Tag Archives: Kachina

Pueblo Grande and the Heard Museum Starts Our Quest into Native Cultures

19 Mar

We recently went on a Road Scholar program to learn about the Hopi Mesas and Navajo Lands of Canyon de Chelly.  Our first stop on this journey was Phoenix, Arizona, where we met up with the group of 34 including our two guides.

Before it started, my husband and I discovered the Pueblo Grande Museum and archeological park.  We arrived hours before our first program was to start, so decided to walk from our hotel to a restaurant nearby.  Right across the street from this museum.  What a delightful accident.

First stop, when entering the museum was a short movie about the Hohokam people and this site. It helped to adjust our minds back in time to the lives of those who lived here.  The museum showed us what was found in the site and explained more the way of life.

After we exited the back door, we walked through the grounds and the 2/3 mile loop around the ancient platform mound, which dates to the 1400.  We saw the evidence of the Hohokam people’s irrigation canals and homes.  We were amazed by the large oval ballcourt that was used, they believe from 750 – 1200 AD.    This court was my favorite part of the archeological site, but for many it was the mound. Later in our trip, after I had been on the tops of the Mesa’s where the Hopi live, I could imagine that this platform was built to imitate the mesas.  I don’t know if this is true, but it is my vision of the site.

This was a wonderful way to learn the history of the Pueblo people, the ancestors of both the Hopi and Navajo.

Later that evening, our official program began.  We would go in the morning to our first stop on the official agenda, the Heard Museum in Phoenix.  I had been there before, but without the help of a museum docent.  Having this knowledge helped us understand what we were looking at during the tour of the arts and history of the Navajo people, which is highlighted at the museum.

We saw the pottery, weaving, baskets, wood carvings and jewelry made and designed by the native peoples of Arizona.  I cannot say one was more beautiful than another because each type of art was magnificent in its own way.

img_2131
The walls filled with Kachina/Katsina spirit carvings opened my eyes to how these carvings changed over the centuries. And the history behind them revealed part of the culture, how they were used to teach young girls about the spirits that bring rain and information.

img_2123

Seeing the multitude of baskets and pottery and rugs along the walls of the museum, showed me how these home arts went from useful and decorative to now works of art.  The workmanship in the making of these crafts amazes.

Finally, the silver and turquoise and coral jewelry that the Navajo peoples make is stunning.  This is a skill that they learned after the Long Walk, when the people of the Navajo needed to rebuild their community. And the tools and skills they learned in blacksmithing helped them to turn these skills to jewelry design. While the turquoise was considered good fortune as it connected to the blue of the sky.

After our time with the docent, many of us went upstairs to an older section of the museum to view the newly redesigned exhibit on Native peoples and the boarding schools they went to in the late 1800s, early 1900s. These schools were seen as a way to assimilate the children into the Anglo-European culture.   Many still go to boarding schools today, as the people in the reservations are so spread out.  But no longer are they told to not express their own culture.

Day one ended with a long bus ride to the Hopi Reservation and then a two-day stay at the Hopi Indian Cultural Center on the Second Mesa.