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5.1.3b Hopi Moqui Indians, Snake Dance, Arizona

[between 1890 and 1910]
Library of Congress

Hopi Moqui Indians. Snake dance. Arizona, None. [Between 1890 and 1910] Photograph.

Hopis organized themselves into clans (a group of families with shared ancestors). Hopi religion shapes the ways that people interact socially and organize their communities. Clans managed different aspects of life and ceremonies such as those related to weather, healing, and races. These images include a Snake kiva and Snake dancers. Snake is a clan, and the Snake Dance was an important ceremony that Hopis developed to bring rain and build courage in young men. Rain was very important to the Hopi, who lived in the desert and relied on rain to grow crops for food. Members of the Antelope and Snake clan participated in this Snake Dance. 

Look at image A and B: Why would a ceremony to bring rain be important to people who live in this environment? How did the clan structure play a role in the Snake Dance?

This image is from Oraibi on Western Mesa, one of the three mesas in northeastern Arizona where Hopi people have lived for centuries. Religion is central to Hopi life, and the kiva (an underground room used for ceremony and other significant events) is the center of Hopi spiritual and social life. In the 1600s the Spanish and various groups of Pueblo people struggled over control of the people, the land, and religion. Pueblo people fought to keep the kivas and practice their cultures.

A note about these images: Americans became fascinated with the Snake Dance. Tourists began to visit the mesas to view the ceremony from the late 1800s to mid-1900s. These visitors are visible in image B. Many of these visitors probably did not understand the importance of the Snake Dance; rather, they visited as spectators to see Hopi men dance with snakes in their mouths.

Hopi (Moqui) Indians, Snake Dance. 619