The Hopi (Uto-Aztecan) and Hano (Tewa)

adapted from Edward Dozier's The Hano (1966)

Indian ethnographies like this one demonstrate that tribal cultures were not isolated, nor static, but responded creatively for survival with borrowings and adaptations when dealing with encounters and coresidency with other cultural groups.  Note that Cabeza de Vaca travelled into the Pueblo culture area..

The people ancestral to pueblo peoples of the American Southwest occupied that area for centuries before contact with Europeans. Around 700 to 800 CE corn cultivation began, and around 1100 CE underground ceremonial pits called kivas were in use, accessed via ladders. In these sacred precincts, regalia for masked dance performances were kept, and costumed dancers called katchinas would emerge from the kivas to perform in the town plazas.

Three distinctive aspects of Southwest "pueblo peoples is their a) housing in multistoried and clustered houses with hundreds of rooms, made of masonry and adobe (hence term "pueblo" or town), b) intensive agriculture, often with irrigation; and c) their elaborate ceremonial life focused on rain and fertility.

The Hopi of Arizona are renowned for the beauty of their dance movements and costuming in elaborate ceremonials to induce the universe to put forth its abundance. The Hopi, says Edward Dozier (1/2 Tewa), “turn to magic” in ceremonies to promote rain because their life on the Mesas in Arizona is precarious. There are springs at the base of the mesas, but they have to rely on dry farming methods. If rainfall is sparse, the hedge against starvation is social storage: storing surplus corn from good years to cover shortfalls in years of poor yield.

Dances are held in a central courtyard or plaza, with one Hopi village on each mesa being a ceremonial center for that mesa. This ceremonial village has this preemince because of its peoples were the first to migrate and settle in that locale. One household in each clan was the keeper of ceremonical lore and ritual parphenalia. 

The extended matrilineal household was the basic unit. Above the household unit was the lineage, and then several lineages composed a clan.  (Map of clan distribution at Zia pueblo.) Clans were land-owning units and were exogamous.  Two kivas per village rule suggested that the clans of the villages were divided into moieties representing summer and winter economic activities (farming/hunting) and associated seasonal ceremonial activities.

Speaking a different language than the Hopi, the Hano (part of the larger Tewa peoples) maintain group identiy and pride as an “island in the midst of generalized Hopi culture” with a town on first Mesa (see map above). The Hano were a strong and numerous people at the time of first contact with Spanish colonizers in the American Southwest in the mid-16th century with perhaps 10,000 people.  An early Spanish report noted they lived in densely-packed villages (pueblos) with houses of 2, 3, and 4 stories, growing maize, beans, cotton, gourds, and tobacco in large quantities using irrigation ditches.  Women and men dressed neatly in cotton and leather clothing, and shoes. They were neatly groomed and had orderly communities with leaders called caciques and policemen to execute orders and well-built underground, ceremonial chambers (kivas).


The Tewa home territory in the vicinity of Santa Fe was most strongly impacted by Spanish colonizers, who made big demands for labor and tribute and at the same time tried to repress their religious practices. The Tewa were very active participants in the pan-Pueblo revolt of 1680, and in 1696, facing further conflict with the Spanish, the Hano-Tewas moved to Hopi country. Oral traditions indicate the Hopi invited the militarily-skilled Hopi-Tewa to live adjacent to them to help fend off nomadic Ute raiders.

       Since that time, the Hano Tewa have lived on 1st Mesa with Hopis but they have maintained their own identity, even though they have intermarried and borrowed culturally from the Hopi. How is it that three hundred years later (!), a small migrant population has not been assimilated into the dominant Hopi peoples?  Because the Tewa felt the Hopi betrayed them and didn’t honor their promises: the Tewas cursed the Hopi saying they sealed knowledge of their language, ceremony, and way of life from Hopi. “[But] we will learn yours.” (18) Generation after generation, the curse is related constantly to children to enhance their self-esteem as a minority population (19).  Matrilineal and matrilocal marriage patterns are a key to the social-cultural continuity as a separate people.  Hano women own the lands and the houses. When a man marries, he lives with his wife her clan, and the children born are the mother’s clan.


The Hopi, who speak a dialect of the Uto-Aztecan language, while the Hano-Tewa are of the Tanoan linguistic group. The Hopi prioritize village identity over clan identity, while the Hano privilege clan identity.  To the Hopi, warfare was uncouth and barbaric, hence their enlistment as the Hano as mercenaries.  Hopis shunned outsiders, while Hano willingly took on the role as interpreters and spokespersons in dealings with the Americans.  The Hano allowed their children to go to school and accepted instruction in cattle-raising and prospered.  Nampeyo, a Hano woman, studied the pottery shards (1000 year history) and revived pottery arts.


See also the Zuni of New Mexico for another example of Pueblo cultural variation.