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Indigenous Voices of the Colorado Plateau

Hopi Places

Hopi Mesas Old Oraibi San Francisco Peaks

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 Kaibab Paiute


 White Mountain Apache

Save the Peaks!

 Merriam Report

  Images from First Mesa   Images from Second Mesa   Image from Third Mesa

The Hopi Mesas.  The Hopi Indians live on three distinct mesas in northeastern Arizona. These mesas are actually one finger-like geologic formation with three southward-projecting points. The mesa structures are designated as First, Second, and Third Mesas, with several different villages located at each individual mesa.

The Hopi Mesas represent a very special place of the past and present. Because of the unique nature of this place, it is strongly advised to read the Hopi Tribe's visitor information links before your visit. Please note that certain Hopi villages may be off limits to visitors on certain days and at certain times.

Most of the mesa is distinguished by colorful layered sandstone with numerous formations laid down over millions of years. Sizable seams of low-sulphur coal lie within the Wepo formation at depths ranging from 35 to 250 feet. Since World War II, rapid development in the western United States has resulted in a dramatic population increase of approximately 350%. This makes coal deposits located on the adjoining Hopi and Navajo Reservations extremely valuable to this energy hungry region. In the mid 1960's, the Hopi and Navajo, joint owners of the coal, at the urging of the United States and various energy companies, signed coal leases establishing the largest surface coal mining operation in the nation.

The Hopi signed only after being assured by the United States that Hopi reliance on the N-aquifer would not be effected. However, despite its economic benefits, the coal mine is not without controversy among the Hopi, primarily because of its significant consumption of N-Aquifer water. The Hopi oppose the mine's industrial use of this pristine and limited supply of groundwater, the only source of drinking water for the Hopi - and support an alternative supply of water for Hopi. While the Hopi continue to insist on an end to Peabody's pumping, they also realize that this is not the only threat to the N-Aquifer.

Digital Resources
First Mesa
Second Mesa
Third Mesa


Image of Old Oraibi

The village of Old Oraibi, established in 1100 A.D., is considered the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in North America. However, the site of the present-day Old Oraibi is not original, since Oraibi was first established below its present site, at the base of Third Mesa. Old Oraibi is located on top of Third Mesa, just above the town of Kykotsmovi, the tribal government seat.

As with other Hopi villages, Old Oraibi reserves the right to control visits by non-Hopi, and asks that visitors refrain from taking photographs or using video cameras, entering buildings, and disturbing sites in any way.

Old Oraibi is governed by a kikmongwi (village chief) and the village chooses not to have any representatives on the Hopi Tribal Council. The village does not have any village administration, and rejects any funding allocated to Hopi villages by the Tribal government.

Digital Resources
Old Oraibi


San Francisco Peaks

San Francisco Peaks. This ancient volcanic mountain range is located just north of Flagstaff, Arizona. Mount Humphrey, one of the five peaks of the range (other peaks are Agassiz, Fremont, Schultz and Doyle), is the highest point in Arizona with an elevation of 12,633 feet above sea level.

To the Hopi, the Peaks are Nuvatukyaovi, "The Place of Snow on the Very Top," home for half of the year to the ancestral kachina spirits who live among the clouds around the summit. When properly honored through song and ceremony, the kachinas bring much needed rains for the cornfields on the Hopi mesas. The San Francisco Peaks are a sacred place of worship to the Hopi.

Currently the Peaks are the site of a land use battle. The Arizona Snow Bowl, a ski resort located on the mountain on leased land from the United States Forest Service, received approval in March 2005 from the Forest Service to expand their operations as well as make artificial snow created from wastewater pumped up the mountain from Flagstaff. The Snow Bowl hopes that the artificial snow will lengthen their ski season, which is impacted by varying amounts of snowfall from year to year. The Hopi believe this expansion is a clear violation of their religious freedom and have filed suit with other native American tribes to stop this expansion, claiming protection under the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978.

Digital Resources
San Francisco Peaks

Save the Peaks


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