Hopi At Crossroads Of Their Traditional Way Of Life
By Kathy Helms
WINDOW ROCK – Sipaulavi Village Traditional Leader Gerald Numkena says Hopis are at the crossroads of maintaining or losing their traditional way of life. He has refused to certify any Council representatives and has issued a directive stating that the village no longer will participate on the Hopi Tribal Council.
With the vote on Hopi Constitution Draft 24A little more than a month away, battle lines are being drawn between progressive and traditional Hopis. In a Nov. 18 letter to Council representatives, Numkena admonished them for their “continued gross and deliberate violations of your constitution.”
He said some members of Council have tried to conform with the mandates of the constitution but are overruled by the majority. “Mr. Alph Secakuku, Mr. George Mase and Mr. Cedrick Kuwaninvaya continue to be illegally on Council and must be removed immediately ...,” he said.
According to a press release from the Chairman's Office, however, on Dec. 1, Lorena Charles, clan mother of the Bear Clan, presented and certified the representatives, which were sworn in by Chairman LeRoy Shingotewa.
Dennis Koeyahongva, spokesman for Numkena, said they have had a lot of problems with the Tribal Council. “I think the basic point of the matter, and our whole problem, is the separation of state and religion.” Koeyahongva said that in his opinion, they implemented the constitution prematurely back in 2008 when the Village of Sipaulavi used the election process to place Charles, a woman, in a leadership role.
“We don't have that in our tribe. To me it was a total destruction of our way of life as Hopis. We're from the Bear Clan and we're the village leaders; but a male is the one to hold that position. A woman is not to hold that through Hopi common law. They did that because we would not succumb to what they wanted to do as far as seating representatives on the Council,” he said.
Koeyahongva said that Hopi politics and the revised constitution are destroying the unity and reverence and serenity in religious places such as the kiva. “It's affected everything that we are as Hopi. ... As I understand it, we are supposedly the stewards of this place. Well, how can you be stewards if you're destroying things?
“Even on TV they have the History Channel where they talk about the days of end, and they mention Hopi. Obviously we have our link to 2012 and what's going to happen. In my opinion, we're hurrying this process along by what we're doing as Hopis, which we shouldn't. We should be enhancing life. I thought that's what Hopi was all about. What happened to the friendly and peaceful Hopi? We've deviated from that to this point,” Koeyahongva said.
Numkena said that in 1934, the U.S. government passed a law called the Indian Reorganization Act and soon after wrote constitutions for non-treaty tribes to adopt. “Our history tells us most Hopis resisted this new foreign government.” Some of the traditional authorities were incorporated into the Hopi constitution to influence their acceptance of it, including an acknowledgment that autonomous, self-governing Hopi villages would be allowed to continue under the traditional form of government.
“We were told by our elders that we would be the last tribe to hold on to our traditions,” Numkena said. “If we choose to hold on to our traditions, ceremonies, and Hopi way of life, we will stand for the sovereignty of all Native people. We have much to lose to deviate from our own way of life and village governance.”
Numkena said that ever since he inherited the role of “Village Traditional Leader,” soon after the passing of his late uncle, Perry Honani, he has faced opposition and challenges.
“Most of you know the village leadership has always belonged to the Bear Clan. It has always been our sole responsibility to determine the appointment of this position,” he said, adding that a male member of the Bear Clan has always held that position since it includes sacred ceremonial responsibilities. “I will now again inform you I hold this position and will act according to the authorities vested in my position as the Sipaulavi Village Leader.”
Though Numkena had requested that his letter to village members be read into the record at Council, his secretary, Monica Kahe, said there was objection from the three representatives.
“The second letter contained details about their village no longer participating on Tribal Council because of all this dissension that's been going on in the Tribal Council, so it was Gerald's decision to pull out the representatives until further time when it was his choice to put them back in or just remain out, such as the Village of Shungopav
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