Hopi Mission Service Trip

Regardless of our intentions, we haven’t blogged at all this week. That’s partly due to exhaustion but also the result of the faulty internet connection around here. Our apologies.Despite the worst sandstorm that the area has seen in a long while, we were able to start working bright and early Monday morning on our project: the new volunteer center. Finishing this building is the last in a long string of construction projects for the Hopi Mission School, including a duplex for the school’s teachers and a large gym. One of our main jobs was to prime and put two coats of paint on the exterior of the building, and the other was laying tile in the interior. While these jobs are pretty run-of-the-mill as far as construction goes, the rest of our experience has been anything but familiar. One of the biggest things I have been mulling over is how different the whole feel of the trip has been. Several times I have gotten the impression that we are in an entirely different country, and in many ways we are. Kykotsmovi is in the heart of the Hopi Reservation, which is surrounded by various other reservation lands. The geography is a change from that in Kansas: rocky mesas, sandy earth, and brush and tumbleweeds galore. But not only is the geography physically different, but the part that the land plays in relation to the culture is also significant. The Hopi people are deeply connected to the land. We are not allowed to take pictures in many places and were sternly warned not to stray from the roads and certainly not from the school campus for fear that we tread on sacred ground. Seeing the ancient villages and towns, some of which have been continuously inhabited for centuries, it is easy to feel the history and experience some of what we learned about all those years ago in elementary school units on the Native Americans. For the Hopi, the land is their home, oftentimes their livelihood, and connects them to their ancestors. We’ve learned some about the workings of the Hopi culture, and it continues to fascinate me. The more I know, the more I don’t understand. The Hopi religion of Kachina is still widely practiced on the reservation today, and many other Christian churches are scattered throughout as well. I have trouble reconciling my desire for the Hopi people to be given the right to practice their religion as they please with my own belief in Christ and the desire to spread His message. So many atrocities have been committed against the Hopi (and other Native Americans) throughout history that it seems that compensation is warranted and we should just stop trying to intervene. The Hopi are well aware of what the influences from the outside do to the preservation of their culture. Only Hopi people can own property on the reservation, and what I’ve perceived is that dealings with white people are guarded and limited mainly to touristic interactions. It was a bit of a disappointment not to chat with locals and to ask questions of those who know the culture best. Meeting people and building relationships is important, especially across cultures. However, the projects that have been completed will not go unnoticed and hopefully will serve to slowly build favorable relationships with the Hopi people and still maintain the integrity of the people and their ancient culture. -Rachel Voran