The Hopi tribe of Arizona is among the first Native Americans who thrived on American soil during the pre-colonization era. Through the years, they have established one of the most decorated, profound, and richest cultures in the country. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at their cuisine and food palette as we answer the question, “What did the Hopis eat?”
Beginnings and Characteristics of the Hopis Tribe
Despite lacking evidence, many archeologists believe that the history of the Hopi tribe began more than 2,000 years ago. For this reason, the tribe is considered one of the oldest documented tribes in the world.
The name, “Hopis” is pronounced properly as “Hopee”. The name of the tribe means well-mannered, peaceful, polite, and civilized people who live by the Hopi tribe’s principles.
The early beginnings of the tribe can be traced back to the 12th century when they migrated to the Arizonian lands. They were described by 16th-century Spaniards as “Pueblo people” because of their village-like settlements.
At present, the tribe remains a sovereign nation residing in northwestern Arizona.
A Peek into the Hopis Lifestyle and Culture
Hopis are very religious people. They view their land as sacred and blessed. As a result, the tribe took full responsibility for being land caretakers. This explains why their culture and lifestyle are deeply rooted in agriculture and farming.
Since they live in high and dry regions, they were able to develop a farming system that relies on windbreakers. Instead of plowing the land, they use windbreakers to keep the moisture in the soil. Tribesmen were also prolific hunters before they learned how to raise livestock.
What did the Hopis eat?
One thing you must understand is that cuisine and lifestyle go hand in hand. The way the Hopi tribe lives will basically answer the question: “What did the hopis eat?”
Since we know that they rely heavily on farming and livestock, you must expect that their diet is comprised of whatever they produce. Some of their favorite crops are corn, soybeans, nuts, fruits, beans, and squash which became their dietary staples.
Maize or corn is one of the major dietary staples of the Hopi tribe. Experts suggest that corn production is an essential element of the tribe’s identity. This notion is supported by the religious teachings of the tribe. According to them, Maasaw, their guardian spirit, gifted their ancestors with a bag of corn kernels and an ear of blue corn.
Since then, corn has been part of the tribe’s religious ceremonies. Elders of the tribe make sure that the first food of newborns is corn, and the last meal of a dying member is also corn.
At present, the tribe is said to cultivate at least 24 varieties of corn. Among them, the blue and white colored corn is the most important for the tribe.
The tribe has numerous ways of preparing and eating corn. If the corn is harvested during its milky stage, then the tribe can either eat it fresh or cook it.
One of their most common ways of preparation is by placing the corn in a hot, burning pit overnight. The next morning, the women would lead the drying of the steamed corn followed by grinding it into cornmeal.
Alternatively, the whole corn ear is often added to stews and soup to enrich the texture and overall flavor of the dish.
Other vegetables and fruits
Other than corn, the Hopi tribe also cultivates other crops like pumpkins, beans, nuts, onions, potatoes, and herbs. They depend mostly on bee balm, cinch weed, and chili peppers for seasoning.
Through time, they have also incorporated into their diet fruits such as watermelon and peaches. The Hopis are also known consumers of Cacti fruits. While uncommon for many, the fruits of cactus plants are edible and highly nutritious.
The Hopi tribe are trained farmers than hunters. But to supplement their diet with much-needed amino acids, they also learned how to hunt and raise livestock. Their meat diet is mostly comprised of rabbits, turkeys, deer, prairie dogs, and quail.
Since they are quite far from bodies of water, seafood and fish are not really part of their dietary staples.
Modern Look at Hopi’s Recipes
Here are some of the well-known recipes originating from the Hopi tribe.
This is a grayish-bluish-colored bread made from the tribe’s blue corn and culinary ashes. The blue corn is meticulously processed to make fine cornmeal while the culinary ash is prepared by burning native bushes or juniper trees.
The batter created from these two is spread over a flat baking stone that has been preheated while covered with pumpkin seed oil. And then the stone will be heated at approximately 700⁰F until the batter turns crisp.
Piki bread is known for its thin and crispy feels in the mouth. Moreover, it has very smoky, earthy, and sweet flavors.
This Hopi recipe is prepared by first cooking venison (or beef) with onions, garlic, and some seasonings. Once the meat is cooked, vegetables like squash and corn are added. And then, a mixture of cornmeal and water is then poured into the pot to create a thick and flavorful soup.
Hopi’s corn stew has a very rich and deep flavor profile because of the sweetness of the corn and cornmeal as well as the earthiness of the deer meat.
Did you know that…
Spaniards called Hopis pueblo people because they live in adobe houses which are arranged in apartment-like complexes.