Hopi Elders
Messages to the World

Submit translations to
hopiland (at) gmail (dot) com



AL Q”yawayma (Hopi, pronounced: Ko-YAH why-mah -
meaning: "Grey Fox Walking at Dawn") is not only
an outstanding engineer but is also one of
Americas leading pottery makers.

Al has made a particularly important contribution
to our country and to American Indians through
his leadership in establishing the American
Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES).

Al has successfully demonstrated that it is 
possible to create a balance between one's 
expertise in a given field with one's knowledge 
and understanding of American Indian culture and 
tradition. Al is both a teacher and a leader who 
steadfastly adheres to the tenets of his tribal 
background, and encourages students to maintain 
and enhance their tribal background through the 

Al's accomplishments, personal phlilosophy and 
strong commitment to Indian young people inspired 
the George Bird Grinnell American Indian Children
& Education Foundation to establish an award in
his honor.  The Al Q”yawayma Award is an effort
to perpetuate the fine qualities embodied in Al's
work as an engineer and his creative abilities as
an artist.  Al Q”yawayma is a model for all young
people and it is an honor to acknowledge his
outstanding contributions.

Patricia Trudell Gordon


adapted from a lecture given by Al Q”yawayma
at the Heard Museum on 1-23-1991
and Santa Fe East Magazine, Summer 1991

Indian people today have a foot in two worlds,
but we live one life.  Our footing is often
uncertain because each world is in a continuous
state of change. The Indian people need to
evaluate the best that is in our own culture and
hang onto it: for it will always be foremost in
our life. But we also need to take the best from
other cultures to blend with what we already

Cultural change can be painful. Adaptation helps 
moderate that pain and provides hope. Seeing 
Indian young people adapt and then live out their 
culture is very satisfying.  What I see after the 
pain is a story of reemergence and hope.

The Indian World

Citizens of the United States speak 400 
languages. One-half or 200 of these languages are 
spoken by the American Indian.  Approximately one 
percent of the U.S. population is American 
Indian. Therefore, one percent of the population 
represents fifty percent of America's cultural 

In a way we are fortunate as compared to other
indigenous peoples such as the Aborigines in
Australia or the black peoples in South Africa.
American Indians alone were able to regroup and 
restructure enough so that at least some of our 
lands and culture can be protected.

More than 20 percent of America's energy
resources, such as coal, oil, gas and uranium are 
found on reservation land.  Aside from the desire 
to manage these and other resources we are very 
concerned about the impact of their development 
on all living things. For whatever affects our 
waters, wildlife, even the grains of sand and 
dust, also affects mankind. All things are 
connected. For thousands of years our ancestors 
were the caretakers of this land. We still have a 
spiritual responsibility for its well being. The 
inner world of the human is dependent on the 
outer world of nature. Any devastation that we
bring upon the outer world of nature will
diminish the inner world of mankind.

Despite conquest, epidemics and an official
government policy of assimilation, we have
survived. That survival is through struggle,
persistence and endurance is a vital lesson for
our Indian young people today. Education is one
of the keys to overcoming poverty, poor health
and low expectations. Education also gives us the 
training necessary to manage our remaining 

Some tribes such as the Hopi were never conquered
in the classical sense and never signed a treaty.
Technically, some believe, the Hopi are still a 
sovereign group of villages located high on the 
mesas of northern Arizona. To make that point, a 
number of years ago one of my relatives prepared 
his own passport to attend a meeting in Sweden.  
After much dialogue, the U.S. State Department 
honored his Hopi passport.

As a Hopi I have been told of our migrations from 
the south in meso-America or Mexico centuries 
ago. Then in the late l500s our Hopi people had 
their first contact with the Spanish. Our history 
was personalized for me a few years ago when my 
father told of how the Spanish era was closed at 
Hopi, through the accidental shooting of the 
commander of the last Spanish military contingent 
at Old Oraibi in 1840.  My fathers clan uncle 
fired a rifle through a window. He did not know 
much about the rifle which had been left behind 
by soldiers a few years before. He only meant to 
scare the soldiers away, but his aim was poor. No 
contingent of Spanish soldiers ever came back. I 
was told of the coming of the buffalo soldiers, 
the blue shirts and their gun wagons, and the 
ritual firing of the cannon to show force. I 
learned of my aunt being hidden from federal 
policemen because our family questioned the white 
man's education. You see, the Q”yawaymas were of 
the very conservative group from Old Oraibi. I 
learned about the indignity of being forced to 
walk naked through sheep dip and our elders who 
were sent to Alcatraz without a trial for a year 
because they objected to the white man's 

Then there was the experience of our parents and 
relatives that occurred in government boarding 
schools. Our parents were taken away from home to 
these schools which were located in other states 
at an early age. These children should have 
stayed at home to receive training from their 
parents. At school they were punished if they 
spoke their language or practiced their culture. 
They were taught to obey a puritan authority and 
to conform to Anglo cultural norms. Their 
education was inadequate.

They were put to work as servants and matrons.
The boys' highest expectations were to become
carpenters, masons and mechanics.  Government
school officials and the students had no
expectation that they might one day train for a
profession. In my view the government boarding
school experience was, in the main, very
deculturizing. The effects of this 
psychologically and culturally regressive process 
has a continuing impact on the Indian person 

Now, one-half of the Indian population lives in
urban areas, often shuttling back and forth to 
the reservation. To one degree or another, much 
of the present native generation might be termed 
horizon children. We remain caught at the 
horizon, neither sky nor earth, painfully 
suspended between two worlds. That is why we 
struggle with alcoholism, suicide, high school 
dropouts, unemployment and low wages.  We now 
strive to find out who we are.

Some poignant cases come to mind which illustrate 
this cultural confusion. I recall the Ph.D. 
electrical engineer who was adopted as an infant 
into a non-Indian family and brought up far away 
from his culture. Today, he can't face any 
contact: with his tribe or with other Indians; it 
is just too painful. There is the mother who 
committed suicide because she could no longer 
face a lie. Her mother had insisted she marry 
into wealth rather than into the tradition of the 
past. Her tragic suicide orphaned several young 
children. It was acknowledged that an outside 
value system had crept into her life and she 
could not deal with it. I recall a motivational 
talk that I gave before a tribal leadership 
class. Two girls burst into tears near the end of 
my talk. I wondered what I had said. They related 
later that their parents had taught them 
traditional ways up to the sixth grade.  Then 
their parents insisted they forget those ways and 
concentrate on learning how to make a living in 
the outside world. They had never been told that 
it was okay to be Indian and at the same time 
pursue a profession in the "outside world".

The Third Millennium

As Indian people are now balancing between two 
worlds, so is humanity caught in a struggle of 
balance between the inner world and outer world, 
technology and nature. In January 1991 I was 
invited to attend a joint international meeting 
between the UN and the Club of Rome, attended by 
scientists, religious leaders, artists, poets and 
leaders.  A theme of the meeting was The Third 
Millennium. As stated by Thomas Berry, "We are
entering not simply the twenty-first century, not 
simply the Third Millennium of our Era, we are 
entering the Ectozoic Era in the biological story 
of the planet."

We are experiencing massive extinctions of living
forms in a scale equalled only by the extinctions
at the close of the Paleozoic era 220 million
years ago and the end of the Mesozoic era 65
million years ago. The only choice we now have
before us is how we participate in the emerging
Ectozoic era, forming an integral earth community
that includes all the human and non-human 
elements of planet earth.

As the meeting progressed. I was struck more and
more with the familiarity of the ideas. Finally,
I made the connection. Today's newest thinking of
the world as a communion of subjects, and our
role in the integral functioning of the natural
world-these are ideas that were spoken by Chief
Seattle 137 years ago.

In 1854, the "Great White Chief' in Washington
made an offer for a large area of Indian land and
promised a "reservation" for the Indian people. 
Chief Seattle's poetic reply is one of the most 
profound statements ever made on the relationship 
between earth and man.

"What is man without the beast? If all the beasts 
were gone, man would die from a great loneliness 
of spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, 
soon happens to man. All things are connected. 
Teach your children what we have taught our 
children, that the earth is our mother. Whatever 
befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. 
If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon 
themselves. This we know: The earth does not 
belong to man; man belongs to the earth.  This we 
know. All things are connected like the blood 
which unites one family. All things are 
connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the 
sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of 
life: he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he 
does to the web, he does to himself. This earth 
is precious to Him (God), and to harm the earth 
is to heap contempt on its creator."

(Excerpt from
"This Earth is Precious": 1854,
Chief Seattle).

Today there is a growing awareness that 
environmental and social problems will require 
more than scientific, economic and political 
solutions. Modern man has knowledge, but can he 
let go of his self-centered values and rise above 
his indifferent attitude, indifferent to one 
another? In my view it will take a true yieldness 
to and practice of God's spiritual principles to 
achieve the balance we are searching for. I have 
heard and seen those values or principles 
practiced by our old people. They include being 
thankful, loving, forbearing and being patient 
with one another, respecting one another, the 
earth and all living things. The Psalms tell us 
that "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness 
thereof: the skies proclaim the work of His 
hands." If we heap contempt on the earth is it 
any wonder that our lives are in shambles? I have 
the notion that if we overcome the predisposition 
to subdue the earth, to extract maximum material 
value, that our family and personal lives will be 
more inclined to come into balance. We would then 
cease to be so egocentric, we would be thankful 
and praise our Creator. Chief Seattle had a clear 
vision of God's requirements.

We have a start; many people today have a 
predisposition to gather together and ponder the 
problems. Increasingly they recognize these 
spiritual values. However, man, being man, wants 
to examine what he gets for giving up some of his 
domain. Indian peoples still have a vivid memory 
of their primal roots. They were the caretakers 
of the land in the Americas. They are a surrogate 
for Western man who once also had primal roots, 
roots which understood the interconnectedness 
with the created earth and all living things. We 
now clearly share a common destiny with the 
Western world, if not the entire world.

Renewed Hope

Although the reality of the acculturation process
is painful, there is a hopeful side. My 
experience with AISES illustrates this hope.

In 1977 I participated in the founding of the 
American Indian Science and Engineering Society 
(AISES). The purpose of this society was to 
significantly increase the number of American 
Indian scientists and engineers and to develop 
leaders within the Indian community. We started 
with seven participants and no assets. The 
founders vowed to work a lifetime to achieve 
parity - a goal of about 10,000 American Indian 
scientists and engineers.

Today, after 16 years of progress, AISES serves 
the Indian community nationwide. With nearly 100 
student chapters, several thousand student, 
professional and corporate members, pre-college 
programs, and an annual national leadership 
training conference, AISES has become one of the 
strongest groups for youth motivation in the 
nation. AISES is spreading hope and opportunity 
throughout Indian country.  A new kind of warrior 
is being trained.

AISES is not interested in producing grist for 
the competitively driven materialistic corporate 
and government mills. Emphasis is placed on the 
realization of a balanced life, balanced in 
appreciation and knowledge of their culture and 
their spirituality. Emphasis is placed on the 
family and community building. In fact AISES has 
called itself "The Family". Students are taught 
by example to pray, to be thankful and have 
respect for their elders. The spirit is so strong 
that it is spreading throughout lndian country, 
into other Indian organizations as well. Perhaps 
the spirit will spread to society as a whole. We 
have that hope!

In my participation with AISES and other Native 
American organizations I find an additional basis 
for hope. Although we are dealing with a great 
diversity in the Native American community, I 
find common ground, a change in our attitude as 
indigenous peoples of North America. We are 
gaining a world view of ourselves as native 
peoples.  We have reached and passed the nadir of 
our 500 years experience with adversity and 
despair. We are now in what I call "the healing 
generation", a turning point in the view of
ourselves as native peoples, a genuine renewal
process. We are actively seeking to hold unto the
wisdom in our ancient ways of living, yet we are
seeking to deal with the realities of today. We
see ourselves as one community, while maintaining 
our individual tribal identity. We are listening 
more carefully to one another.

We help one another. AISES has an expression for
this: "The honor of one is the honor of all".
Despite our diversity in cultural practices and
religious beliefs, we accept and honor one
another. This seems to be the opposite of what we
see and experience in the cities and society of 
today.  Indeed there is hope.

And my role as an artist? The role of my art and
life as an artist is to glorify God, our creator. 
As with our ancestors, Native American artists 
can help interpret through inner spiritual eyes 
the world and the environment that surrounds us. 
Artists will help us to see. They will provide a 
nonverbal record of history. As a potter I work 
with the precious earth, the living clay. I too 
have learned that all things are interconnected.