North-South-East-West: American Indians and the Natural World
Enduring People: Four Centuries of Resistance
Life as Hopi
The lives of the Hopi people today are vastly different from those
of their ancestors. Yet the Hopi have
maintained many of their traditions and values in the face of
changes in the world around them. The principles of harmony and balance,
so important to the strength and survival of Hopi communities, remain
as guiding ideals for the people today.
Although some Hopi people have moved from the reservation to
urban areas, farming remains an important
element to many of the Hopi people.
The traditional staples of corn, beans, and squash are
still planted and highly prized. In addition, Hopi farmers grow
melons, other varieties of fruit, and wheat.
Though they are spread geographically across the Southwest and are
immersed in American culture, Hopi people all consider three mesas
in Northeast Arizona home, and they all maintain a sense of what it
means to be Hopi.
Coming to the City
Since the end of World War II there has been a large-scale movement
of American Indian people away from the reservations to urban areas.
Today more than sixty percent of the American Indian population live
The U.S. government encouraged the urban migration in the 1950s by developing a federal
relocation program. The aim was to attract Indian people to the cities,
where jobs were more readily available than on the reservations.
Thousands of Native people responded to the promise of "good jobs" and
"happy homes" as advertised in the governmental brochures.
For many, relocation was a failure. What they found, in general, were low-paying
jobs and high-cost rents. Although some stayed and built a life, many
returned to the reservations.
Unfamiliar challenges confront Native people who move to urban areas.
Life in the city often means living next door to non-Indian strangers.
It means trying to balance one's traditional cultural values with the often-conflicting
requirements for success in mainstream society.
Joint Use Area
For over a century, the Hopi have been embroiled in a struggle with the Navajo nation
and the United States government to maintain their traditional land base. The roots of
this conflict began in 1882 when President Chester A. Arthur established a reservation
for the "Hopi and other such Indians" within the boundaries of the large Navajo
Reservation. As the population of the Navajo grew, they began to occupy most of the
territory, including Hopi land.
The court established the Joint Use Area (JUA) in 1962,
and in 1974 the JUA was petitioned into two areas—one exclusively for the Hopi, the
other for the Navajo.
Regina Naha's carving records this event and its dispute. In 1996, President William
Clinton signed legislation designed to end the century-old disagreement. This new law
stipulates that the Navajo families may remain on Hopi land under a seventy-five-year
lease. In return, the U.S. government will compensate the Hopi tribe with a payment
that will likely be used to purchase five-hundred thousand acres of trust land in
Northern Arizona to add to its reservation.
Image 1: Don't Worry, Be Hopi T-Shirt
Janice Q. Day, Second Mesa, Hopi, 1988
Janice Q. Day cleverly originated this humorous variation of the popular song title
"Don't Worry, Be Happy," recorded by Bobby McFerrin in 1988. Hopi people enjoy wearing
these amusing shirts and give them as gifts to their friends and relatives.
Commercial cotton, ink, chemical/commercial dye; L 84.0 x W 98.0 cm;
Image 2: JUA Fence Crew
Regina Naha, Hopi, 1991
Cottonwood (Populus sp.), commercial paints, metal? wire, felt; L 20.0 x W 13.5
x H 21.0 cm; 35154-1