The Hopi Indians are among the best known of all western Indians. They are famous for their terraced houses, picturesque costumes and pottery. They are also famous for their Snake Dance.
The Snake Dance is a ritualistic ceremony which is said to induce the powers above to give rain and good crops to the Hopi. How the Hopi Indians can handle rattlesnakes has always been a mystery. Without harming themselves, the Hopi Indians are able to hold onto rattlesnakes and dance. Hopi Indians dance with the rattlesnakes in their mouths. The Snake Dance attracts many tourists. While the dance is rather long and complicated, it does not deter the whites from staying and watching.
It takes at least nine day to carry through the program of the Snake Dance. Priests spend up to five days gathering the snakes. The snakes are kept in pots and alters are made. On the last day of the ceremony, the snakes are taken out of their jars and bathed. After they have dried, they are taken into the villages where dancers dance with the snakes in their mouth. Once the dance ritual is over, the priests sprinkle the snakes with corn meal and release the snakes. The Hopi believe the snake will return to the gods and report that they were treated well. The gods will then give the Hopi Indians the rain they need for a good crop.
At this time, there are six Hopi villages in Arizona. Walpi and Oraibi are the most popular. A favorite item to purchase from the Hopi Indians is wooden dolls called kachinas. These wooden dolls have masked faces and are dressed in colorful clothing. kachina is the Hopi name for particular gods who the Hopi believe live in a mysterious country. During ceremonies, the Hopi believe that the kachinas visit the village as spirits disguised as masked dancers.
Joseph Paige © 2006