Manataka American Indian Council









Hopi Elder

I woke this morning and knew the spirit was inspiring me to write to you.  Though I didn't want to think about it, because it takes time to do these things and I have much to do this time of year.  I tried to ignore the feeling that filled my heart and went about my day.  I wasn't sure what I was supposed to write to you anyway.  Then in the afternoon, I was working at my son's house.  I was helping him till his soil for his garden.  The tiller hit a big rock, and I reached down to move it.  When I put my hands into the soil I realized what the Great Spirit wanted me to tell those of you who will listen to the words of this old man.  So once again I am here to share with you my knowledge.

 I felt my wife's spirit in the rock I grabbed from the ground in my son's yard today.  More than 20 years ago this year, my wife left the mortal life and became one with the ancestors. A day does not go by that I do not think of her, but every spring when I work the land with my son and grandsons, I think of her more.  More than think of her, I know I am touching her because our world is made from the bones of our ancestors.

Some people believe in heaven, angels and things like that.  Hopi do not in the same way.  We believe that the Great Spirit is all around us, so we don't have to go to heaven to meet him.  We believe that our ancestors live with us, guide us and share with us, so we don't have to call on angels to help us.  Maybe those who believe in angels are right for themselves, but not for Hopi.

The Hopi have a different view of their relationship to the Earth.  Because when we look at a tree, a plant or a flower we see our loved ones who have gone.  We see our mothers, fathers, grandparents.  We see our wives, husbands and children.  We see our past alive again.

When the Hopi die, they are buried in the ground in a simple way.  Soon, with the help of the animals and bugs, they are returned to the ground and become one with the Mother Earth.  They return to the Earth that they are made from.  Their spirit --soul maybe -- goes on in some way to become one with the Ancestors.  But also their spirit and their body becomes one with the Earth.  Then, when they are one with the Earth, it is their being we are planting our food in.  It is their body we are walking on.  They fall as rain on our heads and make our corn grow.  It is their body that is in the corn we eat.  They hold the key to our continued life. They become a working part of the cycle of life on the Earth in a way they could not be as people.  And when we each pass away from this life, we too, in our own ways, will return to the Earth.  It doesn't matter if you are not Hopi.  It doesn't matter if you are buried or burned or even lost at sea.  Your body will return to the Mother that gave it life and you will become part of the chain that brings life to the world.

It is this chain of life that is very real to the Red Man.  It is this chain of life that challenges us to remember that in every blade of grass and every ear of corn our Ancestors, and (thus) our own existence lies.  Everything on the Earth is sacred.  How could you not hold it that way.  When you destroy any part of the Earth, you are destroying your past. When you care for the Earth, you are caring for yourself.

Our Ancestors surround us every moment of every day.  They are not just ghosts or memories.  They are the water we drink, the ground we step on.  They are the world around us.

Our past is all around us.  Our future too.  For it is the dust that is between your toes that may someday be the things your children and grandchildren are made of.  Nothing ever goes away.  It is here with us.

The Electric Wigwam (N.H.), 2001