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Kachina: Spirit of the Hopi

June 19 - November 20, 2004

For the Hopi of Northern Arizona, farming and gardening provide not only sustenance but are fundamental sources of tradition and culture. Archeological records suggest the Hopi began their agricultural lifestyle as early as 1500 BC, and they are recognized for introducing a variety of agricultural methods to the deserts of the Southwest, including irrigation. Corn is their primary staple. The cycles of an agricultural lifestyle guide the annual ceremonies and rituals.

The end of winter through July is the time of festivals, and kachina spirits return to the Hopi villages. The men, giving up their earthly personas, dress as kachinas and dance and sing in public celebrations. With more than 350 distinct kachinas, each represents a spirit of a deceased ancestor, a deity of the natural world, or an intermediary between the living and the spiritual world.

Kachinas can do many things, including bringing rain to ensure a good harvest, punishing transgressions, and curing disease. Traditional kachina dolls are made of cottonwood and painted with natural pigments. They are not toys but are used as teaching tools for children and to honor the spirit they represent.

  • Funded in part by PacifiCorp, the National Advisory Board of the UW Art Museum, and Wyoming Public Radio.


Left: Patrick Joshevama, Paiyakyamu or Koshare Kachina, Wood, 10 1/2 x 4 1/16 x 4 1/8 inches, not dated, gift of James R. Nolan, UW Art Museum

Center: Adrian Poleahla, Stone Eater Kachina, Owa-ngaroro, wood, 11 x 4 1/4 x 3 3/4 inches, 1990, gift of James R. Nolan, University of Wyoming Art Museum, 92.0005.071

Right: Lawrence Dallas, Squash Kachina, Patun, Wood, 6 1/4 x 2 x 3 inches, not dated, gift of James R. Nolan, UW Art Museum

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