Hopi Research

In 1980, Peter Whiteley began fieldwork with the Hopi of northern Arizona. After having spent time as an undergraduate traveling around the United States, he became very interested in the persistence of Southwestern Native American cultures in the face of acculturative pressures. While his primary ethnographic focus is on the present and recent past, Whiteley also believes it is important to study the longer-term trajectory of Native histories.

Orayvi Split

The Orayvi split: a Hopi transformation (part I)
The Orayvi split: a Hopi transformation (part II)

One such ethnohistorical project examines the fracture of the oldest continuously inhabited village in North America, Orayvi. The Orayvi Split occurred in 1906, when half of the village left Orayvi and formed two new villages. Of those villages, Whiteley has spent the most time in Paaqavi, gathering information about the people who founded it in 1909 and their subsequent actions. This has resulted in two books (Deliberate Acts: Changing Hopi Culture through the Oraibi Split, and Bacavi: Journey to Reed Springs, both 1988) and an AMNH Anthropological Paper, The Orayvi Split: a Hopi Transformation (2008). These offer insights into a long-contested anthropological problem: what, exactly, were the underlying causes of the split? While various, often mutually exclusive, hypotheses have been proposed, these have either proven inadequate or inaccurate. Other analyses mostly neglect the archival record and therefore misconstrue crucial aspects of Hopi social structure and history. Whiteley argues that the cause of the Split was not singular but stemmed from a complex web of factors that include the structural, agentive, historical, material, and cognitive.

Whiteley’s other Hopi research has focused on other historical events (the destruction of Awat’ovi village in 1700, and on a diplomatic packet presented to President Fillmore in 1852), and, for example, on kinship structures, personal names, and place-names.

Hopi Research
Northeast section of Orayvi, looking north from atop Houseblock C toward Houseblock H, in August 1901. Photograph by Charles Carpenter. (218)
Hopi Research
Aerial view of Hualpi. Taken by Susanne Page
Hopi Research
Hopi buttes named East to West. Taken by Peter Whiteley.

Additional Resources: Testimony for Hopi Tribe