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American Indian Film Gallery

Cultures of Apache tribes and Hopi tribes

Emalie Schaefer, Author

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Hopi Arts and Crafts

Hopi Indians are known for their woven items, Kachina dolls, and pottery.  

Hopi arts and crafts that came into being in ancient times and that are still being produced today are pottery, basketry, and textiles.  They still play roles in everyday and ceremonial life, but they now also are made for commercial purposes.  The purpose of basket making has moved from a utilitarian purpose to one that is more artistic in nature, and the same can be said for the art of pottery.  Textiles that are produced maintain their original purpose as traditional and ceremonial clothing.  

Here is the URL for a video which deals with Hopi arts and crafts.

Kachina dolls are
figures carved, typically from cottonwood root, used to instruct young girls and new brides about katsina or katsinam—also spelled kachina—the immortal beings that bring rain, control other aspects of the natural world and society, and act as messengers between humans and the spirit world. The Hopi believe that the kachinas are divine and sacred beings. The kachina figures, however, are representations of the kachinas, of a sort and while kachina figures are made for the open market, those kachina figures tend to not represent the actual kachina of the Hopi.

Here is the URL to a video about the kachina figures.


Because of the sacredness of the kachinas in the eyes of the Hopi, we would like to inform you of some important and sensitive details. In the opening minute there are kachina effigies which are sacred and we ask that you fast forward over seconds 49 and 58. Also toward the end if the fifth minute and into the sixth the narrator, Mr. Honanie, explains information that uninitiated children should not be privy to. This information is sensitive for the Hopi.


The Hopi have been making pottery for over a thousand, long before Europeans came to North America.  A major resurgence in the manufacture of Hopi pottery came in the 1890s.  Archaeologist J. W. Fewkes in his excavation of the Sityatki ruins, uncovered ancient pottery.  A Hopi man who was working on the excavation, took shards of the ancient pottery home to his wife who was a potter.  His wife, Nampeyo, drew inspiration from the shards and created new shapes and incorporated new designs into her work.  She revived the ancient style of Hopi pottery,  and in doing so, made a significant impact on the Hopi pottery tradition.  Nampeyo became world famous for her Sityatki inspired pottery. Nampeyo’s revival of pottery making inspired future generations of Hopi potters, including her descendants.

Pottery is made from clay found on Hopi lands. The process for preparing the clay involves drying, soaking, washing, grinding, sifting, and adding temper. Pottery is made using the coil and scrap method.  Coils of clay are added from the base up and are smoothed to form thin walls using scraping tools such as parts of gourd or a flat wooden stick and formed into the desired shape.  Pottery are then dried and polished with a smooth stone, after which a design was applied.

Mineral or vegetal paints, such as the tansy mustard for black paint, are used for painting pottery.  Paint was applied with a yucca leaf brush.  After the design is applied, pottery is fired out in the open over a fire. The pottery is placed upside down on sandstone platform or grate over a fire and covered with large pottery shards to protect the new pottery. The firing take several hours until the ashes from the fire is nearly cold, after which the pottery is removed and inspected.  The most common types of pottery are shallow bowls and flat-shouldered jars. Bowls have designs on both the inside and outside.

Traditionally, pottery making was a woman’s craft but today, men also create pottery.   Pottery had utilitarian purposes; for example, for serving food, carrying water, and as seed jars.  Some pottery is made ceremonial purposes. Hopi pottery today has evolved into an art form. 


The Hopi make coiled, plaited, and wicker baskets. Materials used for making the baskets include James galleta (a type of grass), rabbitbrush, yucca leaves, and sumac stems.  Baskets are used to hold food, belongings, and other items.  Plaited ring baskets, known as “sifter baskets”, are used to winnow seeds and grains.  A piki tray is a flat, rectangular tray used for serving piki bread.  Plaques are used in certain ceremonies.  Basket weavers from the Third Mesa villages are known for their wicker plaques and Second Mesa weavers are known for their coiled plaque baskets. Women from all three Hopi mesas make plaited sifter baskets.


Hopi textiles include belts, sashes, blankets, women’s dresses (mantas), and men’s ceremonial kilts.  The weaving is
done by the men.  Textile items were made from native cotton.  Dyes for coloring cotton and the materials for making baskets were made from local plants or other natural resources such as cockscomb, sumac or alder to produce a red color, the blue kidney bean for a blue color, and mature flowers from the rabbit brush plant for a pale yellow color and the stems (mixed with alum) for a brilliant yellow color.

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