The Oraibi Split 1850-1906

In 1906 three Hopi mesas faced off with each other under the argument of Westernization. Each mesa had different motivations for working with or against the government of the United States. Some saw collaborators as traitors, and an insult to hundreds of years of Hopi tradition; others saw Westernizing as a positive. These arguments were carried out between the first, second and third mesas of north east Arizona. The first mesa contained the majority of Hopis in favor of Westernization, the second, the most opposed; and lastly the third had an even mixture of those in favor and against. Even among individual villages the populace was split. In this paper, I will examine Hopi history from the laying of the founding principles to what the Hopi had evolved to in 1906. I will also focus on the sentiments of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) as they give great insight into how the US viewed the Oraibi Split and natives in general. I will use this history to answer the question of what drove the Hopi to be so conflicted that it led to the split of Hopi society, mainly their struggle with famine, disease and competing ideologies. In this paper, I will argue that it is this culmination of factors that led to the Oraibi split and never one event.

Throughout this paper the Hopi that supported Westernization will be referred to as friendlies, as they were by the US, and those opposed referred to, as hostiles, again in accordance with the US’s thinking at the time. To begin it is important to understand the Hopi’s roots, where their culture originated and the influences that shaped them. The Hopi have been traced back to the years prior to the second millennium but I will be focusing on the past 200 years. Hopi tradition is steeped in the mythological, from the founding of their cities to the harvest of crops. Hopi have for years, and to this day still do, practice ritualistic dancing. The Hopi have an egalitarian society and their lineages are determined through the mother. The Hopis live with their spouses based on convenience and not as a necessity, though they do practice monogamy. I mention these traditions to show how the Hopi differed from the west. This difference is a main driving factor in the United States concern of the Hopi and other natives. This can be seen evidenced in the annual reports from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. These reports consist of subsections dedicated to the interpretation of Hopi culture and how to best assimilate it. These reports show a concerted effort by the US to subvert Hopi culture, and make little note of the Hopis feelings on the matter.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs, being an official office of the US, can safely be used as an indicator of the US governments’ feeling towards the Hopis, and in particular their Westernizing. In a report from 1902, only four years before the Oraibi Split, there are numerous examples of clear cut deconstruction of Hopi culture. These reports rarely mention any resistance harsher than disgruntlement from the locals, though this could be embellishment on the part of the agent as he has shown clear bias in the report. One such example being, “I am safe in saying that over one-half of the tribe now wear citizen’s clothing in whole or in part; the change has been almost magical” With that mention it goes without saying these reports must be digested with a grain of salt. For instance, the report also states that many schools have a near perfect attendance rate, around 97 percent, though no mention of how this was accomplished, and most likely, given the amount of resistance from the Hopis at having their children in school, was accomplished through coercion rather than real integration.[4] Further speculation reveals that the army had in fact been brought in prior, and again in 1904 to act as a form of truancy for the kids.

The BIA had set out to divide up the land into separate personal farms for each Hopi family. The Hopi were again split on this idea, though the reasoning was different. While there is little information about the friendlies desires for Westernization, in this aspect one can infer their reasoning for supporting the land divisions, to understand that reasoning we must look at the Hopi relationship with their neighbors, the Navajo.

The Navajo had been encroaching on the Hopis grazelands for years. In the 1870’s the Hopis turned large swaths of their north-western farm land, the one in closest proximity to the Navajo, into cotton farms rather than food crops. This was an attempt to reduce the number of Navajo raids as the cotton was next to worthless to the Navajo. The thinking here was that the Hopi could sell the cotton to acquire the food they would need. This however did not work as planned and, as I will discuss later, was another cause of division within the Hopis. As of the late 1800’s the cotton crop route had still not worked and the friendlies may have seen government intervention in their farmland as a guarantee of safety from Navajo raids and thus begin planting food crops again. The importance of securing food crops was of paramount importance for the Hopi as it was not only their sustenance, but a source of pride and culture for the Hopis.

Hopi pride in their farming abilities stems from the adversity they face in trying to cultivate the land in north east Arizona. The BIA had marked the entire southern area of Hopi territory as completely arid and unsuitable for agriculture, they also spoke lowly of the northern territory. However, the Hopi managed to cultivate this land through hard work. One of the strategies the Hopis employed in their northern territory was digging one to two feet down into the ground to reach enough moisture to produce fertile crops. Hopis also must surround each crop with a wall of rocks to protect against erosion and dust. The importance of understanding Hopi agriculture in context of the Oraibi split is to examine how much hard work surrounded the planting of crops; their farms were an exceedingly high source of pride for the Hopis, and when the US attempted to divide this land between Hopis, it instigated the hostiles into action. On the other side of the issue Hopis understandably wanted to see their crops survive to produce fruit, in this sense the friendlies saw the US as a political tool to restrain the Navajo from raiding their crops.

However, the hostiles saw this land division as a way of again separating their community, as farmland was shared between groups of Hopi. This may or may not have been intentionally done by the government to further create dissention among the Hopi. Regardless the suggestion and assessment of their land was enough to create yet again another conflict within the Hopis. This land dispute was useful for the hostiles though, as Chief Longmahoya was able to block the BIA’s attempts to divvy up the land, which led to Longmahoya gaining the respect of the Hopi hostiles.

Meanwhile Chief Lololoma started building his relationship with the west after he had seen Washington D.C. in person. Lololoma’s trip in 1880 resulted in the founding of the Keams Canyon school house. Lololoma was so impressed by the US education system that he opened the door to having schools built for the Hopis. The Hopi clan that Lololoma was chief of, Spider clan, saw this as an abuse of power, some Hopis questioned whether the Chief had the right to make such a dramatic change to the clan, and in essence throw away hundreds of years of Hopi tradition by integrating another culture into their youths. This prompted the hostiles Chief Longmahoya to react and split off to form another group challenging Lololoma’s ideas, thus creating the main opponent of Westernizing.

However, the BIA would not be the last US organization to attempt to organize Hopi land in a more Western style. In 1891 the US would attempt to divide Hopi land again, citing the Dawes Severalty Act of 1887 as its legitimacy to do so. This act gave the president the power to divide Native lands, however the Hopis did not recognize it. Surprisingly this time the friendlies decided to dispute this claim by the US. Chief Tewaquaptewa, another leader of the friendlies movement, advised against US allotment. These disputes over land had their roots in a long-standing famine the Hopis were experiencing, which made the allotment of cultivatable land that much more important.

Since the mid 1800’s the Hopi had been fighting off Navajos and implementing clever work arounds such as growing cotton. However, this was not enough to stave off hunger. Over the next sixty years Hopi tensions would be exacerbated by their lack of food. Friendlies saw the US as a hope of not only protecting their farming lands from raiding Navajo, but also as potential aid providers. The food shortage lasting over sixty years, gives credence to the idea that many Hopis were willing to integrate for food aid alone. However, the hostiles kept to their traditional ways, sticking with sacred dances and small scale subsidence farming. It is important to note that the Hopis in the 1890’s had grown population wise but had not kept up with that growth in terms of food cultivation. In the early years of the 20th century this no doubt had an impact on the willingness of traditional Hopis to hold out against US attempts to Westernize, whether for good or bad. Another serious blow for the livelihood of the Hopi at this time of new ideas and debate, was the uprising of a smallpox epidemic.

In 1898 small pox broke out in the first mesa villages. This only added to the overstressed situation in Hopi communities, and further served to split the Hopi between Westernizing and holding to tradition. Small pox has a well-known and devastating history within native American communities; because of this when the US offered Indian tribes such as the Navajo vaccines against it, they gladly accepted. However, because of the relatively recent distrust of the US within the Hopi community, many decided against US sponsored vaccines, many times out of spite for the government, other times because of a stronger connection with tradition. Most of the time those refusing vaccines were belonging to the hostiles camp. Friendlies however accepted these vaccines. By the end of the epidemic the death toll within the Hopi reached 187. This likely could have been reduced had the hostiles cooperated, yet the point of mentioning the small pox epidemic is to convey just how divided the Hopi were. Many Hopi were willing to die rather than Westernize, whether this is due to ignorance or spite is hard to say for sure, but given how other Hopi in the friendly camp realized that these vaccines were helping, it is safe to assume the majority of Hopi hostiles refused treatment based on moral and ideological reasoning, rather than through ignorance of the severity of the disease. It has also been well documented that these diseases were contained in large part to well-known traditional Hopi households. The US strategy for dealing with the outbreak further served to push the Hopi deeper into resentment, many times desecrating rituals in the name of saving lives.

The US decided that burning bodies, clothes and fumigating houses was the most effective way of dealing with the outbreak. The US, however, did not understand, or maybe did not care, that in Hopi tradition cremating bodies was a heinous act. Hopi also viewed the fumigation of their houses as defiling their dwellings and in many cases destroying their private property. Meanwhile the US treatment of those Hopi children in schools such as Keams Canyon, miles away from home, angered Hopi parents. Children were not allowed to have contact with their family and were quarantined within the school as well.

1887 was the year the first US school specifically for the Hopis was built. Located in Keams Canyon and constructed by James Gallaher, the school’s primary purpose was to separate the younger generations from their traditional Hopi roots. Evidence of this can be seen in the US reports concerning Arizonan Indians. While there was resistance from the Hopi parents of these children, many children were taken by the US to Keams Canyon school and it was deemed a success, paving the way for further construction of additional facilities. After Keams canyon a school in Polacca was established with the same goals. However, Polacca was a day school, which meant that it was significantly easier for Hopi children to see their parents regularly. Another school was slated for reconstruction as well. These schools were in various shapes of disrepair, some lacked only electricity, and for the time were modern, while others lacked sufficient space for students and clean water. Word of these conditions was for the most part contained; and though the state and curriculum of the schools were far from satisfactory, this information did not spread to the Hopi. Thus, the Hopis were uninformed about their children’s safety, it would be safe to assume that had this been revealed to the Hopi there would have been more hostiles in the mesas, and subsequently more Hopi deaths through vaccination refusals.

Another aspect of How the Hopi came to the Oraibi split comes from Hopi mythology and a term called diingaviDiingavi is translated to something akin to manipulation. In other words, diingavi is a long game of manipulation played out by the elites of society against their common folk. In the case of the Hopi it has been suggested that shamans and higher religious tribesmen planned for a Hopi split. According to Emory Sekaquaptewa, the Hopi were divined by god, through his agents on earth, the priests, to have a split. The purpose of this split was in cutting the chaff from Hopi tradition, in other words getting rid of all non-traditionalists and non-believers in order to create more solidarity within the traditional Hopi community. This story is seen by some Hopi as truth because the Oraibi split did, to some effect, change Hopi life back to one of tradition as far as the third mesa. Another reason this is popular among Hopi is because at the height of the discourse Chief Lololoma died and another Chief was ordained, Chief Tewaquaptewa. However, this Chief was not ordained properly according to the hostile Hopis, and gave further credence to the thought that corruption in the Hopi had reached a tipping point. However, diingavi has failed to produce any solid evidence of its existence in the three mesas at the time of the Oraibi split, the most significant factor of diingavi influence was the fact that many Hopis chose to believe in it, thus using the subtle concept of diingavi to give merit to their grievances.

The Hopis at 3rd mesa were not the only ones struggling for compromise. Hopi in the 1st and 2nd mesas were in conflict as well. The first mesa had a majority of friendly Hopi. The cause of this likely goes back to the early 1800’s when the US first met them on their way west. Having established a longer relationship as well as a lucrative trade route with the US nearly 50 years before the 3rd mesa, these Hopi were much more agreeable to Westernizing. However, this put the 1st mesa Hopi in a difficult position within the rest of the Hopi community, and they were not well liked due to their perceived Western ambitions. Meanwhile the 2nd mesa had the most number of hostiles. At the 2nd mesa Navajo police men were brought in by the government, most likely because they knew the 2nd mesa Hopi had a long-standing feud with the Navajo. From a logistical point the US did this to help govern the land more effectively, however, it was likely done as a way of antagonizing the 2nd mesa Hopi as well. Here is where perhaps the height of Hopi-US violence occurred. The 2nd mesa Hopi had retreated into a central building in town to avoid the US and Navajo forces taking their children to a Westernizing school. The Hopi here held out until the US forces began to dismantle the building. Eventually the US managed to disassemble the majority of the structure and found themselves facing Hopi with rifles, however the Hopi did not fire, and were instead apprehended though, not without a fight.

It is important to state that the Hopi were never opposed to education in general, in fact in the early years of proposed educational aid the Hopis welcomed the idea, however it was how the US went about distributing that education that turned Hopis away from the idea of sending their children to boarding schools. The US boarding schools had requirements such as cutting hair, dressing in western garb and speaking only in English. Another factor leading to a shift in the Hopis attitudes towards the US boarding schools was that attendance was mandatory, the US governments forced attendance program was the catalyst for the main Hopi resistance to the schools. Unbeknownst to the Hopi at the time, the hostiles concern that the US was indoctrinating their children had more truth to it than they thought. Many similar boarding schools were erected for use by the Kiowa and Comanche. In addition to that, Thomas Morgan, the commissioner of the BIA, is quoted as saying, “Indians are not only becoming Americanized, but they are by this process of education gradually being absorbed, losing their identity as Indians, and becoming an indistinguishable part of the great body politic.” This shows a clear agenda by the BIA to use these boarding schools as a means of ridding the Hopis, and other, peoples of their Native American culture. This is supported by the BIA’s official reports stating similar rhetoric such as cutting Hopis’ hair that bound them to their savagery.

The BIA was not entirely unified behind this notion though, and their motives may not have been as sinister as they appear on paper. Many within the BIA believed that founding these schools was the only way to save the Hopis from becoming obsolete in a modern US society. Some saw US expansion into Native areas as an inevitability, and therefore they needed to prepare the next generation of Hopis to better deal with a more modernized society, lest they fall behind, in other words the BIA may have been harsh in their methods and morally bankrupt but they did have a reasoning behind their actions that was not one of pure malice. As Richard Pratt, the founder of some of the first boarding schools puts it, “Kill the Indian and save the man.” While a somewhat crude sentiment and certainly one lacking any empathy or understanding for Native cultures, the goal was to uplift the Hopis to become productive members in a society that was heading full on into their territory whether they welcomed it or not.

Attendance of these schools only added more hardship to the Hopis during their harvesting seasons, with many young and adolescent men being sent away to either boarding schools or for the majority of the working hours of the day, at day schools. There was a shortage of Hopis that were physically capable of tending to agriculture as well as other jobs that kept village life sustainable. This also affected the women of the Hopis as well, many young women were also forced into these schools leaving many of the cooking responsibilities to just a handful of capable women in the villages. Other occupations suffered as well including basket weaving and sewing/clothing.

However, this reduction in the Hopis available workforce was seen by the BIA as necessary growing pains as the curriculum of the day, and boarding schools, included education about maximizing food production. In larger schools, such as the Sherman Institute, the faculty taught the Hopis a way of farming that was proven in the European world, the goal being to make farms more individualized as well as more productive. Schools taught that a few farmers with greater knowledge of farming technique was more effective than the Hopi way of having communal farms. This curriculum was supplemented by training in machinery as well, albeit mainly focusing on smaller scale machinery, as the Hopis did not have large farming equipment. These programs proved to be a success mainly because the BIA was supplementing an already learned peoples on the matter of agriculture, that is to say many Hopis had been farming for life and had a firm grasp of the basics of non-industrialized farming already. The Hopis also showed more promise than other Native tribes as well because of their history of farming in juxtaposition with the surrounding Natives, like the Navajo, whom focused on hunting and raiding for their sustenance

The thoughts of the children that were enrolled in US schools are surprisingly diverse. While a handful detested the US school system, many Hopi children actually enjoyed their time in the US institutions. Some children even requested to be sent back, however these requests were declined en masse by their parents. These requests likely stemmed from the idea that they, the Hopi children, thought that they had not lost their culture during their stay at school. This sentiment waned for many of the children once they settled back into Hopi village life, however there were those adolescents that could not integrate back into simple village life after learning about western history and machinery, among other things that the Hopi teachers knew little about. In this way, the hostiles fears were confirmed, their children had not only been influenced by the US, their children yearned to become even more distanced from their Hopi traditions.

Agents of the BIA cite in their reports of the cooperativeness of the Hopi children and that aside from some initial runaways that were always captured, the Hopis were attending regularly. However, these reports do not mention government interdiction in the form of brute force. In 1890 and 91, in order to combat the hostiles refusal to send their children to US schools the US sent in forces to enforce attendance, these filled the role of the truancy officers mentioned earlier. These years would not be the last time the US would have to send in forces however and this constant show of force indicated that the BIA’s reports, while being factually correct, tactfully omit the real struggle going on between ideologies and fail to mention how adamant both sides were about enforcing their respective cultures on the Hopi children. In this sense the children had become the soldiers in an ideological battle between the Hopi and the US.

The hostiles eventually lost the power struggle with the decades long discussion ending with a challenge from Chief Yokieoma. He told the friendlies chief that, should he be able to push him over a line in the sand, then he would depart and settle elsewhere with the rest of the hostiles. The friendly chief pushed him over the line and the hostiles left. This challenge appears to be a way of admitting defeat as the hostiles chief likely knew he could be pushed over a line. In this way, he ended the argument that had divided his people for so long. Years later the hostiles would return to old Oraibi in hopes of reintegrating. The reintegration failed however and the hostiles returned to Hotevilla. Other Hopi that came from the 1st and 2nd mesas would eventually settle nearby and converge the two villages into one larger town, Hotevilla-Bacavi.

Although Chief Tewaquaptewa thought he was acting in the interests of the US at the time by exiling the hostiles, the US saw this as a burden. The US now had to enforce school attendance on a completely hostile group which would prove even more difficult than having to operate in villages where the sentiment was split on school attendance. Because of this the US rescinded his status as chieftain and threatened Tewaquaptewa with a prison sentence unless he himself attended a US school.  However, Tewaquaptewa proved himself to be a relatively fast learner and returned to his village with knowledge of mathematics and a better understanding of agriculture. As for the hostiles that left the village, the US sent marshals to the exiled hostile village of Hotevilla and arrested Yokieoma deeming it necessary to cut the leadership away from the hostiles movement, however they left Longmahoya alone.

Throughout my research, I encountered many analyses of specific aspects of the Oraibi Split. Some researchers choose to focus on one impact such as farming or education. Some of the content researched was inclusive of other aspects, one such article, written by Peter Whiteley, Bacavi: Journey to Reed Springs, contained a diverse examination of many aspects of Hopi culture, agriculture and anxieties, yet did not include the more nuanced aspects such as the diingavi. It has been my aim to show that all of these concepts, large and small, led to an exhausted Hopi and the decision to impose exile on the hostiles. While it is true the larger events, those being the dividing of farmland, the enforcement of attendance and mistreatment by the US are all directly related to the splitting of Hopi society; it is important to analyze the background aspects as well. Those being the decades of starvation the Hopis endured, the smallpox epidemic and lastly beliefs like the diingavi.

In conclusion, The Oraibi Split cannot be attributed to any one event, but a long series of debates, ideals, events and anxieties. These began with the Hopis neighborly disputes with the Navajo encroaching on their farmlands, opening up the door for the US to come in and regulate and protect Hopi land. Thus, began the ideological debate over accepting US aid. While this debate occurred Chief Lololoma decided to invite the US in to Keams canyon to build a boarding school for the Hopi, igniting the tensions between hostile Hopis and the friendlies. All the while these debates were going on in the midst of a Hopi food crisis and smallpox epidemic. One can infer that by 1906 many Hopis were simply exhausted with this debate, leading Yokieoma to concede defeat in a way that suggests voluntary exile. It is necessary to acknowledge all of these factors, even the more abstract ones such as diingavi, in order to obtain a better view of the Oraibi Split.

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