Last Saturday evening, April 10, 2021 the historic Hopi House of the late Elizabeth Q. White (English Name), Polingaysi Qoyawayma (Hopi Name) in Kykotsmovi Village was fully engulfed in flames and burned totally to the ground.
The Hopi House was an icon and notable because it was built as a Hopi two story architectural style and painted a vibrant pink color. The house faced SE towards the morning sun. In the courtyard was a huge cottonwood tree that was planted by her father Fred Qoyawayma and brother Matthew.
The builder and owner of the Hopi House, Polingaysi, is known as a Hopi educator, writer and potter. Polingaysi practiced a unique style of hosting famous visitors to Hopi for a “bond of friendship and sympathetic understanding”. She hosted writers, scientists, artists and anthropological students who came to visit Hopi for a few days or a few weeks. Ernest Hemingway and Theodore Roosevelt stayed in her home while touring the Hopi ceremonies.
As a child, it was a privilege to come to my paternal aunt Polingaysi’s house. There was a long, rectangular room with a long, wood table for group dining. I was put to work ironing the napkins and tablecloths for this table.
The large living room had Navajo floor rugs, leather lounging chairs and the light fixtures were hung underside of colorful Hopi handmade wicker plaques. Upstairs, the bedrooms had large oak beds with colorful Indian pattern pillowcases that I would iron. She taught me to fix beds with sharp corners and no creases on the sheets. There was a door to the outdoor balcony.
Polingaysi cooked several courses of meals with exotic vegetables, meat and fruits. I learned to eat fresh peas at her house. I mostly remember my paternal aunt as a potter as I watched her shaping clay to make bells and pottery bowls with her signature corncob image.
Polingaysi’s life story is well documented. She authored “The Sun Girl: A True Story of Dawamana” that was about real people I knew as a child. “No Turning Back” as told to Vida F. Carlson, is also an excellent biography about Polingaysi’s life. Today her legacy as a pioneer in Hopi bi-lingual education continues on and the Elizabeth White Scholarship at Northern Arizona University carries on her educational intentions for future Hopi generations.
What is a Hopi House? Today we see Hopi ancestral villages throughout the Southwest. Non-Hopis see them as ruins, decayed and uninhabited. These spaces were once warm, inviting and vibrant. Generations were born and lived in the shelters we call a Hopi House.
Polingaysi’s Hopi House was the first Five Star Hostel for visitors who were on a life quest to find themselves. We will miss seeing the Hopi House in Kykotsmovi Village.
By MFredericks, Webmaster