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November 08, 2011

American Indian Heritage & StoryCorps 2011: Winter Storytelling in Hopi Lands

In honor of Native American and Alaska Native Heritage Month, we're asking our friends in Indian Country to share their stories on our blog all month long.

Our first submission comes from Sharon Batala of Hotevilla-Bacavi, Arizona, who sent us this beautiful photo of the Hopi lands, where she grew up learning about her tribe's traditions during walks in the desert with her family. Batala, a former Air Force Staff Sargeant, works as a counselor at the Hopi Veterans Center Outreach Station.

Sedona,work,Pivanhonkapi 060

Sharon writes:

Winter is the time for storytelling. Through storytelling in the Hopi language, values are passed on from generation to generation. History, clan migrations, destruction of ancient cities, when the deities came to humans, when animals used to talk with humans and other information is passed on. It is a time for families to strengthen bonds, to learn important values of being Hopi and to have your imagination spurred beyond the limits!

In my family, storytelling was a favorite of my childhood living on the reservation. My grandparents, who were the storytellers. My father, the intellectual, took us on hikes as small children to the places that seemed mystical in the story, but upon close examination brought to reality the "real" story of a village and people who were no longer there. Along with teaching lessons of locations, place names, plant names, and important historical locations, my dad told us once, when we were complaining about being tired, "One day you might be in charge of this land; how are you to make good decisions about the land if you don't know it?" And so we walked on listening to him as he told us many things about our desert landscape.

One such location we visited was Pivanhonkapi, an ancient village that was destroyed. In the story, the Hopi deities come to assist the players in the story. Medicine is used to help. Powers are revealed in the magical happenings of the story as it moves to a climatic end. As a child, I couldn't sleep just thinking of the story and what happened to the people, how they must have felt and looked as they escaped, fleeing across the desert. Then when he took us to the actual place, total wonderment that the story was not just a story.

Stories enabled me to use the values they taught as I grew up, even though I did not know much of the outside world.  But the values I learned helped me throughout my life and continue to strengthen me.  I hope others will return to their own tribal stories and learn what their ancestors have provided, it is truly . . . living history.


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Really interesting to hear of other people's childhoods and traditions and that these stories can be related to actual places and events.

What a wonderful but tragic heritage. The story is incomprehensible to me. If we Caucasians had acted right, perhaps we would be privileged to know so much more than we do.

In recent years, I have learned just a "tad" more about my paternal great, great grandmother, who was an American Indian. My maternal grandmother admonished me not even to admit that I had American Indian blood. Such a waste! I never heard anything about her as a person. Who was she? What was her personality like. After all, she was my grandmother's grandmother. That's pretty close. Why was she involved with our family? Was it with her consent, or not? Did anyone know her? I don't even know her name, but I will try to find out.

The history of the Americans Indian Heritage is a fascinating subject interesting.They were our first environmentalists and horticulturists.

Hi Sharon,

I enjoyed the read - American Indian Heritage & StoryCorps 2011: Winter Storytelling in Hopi Lands. thank you


Really enjoyed the great story and photo. Thanks!

You provided an impressive article I like it so much. I love historical articles like this. Thanks

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