Saturday, April 14, 2007

First Mesa (Part 2: Walpi)

"Picturesque Walpi, perched on the point of a rocky island in a sea of sand, is an irregular, rambling community-house, built without design, added to in haphazard fashion as need arose; yet it constitutes a perfectly satisfying artistic whole."
Edward S. Curtis, The North American Indian (1907)

Approach to Walpi a century ago. It looks much the same today.

Walpi is the oldest village on First Mesa. It was established in 1690 when a Hopi village at the foot of the mesa was abandoned out of fear of Spanish reprisals for the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. Terraced onto a narrow rock table, Walpi is the most pristine and enchanting of the Hopi villages. (Oraibi [N35.87613 W110.63957], on Third Mesa, is older--going back to around 1100.)

This is a living village, not an abandoned ruin. But these days only a handful of elderly people stay here year-round. Because there is no electricity or running water in Walpi, residents now walk a few dozen yards to neighboring Sichomovi for bathing. In former times women hauled water up to the mesa from the plain below. There are no visible signs of commerce here, or any activity whatsover save the few villagers offering handmade kachina dolls or pottery for sale and the dogs that eagerly joined our tour.

Walpi street scene

Views from the windswept mesa are awesome. Stairways cut into the side of the rock lead to agricultural fields and cow pasture on the plain below. The constant going up and down, often with heavy loads, must have kept the Hopi in excellent shape in the past. Now, our guide said, "You can always recognize a Hopi because we are short ... and chubby!"

The impression I received of the Hopi was of a generous and peaceful people. All the people we met were extremely courteous and welcoming. They asked only that we respect their traditions and not take photographs. Photos shown here were taken by Edward S. Curtis in 1906. Northwestern University Library, Edward S. Curtis's "The North American Indian," 2003.



























Left: Stairway leading down from the mesa. Right: Young Hopi women

The plaza at Walpi



N35.83312 W110.39735
Next: Part 3 (Hopi Culture)

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Keith:

You should see THE INDIAN PICTRUE OPERA, a film about ES Curtis. Based on his lecture and slide show of 1911. Awesome.

Search for it on Amazon on DVD.

--Jay

keith said...

Thanks for the suggestion Jay. It does indeed look very interesting.

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