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Sun Chief

Sun Chief: The Autobiography of a Hopi Indian, Second Edition

Edited by LEO W. SIMMONS
Foreword to the Second Edition by MATTHEW SAKIESTEWA GILBERT
Foreword to the First Edition by ROBERT V. HINE
Copyright Date: 1970
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 520
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  • Book Info
    Sun Chief
    Book Description:

    First published in 1942,Sun Chiefis the autobiography of Hopi Chief Don C. Talayesva and offers a unique insider view on Hopi society. In a new Foreword, Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert situates the book within contemporary Hopi studies, exploring how scholars have used the book since its publication more than seventy years ago.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-19889-8
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xvi)
    Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

    My introduction to Don Talayesva’sSun Chiefcame in graduate school at the University of California, Riverside. I had a worn paperback copy of the eleventh printing (1971), which, like many other Hopi books I owned, had once belonged to my father. People back home on the Hopi Reservation in northeastern Arizona often talk about this book. Some have stories to tell about Talayesva’s life, things not recorded in the book. As a Hopi student, I readSun Chiefwith much enthusiasm and interest. Eager to learn about the Hopi, especially from one of our own, I carefully studied every...

    (pp. xvii-xxvi)
    Robert V. Hine

    Don talayesva began life in the womb as twins, but, through his mother’s will to oneness aided by her firm belief in the powers of the supernatural, he was “twisted into one.” That sentence written by an outsider, a non-Hopi, like myself, sounds faintly ridiculous. The remarkable thing aboutSun Chiefis that when Don tells his own story, the cultural outsider is swept along into acceptance. This occurs largely becauseSun Chiefis a warm, universally human account, shaving the empiricist of his condescensions, stripping the Anglo-American of his self-complacency. Late in his autobiography Don tells of a woman...

    (pp. xxvii-xxviii)
    Leo W. Simmons
    (pp. 1-22)

    This work studies one individual in contact with two cultures which are in strong contrast and considerable conflict. He spent approximately the first decade of life in conservative Hopi society, the second in the American educational system, the third “by choice” in the culture of his childhood, varied in the fourth and fifth decades by more or less incidental digressions again into the society of Whites. Our interest is in what manner of man the two cultures made of him and what we can learn from his experiences.

    The subject was selected from an alien society, and within a culture...


    • 1 Twins Twisted into One
      (pp. 25-36)

      When we were within our mother’s womb, we happened to hurt her. She has told me how she went to a medicine man in her pain. He worked on her, felt her breasts and belly, and told her that we were twins. She was surprised and afraid. She said, “But I want only one baby.” “Then I will put them together,” replied the doctor. He took some corn meal outside the door and sprinkled it to the sun. Then he spun some black and white wool, twisted the threads into a string, and tied it around my mother’s left wrist....

    • 2 Childhood Crises and Early Memories
      (pp. 37-53)

      When my infant brother died at birth something happened to my mother’s womb to prevent the coming of children for several years. As a result I remained the “baby” and continued to nurse for a long time. But my strange antelope ways were showing up fast. Before I was two I climbed high on a top shelf to the surprise of my parents, who said no ordinary child could do that. One summer day I crawled, naked, into a water jar about three feet high. When they discovered me in the jar they were frightened for fear I might drown....

    • 3 Learning to Live
      (pp. 54-73)

      I was my grandfather’s favorite. As soon as I was old enough to take advice, he taught me that it was a great disgrace to be calledkahopi(not Hopi, not peaceable). He said, “My grandson, old people are important. They know a lot and don’t lie. Listen to them, obey your parents, work hard, treat everyone right. Then people will say, ‘That boy Chuka is a good child. Let’s be kind to him.’ If you do these things, you will live to be an old man yourself and pass away in sleep without pain. This is the trail that...

    • 4 Mischief and Discipline
      (pp. 74-92)

      I was full of mischief and hard to manage. Therefore I was scolded, doused with cold water, rolled in the snow, and teased terribly. But we children were never denied food, locked in a dark room, slapped on our faces, or stood up in a corner—those are not Hopi ways. Sometimes the old people warned us that if we mistreated them our lives would be short; that if we imitated the snake dancers our bellies would swell up and burst; or that if we twirled a flat stick on a string to make a humming noise, a bad wind...

    • 5 School on the Reservation
      (pp. 93-119)

      I grew up believing that Whites are wicked, deceitful people. It seemed that most of them were soldiers, government agents, or missionaries, and that quite a few were Two-Hearts. The old people said that the Whites were tough, possessed dangerous weapons, and were better protected than we were from evil spirits and poison arrows. They were known to be big liars too. They sent Negro soldiers against us with cannons, tricked our war chiefs to surrender without fighting, and then broke their promises. Like Navahos, they were proud and domineering—and needed to be reminded daily to tell the truth....

    • 6 School off the Reservation
      (pp. 120-141)

      Louise and i were together on the train part of the time until we reached Riverside, California, at about noon on Thanksgiving day. We were taken immediately to the dining room for lunch and served large yellow sweet potatoes which I had never seen before. I peeled mine, and put gravy, pepper, and salt upon them. But I could not eat them and noticed that others were laughing at me. The Indian waitress came, laughed, and gave me another plate. After that I ate my sweet potatoes “straight,” and also learned to eat tomatoes raw. When we had placed our...

    • 7 The Return to Hopiland
      (pp. 142-164)

      We awoke in the desert, washed our faces in the spring, had a quick breakfast, and started along the cliff toward Second Mesa. Our white passenger stopped at Toreva Day School just before sunset and offered to pay his fare. Frank put up the fingers of one hand twice, indicating $10 but later told me in Hopi to ask for $5 more. I urged him to be quiet, explaining that among Whites the only polite way is to state the full price at first.

      We reached Shipaulovi by dark and found my sister Gladys and her baby, Delia, waiting for...

    • 8 The Making of a Man
      (pp. 165-186)

      I could not put off initiation into the Wowochim. My father, grandfather, and two great-uncles urged me to forget about school and become a man. They said it would please the gods, prepare me for ceremonial work, put me in line to become Chief of the Sun Clan, and fit me for a higher place in life after death. Talasvuyauoma, the big War Chief, advised me to join the men’s society without delay. My ceremonial father, clan fathers, mother, godmother, clan mothers, and other relatives encouraged me; and they implied that any boy who did not seek membership in the...

    • 9 Clowning and the Bean Ceremony
      (pp. 187-205)

      Since i seemed to find no girl in Oraibi—and was dead broke, too—I welcomed the opportunity to return to Moenkopi with relatives. So after the first Katcina dance in January we departed with four wagons in a light snowstorm. I rode muleback and was teased about my new name and the name that I might have received—Hanging Greasewood. As we unhitched the horses in Moenkopi at the end of the second day, I was pleased to spy Euella standing at the corner of the house in the twilight. She entered our house while we ate and shook...

    • 10 Magic and Marriage
      (pp. 206-231)

      I returned to moenkopi on foot—forty miles in seven hours. My father’s uncle used to rise with the chickens, run there before breakfast, cultivate his farm, and race back in the evening. Now everybody said that white ways were weakening the Hopi; and I felt in my feet that it must be true. Since there was a large family at my clan mother’s house which would make it necessary for me to help with the groceries, I decided to stay with my Aunt Frances, save my money, and buy a horse.

      On Saturday Secaletscheoma put on a dance hoping...

    • 11 Subsistence in the Desert
      (pp. 232-267)

      With marriage i began a life of toil and discovered that education had spoiled me for making a living in the desert. I was not hardened to heavy work in the heat and dust and I did not know how to get rain, control winds, or even predict good and bad weather. I could not grow young plants in dry, wind-beaten, and worm-infested sand drifts; nor could I shepherd a flock of sheep through storm, drought, and disease. I might even lead my family into starvation and be known as the poorest man in Oraibi—able-bodied but unable to support...

    • 12 Prosperity and Adversity: 1913–1927
      (pp. 268-306)

      My mother and my wife carried babies at the same time—but my mother was much bigger. One evening my young sister Mabel came running with news that our mother was in labor. I hurried over and found my father and grandfather with her. No midwife was called, for my grandfather was a good doctor. I was told to squat behind her, hold my right arm about her waist with my hand pressed to her belly, and place my left hand against the small of her back. Whenever she strained, I pressed down with my right, and in with my...

    • 13 Changes in Family Life: 1928–1938
      (pp. 307-338)

      I was impotent for a long time. Irene frequently reminded me of this—even when she was kind and gentle. We could also hear the chirping of a little spirit in the roof which made matters worse. Prayers failed to restore my spent powers and nothing else seemed to help. But I kept wanting children, and I needed them badly to prove that I was a good man who could raise a family—not a Two-Heart like Nathaniel who killed off his wife and children to prolong his life. Neighbors did not ask me to be a ceremonial father to...

    • 14 New Crises: 1938–1939
      (pp. 339-373)

      In july, 1938, another white man came into my life. Dr. Mischa Titiev of the University of Michigan wrote that Mr. Simmons from Yale University was coming to Oraibi and said that I might like to work with him and rent him a room. When he arrived, I stopped my work and went about with him. In two weeks he asked me to work for him, rented part of our house, hired my sister Inez to cook, and began questioning me about Hopi life. But he soon became more interested in my own life and taught me to write my...

    • 15 Life Goes On: 1939–1940
      (pp. 374-396)

      I was almost fifty and living well in spite of sickness, droughts, and poor crops. Checks came regularly for my diary—about $20 a month—and I felt like a rich man who could trade in Winslow and buy flour, sugar, and lard by the hundred pounds. I was also getting heavy and soft from eating rich foods and writing in an easy chair instead of following my herd in rough weather. When I killed a sheep, I could not carry it home on my shoulder, which showed that I was growing old and weak.

      But the people were jealous...


    • Concerning the Analysis of Life Histories
      (pp. 399-412)

      A life history is a detailed account of the behavior of an individual in his environment. It may also attempt to be a dynamic account which casts the individual in bold relief, explains how it happens that he behaves in a certain manner at a given time, and predicts how he will behave in a series of similar situations. The purpose of the present study has been exploratory in the dynamic sense, but it is too early to attempt comprehensive and neatly fitting formulas which adequately explain and interrelate all the facts. Indeed, it may be that an extensive life...

  10. Appendices

    • APPENDIX A An Example of Situational Analysis
      (pp. 415-429)
    • APPENDIX B Legends and Myths of the Hopi
      (pp. 430-450)
    • APPENDIX C Guide to Hopi Kinship and the Identification of Don’s Relatives
      (pp. 451-465)
    • APPENDIX D A Sample of Don’s Composition
      (pp. 466-472)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 473-490)