A Study in Contrasts

After emerging from Kokopelli’s cave, we drove to Sedona, Arizona. Along the way, the landscape changed from open fields to dense National Forests to expansive vistas with imposing red rock formations. (I cannot get over the sight of thousands of acres of lush, dense National Forests all over the place.)

Sedona reminded me of Vail. Both areas are at the epicenter of astounding natural beauty. Like Vail, Sedona is prosperous, thriving and overflowing with high end retail, restaurants and service providers catering to the affluent. Though we regrettably only stayed in Sedona overnight, we slept at a lovely bed and breakfast in a beautiful room that was practically on top of their iconic rock formations. Photographs from our bedroom window are attached below. It was an impossibly beautiful view. 

We left Sedona to drive to the Hopi Cultural Center in Kykotsmovi, Arizona. Our Hertz-provided GPS was evidently unaware of the location of this sizable Native American reservation. We followed a circuitous route, almost doubling our travel time, before finally arriving. (Note to the United States Defense Department: remove the GPS units from all of the Hertz rental cars and ship them to governments hostile to the United States. The recipient nations would be lost forever).  

We met our guide, Gary, who showed Mariah, Harry and me around the Hopi reservation for four hours in his somewhat worse-for-wear SUV. Gary’s mother was Hopi, his father was Navajo and he served with the Marines in Iraq. He was articulate and held very strong political and social views, which he shared freely. We learned a great deal about the Hopi as he described their origin story of the Four Worlds, their Europeanization beginning with the Spanish in 1540, and their society’s contemporary issues. We stopped a few times to pay our respects to artists displaying just three or four crudely made items for sale. We also visited a silversmith and watched him working in the traditional overlay method for a half an hour. Captivated by this artisan’s work, we purchased a necklace for Mariah from him.  

We toured several of the twelve villages that are located in the three regions of the reservation: First Mesa, Second Mesa and Third Mesa. While touring, we learned about the various Hopi clans, the practices of their matrilineal society and their complicated relationship with other Native American Tribes and the Federal government. We noticed at once that the entirety of the Hopi reservation was sparsely populated and horribly impoverished. This was a different kind of poverty than Mariah and I had seen before on our cross-country travels. There were no pawn shops, used furniture stores, boarded up car washes or Cricket phone stores. There was just decrepit, decaying housing clustered on poorly maintained dirt roads and a whole bunch of skinny stray dogs. With the exception of a few very modest, sad looking buildings, there were no businesses to be seen. Mariah said she didn’t know that these sort of living conditions existed in the United States. It was both eye-opening and extremely upsetting. 

Though our tour guide said that his business driving a few guests at a time around the reservation was thriving, we did not see any another people touring the reservation while we were there. To protect the privacy of the Hopi people, a local statute was strictly enforced that prohibited the taking of photographs. In particular, we would have liked to have photographed Old Oriabi village. We were told that it had been established in 1050 AD, and it was still occupied today. The dirt roads in Old Oriabi were littered with pot shards from who knows how long ago. Dorothea Lange’s Depression-era photographs taken on behalf of the Farm Security Administration would provide a fair proxy for the circumstances we observed. 

At the conclusion of our tour, we visited the Dawaki petroglyph site, a large horseshoe-shaped area, surrounded on three sides by mountains. Dawaki is the second largest petroglyph site in the United States with more than 15,000 individual glyphs and 17 known solar calendars. It was used for hundreds of years as an open air market to trade goods. Shards from all sorts of pottery have been collected from the ground and were spread out on a large rock in the clearing. It was difficult to imagine a time when the economically-depressed area we were visiting would have supported a bustling marketplace.  Photographs of Dawaki were allowed and are included below.

We left the Hopi reservation during the late afternoon. About two hours later, as the sun was setting, we passed a very large elk hanging out by the side of the road on our way to Tusayan, Arizona. Tonight we are staying seven miles from the Grand Canyon. Tomorrow’s adventure awaits.






Categories: Maggie

1 Comment »

  1. One of my favorite magazines is Outside. It takes me places as I read it. You are doing the same for me and I’m so enjoying it. That cave! I want to go there. I passed up a cross country road trip when I was in my twenties so I’m living vicariously. To Mariah – beautiful necklace and I appreciate the shirt! Jean


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