Indigenous Basketry of the Americas

Golden Eagle

The Third Mesa Yungyapu Collection that I share with you today have all been ceremonially blessed in Hopi ceremonies for my children as they grew from infants into adulthood.

The small yungyapu were gifted from the katsinas to my three daughters from birth until initiation. The medium yungyapu were gifted to my two sons for their services as dance partners in the summer social dances as part of the female dance partner’s payback. The larger yungyapu were prizes earned by my sons during the ceremonial foot races that take place throughout the year.

The Hopi word for the Third Mesa Style Baskets is Yung ya pu. I will use this word so you learn the proper name for this artwork that is indigenous to the Americas. I was surprised with the number of yungyapu in our family collection and I hope you will enjoy the images.

My Disclaimer

I am not a yungyapu weaver. When I was a 16-year-old teenager, my maternal grandmother taught me to weave yungyapu over one summer school break. One yungyapu takes about a year from scratch to finish.

On the fourth day after the summer Niman ceremony, my grandmother went out to her favorite spot to harvest the natural fiber materials. Then the materials were cleaned, dried and dyed different colors. Once a sufficient amount of the natural materials and colors is ready, the weaver can start a yungyapu design and with a purpose in mind.

I skipped this part of the hard work. My grandmother completed the preparations and I just sat down and started weaving a basic design under her guidance. She prepared the damp sand, sharpened points and chose the best fibers for each part of the yungyapu. Many times I had to undo my in/out weaving to correct mistakes.

I was surprised when one of the first yungyapu I made many years ago was returned to me from my High School Biology teacher.

That is the extent of my knowledge of yungyapu weaving. Many Hopi women and girls have become skillful master weavers whose yungyapu have become collector’s items.

Please think about how the right and left brain operates to bring out the antiquity of designs in the minds of Hopi women today. The skill is in our DNA and came with us from the beginning time. Hopi women have been making yungyapu for a long, long time.

History of Yungyapu Weavings

The Hopi Cultural Preservation Office website is a good reference for a history of Yungyapu Basket Weaving tradition by Hopi women who continue this cultural heritage, the oldest craft from the Basket Maker Period of A.D. 100 to 500.

Red, yellow, and black are the basic yungyapu colors. Red comes from Navajo Tea. Black from sunflower seeds. Yellow from hohoisi. White from kaolin clay. Originally, colors were more pastel and not as bright as commercial dyes used today.

Yungyapu designs are skillfully arranged to produce images of katsina spirits, animals, elemental images of clouds, lighting, rain, insects and geometric designs. The natural colors of plant materials used to construct the yungyapu serve as a background for the designs.

The symbolism and tradition in Hopi yungyapu designs link each unique handmade yungyapu to other parts of Hopi life, past and present. All traditional yungyapu designs have a name and meaning.

Hopi Basket Weaving Techniques

There are three basic types of Hopi Basket Weaving techniques.

  1. Tsa yun pi. Utility baskets made of plaited yucca straps.
  2. Yungyapu, Weavings using a twilled technique of dyed rabbit brush and a rib foundation of dune brush twigs.
  3. Poo ta, A bundle of wild grass as a foundation and yucca in a coiling technique.

Each technique calls for certain basic plant materials. Yungyapu, the Third Mesa twilled style are made from sivaapi (rabbit brush) and sii wi (dune brush) with a yucca strip finish.

All materials are gathered from the natural vegetation in northern Arizona. Generally, the traditional rule is that four days following the Niman or Home Going Ceremony in July, women may start harvesting these natural materials.

We have been in a long drought period so many of the natural fiber materials have dried up and is not available for harvesting. Environmental changes have an impact on the continuation of this indigenous artwork.

How do the Hopi use Yungyapu

A.D. 100 is a long time since the Hopi women have continued of this tradition of Hopi basket weaving and demonstrates the importance of yungyapu in Hopi culture.

Yungyapu are used in many cultural activities on the Hopi mesas or are sold to visiting art collectors and tourists.

Traditionally, yungyapu are a medium of exchange, trade, gifting and reciprocity. After a Hopi ceremony, the yungyapu may be distributed to clan members who helped with a ceremony.

Different types of yungyapu have unique uses, such as carrying plaques, trays, and bowls, sifters, serving a variety of everyday and ceremonial functions.

One significant life event is the Hopi wedding ceremony. Yungyapu are traditionally made by the bride’s family for the groom’s family. These yungyapu are repayment or pay back for the bridal robes woven by the men of the groom’s family. As part of my own payback for my Hopi wedding ceremony we counted 50 yungyapu.

Tray varieties are used for sifting parched corn and piki trays used to serve or carry piki, the paper-thin, traditional Hopi bread made from blue corn meal.

Bowls, deep form baskets such as burden baskets, are woven by using coiling or twilled techniques. The burden baskets, woven by men were used to haul loads on the back of a person or animal. Peach baskets were commonly used to carry fruit up the mesas.

There is a conservative continuation of traditional patterns with no radical or extreme departures from tradition. My maternal grandmother advised that we not change the basic designs as they came with us from the beginning time. So there are traditional boundaries that we observe even today.

Paaqavi Incorporated would like to invite everyone to a presentation of this collection in May, 2018. The Walnut Canyon National Monument will host a public presentation on May 26, 2018 from 10:30 – 11:30 a.m and 1:00 – 2:00 pm in Northern Arizona. Everyone is Welcome.

If you would like to learn more about the Hopi Third Mesa Style Yungyapu artwork by Hopi Master Weavers, I recommend the following publications:

“Hopi Wicker Plaques & Baskets”, Author Robert W. Rhodes

“Hopi Miniature Baskets”, by Byron Harvey and Suzanne de Berge

“Hopi Basket Weaving, Artistry in Natural Fibers”, by Helga Teiwes

By Marilyn Fredericks, All Rights Reserved, 2018


Ancestral Puebloan Cavate Dwellings

Outer Room at Turkey Tanks with two deep inner cavate rooms

Ancient dwellings of the Hopi ancestors included several types depending on the natural resources available. The dwelling types were cavates, cliff dwellings and Pueblos. Around 700-800 years ago, the ancients lived in cavates (“CAVE-eights”) excavated into welded volcanic rocks. I visited these dwelling sites around the San Francisco Peaks to understand the relationship of our culture to the spirits of fire. Geologic events like volcanic eruptions were witnessed by the ancient ones and the stories are recounted in Hopi oral traditions today. The USFS/NPS Partnership provides excellent interpretive hikes into these sites

Trailhead Old Caves Crater

The OLD CAVES CRATER is a U-shaped crater on which 70-80 cave dwellings can be seen from the top to the bottom on the south side of the crater. It is an easy 2.4 mile round trip hike on to the crater.

Topo Map Old Caves Crater

Old Caves Crater is distinguished from New Caves Crater by the way the cavates were dug by the dwellers. At Old Caves the dwellings were dug top down. At New Caves the dwelling were dug horizontally into the volcanic rock. Some of the cavates have three or more rooms. There is a line of sight to New Caves Crater from this site.

Outer Room Old Caves Crater with entrance from top
A second Inner room Old Caves Crater
Cavate Dwellings Map Old Caves Crater*

The TURKEY TANK cavates are east of Flagstaff  under the county highway. The canyon is very picturesque with oak trees, cat tails, black volcanic rock and water cisterns. It was monsoon season and the summer storms passed throughout the day. The cavate entrances are not easily seen unless you hike along the canyon walls.

Cavate Entrance Turkey Tanks

The cavates are larger than the Old Cave dwellings and there are deep, lower level rooms inside the main outer rooms. I could easily stand inside the outer room but did not dare try to venture into the inner rooms. Pink plaster, placed by hand was evident on the walls and floor. Black soot covered the ceilings of the cavate.

Pink plaster evident on wall

Other cavate sites include nearby Walnut Canyon and the Eldon Pueblo. The ancients survived a harsh life, dwelling in the volcanic rock for a period of time. It was very humbling to know that our ancestors survived so that the next generations of indigenous peoples of the Americas are still here. Usqwali!

For anthropological information see: *Pueblo Ruins Near Flagstaff Arizona, J. Walter Fewkes, American Anthropologist, Vol 2, No. 3, Jul-Sept 1900

Roving Rangers Interpretive Hikes August 2017 Flyer


Hopi Footprints on the Americas

Creation of the Ancient Migration Paths of the Hisatsenom

On the twentieth day of the Hopi Baby Naming Ceremony, a newborn infant becomes one of the human species (homo sapiens or “wise man”). A ritual prayer is recited by the paternal godmother that sets out the life path for this perfect human being. Thus, we begin our life journey.

The Hopi people evolved throughout the centuries and forged our migration paths as laid out for us in the beginning time. We, the two-legged species, traveled with the four-legged animals with whom we could communicate. We learned how to weave, to make ropes, sandals, baskets, feather blankets and home shelters on the earth. We lived with the earth spirits deep in the land. We drank precious water poured by the six point cloud people.  We marked our footprints on the rocks as a message to others of our way finding.

Imprint of the ages

As the centuries passed we evolved from the hunter gatherer into agricultural societies and became sedentary. We cultivated the sacred corn, bean and squash. The earliest mother corn has been carbon dated on Hopi lands to 200 A.D. The “tuhisma” or talented hands begin to shape the clay into pottery. Beauty was created in our songs, ceremonies and lifeways. More travelers came and gathered at the Center of the Earth. They came from the South, West, East and the North of the Americas. These were the Hisatsenom, the “ancient ones”.

The rocks of the ages tell of these migrations.  You can understand if only you listen. We are still here.

Story & Photo Credits by MFredericks




A Rebirth of Hopi Voices


Mother Corn

U’yis muyaw, the planting moon marks the lunar cycle for the new Hopi planting season. The indigenous, drought resistant Mother Corn is reverently selected and cleaned by the women for planting by the Hopi males. A new beginning of an ancient life plan of the Americas begins anew.

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