For centuries the Hopi people have made their homes in villages atop three narrow mesas, fingerlike extensions running south from Black Mesa. Early European visitors dubbed these extensions—from east to west—First Mesa, Second Mesa, and Third Mesa. Arizona 264 skirts First Mesa and crosses over Second and Third Mesas on the way to Tuba City from Window Rock.
    The mesas have provided the Hopi with water from reliable springs and protection from enemies, as the 600-foot cliffs discouraged assailants. Hardworking farmers, the Hopi are usually peaceable and independent. They keep in close touch with nature and have developed a rich ceremonial life, seeking to maintain balance and harmony with their surroundings and one another. Villages remain largely autonomous even today. The Hopi Tribal Council serves mainly as a liaison between villages and agencies of the federal and state governments.

Visiting Hopi Villages
The Hopi tend to be very private people, though they do welcome visitors to their lands. Policies may vary from village to village and are often posted. All villages strictly prohibit such disturbing activities as photography, sketching, and recording. To give residents their privacy, try to visit only between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. and keep to the main streets and plazas. The village of Walpi asks that visitors enter only with an authorized Hopi guide.
    The best time to visit a village is during a ceremony open to the public. Please remember that these are important religious rituals and that you are a guest. Some ceremonies have been placed off limits because of visitors' lack of respect. Check with the village having a dance to make sure that visitors are welcome. If so, you'll be allowed to experience Hopi culture. Dances take place in plazas on many weekends.

To learn about upcoming dances open to the public, try contacting the Hopi Cultural Center (P.O. Box 67, Second Mesa, AZ 86043, 928/734-2401, www.hopiculturalcenter.com) and the Cultural Preservation Office (one mile south of AZ 264 in the Tribal Headquarters building, P.O. Box 123, Kykotsmovi, AZ 86039, 928/734-3613). The village names given below have their common spellings, seen on most maps and signs, along with Hopi spellings in parentheses.

Guides can take you to petroglyph and other historic sites, as well as introduce you to Hopi culture. Ask at the Tsakurshovi shop (between the Shungopavi turnoff and Hopi Cultural Center) or at the Hopi Cultural Center. Hopi Guides (928/206-7433 or 800/774-0830, www.hopitours.com) can take you to traditional villages, artists, rock art, and historic sites. Or try Gary Tso of the Left-Handed Hunter Tour Company (928/734-2567) for similar trips.


This easternmost community on the Hopi Reservation is not a Hopi village, but an administrative town with various U.S. government agencies. The settlement lies at the mouth of a scenic wooded canyon named after Thomas Keam, who built a trading post here in 1875. From the town, the canyon winds northeast for about eight miles; the first three-mile stretch has a road. Kit Carson engraved his name on Inscription Rock, on the left about two miles in from AZ 264. You'll pass a picturesque Catholic church, then some pleasant picnic spots on the way in.

Keams Canyon Shopping Center
, on AZ 264 just west of the Keams Canyon turnoff, offers a cafe, art gallery, grocery store, ice cream parlor, and a service station. Keams Canyon Cafe (928/738-2296, Mon.–Fri. for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Sat. for breakfast and lunch, $9–15) serves American, Mexican, pizza, and Native American dishes. McGee's Indian Art Gallery (928/738-2295, www.hopiart.com) has a fine selection of Native American arts and crafts plus books and souvenirs.

Beginning as a small village in the 12th century, Awatovi (ah-WAHT-o-vee) had become an important Hopi town by 1540, when Spanish explorers from Coronado's expedition arrived.
    Franciscan friars in 1629 built a large church and friary using Hopi labor. Their mission lasted until 1680, when, fearing that their culture would be destroyed by Christianity, Hopi villagers joined their New Mexico Pueblo neighbors in successfully overthrowing Spanish rule, wrecking the Awatovi church, and killing most of the priests.
    Spaniards re-established the mission in 1700, but other Hopi villages became so angered by this continued alien influence that they banded together and destroyed Awatovi. Of the 800 inhabitants, almost all the men were massacred and the women and children removed to other Hopi villages. Spanish troops retaliated a year later with little effect. Further missionary efforts among the Hopi proved futile. Only ghosts live at Awatovi today—it was never resettled. The ruin sprawls across 23 acres on the southwest tip of Antelope Mesa, with piles of rubble as high as 30 feet. The site is usually closed to the public.


With an increasing population, some Hopi have built houses in settlements below the mesas, as at Polacca (po-LAH-kah). Still, if you ask residents of Polacca where they're from, they'll likely name one of the three villages on the mesa above. Polacca stretches for about a mile along the highway, but offers little of interest. Thrilling views, however, lie atop First Mesa, reached by a paved road that climbs steeply for 1.3 miles to Sichomovi on the crest. If you have a trailer or large vehicle, you must park it in Polacca or at parking areas 0.6 mile and one mile up.

Hano (Hanoki)
The first village you reach looks Hopi but is really a settlement of the Tewa, a Pueblo tribe from the Rio Grande region to the east. Fleeing from the Spanish after an unsuccessful revolt in 1696, a number of Tewa sought refuge here. Hopi leaders agreed, on the condition that the Tewa act as guardians of the access path to the mesa. Despite living close to the Hopi for so long, the Tewa have retained their own language and ceremonies. Hano's fascinating history is detailed in Edward P. Dozier's A Tewa Indian Community in Arizona, available in libraries.

Sichomovi (Sitsomovi)
To the visitor, Hano and the Hopi village of Sichomovi (see-CHO-mo-vee) appear as one, but residents know exactly where the dividing line is. Both Tewa and Hopi live here.

Walpi (Waalpi)
One of the most inspiring places in Arizona, Walpi (WAHL-pee) stands surrounded by sky and distant horizons. Ancient houses of yellow stone appear to grow from the mesa itself. A highlight for many visitors, Walpi dates from the 13th century and is renowned for its ceremonial dances and crafts.
    Because this traditional village is small and its occupants sensitive, visitors may enter only with an authorized Hopi guide. One-hour walking tours (928/737-2262 Ponsi Hall, 928/737-2670 Community Development office, $8 adult, $5 youth 6–17) leave Ponsi Hall in Sichomovi 9:30 a.m.–5 p.m. daily in summer and 10 a.m.–3 p.m. daily the rest of the year. Note that the last tour leaves one hour before closing. Tours may not run on weekends and holidays, so it's best to call ahead before making a special trip out. The turnoff, near Milepost 392 on AZ 264, is signed "First Mesa Village."
    Walking from Sichomovi, you'll watch the mesa narrow to just 15 feet before widening again at Walpi. Unlike most other Hopi villages, Walpi lacks electricity and running water. Residents have to walk back toward Sichomovi to get water or to wash. Look for bowl-shaped depressions once used to collect rainwater. Precipitous foot trails and ruins of old defenses and buildings cling to the mesa slopes far below.
    Signs outside houses in Walpi and the other First Mesa villages let you know where to shop. Usually men carve the kachina dolls and women fashion the pottery. Although most kachina dances at First Mesa remain closed to the public, you may be able to attend social dances.


Second Mesa (Junction)
Highways AZ 264 and AZ 87 meet at the foot of Second Mesa, seven miles west of Polacca and 60 miles north of Winslow. LKD's Diner (928/737-2717, Mon.–Sat. for lunch and dinner) serves Hopi tacos and tostadas, Mexican food, and burgers. Hopi Fine Arts-Alph Secakuku gallery sells arts and crafts. You'll also find a post office and supermarket here. Honani Crafts Gallery is 0.5 mile west at the turnoff for Shipaulovi and Mishongnovi villages.

Shipaulovi (Supawlavi) and Mishongnovi (Musangnuvi)
These villages are close neighbors on an eastern projection of Second Mesa. Dances often take place. You reach Shipaulovi (shih-PAW-lo-vee) and Mishongnovi (mih-SHONG-no-vee) by a short paved road that climbs steeply from AZ 264, a half mile west of the intersection with AZ 87, or by a mesa-top road (also paved, but not to be confused with the Pinon-Hard Rock Road) 0.3 mile east of the Cultural Center. Mishongnovi is east of Shipaulovi, at the end of the mesa.

Shungopavi (Songoopavi)
Shungopavi (shong-O-po-vee or shih-MO-pah-vee) is the largest (pop. 742) of the three Second Mesa villages. A sign near the village entrance states that dances are closed to non-Indians, though that's not always the case—you can ask in the village. Dawa's Art and Crafts on the road into the village sells locally made work. More galleries lie between the village turnoff and the Cultural Center. Shungopavi is 0.8 mile south off AZ 264, midway between the junction with AZ 87 and the Hopi Cultural Center.
    Joseph and Janice Day at Tsakurshovi (928/734-2478) provide a treasure trove of information about visiting and shopping in the Hopi lands; you'll also find an excellent array of kachinas, basketry, music, and other art in their little shop on the north side of the highway, 0.4 west of the Shungopavi turnoff and 1.5 miles east of the Hopi Cultural Center. A bit farther west on the highway, Hopi Silver Arts and Crafts and Iskasopu Gallery offer good selections.

Hopi Cultural Center
Both visitors and local Hopi enjoy coming to this excellent pueblo-style museum/motel/restaurant/gift shop complex. It's on the west side of Second Mesa just before the road plunges down on the way to Third Mesa.
    The museum (928/734-6650, www.hopiculturalcenter.com, $3 adults, $1 children 13 and under) displays fine exhibits of Hopi culture and crafts along with many historic photos. It's open 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 9 a.m.–3 p.m. Sat.–Sun., except closed weekends from about late Oct. to late March. There's a small gift shop just inside the entrance, and you can often purchase traditional piki bread. (To learn more of Hopi mythology and customs, dig into off-reservation sources such as the Special Collections at Northern Arizona University or the Museum of Northern Arizona libraries, both in Flagstaff.)
    The motel (P.O. Box 67, Second Mesa, AZ 86043, 928/734-2401, www.hopiculturalcenter.com, $90 s weekdays, $95 s Fri.–Sat., $5 each additional person) provides all nonsmoking rooms with Hopi decor; rates drop $30 in winter. Reservations are highly recommended, as it's a long drive to the next motel.
    A free picnic area and campground lie next door among the juniper trees. There's no water or hookups, but you can use the restrooms in the Cultural Center.
    The restaurant (daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, $7–13) prepares good Hopi, American, Mexican, and pizza dishes. This is your big chance to try paatupsuki (pinto bean and hominy soup), or maybe some noqkwivi (traditional stew of lamb and hominy), or a breakfast of blue pancakes made of Hopi corn. Not to be outdone by Navajo neighbors, the restaurant serves a Hopi taco (with beef) and a Hopi tostada (vegetarian).
    Hopi Arts & Crafts (928/734-2463, closed Sat.–Sun.) offers a variety of traditional work and a small exhibit with examples of early Hopi silver jewelry; it's just a short walk across the picnic/camping area. You may also see artwork for sale in a gallery at the Hopi Cultural Center and displayed by vendors on tables outside.
    For a shortcut to Chinle and Canyon de Chelly, turn north off AZ 264 beside the Cultural Center to Pinon Trading Post, 26 miles (mostly rough and only partly paved), then turn east 42 miles on paved roads.


Kykotsmovi (Kiqötsmovi)
The name means Mound of Ruined Houses. Hopi from Old Oraibi (o-RYE-bee) founded this settlement near a spring at the base of Third Mesa. Peach trees add greenery to the town. Kykotsmovi (kee-KEUTS-mo-vee), also known as New Oraibi, has offices of the Hopi Tribal Council.
    The Cultural Preservation Office (P.O. Box 123, Kykotsmovi, AZ 86039, 928/734-3613, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Fri.) provides information for visitors to the Hopi Indian Reservation at its office in the Tribal Headquarters building, one mile south of AZ 264. Kykotsmovi Village Store in town sells groceries and fixes pizza, subs, and snacks. Quotskuyva Fine Arts & Gifts is on the Leupp Road between Mileposts 46 and 47, 1.2 miles south of AZ 264.
    You can stop for a picnic along AZ 264 at Oraibi Wash, 0.8 mile east of the Kykotsmovi turnoff and across the bridge, or the Pumpkin Seed Hill overlook 1.2 miles west of the turnoff on the climb to Old Oraibi; both of these sites lie just north of the highway. Indian Route 2, leading south from Kykotsmovi to Leupp (pronounced "loop"), is paved and the shortest way to Flagstaff. You can either take the main road 0.5 mile west of the Kykotsmovi turnoff, or drive through the village, then turn right on the Leupp Road.

Old Oraibi (Orayvi)
This dusty pueblo perched on the edge of Third Mesa dates from 1150 and is probably the oldest continuously inhabited community in the United States.
    The 20th century was difficult for this ancient village. In 1900 it ranked as one of the largest Hopi settlements, with a population of more than 800, but dissension caused many to leave. The first major dispute occurred in 1906 between two chiefs, You-ke-oma and Tawa-quap-tewa. Instead of letting fly with bullets and arrows, the leaders staged a "push-of-war" contest. A line was cut into the mesa and the two groups stood on either side. They pushed against each other as hard as they could until Tawa-quap-tewa's group crossed the line and won. You-ke-oma, the loser, left with his faction to establish Hotevilla four miles away. This event was recorded a quarter mile north of Oraibi with the line and inscription: "Well, it have to be done this way now, that when you pass this LINE it will be DONE, Sept. 8, 1906." A bear paw cut in the rock is the symbol of Tawa-quap-tewa and his Bear Clan, while a skull represents You-ke-oma and his Skeleton Clan. Other residents split off to join New Oraibi at the foot of the mesa.
    A ruin near Old Oraibi on the south end of the mesa is all that remains of a church built in 1901 by the Mennonite minister, H.R. Voth. Most villagers disliked having it so close to their homes and were no doubt relieved when lightning destroyed the church in 1942. It's closed to the public but you can see the ruin from the village.
    Old Oraibi lies two miles west of Kykotsmovi. Avoid driving through the village and stirring up dust; park outside—or next to Hamana So-o's Arts & Crafts—and walk. You can shop for Hopi arts and crafts here and at galleries nearby on the highway. Villagers may offer items for sale from their homes.

Hotevilla (Hot'vela)
Founded in 1906 after the split from Old Oraibi, Hotevilla (HOAT-vih-lah) got off to a shaky start. Federal officials demanded that the group move back to Old Oraibi so their children could attend school there. Twenty-five men agreed to return with their families, despite continued bad feelings. About 53 others refused to leave Hotevilla and were jailed for 90 days while their children were forcibly removed to a Keams Canyon boarding school. That winter the women and infants fended for themselves, with little food and inadequate shelter. In the following year the men returned, building better houses and planting crops. Exasperated authorities continued to haul You-ke-oma off to jail for his lack of cooperation and refusal to send village children to school. In 1912, government officials invited the chief to Washington for a meeting with President Taft, but the meeting didn't soften You-ke-oma's stance. Today the village is known for its dances, basketry, and other crafts. The turnoff for Hotevilla is 3.7 miles northwest of Old Oraibi and 46 miles southeast of Tuba City.

Bacavi (Paaqavi)
The You-ke-oma loyalists who returned to Old Oraibi under federal pressure continued to clash with the people of Tawa-quap-tewa. At one point, when two of the returning women died in quick succession, cries of witchcraft went up. Finally, in November 1909, tensions became unbearable. Members of the unwelcome group packed their bags once more and settled at a new site called Bacavi (BAH-kah-vee) Spring. The name means "jointed reed," after a plant found at the spring. Bacavi lies on the opposite side of the highway from Hotevilla.

Coal Mine Canyon
Hoodoos and crenulated cliffs of red, white, and gray rocks present a striking sight from the overlook. You may experience vertigo as you peer into precipitous depths. Take care near the edge as the rock layers are very brittle. Hopi have long obtained coal from the seam just below the rim. A trail descends into the canyon, but you'll need a Navajo tribal permit to hike it. This very scenic spot has picnic tables and lies 30 miles northwest of Bacavi and 16 miles southeast of Tuba City on AZ 264. Look for a windmill and the Coal Mine Mesa Rodeo Ground on the north side of the highway (no signs) between Mileposts 337 and 338, and turn in across the cattle guard and follow the dirt road, which may be too rough for cars, 0.5 mile to the rim.

Moenkopi (Munqapi)
This Hopi village lies two miles southeast of Tuba City. Chief Tuba (about 1810–87) of Oraibi, 48 miles southeast, founded Moenkopi ("The Place of Running Water") in the 1870s. Mormons constructed a woolen mill in 1879 with plans to use local labor, but the Hopi disliked working with machinery and the project failed. Moenkopi has two sections—only the upper village participates in the Hopi Tribal Council; the more conservative lower village does not. Water from springs irrigates fields, an advantage not enjoyed by other Hopi villages.

The Moenkopi Legacy Inn & Suites (P.O. Box 2260 Tuba City, AZ 86045, 928/283-4500, http://www.experiencehopi.com) has recently opened on Hopi land across from Tuba City; amenities include a fitness center, pool, and hot tub. TUUVI Café at the TUUVI Travel Center across the street from the hotel with a full service menu of traditional American and Hopi food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.


Kachinas appear to the Hopi from the winter solstice on December 21 until mid-July. They dance and sing in unison, symbolizing the harmony of good thought and deed, harmony required for rain to fall and for a balanced life. The rest of the year the kachinas remain in their home in the San Francisco Peaks.

A kachina can take three forms: a powerful unseen spirit, a dancer filled with the spirit, or a wooden figure representing the spirit. Kachina dancers are always male, even when the spirit is female. The men may present gifts of kachina figures to women and children during the dances. Each village sponsors its own ceremonies.


Wuwuchim and Soyala (November to December)
These months symbolize the time of creation of the world. The villages tend to be quiet, as Hopi spend time in silence, prayer, and meditation.

Wuwuchim, a tribal initiation ceremony, marks the start of the ceremonial calendar year. Young men are initiated into adulthood, joining one of four ceremonial societies. The society a man joins depends on his sponsor. Upon acceptance, the initiate receives instruction in Hopi creation beliefs. He's presented with a new name, and his childhood name is never used again.

Only the Shungopavi village performs the entire Wuwuchim ceremony, and not every year. Other villages engage in parts of the Wuwuchim.

The Soyala Kachina appears from the west in the winter solstice ceremony, marking the beginning of the kachina season. As the days get longer, the Hopi begin planning the upcoming planting season; fertility is a major concern in the ceremony.

Buffalo Dances (January)
Men, women, and children perform these social dances in the plazas. They deal with fertility, especially the need for winter moisture in the form of snow.

Powamuya, the Bean Dance (February)
Bean sprouts are grown in a kiva as part of a 16-day ceremony. On the final day, kachina dancers form a long parade through the village. Children of about 10 years are initiated into kachina societies during the Powamuya. Ogre kachinas appear on First and Second mesas.

Kiva Dances (March)
A second set of nighttime kiva dances consists of Anktioni or "repeat dances."

Plaza Dances (April, May, and June)
The kachina dancers perform in all-day ceremonies lasting from sunrise to sunset, with breaks between dances. The group—and the people watching—concentrate in a community prayer calling on the spirits to bring rain for the growing crops.

Niman, the "Home Dance" (July)
At the summer solstice on June 21, the plaza dances end and preparations begin for the Going Home Ceremony. In a 16-day rite, the last of the season, kachina dancers present the first green corn ears, then dance for rain to hasten growth of the remaining crops. Their spiritual work done, the kachinas return to their mountain home.

Snake, Flute, and Butterfly Dances (August)
The Snake and Flute ceremonies, held in alternate years, represent the clan groups who perform them in the interests of a good harvest and prosperity. The Snake Dance, usually closed to non-Hopi, takes place in even-numbered years at Shungopavi and Hotevilla and in odd-numbered years at Mishongnovi. The snakes, often poisonous rattlers, act as messengers to the spirits. The Flute Ceremony takes place in odd-numbered years at Shungopavi and Walpi. The Butterfly Dance, a social dance performed mainly by children, takes place in all villages. It also celebrates the harvest.

Women's Society Dances (September, October, and Early November)
Held in the plazas, these ceremonies celebrate the harvest with wishes for health and prosperity. Chaos reigns during the Basket Dances; female dancers throw out baskets and other valuables to the audience, who engage in a mad free-for-all to grab the prizes. They mark the end of the ceremonial year.

On to Eastern Arizona