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Oraibi, whose original name is Ojaibi – Round Rock  – is an old Hopi village on Third Mesa. Marshall Trimble (“Arizona: a Cavalcade History“) writes that “Old Oraibi, on Third mesa, is the oldest continuously inhabited city in America, dating back to before AD 1200.” The region surrounding the Black Mesa, 2,500 square miles of the now Hopi Reservation area surrounded by Navajo country, has been settled since before the time of Christ.

Oraibi witnessed several tragedies in the history, and oral tradition, of the “Peaceful People”. Trimble again: “The first whites to visit Hopiland were soldiers from Coronado‘s exhibition in 1540 during his quest for the mythical Seven Cities of Gold… In their pursuit of treasure other Spanish explorers, including Espejo, Farfán, and Oñate, all visited the mesas in the late 1500s.”

Harold Courlander (“The Fourth World of the Hopis“) tells the story of the arrival of the Castillas in Oraibi. “The Castillas demanded food offerings constantly, and many families had to give up a share of their corn, squash and melons. By this time the priests had a lot of sheep that had been sent to them from Santa Fe. They made the Hopis build large stone corrals for them. The Hopis had few sheep, the Castillas had many. The people became discouraged about the way life was going. They did not plant as much as in the old days, and some of them neglected their fields. They were tired of the heavy work they had to do for the Castillas. They were tired of hearing the priests say that the kachinas [representation of the spirits in traditional Hopi ceremonies] were something bad. And they grew angry when they discovered that the Castillas were taking Hopi women into their house and abusing them. Talking together in the kivas at night they say, ‘Something must be done. We cannot go on living this way’.” Eventually the Spaniards were driven out in the Great Revolt of 1680 by the Pueblo tribes of what is now New Mexico, and of course the Hopi clans. “Beams from the church were used to construct a new kiva [ceremonial chamber] at Oraibi, still in use today.”

Often the Navajos raided Hopi villages. Courlander tells of one such attack on Oraibi. The tradition says that, at a crucial moment in the battle, “the warriors gods, Pokanghoya and Polongahoya, [went] out toward the enemy with lightning arrows in their bows… There was a great flash and a sound like thunder, and many Navajos who had been riding a moment before were now lying scattered and lifeless on the battlefield… The main Navajo party turned away and rode northward. Seeing this, the raiders looting Oraibi abandoned the stocks of corn they had piled up, mounted their horses and departed.”

Image: Originally uploaded by Promking (Transferred by JaumeBG) – Originally uploaded on en.wikipedia, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17815248 – Very old abandoned house and panoramic view on the outskirts of Oraibi village.