BAE Scholars as Documenters of Diversity and Change at Hopi, 1870-1895

Article excerpt

Few Southwestern archaeologists have escaped the temptation of incorporating aspects of Hopi culture and society into models of prehistoric Pueblo social organization. The Hopi have figured prominently in archaeological and ethnographic research since the onset of professional anthropology in North America. Aloof and unwilling to part with their ancient lifeways, the Hopi offered anthropologists the unique opportunity to examine an instance of in situ, uninterrupted development of a North American Indian society from pre-Columbian times to the present. The widely shared perception that the Hopi changed little throughout the colonial and early American periods has been instrumental for the construction of analogical arguments to explain diversity and change in Southwestern prehistory. In fact, interpretations linking ceramic manufacture to kinship, architecture to ritual performance, and land tenure to sociopolitical organization abound in modern archaeological literature and most, implicitly or explicitly, look up to the Hopi as the primary source of inspiration.

This inextricable relationship between Southwestern archaeology and extant Pueblo societies, in particular the Hopi, may bc traced back to the late nineteenth century, when BAE scholars set out to record what they perceived as the last vestiges of a dying way of life, and to preserve it in writings, photographs, sketches, and artifact collections for future generations of Americans. BAE research constitutes the cornerstone of Southwestern anthropology and an invaluable source of information for students of Pueblo culture and society. However, perspectives about its relevance for addressing diversity and change in prehistory have shifted in tandem with the growth of the discipline. Faithful to the laws of scientific dialectics, issues that once preoccupied nineteenth-century BAE scholars, such as the role of migration, ethnic diversity, and ritual in the organization of the Western Pueblos, have returned to the center stage of archaeological research in the Southwest. The time, therefore, is ripe for reflecting on the contributions of the BAE to Southwestern archaeology in the twentieth century.

In this paper we first characterize the political milieu surrounding the BAE presence at Hopi. Second, we review the intellectual framework and substantive contributions of Hopi scholars between 1870 and 1895. Subsequent use of BAE research by professional anthropologists is then discussed. Last, we reflect on the impact of this research on the development of Southwest archaeology and evaluate its validity from the perspective of current research trends.


Although the Hopi were known to the Spanish since Francisco de Coronado entered the Southwest in 1540, they remained, for the better part of three centuries, beyond the reach of outsiders. The remote location of the ancient province of Tusayan, coupled with the Hopi's reluctance to surrender to European rule contributed in great measure to the survival of their traditional society throughout the Spanish colonial and Mexican periods (Adams 1989). Efforts to establish colonial posts and Catholic missions at Hopi were short-lived and failed repeatedly, culminating with the well-known destruction of Awatovi Pueblo in 1700 (Whiteley 1988: 13-22; Rushforth and Upham 1992). After the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, the Hopi leaders developed a diplomatic strategy of passive resistance that proved highly successful at maintaining peace with Spain while allowing them to avoid European intrusion in their villages (Adams 1989). Until the early 1800s the Hopis were, in the words of Thomas Donaldson, "surrounded by deserts and the fierce Navajos, and these were sufficient to stop visitors or adventurers: only armies could reach them" (Donaldson 1893: 24).

With the opening of the West in the mid-nineteenth century, the Hopi witnessed an increasing encroachment of Anglo-American explorers and settlers in their surroundings. …