Erasing Ourselves

Cloud People Give Us Hope for a Better Future

An ancient traveler scanned the horizon to the west. The “Paayu” (Little Colorado River) was spilling over its’ banks like a red writhing snake. The Cloud People were forming over “Nuvatukya’ovi” (San Francisco Peaks). He must hurry to finish his task so that the ceremony will be completed. With his sharp stone, he began pecking, rubbing, incising an image on the large black boulder. As “Tawa” (Father Sun) was setting, he could see the high point of Wupatki, his clan village. The shadows of the stone began to take form on the image to mark this important time of the ceremony. He was pleased that the ceremony was now complete.

Protector of the Americas

Yesterday, another traveler stopped in his tracks when he saw rock images pop out of the rock boulder. Maybe it was a Navajo person or a Hopi person. He remembered what the medicine man instructed him to do to put an end to his sickness and witchcraft. He began earnestly pecking, rubbing, scratching the image on the large black boulder until it was completely erased.

Is this a tuuwutsi (an oral story of ancient times)? No, it is 2018. The intentional desecration of prehistoric rock images on the east side of the Little Colorado River on the Navajo Reservation has reached a final result of destruction, an erasing of our presence in the Americas. Who is the culprit? A Navajo person practicing the “Healing Way” or a Christianized Hopi or another Native American. It is not a Pahana or Balagana (Anglo) who is stealing the rock images. It is a Native American who knows the meaning and importance of the images of the ages. The evidence is stark. We are intentionally erasing our existence from the land.

The “Paayu” (Little Colorado River) is rich in ancestral sites, petroglyphs and pictographs from its’ headwaters in Springerville to the Confluece of the Little Colorado River and Colorado River. The stories of habitation by the ancient ones from a time before memory is etched in stone. It is OUR STORY. Our evidence of Native American presence in the Americas. Why are we erasing our history?

Little Colorado River Basin

Desecration Panel in Utah is a well-known place of this erasing of history. “In the 1960’s a number of Navajos who lived near rock art in Utah mysteriously fell ill. Upon seeking the help of a local Medicine Man, they were told that the source of their illnesses came from this rock art panel along the San Juan River. The medicine man said that ‘altering’ the rock art images, if done with the proper knowledge and ceremonial approach, would put an end to their suffering. This alteration would stop the malevolent power coming from the images on the rock and return the world to a state of balance and beauty. The result is what we see today on the Desecration Panel.”

At Inscription Point across from Wupatki National Monument we see the same extensive intentional desecration. “The most disturbing example of such actions is visible where a huge serpent-like image some 5.1m long has been chiseled out of the rock. Other examples of purposeful destruction are three of four masks that have been rubbed out by abrading away the soft sandstone rock.” Donald E. Weaver, Jr., Robert Mark, and Evelyn Billo

Intentional erasing of Faces
Intentional erasing of a Snake image in totality

The same intentional desecration is well documented at Tutuveni, a sacred Hopi site near Willow Springs. Fencing, digital cameras, publicity and tribal co-management has not stopped these desecration practices.

Extensive Intentional Erasing of Horned Faces


The images on this boulder are at risk of total erasure

“Purposeful destruction being carried out by Native Americans follows a pattern of erasing sexually explicit images, snakes and horned faces, targeted by Christian or Traditional Natives who live on the east bank of the Little Colorado River.”

Intentional Erasing of more Faces

As the Navajo and Hopi Governments press to protect cultural and rock art sites at Bears Ears, it is hypocritical that we cannot protect these same petroglyph sites on our own reservations. How can we expect to enforce federal and tribal laws on others if we don’t clean up our own house?

Are Native American people exempt because it is “traditional” or that we have adopted the Christian ways? Law Enforcement seems to be looking the other way when it comes to our own people or our governments are lacking the resources to protect land based cultural resources.

I ask everyone to think about what we are doing to ourselves by erasing our history and presence on this sacred land. I ask the younger tribal generation to seek out ways to resolve inter-tribal issues and social issues that cause sickness. I ask local reservation communities to adopt site stewardship activities to monitor these important cultural sites. Let’s have a constructive dialogue about this. Once the ancient image is erased, it is gone forever!

The Navajo and Hopi people must respect and preserve what little we have on our own lands as true Sovereigns. We may have lost the battle at Bears Ears, San Francisco Peaks and Uranium mining on and off reservation lands. Why are we rushing to erase ourselves on our own lands? Usqwali.

By Marilyn Fredericks, Bacavi Village


What’s in a Name? Everything.

A Weaver’s Pattern

“The Hopi Tribe prefers that “Anasazi” not be used to describe their ancestors. The term is of Navajo origin and inappropriate. While “hisatsinom” is the term that the Hopis use, other Pueblo groups have their own terminology. “Ancestral Puebloan” seems to be the generic term currently in favor.” Hopi Cultural Preservation Office, Hopi Tribe

What is in a name? Everything. It is the first clue we have about a person or place. The word can steer your mind in a positive or a negative direction. The first query can form your future expectations or perceptions of a person or place.

So it goes with the word “Anasazi”, a name given by academics to the “Hisat senom” – Hopi ancestors of long ago. This is incorrect on so many levels. In August 1927 Alfred Kidder convened the first Pecos Conference and the name Anasazi was accepted by academics as a concept of the Hopi ancestors life of yesterday.

Anasazi is a Navajo word. It means “ancient enemy”. It is not what the Hopi people accept or use to represent the past, present and the future of our life ways in the Americas. Enough Already! It is time for the academics to accept the mistakes of the past and delete the word “Anasazi”.

The academic world has made many mistakes in understanding, interpretation and politics of indigenous peoples that has led to misunderstandings, questionable interpretations and inter-tribal conflict as we push back against the “experts” in the appropriation of our oral stories and history.

Hopit’, People of the Corn

The Hopi Cultural Preservation Office has taken a political stand to change the name “Anasazi” as a misnomer and has asked each writer who uses Hopi as subject matter to use the word “hisatsenom” or “Ancestral Puebloan” to show some measure of respect to the Hopi people.

We appreciate the slow changes that are taking place to use correct names, to be more respectful of the name that we use to describe ourselves. It is a positive step towards fostering mutual understanding with the academic professions. A small but big step forward.

Hopi Female Deity


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


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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