The Hopi have lived in a number of autonomous farming villages in northern Arizona for thousands of years. The designation “Hopi” is a contraction of Hopi-tuh which means “peaceful ones.” While each Hopi village has been a self-governing entity, the United States government has always insisted on dealing with the Hopi as though they are a single unified tribe.
A century ago, the residents of the Hopi villages had differences of opinion on how to deal with the pressures from the American government to make them conform to American culture. Those who seemed to be amenable to assimilation were labeled as “friendlies” by the U.S. government, while those who wished to maintain the Hopi way were considered to be “hostiles.”
In 1906, the dispute among the Hopi in Arizona over sending their children to the government school climaxed. In the village of Shongopavi, some members of the “hostile” faction refused to send their children to school and the U.S. Government sent in police to arrest the leaders. There was some fighting and several leaders were arrested. Fifty-two of the “hostiles” moved from Shongopavi to Oraibi.
In Oraibi, the relations between the “hostiles” and the “friendlies” worsened and traditional ceremonies were disrupted. Conservative families who wished to continue their traditional beliefs were expelled from the village and founded the new village of Hotevilla.
Government troops then rounded up the people of Hotevilla and marched them six miles to a place near the village of Oraibi. The men were then marched another forty miles to Keams Canyon where they were chained together and forced to work on a chain gang for the next 18 months. Two of the main leaders of the “hostiles” were permanently banished from the reservation and 17 other leaders were imprisoned at hard labor at Fort Hauchuca, Arizona. According to Indian Commissioner Francis Leupp: the Hopis must learn
“that hereafter they will conduct themselves reasonably like white men or be treated as white people treat those of their own number who are forever quarreling and fighting among themselves.”
There was no due process of law for the imprisoned Hopi; there was no trial, no consideration for any possible legal rights. In the eyes of the American government, in spite of court cases to the contrary, Indians had no rights under the law and the Bill of Rights in the Constitution did not apply to them.
With no concern for Native American sovereignty, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs deprived Hopi leader Tewaquaptewa of his chieftainship of the pueblo of Oraibi. The Commissioner decreed that Oraibi was to be governed by a commission consisting of the teacher in charge of the day school, the War Chief, and a judge known to be hostile to Tewaquaptewa. There was no concern for democracy or respect for traditional culture. The primary concern of the American government was to establish a puppet dictatorship.
The Commissioners ordered Tewaquaptewa, his wife and children and Frank Siemptiwa of Moencopi and his wife and children be taken to the Sherman Institute in Riverside, California where they were to be taught English and American customs. Before leaving for Riverside, Tweaquaptewa appointed his brother Sakwaitiwa as the village chief of Oraibi. There are soon violent differences between Sakwaitiwa and the government imposed on the village by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs.
After being held against their will and without due process of law, Tewaquaptewa and other Hopi leaders who had been sent to the Sherman Institute in California returned home. Government authorities had assumed that the experiences of Tewaquaptewa and Frank Siemptiwa would make them supporters of government policies. The government assumed that they would now be willing for their people to become Christian converts. The American government, however, had misjudged the strength of Hopi culture. Conflicts between the “hostiles” and the American government continued.