Connecting with Cultural DNA and Memory

Conversations Eye to Eye with the Ancestors

Conversations Eye to Eye with the Ancestors

As a child, my earliest memory is going on hikes with my father. Once we climbed up on a flat mesa top. On this mesa there were red hoodos of animals and other knobby, otherworldly creatures that I have never been able to forget. I have searched for that mesa for many years now and cannot find it again. Was it a dream, an imaginary place or a real memory. My paternal grandmother scolded my father for taking his children to this place. It was “naa pa la” – a negative place that is a source of physical ailments like warts, tumors or cancerous growths.

Guardian of the Universe

Guardian of the Universe

As well, childhood visits were made to petroglyph, pictograph, geo-glyph and ancestral sites. These sites always had a story. A place-name. A meaning connected to a historic event. A ceremony place. A lesson. A connection. A memory from a child’s perspective. Today, many years later, I have experienced the life of a Hopi female, ceremonies and initiations, listened to countless oral stories from my grandparents who were born at the turn of the century and now have a greater understanding of the cultural, religious and human life ways of the Hopi people.

Hopi Female Ancestral Spirit

Hopi Female Ancestral Spirit

I continue to be drawn to the petroglyph and pictograph images, particularly on the Hopi Reservation as I come to know the landscape intimately. My passion to find these images is not particularly for the purpose of preservation or protection but rather, to understand the relevance to Hopi life as we live it today. The Hopi word for the people who left these images are “pas he’ sat senom”, a people before memory or time immemorial. The message, meaning or interpretation is not primarily what I seek. In anthropological speak, what I seek is the “ways in which shared ideas about the past are revived, referenced, dismissed, ignored, selectively utilized, and amended” in a Hopi cultural context and relevance to Hopi life ways today.

Hopi Male Dancer

Hopi Male Dancer

Ancestral Dancer

Ancestral Dancer

On my solitary hikes to a petroglyph or pictograph site on the Hopi Reservation, I look carefully at the landscape. I look for the line of sight with nearby and distant ancestral sites, a place name, an oral story, a reference to words or concepts used in ceremonial songs, pottery shard patterns, placement of springs and shrines, gathering areas for eagles, wild edible greens and herbs, hunting areas over distances of 150 miles that I can visually identify. I am seeking a sliver of memory of the relevance of the images in a present cultural context to connect the place with Hopi life ways today. The Hopi people have lived on our aboriginal homelands for a long, long time. Without understanding the relevance, we will have lost part of our cultural memory and DNA with the “pas he’ sat senom”.

Ancestral Deity

Ancestral Deity

A Hopi Child's imagining of Hopi deities

A Hopi Child’s imagining of Hopi deities

As I learn documentation methods of petroglyphs, I meet many individuals who have a passion for scientific study, interpretation and publications on the subject matter. I learn from others but stand apart as I understand a perspective distinctly as a Hopi female, limited scientifically, yet full in a cultural context and relevance to Hopi today. I share and teach the present Hopi generation as much as I learn and can understand.

All the disciplines of science, as well as Native American people can work together to piece together the memory of the past and bring it into the present. I often hear the comment, “but nobody knows who they were or what happened to these people”. We are infants wanting to be comforted with knowing.

Water Snake, Guardian of the Spring

Water Snake, Guardian of the Spring

Science is a double-edged sword. On the one hand it provides “proof” of this or that. On the other hand, the proof can be wrong or incorrect. Science does not have a memory. For myself, I find the proof to be understanding even a sliver of the cultural memory that the “pas hi sat senom” may have intended in the images that predate any foreign influence in the Americas. The historical and cultural memory that we pass to the present and future Hopi generations is private to each individual family, clan and tribal group.

Katsina as a Natural Element

Katsina as a Natural Element

I ask the new generation of scientists to keep an open mind to listen, see, hear, feel and taste all forms of knowledge for the benefit of understanding by all peoples, of the ancient images we are privileged to see but not truly fully know. We are still here.

Footprints of the Ancestors throughout the Americas

Footprints of the Ancestors throughout the Americas

“… Any human without memory is lost; that memory is encoded in the historic/cultural artifacts, sites, burials and vestiges of peoples past and their descendant cultures…” Declaration on the Right to Cultural Historical Memory

By Marilyn Fredericks, Hopi, 2017

Gas Price today, $1.11?


Premium price $1.11 back in the good ole’ days!

Gasoline is still the lifeline to the Hopi Reservation in Northern Arizona. Today, there are only three places to get gasoline while traveling on Highway 264. The Kykotsmovi Store, Hotevilla Store and McGee’s in Keams Canyon. This means that you can’t rely on fumes to get you from here to there.


Old timey stick shift one-cab truck


The first independent gas stations were run by Hopi entrepreneurs who hauled gasoline in 50 gallon barrels in the back of pickup trucks. The companies that took a gamble on providing gasoline included Malco and Shell. In the 1950’s there were no paved roads so the heavy gasoline tanker trucks could not come to Hopi. It was a dangerous ride for the truck driver to haul gasoline to the Hopi gas stations.


Tourist cars that came to Hopi


Gas pumps with automatic handles, a later improvement from hand pumps

The EPA regulation of gasoline storage and delivery is very stringent today. This has resulted in less places to find gasoline in the rural areas of Northern Arizona. Natives Americans rely on gasoline to haul water to their homes, to travel to off road farms, to travel between villages and to work in far off cities.


Old timey police cruiser


A good piece of advice is to top off your tank before you visit Hopi or as soon as you reach Hopi. Don’t rely on GPS to find that gas pump. If you do find it, it may be empty. One good website to check out is


Don’t Drink and Drive on the Hopi Reservation!


Out of Gas? Hire a donkey!

Come Vist the Hopi Reservation. Book a Tour. Visit a Hopi Artist or Craft Shop. Take time to Enjoy the Landscape.  Have a Great Day!


Vistas from Hopiland

A view to the West

A view to the West

The Hopi people are mesa dwellers. We have lived on mesa tops since time immemorial. A child grows up looking over vast spaces and distances of more than 150 miles daily. These images of our back and front yards are imbedded in our psyche from birth to death.

A View to the South

A View to the South

We are reminded daily of the intimate relationships with the elements and the sun, moon, earth, water as life forces. Five Hopi words describe the becoming of a new day. As one sits quietly at the edge of a mesa, you can see all the colors, moods, shifts, and movement of the earth.

Lush grasslands to the South

Lush grasslands to the South

This land is a small piece of the Americas that is not marred by the blood of wars and unnatural death. It is indigenous land that preserves the beginning of habitation by humans on this continent. The earliest carbon dating of corn found on a Hopi mesa is 200 A.D. This is what the fight is all about. Life.

Hopi Moonscape

Hopi Moonscape

Goings from Here to There

Goings from Here to There

Come visit Hopi Land. Share your positive thoughts and prayers for a good life. Usqwali. Thank You. Posted by MFredericks






What is a cafe?


Grand Canyon Chop Suey Cafe, established 1942

The Grand Canyon Café – As we knew it!

Native Americans are always hungry by the time we come from the reservations to nearby border towns. Hopi, Navajo, Havasupai, Supai and other Native Americans visit Flagstaff, Arizona daily. One favorite eating-place for my family is the “Grand Canyon Chop Suey Café” founded in 1942.

As a child, my father took me to the Café and I acquired a taste for Chinese-American food. Chicken chow mein became my all time favorite. My father was on a first name basis with the first generation Wong’s, wait staff and dishwashers. I saw faces from many different tribes eating in one place, a home away from home.


Personal Favorite, Chicken Chow Mein

An event producer named Toney started the Flagstaff Annual Indian Pow Wow in 1930. In 1936 there were seven thousand Native Americans in attendance. Many of the participants stopped to eat at the Grand Canyon Café during the pow wows. The relationship between a business and Native Americans in a border town is a delicate balance. The café is a place to see familiar faces of long time residents, family and friends. The café was featured in the documentary “In Search of General Tso”.


The Grand Canyon Café as we know it, closed on September 17, 2016. I stopped by to have my last chicken chow mein meal made by Fred and Tina Wong. It was a bittersweet memory of my father who has passed on and my introduction to a relationship with Flagstaff, Arizona. Native Americans have contributed significantly to the economy of Flagstaff for many years.

As I looked around at the familiar setting, I saw the oversized landscape painting of the Grand Canyon hanging on the wall. This painting is a true icon to its namesake, the Grand Canyon Café. Looking closely you will find the name “Homer Cooyouma” signed on the painting. The Hopi surname is pronounced Coh-yah-weye’-ee-mah, “Gray fox walking away”. Homer was a talented landscape painter, working in both oils and watercolors. He was commissioned to do murals in churches. Homer was my father’s uncle, both of the Coyote Clan.

Homer was also a musician. He played with the Hopi Tribal Band in its heyday along with my father. In the photo he is wearing his band costume. He served as the Vice-Chairman of the Hopi Tribe from 1963-64. I do not know who or how he was commissioned to paint the landscape of the Grand Canyon that is now displayed as a prominent feature of the cafe décor.


Homer Cooyouma, Photo Credit Walter C. O’Kane

This is a bit of history or trivia that one does not notice unless you look closely or have a long, intimate relationship with the people, the town and the land. We hear that the new owners will reopen the café but it will never be the same. I thanked Fred Wong for feeding my family over the years and wished his family a rest from soothing the hunger of the Native Americans.

Please keep plant alive!

Please keep plant alive!

By M.Fredericks, Webmaster (C), 2016

Hopi People Declare Independence on August 10, 1680

Hopi Symbol of Brotherhood

Hopi Symbol of Brotherhood

The International Indigenous Day recognized by the United Nations is August 9, 2016. For the Hopi people, this week marks a historic day as we remember the resistance of the Pueblo peoples of the North American continent against the Spanish conquistadores, Spanish Religion and the King of Spain. The Pueblo Revolt took place on August 10, 1680.

The Hopi people do not “celebrate” this day with fireworks, banners or parades. Instead, in the traditional Hopi way, we remember why our ancestors had to resort to violence, an un-Hopi behavior.  Our ancestors acted in concert with all the Pueblos throughout the region to destroy the yolk of slavery, starvation, and colonialism of our lands and life ways.

There are many publications about the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 by non-native writers in an attempt to record this relatively small revolt in the earliest world history of the Americas. The real story is not yet told. The Hopi people carry on the oral stories of the Why, Where and When of the resistance as a reminder of our place here on these sacred lands that we call our Aboriginal Homeland.

We Are Still Here.

The Battle for Bears Ears


Bears Ears on Cedar Mesa, Utah

Are Indian Wars in North America over? Will John Wayne come riding in to win this war with the modern American Indians?  The political battle to gain National Monument status for Bears Ears on Cedar Mesa, Utah has caught the attention of the Secretary of Interior, Sally Jewell. No, John Wayne is not coming. Instead, Secretary Jewell is making a visit to hear the concerns and legal proposal for protection of thousands of ancestral sites, petroglyphs, pictographs, springs, human remains, artifacts and the “footprints” of the ancestors of Native American tribes of the SouthWest.


Friends of Cedar Mesa announcement

The Hopi Tribe is partnering with The Friends of Cedar Mesa to learn more about the legal mechanisms of initiating, drafting legislation and promoting National Monument status for ancestral lands in the SouthWest. This long consultation process has resulted in a meeting with Secretary Jewell.

The Friends of Cedar Mesa write: “This is your chance to have the biggest impact on the campaign to protect Bears Ears. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell is coming to Bluff, UT Saturday, July 16th to hold a public meeting about protecting Bears Ears. As someone who cares deeply about Cedar Mesa and Bears Ears, you can join FCM and the Tribes in showing your enthusiastic support for protecting the Bears Ears cultural landscape including Cedar Mesa.

Wherever you are, if you can make it by plane, car, bicycle or foot, plan to arrive at the Bluff Community Center by 12 PM for a 1 PM meeting start time.

Secretary Sally Jewell will be there to listen to your perspective on protecting Bears Ears, an area for which there are multiple conservation proposals. They include a Bears Ears National Conservation Area and the Bears Ears National Monument proposed by the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition.”


Comb Ridge, a 50 mile spine off Cedar Mesa, Utah

Cedar Mesa is a vast geologic creature, with canyon mazes, cliffs, valleys, streams, that was home to pre-historic people who were the ancestors of the Hopi people, the “Hisatsenom” as well as the Zuni, Navajo, Ute, Paiute, Hualapai, Havasupai people.  Today, this area is being pillaged by pot hunters, four wheelers, mining companies and other activities that are destroying this unique cultural landscape. There is overwhelming evidence that legal protection is needed.

One example of an ancestral site that you will find on Cedar Mesa is a short hike off the road on Butler Wash. There you will find a pristine cliff house with petroglyphs as though the occupants just left to go somewhere.


Butler Wash cliff house


Thousands of years old hand prints


Ancient sandal pattern petroglyph

On March 22, 2016, the Hopi Tribe by legislative action approved a “Proposed Presidential Proclamation designating Bears Ears National Monument”. Several SouthWest tribes have also taken formal action to support the national legislation now on President Obama’s desk. This is the first time that American Indian tribes have taken the initiative to draft a legal proposal to protect ancestral lands collectively. The proposal is significant as it is embodies concepts that views sacred lands not as private property to be owned but as tribes acting as stewards of ancestral lands.


Tower structure that is found on Cedar Mesa

The Hopi people will be at the historic meeting with Secretary Jewell to lend support for National Monument Status of Bears Ears. Come visit, see and feel for yourself the sacredness of our ancestral places here in North America.  We are still here.

By Marilyn Fredericks.  Photo credits: Marilyn Fredericks