Tom Bauyacya: Hopi Translator and Tribal Leader

article image
The Hopis.

Translated literally, the wordHopimeans “People of Peace” and the Hopis are the only tribe of American Indians that never fought the white man. Their culture is an old and proud one. Even modern anthropologists — always quick to date everything within recent and safe timestrace the oldest Hopi Village, Oraibi, back to about 1200 A.D. The Hopis (who, perhaps, know better) believe that Oraibi is the original settlement built by the survivorsofthe destructionof Muor Lemuria and think that Old Oraibi has been inhabited for at least 4500 years, or since approximately 2500 B. C.

Today, the remaining seven or eight thousand Hopis still reside in their traditional homelandthree flat, sandy mesas that tower above the seemingly endless Painted Desertofnorthern Arizonaand ask only to be left alone to maintain their wayoflife and ancient religion. But the tribe faces bitter times. Their tiny reservation is surrounded by a seaofhostile Navajos and the U.S. Government is making a maximum effort to annihilate the Hopi culture.

The government’s weapons are food, Christianity and “education” and the Bureauof Indian Affair has used these tools to — among other thingscreate The Hopi Tribal Council, a puppet organization which the Bureau controls and manipulates.

The Council has signed a contract with Peabody Coal Company, a division of Kennecott Copper Corporation, to strip mine the Four Corners area where Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado meet. The traditional Hopis know only too well that Peabody (a company that has already ravaged large areasofWest Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and other states) will destroy the delicate ecology of the desert region where they live and the real tribal leaders are trying to institute legal action against all parties involved in the devastationofwhat they regard as the spiritual centerof thiscontinent.

Mick and Lini Wheelock attended a portion of the kachina parade this year on the day of the Hopis’ Bean Dance and talked with two of the traditionaltribe’s spokesmen TomBauyacya and David Mononguie.

PLOWBOY:Tom, how old are you and David?


TOM: We don’t know for sure because none of us kept birthdate records in those times. My parents didn’t know and we guessed at my age — around 1909. David is much older.

PLOWBOY: What is your position with the tribe?


TOM:  I am an interpreter. In 1948 I was chosen to represent the Hopis in community or state affairs as interpreter of the traditional religious knowledge we follow. We have eleven villages and various leaders who are the real authorities. They are the hereditary leaders and they have to know many of those religious instructions and teachings so that they know what to do when something comes up. They have to know many rituals and songs. Anything that comes up that has to be looked into in the light of that knowledge is my job

PLOWBOY:What is David’s position?


TOM: David is one of the religious leaders and is in charge of initiating young people into one kiva. He has much to do with religious affairs in Hotevilla Village. Of course there are six kivas and several kiva leaders. Each one has his own duties and responsibilities.

PLOWBOY: The last time we talked, you said that you were young … yet you now say you were probably born in 1909. How old did the traditional Hopis live to be?


TOM: Not long ago the older people lived to be a hundred or over. Their eyesight was good and their ears were good. They were strong and their words were clear. They had been trained in the early days to eat good food and go out in the open all the time.

They ran and that’s part of the Hopi life … to get up in the early dawn and go out to visit the spring and take cold showers and run. They had races among different kivas and villages. Even today if you go out to the Snake Ceremony you see two races the day before and the morning of the dance. At sunup they’ll be running for seven or eight miles below the mesas. They run right up the steep mesas and into the villages. The Hopis are noted for long distance running.

A lot of the old people say that they used to get up at dawn and run down to Moencopi and do their farming there their watering and tending and run back by evening. It’s about 52 miles to Moencopi.

There’s one old Hopi who lives in Moencopi. He was a great runner in his day and won most of the races. He just runs down the mesa like a wild horse. One day a superintendent in Tuba City wanted to test this man to see what he could do so he gave the runner a message to carry from Tuba to Flagstaff … which is over a hundred miles. The Hopi took it and delivered the message and came back in one day.

PLOWBOY:  It certainly sounds as if the traditional Hopi diet kept your people healthy … yet I’ve heard you say that Indians in the government schools get whipped if they don’t eat white man’s food.


TOMYes, we’re not used to a lot of the food served in the government schools and we don’t want it but we’re forced to eat. The students have to stand in the corner or scrub the kitchen until they eat the food that’s been put before them. I know that many people say they’ve been whipped.

PLOWBOY:What reason does the government have for that?


TOMThey want us to change our way to theirs. They try every day to do that, you know. They try to teach us to say long words in English and punish us when we make a mistake. We get punished for saying the word wrong in English or making a mistake in spelling, and we get whipped.

PLOWBOY:Do the children have to go to government schools?


TOMWe’re forced to go to those schools and we’re forced go to church too. Everything is forced. It’s like school.

PLOWBOY:To what churches are you forced to go?


TOM: Presbyterian . . . no, not Presbyterian. It’s a Protestant church . . . and some go to Catholic church. I had to go school and church and they let me come home in the summer only two or three times until I finished in 1930.

It’s actually a military establishment. We get up in the morning at six o’clock. They throw us out of bed and make us line up in front of the buildings. We line up like soldiers and they call the roll and we’re supposed to stand straight like soldiers in the line. They count everyone and then we march around on drills. Then breakfast time comes and we line up for another roll call. We march down to the flagpole like battalion of soldiers and salute the flag as it’s raised. Then we have to start marching to military music and we march into the dining room and we stand by the tables. Bell rings, we sit down. Bell rings, we say grace. Bell rings, we grab the food.

Then the bell rings and we have to line up again and march into the classrooms. The teachers stand right there in the hall to watch us all march up the stairs and into the rooms. That’s the kind of life we have to go through.

PLOWBOY: It’s like the Army …


TOMThese are the things that so concern us because this is the way the government starts to change us and tear down our sacred religious structure.

The government and the BIA know that the Hopis have survived as farmers in the desert with no irrigation for thousands of years by performing the ceremonies to bring rain to our area. When we perform the ceremony right it brings rain and we have plenty of corn. We’re able to take care of ourselves that way.

Now the government is trying to destroy our religion by doing everything possible to discourage our farming. They encourage to raise stock instead of farm … and I’ve noticed that up in the Dakotas where the plains people were good stockmen the government is trying to turn them into farmers. The government is twisting things around like that and when the Hopis struggle to hold on to their farm lands, the government changes the land to grazing areas. There’s still some farmers left but not many.

They train our young people to become blacksmiths or carpenters or mechanics and get them to move into town away from the area.Now many of the young people live away from home in the government schools and never take part in the ceremonies. And many others live out there in the towns and try to make a living but can’t.

And the BIA, unable to get the traditional Hopis to agree to have one leader over all the villages, has pressured the young people the educated ones to follow the government-sponsored Hopi Tribal Council. And these people have been approaching the many uneducated ones who have been Christianized or brainwashed in the government schools and talking them into signing things that they do not understand. Sometimes they even get the names of Hopis that didn’t vote one way or the other and put them with those who have voted for a bill … they steal votes to give the impression that the Hopi Tribal Council represents the majority of our people when it doesn’t. And the Council is used by the BIA to bring about whatever program, plan, project or policy that the BIA wants to put across. This is really not a democratic form of government. It’s actually a dictatorship and many Hopi people do not recognize this.

Some of the people on the Council have no respect for their leaders and the Chiefs … and yet they are Hopi. Others claim to be Hopi and are not. People from New Mexico say they’re Hopi sometimes. Even the current Council Chairman claims to be Hopi but we know he’s from Taos and is part Mohave. He lives up on First Mesa now and somehow got in as Chairman, but because he’s not been trained, he doesn’t have any regard for the traditional religious things of the Hopi people.

So now the government uses these people to decide things. The government got them to sign the strip mining contract that we really didn’t want to be signed … but the Council approved it and signed a contract with Peabody Coal Company. They’re now strip mining Black Mesa and they’re setting up seven electrical generating plants along the Colorado River to burn the coal they mine. They’re gonna pollute the area very fast!

PLOWBOY: Is there any way of stopping them?


TOM: The Hopis have just found out that the Council supposedly signed a contract as far back as `66 or before … but even today, we haven’t seen that contract and the majority of our people don’t know about it. We’ve finally got some attorneys to help us track down such documents and contracts and we might even have some help in filing a suit against the Tribal Council. We’re working on that now.

We’ve also contacted many who are involved in environmental protection in the government and the state. We’ve contacted the Sierra Club and we’re in touch with the Friends of the Earth and a group in New Mexico. There’s an organization in Santa Fe actively trying to get information and facts about Black Mesa and what it’s going to do to the Hopi and the land and the water and the air.

We finally found out that there’s a big plan to industrialize the whole Four Corners area. The developers are going to put up big industries and supermarkets and recreational areas and all kinds of different projects. They first promised that the smoke from their plants would contain only eight percent fly ash but now that they’re using coal from Black Mesa and putting out thirteen percent fly ash, they don’t talk about that anymore.

There’s really a danger if we do not stop this development. Bad things are gonna happen there very fast. But the main thing we’re trying to do is impress on all tribes and all races of people that we’ve come into a dangerous point now. If we go on this way much longer we’re going to be in for much pollution of air and water and we will be destroyed.

Nature is going to be active too. We’re going to see a day when there’ll be earthquakes like the recent one in California and even greater quakes will take place if we go this way. Seasons will change. There will be great winds and tornadoes. Rain will wash away whole areas and this might cause many lives to be destroyed and much property to be lost. Earth tremors, muddy waters, landslides, hailstones and things that we haven’t seen before are going to happen from now on. These are the warnings to us.

We will see men begin to laugh at their religious leaders and assassinate their high leaders. Children will lie and parents will neglect their children. Life will be so corrupted by man!

We know that in another world it was like this and that world was destroyed when man turned away from the Great Spirit and Nature. Man brought that life to an end and was destroyed by the power of the Great Spirit. Very few people came out of that and we who are living on this earth today are descendants of those people. We were warned that we must not do it again but we are headed for the same thing once more.

The Hopis knew it would come when man began to invent many things and we see inventions of all kinds now. The Hopis knew about cars, about airplanes … they knew about radios. They knew about the bowl of ashes or the hydrogen bomb. They knew what would happen if we were ever allowed to drop one of them on the ground. We’ve seen those things happen and we know that this land is right for the planting of destruction.

PLOWBOY:Do you think there’s any chance for reversal?

TOM: There’s a chance, according to our prophecy, if some people whether Indian or some other race here with us realizes that we need to keep our religious and spiritual teachings and hold on to them. Otherwise we’re just going to destroy ourselves with what we invent because we won’t be able to control it.

Mankind is now used to modern conveniences and modern methods of transportation and a livelihood based on the money system. Progress is booming in every field of scientific and technical knowledge. We tend more and more to just make money and destroy Nature along with it … and to pollute the air and water. We are going to face many severe times because of this.

Soon we’ll just go all out and men without control become forces for evil. They do not listen to any good thoughts or words. They openly do things that everyone knows are wrong just because they’re proud. They have power, they have money, they have means of doing what they want and they don’t care what happens.

The righteous people, the humble people, will have a hard time at this point but somewhere they will stand up and speak the truth. Pretty soon they will start banding together . . . and this is the life that we’re seeing today.

The old people knew this and spoke of a day when man would disrupt the moon and the stars. They knew that this would be almost at the last days before the Purifiers would come to clean up the mess here. Our elders said that if we ever bring something down from the moon that it will disturb Nature very strongly and that many things will happen from there.

The universe is set up in a certain way that is kept in balance. Once we’ve disturbed even a little of it, we’ll cause a chain reaction all over the universe that we can’t stop. We’ve traveled to many areas explaining this to people and we’ve tried to give this message to the United Nations and members of the Senate and Congress . . . but we haven’t been able to speak to a body like that yet.

PLOWBOY:This destruction you’re talking about … will there be survivors: Will the human race continue?


TOM: There will be a great destruction because the Great Spirit tells us that another world will end like the last one that was destroyed before we came here. We were warned not to do it again not to turn from the path that He laid down for us or we would come to where we just can’t control ourselves. But we have not listened, so to keep us from totally destroying this life, there are three people or nations who are commissioned to bring purification upon this continent. They will come here quickly one day and just paralyze this earth. All the power that we have the machines and everything will stop and they will conquer the land.

This land, you see, is being held by spiritual principles or spiritual instructions from the Great Spirit. We call the first people here “Indians” … which is not the right name for them. They were the first people planted here to hold this land and live in a spiritual way . . . and there are leaders still holding on to this way in different areas. The Hopi leaders are holding on to it.

So once the Purifiers have conquered the land they will come to look for their brothers who were left here to live in a spiritual way and from whom they were separated a long time ago. They will come and ask some of the few religious leaders who are holding on to the spiritual path, “What are these people doing to you? Have they been giving you their religious and moral principles and their inventions?”

And the righteous will have to tell everything that has been done to them … all the mistreatment and lying and cheating and killing of the people. According to the pictures we have, the Purifiers will then behead all the evil and wicked people who have taken advantage of and mistreated the good people and that will be the wrongdoers’ punishment.

But those that have tried to help may be left to clean up this mess with the Purifiers. Through those that really help like David Mononguie or other Hopi leaders many of the sincere people, the humble people, will be saved to go on into the next space of life which will be, ah, what do you call it … eternal or everlasting life. The religious books all mention the same thing.

PLOWBOY: Who are these Purifiers?


TOM: Our leaders say the Purifiers will come from the East but the Hopis don’t know who they will be … only that they will show us a sign or symbol when they rise up or when they shake the world two times. That has already been fulfilled by the two great World Wars and out of it we found the symbols of those people … the Swastika sign and the sun symbol. And those two did shake the world two times! They have already prepared themselves for the final big conflict on this earth.

And the great one the last, third one … the one they refer to in their language as the Man with the Red Cap, or red coat when he arrives he will have many people with him and he’ll have already prepared himself by developing many fields of technology and inventions.

And when the time comes for them to come to this country, they will pool all their power and scientific might and the three of them will come here together as one. It will take one day for them to get complete control of this whole continent and the Western hemisphere. They will have power to paralyze all man-made machines and the machines will not move. All machines of every type will not do any good.

And that’s when they will ask the Indians, “What have these people been doing to you?” If they find one Indian leader or one spiritual leader of any race who holds up then everything will be alright.

But if no one has kept the spiritual principles, we’ll be forced to let go and this land will end right there. This land will crack and the earth will shake and sink and a great water will cover this whole place and wipe out all life. It shouldn’t happen that way, but if we all go out and neglect the spiritual instructions again that’s what we will see.

And if the Purifiers from the East fail to come … then the prophecy says that there’s one coming from the West already. We don’t know who the person is but he will be very slow in coming. He’s already coming a long time ago, taking his time and building up slowly. . . more people with him, more power, more inventions, more scientific analysis. If the one from the East fails to come to purify …. then this one from the West will come anyway.

And when he comes it’ll be like a great wind from the West. The people coming upon our land will be like millions of ants crawling all over … and the old people say that if that ever happens don’t get on the housetop to watch, because they will have no mercy for anyone. They will whip everybody. They will probably destroy many people also. That will be our punishment … a cleansing to keep us from totally destroying this life.

PLOWBOY: And you feel that this time of purification is very close at hand?

TOM: We know that the time is getting close because every Hopi prophecy of warning but one has been fulfilled. The only thing that’s left is the fulfillment of a huge house that carries many people that will be floating in the sky. This will be the last thing that mankind is allowed to do. If mankind goes that far it will that far, it will completely destroy Nature unless it is stopped.

PLOWBOY: How did the Hopis get this information? Is it something that was given to them alone?

TOM: There are many things that the Great Spirit left for the Hopi leaders. They have the sacred stone tablet and they have a religious order through which we receive this knowledge and teaching … but this is not ours alone.

The Hopis say that all races of people came from another world. The Great Spirit gave all of us religious knowledge and required that we take care of the earth and follow the knowledge we received. Others have turned away from these instructions. Even many of our own young people have turned away from these principles in the past but there are a few religious men who still hold this knowledge together in Hopi land. Now we feel our prophets have a great message for all mankind.

PLOWBOY:How did you personally acquire this knowledge?

TOMThese are the things that were told in 1948 by religious men and village leaders. They gathered together for four days and went into this in great detail and that’s where I learned these things. Many young people my age don’t know the meaning of these things and don’t understand these religious principles . . . but I’ve had a chance to look into them and to compare them and that’s why I know that the Hopi has something for the world.

The folks that I met with in 1948 have all passed on but there are other leaders who still hang on to the Hopi instructions and teachings. I met with those leaders just last week and found them very concerned about us, the children. When they become leaders, you see, they become our fathers. They become caretakers of this land and must learn the wisdom of the teachings. They must learn spiritual fasting. They must smoke the pipe and lead the ceremonies and go out and make prayers for all of us and continue to pray for us every day. We do not see them or know about them but the Hopis are praying for everyone every day and hoping that this life will not be totally destroyed.

We hope that many of our good people in all races who are here with us will survive the Day of Purification. We hope they will go into a new life of peace when everything becomes new and all plant life comes out on the ground again and there will be plenty of animals and they will come home again. We will mingle together as one people and there will be no strangers. Everyone will recognize others as brothers and share things.

There will be no more money system. When we invent something everyone will be able to take it freely. They say we will speak one language and that even the Navajos must come up to the Hopis and treat them like men. This is the day the Hopi is trying to attain by holding onto life and spiritual ways.

PLOWBOY: And you feel that you cannot maintain your life and spiritual ways if your traditional lands are strip mined or otherwise ravaged and polluted?


TOM: We consider the area we live in that we were led to by the Great Spirit as the heart of this land. We consider the Four Corners area to be sacred. We look to plants and animals as our people also. In our rituals, we consider them too. They’re with us . . . we’re part of it all. The food we gather from them should not be destroyed in any way and should not be polluted. The good food that comes from the Mother Earth good, clean earth will nourish the bodies of mankind and animals.

Once we start to destroy that soil, the seeds or plant life … we’re gonna have many bad foods and many plants and foods that go away. Our animals are already being destroyed by pollution or by killing them en masse.

This is a warning to us also. The sacred land that was put in our trust is being taken away from us and is being destroyed. We are being forced into debt and then forced to sell. We must accept programs that really aren’t for our benefit or the benefit of our land.

The prophecies say that the Men in the White Hats will one day tell all the people in this land about what has happened to the Hopi. Whoever now forces his way onto our sacred land will bring great punishment upon his people when the Purifiers come.

PLOWBOY: What can an individual do to get ready for what’s coming?


TOMIf any of these things happened today or tomorrow, many of you would be helpless because you are so used to conveniences that depend on electric power. You are so used to cars. Many of us are not even using our limbs to walk. We don’t even realize but we’ll find out later that we’re very weak because we’re eating bad food that doesn’t nourish our bodies. Our bodies are so polluted with all kinds of chemicals that’s not good for us.

You have to know where to find water holes and how to find food out in the hills and what to eat and how to take care of yourself in case you have to move. You have to have dried food to carry along too because if you don’t have some food when the earthquakes and the other warnings begin, you’ll starve.

Remember the quake we just had in California. The power lines were knocked out, the waterpipes were knocked out, the gas lines were knocked out. This was just a shakeup but it was enough to make us realize that we’d be helpless if the whole thing went down.

There will be much suffering in town but the people who know how to farm will have enough to eat. When things happen, only the people who know how to farm will survive … and this is a good thing that’s happening today. Many of the young people are learning how to grow food in their backyards and this will keep them from starving.

Each of us must also start purifying ourselves physically and mentally. Each individual must try to look within his heart.

We are not doing the things that we should and we have to stop doing the things we know are wrong.

PLOWBOY: Are you preparing yourself in this way?

TOM: Right now we’re trying to bring our message to as many people as we can especially our Indian people because a lot of them have lost this knowledge. We don’t want anybody saying, “Why didn’t you let us know about this?”

We have already started purifying ourselves physically and mentally also, because we’re going to go back to Nature soon and we’re going to try to live the Law of the Great Spirit by looking on each other as brothers and sisters. We’re going to work together to uphold these religious teachings. We feel that it is not very long before we will settle down and wait for the Day of Purification.

PLOWBOY: What do you think about all the people who have seen saucers in the desert lately?


TOM: Hopi prophecy tells of many mysterious things happening. They say that there are many spiritual people helpers of the Great Spirit who will be checking on mankind to see where we are in this life. They will inform the Great Spirit when we are ready to let go of the spiritual path and go all out for material things when we are ready to destroy ourselves and bring about great conflict among ourselves which, in turn, will inspire the Purifiers to come and put a stop to it. The prophecy says that as we go along we will see more and more of these helpers. But, of course, we don’t call them “flying saucers” … although, today, everyone else does.

The Hopi know that these things will be coming at this time and that we will see many of them. I’ve seen many in my travels. Recently we’ve seen some things … some of the people have seen something … a light or an object traveling in the air at a very high rate of speed. There are some things that are known to us that we see in Hopi land now and then . . .

As an interpreter I meet many people who claim to have power to do certain things. Some claim to be the white brother we’re waiting for and say they have the power to bring the flying saucers down … but I know that the Hopi leaders do not have faith in such people because we have our own instructions and knowledge of how the Purifiers will come. Until someone comes the way we know he’ll come, we’ll wait. That is part of our knowledge.

PLOWBOY: What do you think about The Book of the Hopi by Frank Waters?


TOM: Most of it isn’t right. He just started without even getting consent from the traditional people and leaders. He even tried to contact the Chief at Old Oraibi. Our Chief refused to give him any information so he finally got hold of four or five people from Hotevilla. They were religious leaders and he tried to get them to talk but they found out that he was going to write the book and they didn’t want any part of it.

So the only way Frank Waters could write this book was to go talk to people and say, “You don’t mind if I turn on this tape, do you?” People talked to him without knowing what he was doing. If they had known he was going to take what they said and write a book, they wouldn’t have talked to him. We found out that he had also copied some very sacred things that they had, too. –

PLOWBOY: Is the book essentially correct then?


TOM: There are several parts in there that Frank Waters didn’t understand. Each village has a different version and a different explanation. A lot of things in the book are just distorted. The Hopis do not tell any sacred thing to an uninitiated one and they have never done that. They even looked for a lawyer to sue Frank Waters for what he did. They could still sue him if they wanted to.

PLOWBOY: What’s happening to the young Hopis?


TOM: More of the young people are now realizing the value of our culture and religion and are coming back into it. This year there are many more young people being initiated and taking part in the ceremonies.

PLOWBOY: Are they just getting fed up with the “American way?”


TOMI think they’re realizing that they cannot live out there in the system. The life of the Hopi is a life which is not bound with rules and regulations. We are out to live religious principles and build a community life, a cooperative life, so that if men want to plant corn they will announce it from the housetops. They will say, “I am going to plant corn tomorrow!”

So all the able-bodied men who want to help will drop their work and maybe thirty or forty will go out and plant corn (we still do the job with a planting stick). By maybe about noon, they’ll be through and, of course, the women pitch in and help by preparing a feast and they’ll come home and eat and that’s that.

Sometimes the men go out and spend two or three days helping plant or harvest the corn. When a person wants to build a home, the family on both sides helps and any village men that want to, come and help.

Of course, the young people who have been working for money come in now and sometimes we have to hire them and pay them to help. That’s kinda disturbing because a family should not require pay but the young people like to get a little money so we do it. The majority of the people are still helping one another, though, and becoming closer.

PLOWBOY: When the whole hippie thing started, the white kids began wearing long hair and moccasins and beads. What did the Indians think about that?


TOM: The elders who knew the prophecies knew that these things would happen. They knew a new generation would see the truth someday and would stand up and speak out against the lying and cheating.

PLOWBOY: Some of the white kids have talked about revolution … about overthrowing the government violently. What do you think about this?


TOM: Some people do see that as the way of changing things they don’t like … but only because they lack spiritual instructions and teaching. In the Hopi way it is said that we should not do things violently. Rather, we should stick to the truth. We should go after the things that way and try to correct them.

The Hopi will not raise a hand if someone disturbs something. We try to settle things in a calm and a peaceful way. Sometimes this works much better than when everyone becomes violent.

Need Help? Call 1-800-234-3368