North-South-East-West: American Indians and the Natural World
Weddings: The Circle of Giving
Corn is linked with Hopi females—both are fruitful and bear children, thus assuring the
continuity of life. The Hopi bride is philosophically connected with corn. Cornmeal and
its preparation appear repeatedly in Hopi wedding activities. Sometimes a couple must
wait several years until they can accumulate the amount of corn and other goods necessary
for their wedding.
The couple depends upon the cooperation of their families and friends. Families pool
their resources, and past favors are returned in the joint effort of kin who prepare
the gifts that must be exchanged.
The bride is joined by female relatives and friends, who help her grind a vast amount
of cornmeal, as much as 800 to 1,000 pounds, which is mounded high in bowls and tubs.
They bake piles of folded piki and small blue-corn
tamales, and they take turns stirring pikami, a corn pudding, with a big stick in galvanized tubs. Women also contribute
numbers of basketry trays to hold the corn gifts, which will be presented to the groom's
Meanwhile, the male members of the groom's family and community spin and weave the cotton
garments for the bridal outfit.
Image: Detail from Bride's Wedding Robe
Hopi, ca. 1904
A bride receives two white cotton wedding robes—one of which will
someday be her burial shroud and a second that she can use
communally or trade. Border stitches and tassels dangling from the
robe's corners signify the bride's fertility and the future hope
Cotton (Gossypium hirsutum), kaolin, wool (Ovis
aries), vegetable dye; L 120.0 x W 157.0 cm; 3165-28