Natural History - Hopi

Hopi Traditional Knowledge

As with all Native American cultures, traditional knowledge is central to Hopi culture. There is no more rewarding method of learning than the original "interactive method," speaking and listening. For the Hopi, traditional knowledge explains not only the origin of all peoples but provides lessons for how to live today.

Multi-level Learning

Most Hopi know at least one children's fairy tale that has a moral lesson in it. Although the story is meant to be entertaining, it is also supposed to be educational. Hopi traditional knowledge is encoded in this way and contains messages on many different levels. In this way, listeners learn new and important lessons as their own understanding deepens. The strength of traditional knowledge lies in its ability to convey a deeper truth. Seen in this light, traditional knowledge is more than just the retelling of events, names, and dates. In this way, traditional knowledge differs from written historical accounts in style and purpose.

The Emergence Story

Hopi traditional knowledge begins with the emergence story. The world we live in now is the fourth way of life that the Hopi have lived. Different Hopi clans and animals emerged from the third into this fourth way of life. Hopis tell how the people of the world were offered ears of corn by Ma'saw. Many jumped in ahead of the Hopi and picked large ears of corn and left Hopis the smallest ear. This symbolizes the difficult but enduring life the Hopi live in the arid Southwest. Along with each ear of corn, the various peoples of the world inherited homelands, cultures, and responsibilities from the rest of creation. The Hopi fulfill their responsibilities through their daily life and ceremonies. Hopi life revolves around agriculture, in particular, corn. The Hopi way of life is the corn - humility, cooperation, respect, and universal earth stewardship.


Because each story contains information meant specifically for one group of Hopi people, the Hopi learn only the story of their clan. The oral tradition entrusted to each Hopi is more than enough to consider and meditate upon during a lifetime. By pursuing their own understanding, it is natural that the Hopi respect the privacy and sacred nature of the traditions entrusted to other Hopi, as well as other cultures.

January (Paamuyaw)
The Play Moon is in the month for social dances, such as the Buffalo dances, which is expected to bring heavy snows.

  • 1 C.E. - Hisatsinom build houses in dry caves in the four corners region
  • 1260-1300 C.E. - Betatakin and Keet Seel occupied by Hopi Clans
  • January 2, 1895 - Hopi leaders imprisoned at Alcatraz for eight months

February (Powamuyaw)
The Cleansing Moon includes night dances and the disciplining of naughty children.

  • 500 C.E. - Pottery and weaving was developed
  • 900 C.E. - Plazas and kivas like those of the present Hopi construction were made
  • 1680 C.E. - Ancestors of the Navajo arrive in the southwest

March (Osomuyaw)
The cactus bloom month.

  • 1250 C.E. - Drought causes abandonment of cliff dwellings on Mesa Verde and Tsegi Canyon
  • 1276-1299 C.E. - Great drought that caused 36 and 47 Hopi pueblos to be abandoned
  • March 2, 1886 - During severe smallpox epidemic, some Hopi people move to Zuni

April (Kwiyamuyaw)
The Wind Breaker Moon.

  • 1834 - Rocky Mountain Fur Trapper Company trappers kill 15-20 Hopi
  • 1837 - Massive Navajo attacks on Oraibi
  • 1862-63 - Three Hopi travel to Salt Lake City to appeal for aid against Navajos
  • 1891 - Oraibi Warriors declare war on US Calvary
  • 1943 - Hopi District #6 is designated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) as the only exclusive Hopi
    Reservation within the 1882 Reservation. The Hopi contest this action and effectively confines the Hopi to 600,000 acres within the 1882 Reservation

May (Hakitonmuyaw)
The Wait Moon is windy and hot for plants.

  • May 16, 1891 - Hopi are arrested and sent to Fort Wingate
  • 1907 - Bacavi is established (village on third mesa)
  • 1943 - Stock reductions begin

June (Nimanmuyaw)
The Planting Moon is a time for family gatherings and for planting crops.

  • 1-700 C.E. - Hisatsinom cultivated corn, squash, beans, cotton, and turkeys
  • June 10, 1920 - Hotevilla (a village on third mesa) people are forcibly dipped in de-lousing chemicals
  • June 2, 1924 - Native Americans are granted United Stated citizenship

July (Nimanmuyaw)
The Going-Home Moon is the end of the Katsina dances for the year.

  • 1150 C.E. - Hisatsinom cultivated corn, squash, beans, cotton, and turkeys
  • July 20, 1540 - First Spanish contact with Hopi at Kawaikaah

August (Paamuyaw)
The Moisture Moon is the month when Snake, Antelope Dances are held in the villages to make rain for the dry fields.

  • 551 C.E. - Confucius is born
  • August 20, 1629 - Three Franciscans arrive at Awatovi(a village which no longer exists) to establish missions, later building two more at Shunopavi (on second mesa) and Oraibi
  • August 10, 1680 - Franciscans killed at Oraibi, Shunopavi and Awatovi during the pueblo revolt
  • August 21, 1819 - Navajo sign treaty with Spain

September (Nasanmuyaw)
The Feasting Moon is the month for Butterfly Dances.

  • September 23, 1778 and 1780 - Kikmongwis (chief) ask Spaniards for help during crop failure
  • September 4, 1886 - Geronimo(Apache) surrenders
  • September 7, 1906 - Split at Oraibi

October (Tihoosmuyaw)
The Harvest Moon is the time to bring in the corn, beans, watermelon, and squash.

  • 1540-1823 - Spanish rule
  • 1823-1848 - Mexican rule
  • October 23, 1870 - Major John Wesley Powell visits Hopi

November (Kyelmuyaw)
The Initiate Moon.

  • 900 C.E. - Hisatsinom moving into Grand Canyon, Black Mesa, and Little Colorado areas
  • 1100-1300 C.E. - Hisatsinom moving to Hopi Mesas because of dependable springse
  • November 11, 1598 - Juan De Onate arrives in Hopi land in search of gold
  • November 16, 1776 - Franciscans arrive in Oraibi to help against Navajos
  • November 20, 1863 - Kit Carson seeks volunteers in Oraibi

December (Kyaamuyaw)
The Dangerous Moon is the beginning of the Hopi New Year.

  • 1780, 1840, 1853-54 and 1897-98 - Smallpox decimates Hopi
  • December 16, 1882 - President Chester A Arthur signs executive order establishing Hopi Reservation
  • December 28, 1890 - One hundred-four Hopi children captured and sent to boarding school
  • December 14, 1936 - Hopi Constitution is adopted


  • Hopi Tribe, Hopi Cultural Preservation Office, Kykotsmovi, AZ

Further Readings

Content of this page was provided by the National Park Service.