Cultural Perspectives

The descendants of the prehistoric peoples of the Southwest are very much alive and thriving. The Hopi of Northern Arizona and the various Pueblo people of New Mexico have religious and cultural practices which began with prehistoric cultures.

Pueblo villages such as Old Oraibi of the Hopi, and Sky City of Acoma were built around A.D. 1100, the same time as those at Wupatki and Walnut Canyon. These are viable communities yet today. The ceremonies and tribal rituals carried on there have been practiced for centuries. Crafts like pottery making and weaving have origins deeply rooted in the past. Time brought change, but traditions and customs have lived on through the centuries.

The Hopi call their ancestors Hisatsinom, meaning "People of the past." However, in most cases archeologists borrowed names for prehistoric cultures from American Indian tribes of today. For example, Anasazi is a Diné (Navajo) name meaning "ancient ones" or "ancient enemy" and Hohokam is an Ackimal O'odham (Pima) name meaning "those who have gone" or "all used up." In some cases names were given according to archeological findings, for example, Sinagua is from Spanish words sin (without) and agua (water).

The pueblos found in Wupatki, Sunset Crater Volcano, and Walnut Canyon National Monuments are now part of the National Park System. They still are sacred to the modern Pueblo people. Many sites are known by name and have their place in oral history that is passed on from one generation to the next. Various Hopi clans are traced back to these sites.

When you visit ancient Pueblos, remember these sites are an important part of modern Pueblo culture. They are a source of cultural identity and provide a bond with ancestors. Vandalism and theft of artifacts weaken these ties. We ask that you leave everything in its place.

Reuben Honahnie, Hopi,
Park Ranger, Flagstaff Area National Monuments

Last updated: February 24, 2015

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