Lesson Plan

Enduring Awatovi: Uncovering Hopi Life and Work on the Mesa

Awatovi site

Overall Rating

Not that bad
Add your review
Grade Level:
Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
Literacy and Language Arts,Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
90 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
6-8.RH.2, 6-8.RH.3, 6-8.RH.4, 6-8.RH.5, 6-8.RH.6, 6-8.RH.7, 6-8.RH.8, 6-8.RH.9, 6-8.RH.10, 9-10.RH.1, 9-10.RH.2, 9-10.RH.3, 9-10.RH.4, 9-10.RH.5, 9-10.RH.6, 9-10.RH.7, 9-10.RH.8, 9-10.RH.9, 9-10.RH.10
Additional Standards:
US History Era 1 Standard 1A: The student understands the patterns of change in indigenous societies in the Americas up to the Columbian voyages.
Curriculum Standards for Social Studies from the National Council for the Social Studies
Thinking Skills:
Remembering: Recalling or recognizing information ideas, and principles. Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words. Applying: Apply an abstract idea in a concrete situation to solve a problem or relate it to a prior experience. Analyzing: Break down a concept or idea into parts and show the relationships among the parts. Creating: Bring together parts (elements, compounds) of knowledge to form a whole and build relationships for NEW situations. Evaluating: Make informed judgements about the value of ideas or materials. Use standards and criteria to support opinions and views.

Essential Question

What does the Awatovi pueblo reveal about the history of the Hopi nation?


1. To explain elements of Hopi culture practiced at Awatovi many centuries ago and those that remain important today;
2. To illustrate the four methods by which Awatovi Hopis and Hopis today farm an apparently unproductive land with such success;
3. To describe how archeology can illuminate the lives of people whose past has not been preserved in written records;
4. To document evidence of historic farming techniques in the students' own state or region.


Time Period: Pre-contact to the present
Topics: The lesson can be used for U.S. history lessons, multicultural studies, social studies, geography lessons, and agriculture and anthropology.


In the silent pre-dawn hours, Sun-Watcher slipped from his bed and quietly left the Hopi pueblo. He went to the edge of the Arizona mesa and settled down to wait for sunrise. For many years, Sun-Watcher kept track of the seasonal movement of the sun on the horizon. As the sun rose that morning, he saw that it reached the farthest point on its southern journey: the winter solstice arrived. Sun-Watcher returned to the pueblo to announce that it was time for a ceremony to summon spirits to bring rain to nourish the village's crops. At the Awatovi pueblo on Antelope Mesa, Hopis celebrated this ceremony for over 500 years.

Though Awatovi is no longer occupied, the ceremony continues to set the rhythm for Hopi agriculture. For the Hopis, the movements of the sun, the appearance of the rain, and the growth of crops still depend on the people's correct and active participation in the regular cycle of life. For students of the past, enduring Hopi traditions and American archeological research reveal much about this important place.

Lesson Hook/Preview

The United States encompasses land that was long-settled by the time Europeans arrived in the 17th century and began to colonize it. Despite centuries of colonization by those Europeans' descendants, many American Indians endured and preserved their culture. Some still live on their ancestral lands. Today, there are over 565 Federally-recognized, self-governing American Indian Tribes located in the United States.

The region where the states of Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico come together is part of the Colorado Plateau, once the homeland of ancient peoples called “Hisatsenom” (hee-SAT-se-nom) by the Hopis, which means “our ancestors.” Most archeologists know them as the Ancestral Puebloans. These early farmers lived in pueblos (apartment-like adobe or stone dwellings with many rooms and courtyards). Scholars and archeologists once believed that all of the Ancestral Puebloans left this region about 1300 A.D. because of a great drought, but new research in the 1990s confirmed that the Hopi mesas have been continuously occupied for at least a thousand years. A mesa is a large hill with a flat top and at least one steep, cliff-like side.

Consequently, Hopi culture is one of the oldest and most stable in North America. Besieged by outsiders-- Spanish explorers and missionaries, Navajo Indians, and European Americans-- from the 16th century on, the people continue to maintain their strong sense of what it means to be "Hopi." They have successfully combined important aspects of the past with the changing conditions of the present. Like other Americans today, the Hopis are attracted to urban jobs, shopping malls, and Monday night football, and some-- teenagers especially-- are forgetting the Hopi language. Even so, many who leave the reservation return, at least for visits, and some find that, as they get older, they become more interested in their Hopi traditions.

On their reservation in northeastern Arizona, the Hopis maintain their cultural identity even as they engage in such modern pursuits as running a motel and restaurant and supporting a large training center where young people learn centuries-old techniques for making jewelry, textiles, pottery, katsina dolls, and baskets. Some of these artisans continue to work in the traditional manner using centuries-old motifs. Others are part of a growing movement among American Indian artists from many tribes who are creating new forms of Indian art-- works that are thoroughly modern in design and execution, but still reflect an Indian perspective. Age-old agricultural techniques still yield larger crops than anyone would think possible in this beautiful, yet arid and seemingly barren landscape.


Getting Started Prompt
Map: Orients the students and encourages them to think about how place affects culture and society
Readings: Primary and secondary source readings provide content and spark critical analysis.
Visual Evidence: Students critique and analyze visual evidence to tackle questions and support their own theories about the subject.
Optional post-lesson activities: If time allows, these will deepen your students' engagement with the topics and themes introduced in the lesson, and to help them develop essential skills.



Additional Resources

The Hopi Tribe 
The official
website of the sovereign, federally-recognized Hopi Tribe is a rich source of information on traditional and present-day Hopi life and culture.

Hopi Cultural Preservation Office
This official website offers resources for Hopi and non-Hopi alike who are interested in Hopi culture, history, and archeology. More information related to topics covered in this lesson plan can be found on this page: "Students & Teachers."

The Museum of Northern Arizona
The Museum’s website includes images and descriptions of a Modern Hopi Mural, created in the Museum’s Kiva Gallery by two Hopi artists as a reinterpretation of ancient stories of emergence and traditional life from the Hopi point of view.

Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument 
Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument is a unit of the National Park System that includes several Spanish missions. The park's
web pages also provide detailed information on the thriving Pueblo Indian trade communities that existed in this remote frontier area of central New Mexico before the coming of the Spanish.

American Indians of the Southwest 
The Logan Museum of Anthropology at Beloit College in Beloit, Wisconsin, possesses a vast collection of artifacts from the ancient Southwest. The majority were collected during excavations undertaken by the Museum in the 1930s. Visit the college's online exhibit, Ancient Cultures of the Southwest, for information about the ancient Puebloan culture.

Digital History--Native American Voices 
online digital history, developed through a partnership among the University of Houston, the National Park Service, the Gilder Lehrman Institute, the Museum of Fine Arts–Houston, the Chicago Historical Society, and TAH (Teaching American History), includes an in-depth overview of American Indian history from its prehistoric beginnings to its thriving culture today.

The NPS Tribal Preservation Program 
This National Park Service program works with Indian Tribes, Alaska Native Groups, and Native Hawaiians to preserve and protect their important resources and traditions. Its main purpose is to help Indian tribes strengthen their own community preservation programs. For more information, visit the program 
web page.

NPS Discover Our Shared Heritage travel itinerary
In the NPS Places Reflecting America's Diverse Cultures travel itinerary, information about Hopi history and culture appears in entries on sites including Navajo National MonumentWalnut Canyon National MonumentCanyon de Chelly National Monument, and Wupatki National Monument.

Awatovi National Historic Landmark is featured here in the American Latino Heritage travel itinerary.

Contact Information

Email us about this lesson plan

Last updated: October 12, 2018