Hopi Ruin Legends: Kiqotutuwutsi

Hopi Ruin Legends: Kiqotutuwutsi

Hopi Ruin Legends: Kiqotutuwutsi

Hopi Ruin Legends: Kiqotutuwutsi

Excerpt

Myths, legends, tales, and other kinds of oral narratives are a significant part of the vast expanse of expressive folk culture. Summarily referred to as oral literature, they must be regarded as true examples of "verbal art" (Bascom 1955). Unfortunately, the performance of this verbal art has experienced a dramatic decline. Worldwide, whole bodies of oral literature are vanishing into oblivion.

One of the bitter ironies of Western culture is that it began to appreciate the special qualities of oral literature at the very time when such orality was beginning to vanish. Persons who spoke only European languages were either oblivious about other languages or made it a policy to suppress them, thereby eradicating rich and ancient cultural traditions. Few cultures have been able to resist this onslaught.

This deplorable development also holds for the Hopi Indians of Northern Arizona. As Terrance Honventewa observed in 1984 at the Third Annual Hopi Mental Health Conference, "Today, that precious and expressive language is in danger of extinction ... Many contemporary tribal members speak little or no Hopi at all. Therefore much of the folklore, religion and other cultural treasures are already being lost." Along the same vein, Emory Sekaquaptewa reports that in an informal survey of high school students conducted by the Hopi Health Department in 1986, when the new Hopi High School was opened at First Mesa, 85 percent of respondents claimed to be unable to speak or understand Hopi.

With the disuse of the Hopi language, functional storytelling, which requires a narrator and an audience in a face-to-face encounter, suffered equally and is nearly extinct in Hopi society.

All the ruin legends presented in this volume were collected from what I call "story rememberers." They differ from the large body of Hopi oral literature in that they revolve around some actual historic event. Overall more fictitious than factual, the legends provide explanations for the demise of villages that now lie in ruin. In spite of their mythic trimmings, which do not make them "history" in the modern sense of the word, these destruction legends are culturally important. In the absence of authentic historical records they shed light not only on the Hopi past, but also on the Hopi psyche. For this reason, Courlander considers them more significant than scientific findings. "Apart from the excavations and conclusions of anthropologists, the oral tradition ... is a more revealing instrument in some ways than . . .

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