Katsinas Brief Overview

Introduction Native American Pueblo Style Crafts

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The Hopi native americans are the only Pueblo Indians in Arizona. Hopis live in 12 villages on top and at the base of three mesas in northern Arizona covering approximately 1.5 million acres.

The Hano (Tewa), Sichmovi and Walpi villages rest at the top of the first mesa while the village of Polacca rests at the foot.

The villages of Sipaulavi, Mishongnovi and Shungopavi are located on the second mesa. Oraibi, Bacavi and Hotevilla rest at the top of the third mesa while Kykotsmovi rests at the foot of the third mesa. The village of Moenkopi is located west of the three mesas.

The Hopi live in an extremely dry and arid country. This lack of rainfall has led the Hopi to become experts in the art of dry farming. The frequent religious dances and ceremonies of the Hopi are pyaers primarily focused on rainfall, reproduction and food production which includes plant, domestic and hunted animals.

What is a Kachina?

Kachinas represent spiritual beings in the Hopi religion and are believed to live on the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff, Arizona. Native American Hopi and Zuñi Pueblo Indian perform religious ceremonies in which masked men (never women) impersonate supernatural beings.

Kachinas are not considered as individual "gods", they represent intermediaries between humans and god. There are hundreds of different kachina spirit beings in the Hopi culture with new ones added and older ones either dropped or make only rare, sporadic appearances.

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Kachina dolls are used to introduce and educate young native American children into the ways of life and religious culture of the Hopis. They are not considered to be playthings or toys.

There are hundreds of different Kachinas, many will never be viewed by anyone outside the Hopi culture. Kachinas may represent virtually anything from weather events such as rain and snow, to food, grain and livestock. There are kachinas for stars and planets and even other Indian tribes outside the Hopi nation.

Kachinas may also be the spirits of dead ancestors who visit the Hopi mesas to watch over their relatives and bring rain clouds.

Authentic Kachina dolls are carefully hand carved out of cottonwood root and painted or decorated with feathers, leather, and fabric in the manner which best represents a particular spirit of the Hopi religion. Traditionally it is up to the uncles in families to create kachina dolls for their nieces.

A Kachina is more than one thing or idea. There are three distinct aspects to the overall concept of kachinas:

  1. Spiritual: Supernatural kachinas, believed to exist in the minds of the Hopi Indians. Spirit kachinas dwell high in the clouds of the San Fransisco Peaks a volcanic mountain range north of Flagstaff, Arizona. Kachinas only visit the villages during the Kachina Season when they leave the spirit world to enter the natural world through (usually) underground, ceremonial rooms or Kivas.
  2. Dancers: Men who wear masks and costumes to impersonate the spiritual beings. Dancers practice all their lives and whenever they don the masks and costumes they become the spirit upon which they represent.
  3. Dolls: Small carved kachina "Tihus" or dolls made to represent these supernatural beings, carved, painted and decorated and given to young girls by their fathers or uncles (usually)

The Hopi calendar year of religious ceremonies is divided into two parts. The first part of the calendar year falls between winter solstice to mid-july.

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Kachina ceremonial dances are performed throughout the first season during which all kachina dancers wear full costumes and masks. Official Mong ceremonies last nine days and most are performed in private kivas by invitation only.

Kachina costumes and masks are not worn during the second part of the calendar year which falls between mid-july to winter solstice.

The images in Paper Kachinas for Young Children are based upon historic government, educational and public records of kachina masks and costumes dating as far back as the late 1800's. These designs are not genuine or authentic native American produced artworks.

Visit the sites listed in the native American references and resources page for the most current or accurate descriptions.

Kachina & non Kachina Ceremonies for the Hopi Pueblo Indians:

The Hopi Ceremonial Calendar

The Hopi ceremonial cycle is based on the cyclical positions of the sun combined with the 19 year cycle with the moon, planetary cycles and appearance of constellations throughout the year.

The Hopi solar year is divided into two halves. The Kachina season begins with the winter solstice (Dec 21). The non-Kachina cycle begins with the summer solstice (Jun 21).

For more information research Hopi Ceremonial Societies - Phratries.