The Unwritten Literature of the Hopi eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 108 pages of information about The Unwritten Literature of the Hopi.

The mere fireside tale of the primitive may be a narrative, true or imaginary, or a sort of fairy story, a fable or a parable, intended mainly for the edification of the young and obviously pointing a moral or emphasizing some useful truth or precept.  And here we do recognize symbolism, much in the nature of historical record.  But the special class of stories regarded by the primitive as sacred, his sacred myths, are embodied in ritual, morals, and social organization, and form an integral and active part of primitive culture.  These relate back to best known precedent, to primeval reality, by which pattern the affairs of men have ever since been guided, and which constitute the only “safe path.”

Malinowski[3] stoutly maintains that these stories concerning the origins of rites and customs are not told in mere explanation of them; in fact, he insists they are not intended as explanations at all, but that the myth states a precedent which constitutes an ideal and a warrant for its continuance, and sometimes furnishes practical directions for the procedure.  He feels that those who consider the myths of the savage as mere crude stories made up to explain natural phenomena, or as historical records true or untrue, have made a mistake in taking these myths out of their life-context and studying them from what they look like on paper, and not from what they do in life.

[Footnote 3:  Malinowski, B., Myth in Primitive Psychology:  M.W.  Norton & Co., Inc., New York, 1926, p. 19.]

Since Malinowski’s definition of myth differs radically from that of many other writers on the subject, we would refer the reader to the discussion of myth under the head of Social Anthropology in the Encyclopedia Britannica, Fourteenth Edition, page 869.


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=Their Country—­The People=

The Hopi Indians live in northern Arizona about one hundred miles northeast of Flagstaff, seventy miles north of Winslow, and seventy-five miles north of Holbrook.

For at least eight hundred years the Hopi pueblos have occupied the southern points of three fingers of Black Mesa, the outstanding physical feature of the country, commonly referred to as First, Second, and Third Mesas.

It is evident that in late prehistoric times several large villages were located at the foot of First and Second Mesas, but at present, except for two small settlements around trading posts, the villages are all on top of the mesas.  On the First Mesa we find Walpi, Sichomovi, and Hano, the latter not Hopi but a Tewa village built about 1700 by immigrants from the Rio Grande Valley, and at the foot of this mesa the modern village of Polacca with its government school and trading post.  On Second Mesa are Mashongnovi, Shipaulovi, and Shungopovi, with Toreva Day School at its foot.  On Third Mesa Oraibi, Hotavilla, and Bacabi are found, with a government school and a trading post at Lower Oraibi and another school at Bacabi.  Moencopi, an offshoot from Old Oraibi, is near Tuba City.

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The Unwritten Literature of the Hopi from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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