Hopi at crossroads of maintaining language for elected posts | Lifestyles

A small segment of Hopis who live in a community at the base of First Mesa speak Tewa, a language more common heard among pueblo tribes along the Rio Grande in New Mexico.

The Hopi sense of identity is vulnerable when Hopis live off the remote reservation, are distanced from religious and cultural practices like dry farming and ceremonies in the kiva, and can’t speak the language that is part of a spiritual covenant with the creator, Maasaw, Qötsahonmana said.

But focusing only on the speaking ability erases other forms of language, she said.

“There’s songs, there’s teachings, there’s prayer,” said Qötsahonmana. “All of those, if you are engaged and involved in those, you are becoming Hopi.”

Bernita Duwahoyeoma, whose Hopi name is Siwivensi, pointed to sacrifices made over the years to protect the tribe’s language and culture.

Nineteen Hopi men were incarcerated at Alcatraz, off the coast of San Francisco, in 1865 after refusing to send Hopi children to boarding school. In 1701, Hopis who resisted efforts by the Spanish to convert them to Christianity destroyed one of their own villages to ensure continuation of Hopi practices. Hopi men, women and children died, Siwivensi said.

“It’s our whole culture at stake,” she said. “Just something as simple as language, and there we go as a people. And I’m wondering, which one of these candidates is going to be sincere and listen to what the people are saying from their hearts?”

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