The Hopi, in the month of August of alternate years, hold a Snake Dance, which is the most widely known of all native Indian dances and is largely attended by visitors from all parts of the world. In this dance live rattlesnakes are used, the priests generally holding them in their mouths. Strange to say, snake bites occurring during these ceremonies have seldom proved fatal.
Another case in this section of the American Museum of Natural History contains a series of basketry trays used in the women's ceremonies of the hopi indians. The dancers appear in the plaza, holding the baskets in their hands and waving them. At the conclusion of the ceremony they are thrown to the spectators, who catch them and preserve them as mementoes. The trays are generally made a short time prior to the dance, and bear designs partly geometrical and partly symbolical, representing beans and other products and various divine persons known as Kachinas.
These images are not to be considered idols as that word is generally applied, but they do represent supernatural beings, and they are used in ceremonies. After they have been so used, however, they are given to the children to play with as dolls. The more sacred representations of the gods of the hopi indians are guarded with jealous care, and are seldom seen except by the initiated members of the priesthood to whom they belong. In this series is a stone image of a mountain lion, an example of such a sacred object.
The last section of this hall of the American Museum of Natural History contains specimens from the prehistoric pueblos of Bonito and Rio Tulerosa, and the present-day pueblos of Kerensan, San Ildefonso, San Juan and Santa Clara. Of these, Bonito is the largest. It stands close to the wall in Chaco Canon in western New Mexico; it is 544 feet long and 314 feet wide and consists of about 500 rooms. Numerous examples of the pottery found in this pueblo are exhibited.
In the Tulerosa section is a number of light gray vessels with sharply drawn designs in black. These are probably the finest examples of this type of pottery known. While geometrical designs are the rule, attention is called to a small bowl having a pair of feet drawn on the bottom. The skill in molding is evident from the animal shapes of several of the vessels and the encrusted snake about the border of the bowl. From other sections there are numerous war, hunting and household implements.
From the Taos are specimens of buckskin clothing and other articles of dress, including necklaces of shell, beads and turquoise. One interesting necklace is made of brass beads with eagle claws regularly interspersed. Pipes, both square and tubular, with designs representing lightning and ceremonial objects, are shown.
The south wall case contains a large number of pottery vessels of the hopi indians, in many sizes, shapes, colors and designs. The larger vessels are used as storage jars for flour, beans and other supplies, as mixing bowls in the preparation of bread and other foods and as water jars. Many of the pots have round bottoms and so need some kind of support to make them stand, while those used as water jars have a depression at the bottom so that they can be easily carried on the head. Carefully composed labels inform the reader how this pottery is manufactured.
In the center of the hall are models of different pueblos, an ancient shrine, a group depicting the daily life of the Navajo and a large case containing ornaments made of turquoise.
In the annex are exceptionally well executed groups illustrating Hopi and Apache home life and a full-sized Navajo hogan.
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