Native Child Hopi

Bernard Michaelis

Summary Biblio Info Availability Producer Info Users' Comments


The Native Child Curriculum was developed for preschools with a special focus on Native American tribes. Drawing on material from contemporary and traditional Indian lifeways, the units are designed to promote multicultural understanding both for teachers and children. To reflect the diversity of Native American cultures, each unit focuses on one tribe. Icons are used throughout to help identify important developmentally appropriate learning areas and to help with planning. An icon is also used to indicate culturally sensitive parts of the culture that are considered off limits for nontribal members. The Hopi curriculum materials include an introduction to the Hopi people and land followed by a discussion of goals and objectives, a weekly lesson plan, and a letter to parents that explains the week's theme. The next section includes circle time activities, including a Hopi story. The following sections include activities such as directions for making rattles, playing traditional Hopi games, cooking traditional Hopi foods, and singing Hopi children's songs. The unit concludes with a bibliography of authentic literature, a glossary of Hopi words, historic photographs, and patterns that can be photocopied, cut, and used for craft activities. 

Summary Biblio Info Availability Producer Info Users' Comments

Bibliographic Information:

Bernard Michaelis. Native Child Hopi (1996). Native Child: Sante Fe, NM. (63 pages).

Sponsoring Agency: Native Child

Language: English

Reading Level: Average

Formats Available: Audiotape, Printed Material, Videotape

Summary Biblio Info Availability Producer Info Users' Comments


((price includes video and audiotapes) )

Native Child
P.O. Box 1797
Sante Fe, NM

Phone: (505) 820-2204
Fax: (928) 223-0005


Languages Available:

Summary Biblio Info Availability Producer Info Users' Comments

Producer Information:

Intended User Audience:

Intended for preschool teachers (e.g., Head Start, day care) for use with children from all backgrounds. 

Product Development:

The curriculum was developed by an individual of German descent, who lived among the Hopi. 

Product Evaluation:

The material has not been formally evaluated. 

Product Dissemination:

Approximately 65 curriculums have been sold. Despite the intent to have universal applicability, use has primarily been focused in Native American preschools around the country. 

Summary Biblio Info Availability Producer Info Users' Comments

Users' Comments:

Thank you for affording me the opportunity to contribute to ensuring that your institute provides materials that are culturally and linguistically appropriate and respectful in portraying the diverse Native American cultures of North America, specifically, the Hopi culture. I would like to further commend you and your institute in your efforts to consult directly or indirectly with a member of the culture being studied. Too often, curricula/materials portraying Indian communities and their people are developed without consultation, involvement or permission and serve only to widen the gap of cultural understanding.

Because I found the contents of this Hopi culture study problematic, my concern becomes greater knowing that approximately 65 copies of this curriculum have been disseminated to preschools working with Native American children throughout the country. It is my assumption that Native American preschools referred to by the author are in actuality federally funded HeadStart programs. Based on this assumption, I further recommend that cultural curricula/materials should also be referred for review to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) which provides federal funding for HeadStart programs in Native American communities.

A curriculum presenting cultural studies of the diverse Native American communities across the North American continent should be included as a legitimate and required course of study within the education system for students and teachers-Indian and non-Indian alike -- and available to parents as well. Because the image of Native American people and communities, created from a legacy of misconception and ignorance, has become embedded in American society and history, pursuing an objective which attempts to challenge this legacy is enormous but essential. More importantly, it is a challenge to be undertaken by Native American people/communities themselves or through collaboration with them. Only in this manner can Native American people portray themselves to a wider audience in an authentic and accurate way as they wish to be viewed and understood.
Historically, outsiders to the community have been compelled to undertake such challenges without invitation, collaboration, or permission of the Native American communities. Worse, their products have not been offered for review or as reciprocal contribution to the cultural community. This appears to describe the curriculum being reviewed. As a Hopi individual and educator, I cannot endorse or recommend this curriculum for implementation. The remainder of this review provides my rationale by pointing out the larger problematic areas.

PERPETUATING STEREOTYPES: The author has presented the Hopi culture as devoid of life. Family and community life is absent. Instead, the selected conglomeration of images are presented without the cultural context critical to understanding the significance of the forms, symbols, images, ceremonies and social interactions as they are practiced in actuality. There is no understanding afforded to children that these images are based upon symbolic meanings of cultural values refined over centuries and which continue to dictate Hopi practices. Distortion and confusion are the outcomes of this curriculum. This presentation of images can only lead young children to believe that the Hopi culture and people were a thriving and viable culture of the past and the goal to present them "as still very much around" (from Letter to the Parent) is lost.
There is also the compelling tendency to overuse the symbols, i.e. feathers, drums, etc. to "Indianize" materials about Indian people. The curriculum title, Native Child, with a feather representing the letter [i], immediately recalls for me the "Ii is for Indian" along with "Ee is for Eskimo" alphabet cards that still adorn the walls of many elementary classrooms and perpetuate the image that Indian people have long been viewed as "objects" of study. This "marker" as well as the lightning sticks used to illustrate circle time, the Hopi sun and rainbow and the use of "generic Indian" icons serve only to perpetuate existing stereotypes.

CULTURE AND TECHNOLOGY: Technology can be a highly effective educational tool in cultural studies. Unfortunately, the author's use of computer images to portray Hopi culture is extremely problematic. It becomes difficult to believe that computer technology is the means to "teach in more culturally sensitive ways" (Abstract & Developer's Information). The authenticity provided by the archival photographs, which should be a primary source of visual information and discussion, receives only supplementary status. No information/dialogue is provided for review as to how these photos are incorporated into the unit. The mix of computer images with photo images to present Hopi village life is unsuccessful in portraying accuracy or in portraying the traditional and contemporary lifestyle of the Hopi. I believe the author's objective of using color, cartoon-like characters and the computer to command attention only serve to leave young children with the impression that the Hopi people and culture are indeed different but downright weird as well.

CULTURAL DISRESPECT: The "kachina doll" is popular both as an image and collector item in the mainstream world but is viewed significantly differently in the Hopi world. The "kachina" activities: 1) the kachina image comprised of shapes is presented with the statement, "this kachina is made of shapes"; the children are then asked to name the shapes; 2) the "kachina made of shapes" is next presented in disassembled form to become a coloring and puzzle activity developed by the author are extremely offensive to the symbolic meanings embedded in the tihu (kachina doll) itself and to the katsinam (kachina spirits/dancers) who come to visit the Hopi people during the Hopi ceremonial cycle.

CURRICULUM OBJECTIVE: There are many concepts about Hopi culture that are "thrown at children"; i.e. kachina spirits, prayers to the clouds, lightening sticks, Hopi symbols, Butterfly Dance without and out of context. Additionally, replicating songs, dances, objects in the same manner cannot create for any child an understanding of a people's culture. The objectives of the unit to "appreciate and manage natural resources" and "learn that human beings, animals and plants need water" vanish in the mass of images and inaccuracies. Add to this, more inaccuracies and misspellings in describing the elements of Hopi culture, singing "Hopi songs" with English words, mixing language terms (i.e. chongo, tablita, mano are not Hopi words)--all of this leads to the conclusion that the Hopi culture is dissected and distorted to conform to the developmental objectives of the scope and sequence of preschool programs.

CONCLUSION: There is only one conclusion to be drawn from this curriculum and it is a disturbing one. This curriculum's target audience is young children with impressionable minds. The images of Hopi implanted in their young minds are that Hopi people look like computer images, wear little clothing as they plant their corn and live in a world where the sun, clouds and lightening look very different from the sun, clouds and lightening of the children's world. The schism challenging cultural understanding between Hopi and other worlds becomes wider and deeper.

Sheilah Nicholas
Ph.D. Student, American Indian Studies
University of Arizona


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