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Hopi Education Theories and Practices Essay

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Pedagogical Theories Identified in Hopi Life

The early education of Hopi culture was to encourage a worldview integrity without which knowledge could indeed become dangerous and dreadful. The educational theories which can be identified in Hopi life include behavioral learning, cognitive learning, and social learning theories. Each theory enabled the youth to learn more about the world and concepts typical of their own culture and related issues. Experience was an integral apet of the Hopi culture as young people learnt different concepts as soon as they encountered those.

Theories: Behavioral Learning Theory

This theory has its focus on stimuli and responses that can be readily observed. This process was used by older individuals within the surroundings of children, so that as soon as Hopi children reached maturity kinship reactions were embedded in their thinking, feeling and everyday life and were part of him just as sleeping and eating.

The Hopi were not merely informed that rules of behavior were wise but rather they lived with them as they grew up and became a part of their environment which is very different from the American separation of teaching at home at school and during Sunday school. “But I am still a child. A lost child. I cannot find my way. Where is the pathway of peace? Where can I find the harmony of the true Hopi?” (Qoyawayma 3).

Theories: Cognitive Learning Theory

The process of acquisition is combined with remembering facts and related information, and application of this information in practice is usually referred to as a cognitive learning theory. What is learned and internalized in infancy and early childhood can resist any contact situations.

The Young Hopi children are taught cultural values through the use of stories. One of the first stories which were told to Hopi youth by their elders was that of the blue corn or sakwapqa’ö. The most important aspect to consider in the traditional education system of the Hopi people is the emotional commitment involved in this particular type of process which enabled them to resist cultural change (Eggan 1956: 347).

This theory was used for teaching young people of the Hopi society to cognate the world. From birth, the young of the household were attended to and disciplined mildly for the first several years by their relatives in addition to their mother and visitors whom were in the home (Egan 1956: 349).

Theories: Social Learning Theory

Social context presupposes acquisition and application of knowledge. The Hopi people received education from their families where adult members had the responsibility of educating young. Stories which were told in Hopi culture pointed to improper behavior as the source of crop failure or sickness.

This effects were clearly seen and understood by all the children of the village. It was the belief of Hopi people that each person in the group is responsible for what happens to all. If one child disobeys and does something bad, every child of the clan may receive a punishment (Eggan 356)

Cultural Values or Ideas Being Supported

Clan Identity

In addition to extended families, Hopi people belonged to one tribe in which they were born. A Hopi was a child of his father’s clan and this group took a lively interest in him (Eggan 354). Identity is an important part of Hopi culture, especially with regard to clan membership. The relationships similar to the ones between family members are binding forces for the members of the clan which is also the center of the tribe.

The clans hold the Hopi villages together and provides a singular Hopi identity (Ancestral.com). Women are treated differently than in western countries because children become the members of a wife’s rather than a husband’s clan. Children are named by the women who belong to the father’s clan (Apache tracker.com) “A baby never depended on only his physical mother. “Many arms gave him comfort” (Eggan 353)


Hopi wisdom encourages a hopi to speak truth and warns them against looking outside themselves for a leader as they all have leadership qualities within them. The Hopi people are encouraged to be courageous. As reported by Eloise, Hopi elders consider the counsciousness of an individual as something that is not posessesd by this person until he/she comprehends and acknowledges spiritual responsibility.

Corn Relationships and Human Being

Corn has a great significance among the Hopi people because it sustains them both physically and spiritually given that they lived in an area where food was often scarce. Corn was a great source of nutrition with all important minerals and elements and was available when other products were scarce. Members of the Hopi society learned to make other products like piki and cake-like food using corn. People of hopi tribes believed that corn was given to them by deity of flora and spirits of different natural phenomena (Ancestral.com).

Corn plays a major role in the everyday life of the Hopi as well as in ceremonial life. According to the tradition related to corn, a nice-shaped ear of corn was placed into a medicinal bowl located on the alter for ceremonial purposes; preceding this, this ear was decorated with jewels and feathers. The ritual included purification of people who took part in the ceremony by sprinkling them and ceremony-related objects with meals made of corn.

Additionally, to prevent enemies and undesirable guests from enetering the territory of the tribe, corn could be placed across the road (Ancestral.com). The Hopi people believed that corn was an indication that life is a planting, a growing, and harvesting and that prayers are physical things when appropriately conceived capable of coming to plentiful fulfillment and seedtime (Qoyawayma 8).

Child Naming

Names are important among the Hopi people as they help in identification of the members of this tribe. During the birth of a Hopi baby, the Hopi culture provides that the infant and the mother should be isolated inside a dark house for a period of 20 days. The mother is required to place two ears of corn next to the cradle and remain close to the infant until the day of the naming ceremony takes.

The paternal grandmother was required by the Hopi culture to give a blessing to the child before the other family members on the morning of the child naming ceremony. The blessing was given using sacred ears. The child was given a hand made quilt by the grandmother before the other members are allowed to offer the baby their quilts.

In case of a large family, the baby could end up with several names and quilts. The parents of the new born child then make a selection of the name to be used from among the suggested names. After becoming a member of another religious society such as the Kachina society, the Hopi people made provisions to change the names of newly-initiated people (Ancestral.com).

Responsibilities in Hopi Clan

Men and women had in Hopi society were assigned different responsibilities. Hopi men were expected to hunt deers in order to obtain meat as well as hides and bones for clothing and tools. Women in this society baked and gathered fruit and herbs. Most of the agricultural field work with the exception of corn planting which is a community event in which both men and women participate was carried out by men. In contrast to other societies, the arts of and leatherwork were not only done by women, but men as well.

Religion: Kachina Dolls

Education of children was performed by parents who used Kachina dolls to explain diffent concepts of life. The Kachina dolls enabled the children in Hopi society to understand the importance of Kachinas in tribal ceremonies (SR Publications 2008: n.p.).

Good Heartedness

The Hopi believe that the dark-hearted people will be eliminated and the good hearted ones walking with the One will continue this world. The religion teaches that all distress from crop failure to illnesses is as a result of bad hearts.

A good heart is a positive thing which should never go out of a Hopi’s mind (Eggan 1956: 360) only those people who have good hearts are effective in prayer resulting in constant probing of the heart. Oh, for a heart as pure as pollen on corn blossom, and for life as sweet as honey gathered from the flowers” (Qoyawayma 5)

Art as a Medium of Instruction

The Hopi have expressed their artistic skills in form of jewelry, pottery, painting, textiles, and basket making. The Hopi people were able to communicate their dreams, visions, and beliefs through their artistic skills. The artistic skills on pots told a stories which taught the young members of the society (Faulstich 2008: n.p.).

Works Cited

Ancestral.com. Information on Hopi Culture. Web.

Apache Tracker. Hopi Culture. February 23, 2011. Accessed

Eggan, Dorothy. Instruction and affect in Hopi cultural continuity. Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 12 (4)(1956): 347-370.

Eloise, Hart. Wisdom teachings of the Hopi. Sunrise Magazine, October/November 1990.

Faulstich, Paul. Ethnocology. Environmental Studies,148, 2008. Web.

Hopi-Songs of the Forth World [Film]. 58 min. Dir. Ferrero Pat. Distributed by New Day Films.

Qoyawayma, Polingaysi. No turning back: A Hopi woman’s struggle to live in two worlds Squidoo.com. Quilting and the Hopi. February 23, 2011. Accessed

SR Publications. Hopi: Songs of the Forthworld. 2008. Web.

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