Hopi Tribal Council and Local Government




This unit traces the history of the Hopi Tribal Council and examines the functions of the various branches of the organization. The teacher may also explain the significance of the contemporary Hopi Tribal Council to the students and compare with Navajo Nation government. If Navajo students are in your class, these activities may be adapted so they research the Navajo Nation infrastructure.




      To understand the evolution of the Hopi Tribal Council and its role in the

      Hopi government.

      To encourage students to compare and contrast the role of the Hopi Tribal Council with that of the village administration.

      To comprehend the dissensions between the Hopi Tribal Council and the Traditionalists.



Grade Level/Subject Area



      Arizona/Hopi History

      U.S. History, Government




      Student Handouts for each activity.

      Hopi Constitution and By-Laws1936 - NAU Special Collections and Archives.

      Sample organizational charts (examples can be found on many different websites including the United States Senate, Department of Justice, and the United Nations).

      Poster paper (can be butcher paper, poster board or construction paper anything that works for illustrations).

      Sample political cartoons.

      Recent editions of the Hopi-Navajo Observer, Arizona Daily Sun or appropriate web page print outs dealing with local issues (ex: bio-diesel fuel project).

      Information on the Navajo government, particularly if Navajo students are in your class: http://www.navajo-nsn.gov/

      Navajo Nation Treaty of 1868:

Typescript copy.






2-3 weeks




The Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 endorsed the formation of a tribal form of government for the Hopis on June 18, 1934. This system of government has its foundation in the Hopi Tribal Council.


Meanwhile, Hopis have always had a traditional form of village administration, which includes a leader/ kikmongwi from a specific clan. Each village has had its own social, religious, and political organizations. Nevertheless, there have been significant structural similarities between many villages. While some Hopi supported the creation of the new administrative system, there was also considerable opposition to its establishment. The resistance to the new tribal council and constitution can be traced to the Hopi refusal to adopt the white mans political system, and the lack of formal governments in the Hopi culture. Yet, the Hopi Tribal Council was superimposed over the traditional village system of administration.


The Hopi Tribal Council adopted its constitution in 1936, and it has been recognized as the Constitution and By-laws of the Hopi Tribe. The Hopi and Tewa villages agreed the challenge of working together, protecting the good aspects of Hopi life, promoting peace, and finding methods of resolving problems with the United States government as well as with the outside world. The Hopi Tribal Council also delineated the conditions that govern membership in the Hopi tribe. The council officers in the Tribal Council represent their respective villages. Their duties include attending regular meetings, acting on legislative proposals, and making laws for the Hopi tribe.


At present, the Hopi tribal government constitutes three branches: the legislative, the executive, and the judiciary branches. The legislative branch makes tribal laws, decrees and policies and supervises the administration of tribal business. The executive branch enforces and executes the Hopi Tribal Councils legislations and policies. The judicial branch elucidates and implements laws and regulations authorized by the Hopi Tribal Council.


It is important to remember that Navajo students may be part of the Hopi classroom. Include discussion and comparisons to the Navajo forms of governing.




  1. Have students talk to family members and relatives and gather information and stories about the establishment of the Hopi Tribal Council.


  1. Students can also talk to kikmongwis and elders to learn more about the village system of administration.



Activity 1: Hopi Tribal Council Illustration


  1. Discuss with students the Hopi Tribal Council.


  • What do you know about the Hopi Tribal Council? How and why is it significant for the Hopi people? Do you know anyone who is a member of the Council?


  • What does traditional mean to you? What does progressive mean to you?



  • What role did village administration system play in the pre-Council era? What were its functions?


  • What were some of the important reasons why the traditionalists resisted the Hopi Tribal Council?


  1. Assign students in pairs so they may work together (optional).


  1. Give each team the following:


Student Handout




    • Be sure to include the offices of Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Tribal Secretary and Tribal Treasurer.


    • Create your chart of the Hopi Tribal Council using whatever shapes and colors you wish.


    • Create a caption that BRIEFLY explains (one sentence) the job of each office.


    • Each group will present their poster to the class.


  1. Display the student posters around the classroom.




Activity 2: Satire and Cartoons


  1. Begin the class with current events discussion, using a current political cartoon found in most daily newspapers or the following websites:


The Arizona Republic








  1. Student Handout: Political Cartoon


    • Create political cartoons pertaining to the kikmongwi system or the Hopi Tribal Council. Read through local newspapers and web sites to get a good understanding of an issue.


    • Draw a political cartoon on the local issue, showing the roles or viewpoints of the tribal council or kikmongwi.


    • Present your cartoon to the class


4. Display the cartoons around the classroom.



Questions for oral or written discussion during any part of this unit:


  1. Based on your findings of the kikmongwi system and the Hopi Tribal Council, would you categorize all those who opposed the Hopi Tribal Council as traditionalists and those who supported it as progressives? Why or why not?
  2. Were there other groups of people who neither supported the village administration nor the Hopi Tribal Council? If yes, what were their reasons for non-involvement in both?
  3. What is your opinion of the establishment of the Hopi Tribal Council? How significant is it for the Hopis in the contemporary period?
  4. Do you believe that it was necessary to superimpose the Hopi Tribal Council over the village administration system? Why or why not?
  5. Has the establishment of the Hopi Tribal Council affected the Hopi way of life in

significant ways? If yes, in what ways has it impacted the Hopis?

  1. Compare and contrast the decision-making methods of the village administration system with those of the Hopi Tribal Council.
  2. Compare and contrast the structure of the Hopi Tribal Council with that of the federal government.
  3. How have more traditional ways been incorporated into the new Council?




1.                  How similar and different were the functions of the Hopi Tribal council in the past compared to the present? Would you consider the present institution an improvement over the past organization? Why?


2.                  Write an essay describing the relationship between the village administration system and the Hopi Tribal Council using appropriate evidence to support your answer.




      Field Trip: Arrange for students to visit a Tribal Council meeting.


      Student Interviews: One group will interview a few elders on the evolution of the village administration system, its advantages and significance. The other group will interview some tribal council members about the various branches, councils and offices of the Hopi Tribal Council and their functions. Ask students of the two groups to share and discuss the results of their projects in class.


      Class Speakers: Invite Elders and Tribal Council members to your class. Ask them to give talks to students about the role of kikmongwis and the Hopi Tribal Council.


      Mock Council: Have students set up a mock tribal council meeting. They could research, discuss and vote on a contemporary controversial issue, such as gaming or the cell phone tower.


      Debate: Have the students form two groups and debate about the advantages of the village administration system over the Hopi Tribal Council, and vice-versa. This activity will help them to reinforce what they learned through interviews and other activities in class and to analyze issues from a critical perspective.




      In response to question three, the class will be able to list the two main reasons for resistance against the new tribal council and constitution, specifically, the Hopi refusal to adopt the white mans political system and the lack of formal governments in the Hopi culture.


      In response to question eight, the class will be able to describe at least two ways in which the establishment of the Hopi Tribal Council affected the Hopis, specifically the imposition of the western model of political system on the Hopi culture, and the complete subjugation of Hopis to the western rule.


      In response to activities one and two, the students will be in a position to advance clear and strong arguments in favor of the village administration system over the Hopi Tribal Council, and vice-versa. If the class is able to actively participate in this debate, then it can be inferred that students have understood the history of the Hopi Tribal Council, and they have gleaned the necessary information from the interview projects, and the talks of the Elders and Hopi Tribal Council members.


      In response to activity three, students will be able to clearly identify contemporary controversial issues, analyze them critically, and imitate the functions of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the Hopi Tribal Council.


      In response to closing activity two, the students will be able to write an essay describing the relationship between the village administration system and the Hopi Tribal Council making use of relevant information gathered through in-class debates and discussions, guest talks, and interview and research projects.



Constitution and By-Laws of the Hopi Tribe: Arizona. Arizona: Department of the Interior, 1936.


Eds. Spicer, Edward H. & Thompson, Raymond H. Plural Society in the Southwest. New York: The Weatherhead Foundation, 1972.


Ed. Fay, George E. Charters, Constitutions and By-Laws of the Indian Tribes of North America, Part III: The Southwest (Apache-Mohave). Greeley, Colorado: Colorado State College, 1967.


Hopi Tribe Collection, Hopi Tribal Constitution, Folder No: 25, Series: 4.

Louis A. Hieb Collection, Constitution and By-Laws of the Hopi Indians, Folder No: 22, Series: 1.


Kelly, William H. Indians of the Southwest: A Survey Indian Tribes and Indian Administration in Arizona. Tucson, Arizona: University of Arizona, 1953.


Page, James K., Jr. A Rare Glimpse into the Evolving Way of the Hopi. Smithsonian, 6; 8; 90-101; Nov . 1975.


Hopi Constitution and By-Laws

Navajo Nation


Navajo Treaty of 1868


This lesson correlates with the following Arizona Social Studies Standards



PROFICIENCY (Grades 9-12)

2SS-P2. Analyze the historical sources and ideals of the structure of the United States government, with emphasis on:

PO 1. the principles of democracy and republican form of government developed by the Greeks and Romans, respectively

PO 2. separation of powers (Charles de Montesquieu)

2SS-P3. Analyze why and how the United States Constitution was created by the framers, with emphasis on:

PO 3. development of a federal system of government reserving powers to the states and the people

PO 4. the Federalist and anti-Federalist positions

2SS-P4. Analyze the structure, powers, and roles of the legislative branch of the United States government, with emphasis on:

PO 1. specific powers delegated in Article I of the Constitution, checks and balances such as veto override, impeachment, Senate confirmation of appointments, and treaties

PO 2. the role of competing factions (The Federalist Number 10)

PO 3. how the lawmaking process operates, including the role of leadership within Congress

PO 4. the influence of the unelected such as staff, lobbyists, and special interest groups

2SS-P5. Analyze the structure, powers, and roles of the executive branch of the United States government, with emphasis on:

PO 1. specific powers delegated in Article II of the Constitution, including checks and balances such as the veto and judicial appointment power

PO 2. the roles and duties of the presidency and the development and function of the executive branch, including the cabinet and federal bureaucracy

PO 3. election of the president through the nomination process, national conventions, and electoral college

2SS-P9. Analyze the structure, power, and organization of Arizonas government as expressed in the Arizona Constitution, with emphasis on:

PO 1. direct democracy by initiative, referendum, and recall processes

PO 2. the election process including redistricting, voter registration, and primaries

PO 3. Arizonas legislature, its structure, how a bill becomes law, and the impeachment process

PO 4. the five major executive officers and their specific powers

2SS-P11. Compare the United States system of politics and government to other systems of the world, with emphasis on:

PO 1. advantages and disadvantages of unitary, confederate, and federal systems

PO 2. the ways powers are distributed and shared in a parliamentary system

PO 3. free versus totalitarian systems of government