

Giant Katsinas Come Clacking Their Beaks
The ogre katsinas are responsible for disciplining children. During the Powamuy ceremonial season in February, they travel from house to house, confronting children with their misdeeds. Even though relatives defend them against the ogre's claims, children must perform certain tasks in order to absolve themselves and avoid the drastic punishment threatened by the ogres.

This teaches children the importance of cooperative effort and the role of their elders in protecting them from danger.

Spotted Corn Katsina Katsina: So'yokwuuti Katsina: Nata'aska

Image 1: Cumulus Cloud Katsina: Omawkatsina
Hopi, ca. 1904
Omawkatsina has towering thunderclouds with falling rain on his tableta and mask. Cottonwood (Populus sp.), commercial and mineral paints, unidentified songbird feathers, unidentified down feathers, laundry blueing; W 13.0 x H 35.0 cm; 3165-147

Image 2: Spotted Corn Katsina: Avatshoya Tihu
Hopi, ca. 1904
Corn katsinas are the most common of the plant impersonators. This tihu is covered with spots that represent kernels of corn.
Cottonwood (Populus sp.) commercial and mineral paints, commercial cotton, clay, commercial wool, unidentified feathers, juniper branch (Juniperus communis), horsehair (Equus caballus), cotton cord (Gossypium hirsutum), commercial dye; W 16.5 x H 29.0 cm; 3165-90

Image 3: Katsina: So'yokwuuti
Hopi, ca. 1904
The female disciplinarian, So'yokwuuti, comes to the house a week early to tell the children they must prepare food for the giants. She gives boys a snare to catch small rodents and gives girls corn to grind. In her hand, she holds a staff to snatch children by the neck and on her back a basket to carry them away.
Cottonwood (Populus sp.), commercial cotton, wool (Ovis aries), American Crow feathers (Corvus brachyrhynchos), male Northern Pintail duck feathers (Anas acuta), unidentified feathers, horsehair (Equus caballus), rabbit brush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus), tanned hide, commercial and mineral paints, commercial dye; W 15.5 x H 27.5 cm; 3165-180

Image 4: Katsina: Nata'aska
Hopi, ca. 1904 Nata'aska is a fearsome giant, who stomps around, dragging his saw. He dances and sings a song to naughty children, telling them that he will eat them and crunch their bones.
Cottonwood (Populus sp.), commercial cotton, tanned deer? hide (Odiocoileus sp.), cornhusk (Zea mays), Mariam's Turkey feathers (Meleagris gallopavo mariami), Guilded Flicker feathers (Colaptes chrysoides), unidentified feathers, horsehair (Equus caballus), cotton (Gossypium hirsutum), sinew, mineral paint, kaolin, unidentified adhesive; W 25.5 x H 40.0 cm; 3165-320-O

spacer spacer spacer spacer