Every good Hopi story starts with a kernel of truth. A burro, a Hopi maiden and slave traders are kernels in this story.
The dates of this story are fluid. It could have been 1846 or 1866. In Hopi memory, it was only yesterday so other facts are more important. Here are three versions.
The Slave Traders
In the Hopi ceremonial calendar time of Soyal (the Prayer Feather Making Time) in the month of December, a New Mexico military militia camped outside of Orayvi on their return from the north. The Hopis were wary of this bunch and shared their food to hurry them along. The next day as the ceremonial priests were entering the kiva, the New Mexicans fired on, killed four Hopi men and seized a number of children and a mature, married woman.
The Hopi Maiden
Qa ö mana, Corn Maiden of the Paaqapngyam (Bamboo) Clan lived in the Hopi village or “Oriva” (Orayvi). In life, she bore a U shaped scar on her face from the kick of a burro that she was tied to when New Mexican slave traders stole her as a child. Her life was determined when the government took unprecedented action to find and return Corn Maiden and eleven other Hopi captive children to their parents.
The mode of travel for the New Mexicans were burros that were tied together in a pack train. One burro was ornery and had a hard kick. Especially with a squirming human on its back.
A Historian’s Version
Robert J. Torrez, a former New Mexico State Historian reports his research on the “predatory band” of a militia company who acted “without authority” to raid the Hopi Village of Orayvi in 1866. A.B. Norton, Superintendent of Indian Affairs for New Mexico reported that an informant Antonio Sierra provided the names of twenty-one men who carried out the raid. They were from El Rito, Abiquiu’, Conejos, Arroyo Seco, Ojo Caliente, Pueblo of Taos, Rincon and Chama. Many questions remain today. Who were these men? What are their names? Who are their descendents? Who were their slaves? Hopi Tutuveni, August 5, 2020 edition, “The 1866 Attack on Oraibi”.
Edmond Nequatewa’s Version
Wikvaya, the captive woman’s husband and Badger Clan relatives met in the Badger Clan (Honan) kiva to ceremonially plan an undertaking to rescue the Hopi captives. Armed with ceremonial war medicine and three Rio Grande guides, Wikvaya and other Hopi men travelled on foot to Santa Fe to meet with the acting Governor, W.F.M. Arny who issued an Executive Order to all Sheriffs in the territory to assist Special Agent John Ward to recover the children. Masavema told an eyewitness account to Nequatewa, as he was one of the children that was stolen. The family that he was sold to named him “Juan”. He died in 1939. “Hopi History”, Museum of Northern Arizona, January 1951.
Robert J. Torrez reports that the slave raiders found a ready market for their captives and they were scattered in many directions to Tierra Amarilla, Ojo Caliente, El Rito, Arroyo Seco and Conejos in Colorado. All the captives were recovered and returned back into the arms of their Hopi parents.
My Clan Version
Our Clan uncle, Edwin Qotskuyva’s grandmother was the young captive, Qaömana, Corn Maiden. The Paaqapngyam (Bamboo) Clan matriarchs are three sisters: Corn Maiden, Snake Maiden and Poyayumka who form the three branches of our clan relatives living on Third Mesa today. Corn Maiden’s distinctive scar on her face was a visible reminder of the harshness of life in the 1800s as the Hopi strived to maintain their culture, traditions and ceremonies in spite of racial injustices and genocide of the time.
Today, racial injustices are still being practiced by the dominant society against Native American women who are victims of violence, murdered or missing and continue to be part of human trafficking in the U.S., Canada and South America. Many parents are searching for their children. Learn more about Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women today. NIWRC.org
Masavema said that Qaömana does not like to tell this story. She said, “I have no use for kustila (Mexicans) and she meant it.” Despite her hardship, “she was a good hearted woman and was always ready to give you something to eat.” The surprise is that Qaömana later married Masavema, two children whose parents used all their wits, prayers and magic to save them. Usqwali, Thank You to the government agents who went beyond the call of duty to assist the Hopi people.
Both of these Hopi clan relatives became kernels in a sad but interesting Hopi story of survival.
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