The Pueblo in History: Oral History

Meet Deloria Dallas, a Hopi Tribal member, and learn about the history of the pueblo from the oral history of her people.

From Investigating the Puzzle House Pueblo, Part One: Geography and Part Two: History

Deloria Dallas in her native costume. Photograph courtesy of Deloria Dallas.

Deloria Dallas is a member of the Hopi tribe located in northeastern Arizona. She is maaswunga, a Hopi name for the fire and ghost clan, and her father is honanwungwu, or badger clan. She is the youngest of six children. She is a mother and her husband is from the bear clan.

Deloria graduated from Northern Arizona University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Indigenous Studies with an emphasis in Cultural Resource Management. Also, she teaches U.S. Government and World History to high school students.

Her family lives with her parents in Lower Moencopi Village. On the Hopi reservation people live in villages on top of first, second, or third Mesas. Lower Moencopi Village is located on third mesa. Originally, her family came from a village called Old Oraibi, which is also a village on third mesa.

The Pueblo in History: Oral History
by Ms. Deloria Dallas

Archaeologists can add to their knowledge of Pueblos by talking to the descendants of the Ancestral Puebloan people. Ms. Deloria Dallas wrote the account below. This information was handed down to her from the oral history of her people.

As the Hopi began to settle in northeastern Arizona, they settled upon a life of farming. Hopi agriculture is based around what is known as the “three sisters,” which are corn, beans, and squash. The Hopi planted in fields below the mesas where they lived and relied only on the moisture of rain to water their crops.

Different kinds of corn would be planted in the spring and summer to ensure a good harvest. For Hopi, corn is life. Corn was not only the main food in the Hopi diet, but an important part of their ceremonial life. Many ceremonial events are linked to the planting, growing, and harvesting of corn.

Every Hopi village had their own natural spring. Water is just as important as corn to sustain the Hopi and their way of life. Hopi children are taught to respect water and always give thanks to it because it allows us to continue to live on earth day after day.

Hopi people live a life that is community oriented. When a Hopi child is born, he or she becomes part of her mother’s clan. Clans each have a responsibility to conduct specific ceremonies throughout the year. Homes of clan members are positioned within the community to reflect their position in the ceremonial calendar.

In a Hopi community many homes share common walls. They are set up in a rectangular block of rooms (or “roomblocks”) and usually have distinct gathering areas called “plazas.” These roomblocks are made of stone and adobe. Adobe is a mixture of mud and water. The stones are usually sandstone quarried from nearby. The adobe holds the stones together and helps to create a natural insulation for the home. The roof is made with large beams and insulated with various local vegetation. Finally, a layer of adobe is put on top of the roof so it can be used as an outdoor work area.

Orabi Pueblo. Photo courtesy of National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution NAA INV 6317300

The Hopi often built multi-storied roomblocks. Some roomblocks are as high as three stories with each level serving a specific purpose. The first level would serve as a living area, and the second level would serve as a storage area. If a home had a third level, it would serve as either another living or storage area.

The Hopi built their villages to represent corn. Multi-storied houses were connected by common walls, representing the kernels of corn on a cob, with no one piece missing. Homes always face the east. The first energy of life is felt in this direction and allows Hopis to give their respect to their father, the sun.

Acoma Pueblo. Photo courtesy of National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution NAA INV 06353700

A typical household would consist of an extended family. Inside the living area of the home, there is usually a hearth (fire pit) in the corner that served as a place to cook. Hopi homes did not have walls dividing rooms, so the ground floor living area was used as a common room. Often times, grinding bins with manos and metates would be placed against the wall of the main living room. A loom might also be placed in the room for men to weave on. Other chores would also take place in the “common room” such as cooking and pottery making. Old pieces of broken pottery would be stacked upon one another to create a chimney for the hearth.

Each year a Hopi home is given prayer feathers. These feathers protect the home from any sort of harm. Usually a home has a special place for these feathers, such as the beam of the roof. Over time these prayer feathers build up, but are never thrown away.

Over time, if a home begins to deteriorate, the women will reapply adobe on the outside of the house. They will also whitewash and plaster the inside of the rooms. Hopi homes are never abandoned, but passed down to female family members from generation to generation.

Illustration of a Pueblo II kiva.

Another very important place within every Hopi village is the kiva. A kiva is “an underground ceremonial chamber,” sort of like a sanctuary. Kivas are used almost year round, except during the month when the kiva, like all Hopi people, is expected to rest. Long ago, Hopi ancestors probably had a kiva for every family or clan. Today, the kiva is a shared property and does not belong to one particular family or clan. Hopi villages now have at least two kivas, and as many as six.

Project Archaeology: Investigating Shelter

Investigating the Puzzle House Pueblo

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