What’s In A Hopi Name? Understanding Hopi Culture, Society, and Philosophy
Where: The Explorers Club
46 E. 70th St.
212-628-8383 Price: $25
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Public Lecture Series with Peter Whiteley
Hopi personal names constitute a literary genre in their own right. Each proper name is given to a person by a member of their father’s or god-parent’s matrilineal clan – never from the person’s own clan. The name therefore instantiates the clan ties and relationship to the natural environment. For example, the name Sikyakwaptiwa – literally, “yellowness placed above” – images the appearance of yellow dawn, a discrete phase of sunrise in Hopi thought, as brought forth by the actions of a yellow fox. The Fox clan is metaphorically connected with the yellow dawn, and this is marked in certain ceremonies by tying a fox tail to the kiva ladder. Another name, Lomayayva – literally, “beautifully arrived” – is a name conferred by a member of the Badger clan (which owns the spiritual beings Hopis refer to as Kachinas), who memorialized a ceremony in which a large number of festively adorned kachinas arrives into the village from the valley below. Inscribed onto the person of the recipient, the name thus marks out clan iconography and ritual entitlements on a “child” of that clan, who is, however, a member of another clan (Sikyakwaptiwa was a poetically crafted name given to a member of the Badger clan; Lomayayva was given to a member of the Bear clan).
Hopi place names can be equally compact in their denotations and connotations. For example, Kakstintuyqa, “Many Kachinas Point,” memorializes the Franciscan period in the 17th century, when Hopis were prevented from conducting traditional religion. Kaktsintuyqa is thirty miles south of Oraibi, and sufficiently removed from the Hopi mesas for traditionists to take their ceremonies away from the watchful eyes of the priests (during the Spanish Inquisition period). Another name, Pikya’ingwtsomo, “stone-axe hill,” memorializes a long-passed practice when Hopi made stone-axes from preferred material at this particular site. Yovwutrukwanpi, “scalp-tanning place,” shows that Hopis in the past engaged in a practice that is anathema to their reputation as “the people of peace.” In these and so many other ways, Hopi place names record and express messages of historical and cultural value.
Hopi names thus provide a wealth of understanding for different aspects of Hopi culture, philosophy, history, natural history, and aesthetics. This lecture seeks to approach the richness of Hopi thought by elucidating some names and naming practices.
Peter M. Whiteley is Curator of North American Ethnology at the American Museum of Natural History. He holds a B.A. and M.A. in Archaeology and Anthropology from Cambridge University, and M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of New Mexico. His work as an ethnographer and ethnohistorian focuses on the Hopi of Third Mesa, where he has conducted three years’ fieldwork since 1980. His principal publications include Deliberate Acts: Changing Hopi Culture through the Oraibi Split (1988 University of Arizona Press), Rethinking Hopi Ethnography (1998: Smithsonian Institution Press), The Orayvi Split: A Hopi Transformation (2008, Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History), and a volume co-edited with Thomas Trautmann, Crow-Omaha: New Light on a Classic Problem of Kinship Analysis (2012, University of Arizona Press). He is currently editing Puebloan Societies: Homology and Heterogeneity in Time and Space (advanced seminar volume, in press, School for Advanced Research Press). He has also conducted ethnographic research with the Hupa, Cayuga, several Rio Grande Pueblos, Akwesasne Mohawk, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Skagit, and over the last several years, his museum work on the Northwest Coast Hall has entailed multiple field trips to Native communities in the Pacific Northwest. He has received several honors, including the Robert F. Heizer Prize for best essay in ethnohistory for his paper Bartering Pahos with the President.Buy tickets/get more info now