Apology Not Accepted

Hopi Mural Interpretation of the Pueblo Revolt, Museum of Northern Arizona

August 10, 1680 is a date of painful memories in the Pueblo World known as the “Pueblo Revolt”. The date is not a celebration or holiday. It cannot be erased.

“On June 13, 2000, Bishop Donald E. Pelotte, Bishop of the Diocese of Gallup, NM of the Catholic Church delivered an apology from the Pope to Hopi religious leaders and cultural advisors in the chambers of the Hopi Tribal Council in Kykotsmovi. The Pope’s apology sought forgiveness for the abuses Franciscan missionaries had inflicted on Hopi people during the mission period (1629-1680)—abuses documented in Moquis and Kastiilam: Hopis, Spaniards, and the Trauma of History, a collaborative project between The Hopi Tribe and the University of Arizona. Those abuses included the forced labor of Hopi men, the suppression of Hopi religion, and, worst of all, the rape of Hopi women. 

Hopi religious leaders and cultural advisors sat silently as the bishop addressed them. There was awkward silence that fell upon the gathering when the bishop concluded his apology. Then one of the Hopi men stood up and addressed the bishop. “Apology not accepted. I don’t accept your apology,” he stated. Several men rose and expressed similar statements, adding that the historical trauma inflicted by the Spanish on the Hopi people during the mission period still haunted Hopi lives today. One by one, Hopi religious and political leaders added reasons why they could not accept the apology. Besides, if there was ever going to be a full reconciliation, then the Pope himself should deliver the apology. Hopi also stated that if the men of the Church were serious about correcting past wrongs, then it should look into Hopi treaty rights, specifically land and water rights guaranteed by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which are now at the heart of the concerns facing the Hopi people. The bishop agreed to take their messages to the Pope and look into the request for help. The Hopi Tribe has not heard anything from the bishop or the Church since then. 

Having witnessed this event, I asked myself, “What if the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 was not successful? What if the Hopi people weren’t able to drive the Spaniards out of their villages and their homelands? What if the Hopi practiced Catholicism instead of the Hopi way of life?” By asking myself these questions, I slowly realized the significance of the Pueblo Revolt in the history of the Hopi people. Unlike other Pueblo people, we don’t have Catholic churches in our communities or Hispanic last names. We have been free to practice our religion and our customs since 1680. We were never re-conquered. 

Another question that I asked myself is about the behavior of my own people. Have the Hopi people taken for granted what our ancestors fought and died for, the abuses they endured, the sacrifices they have made and losses they suffered? In my time with the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office, I have witnessed changes in the behaviors of the Hopi people, including my own. We act like we are entitled. We behave differently at our own Katsina ceremonies. We fight amongst ourselves instead of being unified as a people. Moreover, the most offensive part of all of this is that we put it on YouTube and other social media outlets for the world to see. We need to protect and safeguard what we have so that our way of life will endure in our hearts, mind, and spirit. 

In 1629, the Spaniards transformed the Hopi way of life by inaugurating the Mission system in the three major Hopi villages of Awat’ovi, Songòopavi, and Orayvi. Everything about the mission system was an assault on the Hopi people. Hopi men were forced to carry beams to build mission churches from Nuvatukyaovi. Some missionaries sent husbands away to gather water from distant springs so they could rape their wives or take advantage of their daughters. No wonder the Hopi term for missionaries is Tota’tsim, a tyrant, dictator, or demanding person interested only in personal gain. The Hopis also viewed the Spaniards as Na’na’önt or Na’öna, lazy. 

The key to survival is accomplished through hard work, yet both missionaries and encomenderos (those who held grants of encomiendas, the labor system) had the right to extract tribute—2.6 bushels of corn and one cotton manta each year—from Hopi households, even during drought years when Hopis barely produced enough food to feed themselves. They also had to work for up to three days a week tending to mission fields and mission herds of sheep and cattle. Do you know how much water is needed to successfully cultivate cotton? Hopis were punished severely if they failed to meet those demands.


As the drought worsened because Hopis could not perform their ceremonies, Hopi men would sneak away from the villages to rehearse songs, ceremonies, and religious practices so they would not be lost and for- gotten. And after one Hopi man from Orayvi named Sitkoyma sponsored a Niman ceremony in the Katsina Buttes, the missionary discovered his “idolatry,” whipped him in the plaza, and poured scalding turpentine on his wounds. After Sitkoyma’s brutal murder, Hopis began to discuss whether they needed to take stronger action. They met with other Pueblo people and finally decided that the only way to preserve the Hopi way of life was to kill the missionaries and other Spaniards. 

Every Hopi person knows that it takes hard work to survive, incorporating the teachings of life and reciprocity we were given long ago. Survival requires a lifelong commitment that involves faith, prayer, humility and hard work. Our ancestors endured a lot for us to be where we are today, to carry on our way of life as we have been taught by them through the generations, and the right to be called Hopisinom. 

Tomorrow when you wake, pray and greet the Sun, ask Taawa to deliver a message to our ancestors, a message of Askwalí/Kwak- whá to those who had the courage to stand up to the Tota’tsim, who fought for and protected our unique way of life for each of us as Hopisinom today. Let us not take our Hopi way of life for granted. Continue to live in faith, prayer, humility and hard work the best we can each day so that our children and future generations will learn and receive it just as we received it from our ancestors. Kwakwhá.”

By: Stewart B. Koyiyumptewa 

Guest Editorial, Reprinted from Hopi Tutuveni, August 18,2021

4 Comments on “Apology Not Accepted

  1. This is a sad and brutal story. I am grateful that the Hopi survived such treatment throughout the centuries and hope the Hopi will continue to be a strong presence on this beautiful planet.

  2. I am a survivor of Catholic genocide. I was stolen by the church and stripped of my indigenous identity and heritage and actively prevented from seeking, claiming, and honoring my cultures, that predate this foreign terrorist organization called the Roman Catholic Church.
    I stand with you as Nāwi-Tōxłi’ Ītztli Ozēlōtl, Kalpoleh Kalpōlli Tōkał, Mazewalli Nation.
    May our cultures flourish and thrive.
    Īn tzōntēyōł mōneki.

  3. Wow a very moving story and brought tears to my eyes. I’m sorry the Hopi were treated so bad and glad they didn’t accept the apology.

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