Hopi legend tells how tribal ancestors climbed up through three cave worlds along with all the animals. They were helped by two Spirit Masters who were brothers. After time spent in each chamber of the underworld, the people and animals ﬁnally emerged from the Grand Canyon into a fourth world, which was the Earth. But darkness blanketed all the land. And the land was wet. The people met with different animals to try to bring light to the world. Spider spun a ball of pure white silk to make the Moon. The people bleached a deerskin and shaped it into a shield, which became the Sun. Coyote opened a jar he had found in one of the cave worlds. Sparks ﬂew out of it, turned his face black, then ﬂew into the sky and became stars. Then Vulture ﬂapped his wings and made the water ﬂow away, forming dry land. The Spirit Masters helped the water ﬂow by forming grooves in the earth, which became the valleys. Different clans then formed with various animal names and traveled to many different locations before ﬁnally settling in their permanent homes.
The above is one of many different Native American creation myths. Although mythological, the story contains many elements relating to the history and culture of the Hopi. For example, as the legend indicates, Hopi ancestors migrated from various locations to form the tribe. They settled near the Grand Canyon. They lived in arid desert country, depending on natural springs to water their crops. Both guardian spirits and animals played an important part in their elaborate religion. Underground chambers, called kivas, were considered as the doorway to the underworld and were used for ceremonies. The legend also shows how the Hopi were a cooperative and peaceful people, willing to work with others to make their life better.
In fact, the Hopi name, pronounced HO-pee, is a shortening of their word Hopituh, meaning “peaceful ones.” These people were formerly called the Moki (or Moqui) Indians, probably a name given to them by another tribe.
The Hopi were the westernmost of the PUEBLO INDIANS, classiﬁed with them in the Southwest Culture Area. They are the only Pueblo peoples to speak a dialect of the Uto-Aztecan language family. Yet like other Pueblo Indians, they were probably descended from Anasazi peoples, earlier inhabitants of the Southwest.
The Hopi occupied different village sites on what they called the First Mesa, Second Mesa, and Third Mesa, all part of a still-larger rocky formation called Black Mesa. Oraibi, like Acoma of the KERES and Taos of the TIWA, is one of the oldest continually inhabited villages in North America. These tablelands of Hopiland, overlooking dry valleys, were carved by erosion out of the enormous Colorado Plateau situated between the Colorado River and the Rio Grande. The Hopi homeland has since become part of northeastern Arizona in the center of NAVAJO lands.
The Hopi are famous for their religious, intellectual, and peaceful worldview. They called their approach to life the Hopi Way. The Hopi Way refers to varying aspects of existence as a whole, including religious beliefs, the relationship to nature, behavior toward other people, craftsmanship, and survival.