Hopi Solstice Ceremony (information, holidaze)

The History of The Hopi Soyaluna Ceremony

(Soyal, Soyala, Sol-ya-lang-eu)



It is a ceremony related to the sun as it relates to the winter solstice.  It is one of the Hopi's most sacred ceremonies and is also called the "Prayer-Offering Ceremony" because it is a time for saying prayers for the New Year and for wishing each other prosperity and health.

The date of this observation is on December 22.  It is celebrated by the Hopi Indians. Although a black Plumed Snake is the basic symbol of this ceremony. But it is not based on snake worship. (Just like their Snake Dance Ceremony isn't either.)  It is a ceremony related to the sun as it relates to the winter solstice.  It is one of the Hopi's most sacred ceremonies and is also called the "Prayer-Offering Ceremony" because it is a time for saying prayers for the New Year and for wishing each other prosperity and health.

Worshiping the sun is pretty common among many ancient people.  In North America, the Hopi also noticed that the sun rose and set at different points on the horizon. They also noticed that the sun would reach it's most vertical position in the summer and that when the sun rose lower in the sky it meant that the weather was colder and the earth was barren.

In midsummer, the Hopi performed their Snake Dance Ceremony when they felt the sun was close to the earth. (See our page on this Sun Dance) But, basically the Sun Dance was a request for rain from the gods of the underworld. But, when the sun started to go away, the Hopi attention was now focused on the sun leaving them altogether. Yikes!  

The Hopi believed that at the winter solstice that took place in December the Sun God had traveled as far from the earth as he ever did. So, in order to bring the Sun God back, this meant that it would require the most powerful humans (aka Hopi warriors) to talk the Sun God to turn around and come back to them.  

Therefore, the whole purpose of the Soyaluna ceremony that the Hopi do still to this day, is to prevent the disappearance of the sun at the time of the year when the days are the shortest.

The preparations for the Soyaluna ceremony start by cutting pieces of cotton string and tying feathers and pinyon needles to the end. These are exchanged among friends and relatives during the day.  Sometimes this is done by tying them in the recipient's hair. 

When the person who made this feathered string gives it to someone, he says, "May all the Katchinas grant you your wishes tomorrow."  The Katchinas are the spirits of the Hopi ancestors. (See our page on Niman Katchina.) Then the giver holds it vertically and moves the string back and forth horizontally. Later that night, everyone takes a willow branch and attaches all the strings that he or she has received to it.  The sticks are carried to the kiva (ceremonial meeting room) and placed in the rafters making the room look like a bower of feathers and pinyon needs. (More about the Kiva is on this page.)

The main celebration will take place in the kiva wear the chief resident of the Hopi society wears a headdress decorated with images that symbolize rain clouds. He will also carry a shield that has a star, an antelope and other symbolic objects have been drawn. Someone will also carry an effigy of Palulukonuh, also called the "Plumed Snake" what is carved from the woody stalk of the agave plant.

The shield bearers enter the kiva and take turns stamping on the sipapu (a shallow hole covered by a board that symbolizes the entrance to the underworld.) Then they arrange themselves into two groups: One on the north side of the room. One on the south side of the room.  They then start singing as the bearer of the sun shield rushes to one side and then the other.  He is driven back by the shield bearers on both sides. The movements of the shield bearers symbolize the attack of hostile powers on the sun. It's not uncommon for one or more of the participants in this mock struggle to faint from the heat inside the kiva and exhaustion.

 One the west wall of the kiva is an altar made up of a stack of corn (two or more ears have been contributed by each family in the pueblo, surrounded by husks and stalks. There's also a large gourd with an opening in it. The head of the effigy of the Plumed Snake sticks out of this gourd. In a puppet-like manner, the snakes head will rise slowly to the center of the opening and make a roaring noise. (All this is done by someone manipulating it in the background behind the altar.) The shield bearers will then throw meal to the Plumed Snake effigy. In response to each offering the snake roars.  When the Sun God's footprints appear in the sand, everyone knows that he's been persuaded to return.

The name "Soyala" means Time of the Winter to those who have been given that name.

The effigy of the plumed snake that is in the kiva is painted black and has a tongue-like appendage protruding from it's mouth. This black snake symbolizes the evil influences that are driving the sun away.  So the assembled chiefs make their offerings of prayer and meal to this black Plumed Snake to try to persuade him not to "swallow" the sun, like he does when there is an eclipse.

The Hopis believe that the days are shorter in the winter and grow longer in the summer because it's driven away by hostile forces and then after a considerable battle it's persuaded to return.  So, without the Soyaluna ceremony the sun might never come back, bringing warmer weather that's needed for growing corn and other food. 

So, the bearers of the Sun Shield represent the Hopi Sun God, whose favors are crucial to the tribe's survival.

More Than Food (holidaze)

For Americans Fighting to Reclaim Their Culture, Thanksgiving Means More Than Food

November 25, 2014 
by Colleen Fitzgerald

Every fourth Thursday in November, Americans find time for family, sharing food, traditions and language. Stories of that iconic first Thanksgiving evoke images of Pilgrims and Indians, but as is so often the case with history and popular culture, some details are missing. Two of the biggest ― those Indians were the Wampanoag, and within two centuries, their language ceased to be spoken.

Today, the Wampanoag and other Native American tribes give thanks for those who fight to bring their languages home again.

Food is not the only thing humans crave. Losing your language creates a hunger for that piece to make you whole again. This hunger is seen in so many U.S. indigenous communities. It is a hunger to reconnect with heritage, to regenerate culture and traditions, and to revitalize heritage languages.

Language is a powerful badge of identity. The Wampanoag know this. The restoration of their language, powered by Jessie Little Doe Baird and the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project, includes summer language camps where children experience their tribal language ‘set within a cultural context,’ for example, learning how to plant, harvest and cook traditional foods. These foods, plants and animals are familiar to those of us who are not Native Americans. Words like squash, persimmon, hickory, chipmunk, skunk and possummade their way into English in a route that originated in different Algonquian languages, writes linguist Ives Goddard.

​Access full article below: 

'1491': Vanished Americans (holidaze)

'1491': Vanished Americans


MOST of us know, or think we know, what the first Europeans encountered when they began their formal invasion of the Americas in 1492: a pristine world of overwhelming natural abundance and precious few people; a hemisphere where - save perhaps for the Aztec and Mayan civilizations of Central America and the Incan state in Peru - human beings indeed trod lightly upon the earth. Small wonder that, right up to the present day, American Indians have usually been presented as either underachieving metahippies, tree-hugging saints or some combination of the two.

The trouble with all such stereotypes, as Charles C. Mann points out in his marvelous new book, "1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus," is that they are essentially dehumanizing. For cultural reasons of their own, Europeans and white Americans have "implicitly depicted Indians as people who never changed their environment from its original wild state. Because history is change, they were people without history."

Mann, a science journalist and co-author of four previous books on subjects ranging from aspirin to physics to the Internet, provides an important corrective - a sweeping portrait of human life in the Americas before the arrival of Columbus. This would be a formidable task under any circumstance, and it is complicated by the fact that so much of the deep American past is embroiled in vituperative political and scientific controversies.

Nearly everything about the Indians is currently a matter of contention. There is little or no agreement about when their ancestors first came to the Americas and where they came from; how many there were, how and where they lived and why they were not more effective in resisting the European invasion. New archaeological discoveries and interpretations of Indian materials are constantly altering the historical record, and every debate comes equipped with its own bevy of archaeologists, anthropologists and other social scientists tossing around personal invective with the abandon of Rudy Giuliani on a bad day.

Mann navigates adroitly through the controversies. He approaches each in the best scientific tradition, carefully sifting the evidence, never jumping to hasty conclusions, giving everyone a fair hearing - the experts and the amateurs; the accounts of the Indians and their conquerors. And rarely is he less than enthralling. A remarkably engaging writer, he lucidly explains the significance of everything from haplogroups to glottochronology to landraces. He offers amusing asides to some of his adventures across the hemisphere during the course of his research, but unlike so many contemporary journalists, he never lets his personal experiences overwhelm his subject.

Instead, Mann builds his story around what we want to know - the "Frequently Asked Questions," as he heads one chapter. He moves nimbly back and forth from the earliest prehistoric humans in the Americas to the Pilgrims' first encounter with the Indian they (mistakenly) called "Squanto"; from the villages of the Amazon rain forests to Cahokia, near modern St. Louis, the sole, long-vanished city of the North American Mound Builders; from the cultivation of maize to why it was that the Incas apparently developed the wheel but never used it as anything but a child's toy.

Mann remains resolutely agnostic on some of the fiercest debates. What he is most interested in showing us is how American Indians - like all other human beings - were intensely involved in shaping the world they lived in. He is sure that "many though not all Indians were superbly active land managers - they did not live lightly on the land." Just how they did live, so long uninfluenced by the vast majority of the world's population in Africa and Eurasia, forms the bulk of his fascinating narrative.

What emerges is an epic story, with a subtly altered tragedy at its heart. For all the European depredations in the Americas, the work of conquest was largely accomplished for them by their microbes, even before the white men arrived in any great numbers. The diseases brought along by the very first unwitting Spanish conquistadors, and probably by English fishermen working the New England coast, very likely triggered one of the greatest catastrophes in human history. Before the 16th century, there may have been as many as 90 million to 112 million people living in the Americas - people who could be as different from each other "as Turks and Swedes," but who had cumulatively developed an incredible range of natural environments, from seeding the Amazon Basin with fruit trees to terracing the mountains of Peru. (Even the term "New World" may be a misnomer; it is possible that the world's first city was in South America.

Then, disaster. According to some estimates, as much as 95 percent of the Indians may have died almost immediately on contact with various European diseases, particularly smallpox. That would have amounted to about one-fifth of the world's total population at the time, a level of destruction unequaled before or since. The exact numbers, like everything else, are in dispute, but it is clear that these plagues wreaked havoc on traditional Indian societies. European misreadings of America should not be attributed wholly to ethnic arrogance. The "savages" most of the colonists saw, without ever realizing it, were usually the traumatized, destitute survivors of ancient and intricate civilizations that had collapsed almost overnight. Even the superabundant "nature" the Europeans inherited had been largely put in place by these now absent gardeners, and had run wild only after they had ceased to cull and harvest it

In the end, the loss to us all was incalculable. As Mann writes, "Having grown separately for millennia, the Americas were a boundless sea of novel ideas, dreams, stories, philosophies, religions, moralities, discoveries and all the other products of the mind. Few things are more sublime or characteristically human than the cross-fertilization of cultures. The simple discovery by Europe of the existence of the Americas caused an intellectual ferment. How much grander would have been the tumult if Indian societies had survived in full splendor!

Kevin Baker is the author of the forthcoming historical novel "Strivers Row." http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/09/books/review/09baker.html 

True Story of “Columbus Day” (holidaze)

Op-Ed: The True Story of “Columbus Day”

Posted by admin on October 9th, 2011



Every second Monday of every year here in America we are basically forced (with the exceptions of the states of Hawaii and South Dakota – of all places) to observe Columbus Day. For many Americans of Italian ancestry it is a day indeed for rejoicing at the fact that one of their own is regarded as a significant historical icon of sorts. For the vast majority of non-Italian, white Americans, it is a time to reflect upon the superior values of their technologically advanced culture and how this man’s adventurous nature has gifted them with so many of the modern day conveniences that they so competitively vie for. For the American Indian though, Columbus Day is that most obscene of travesties of a national observance, or should at least be widely considered as such by anyone who takes any degree of real pride in their identity as an Indian. I say travesty, as this description more than fully constitutes the grossest of likenesses of a so-called “holiday.” And for myself personally, this day is a day that I set aside to carefully consider exactly what Columbus Day means to me, an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe of South Dakota.   

As a child, then teenager from grades four through twelve, I grew up in Los Angeles, California, where my family settled in 1963 on one of the various relocation programs of forced assimilation into the federally perceived “better life” of the dominant portion of society. In elementary school, but not really so much in junior high and high school, I distinctly recall that we were all thoroughly indoctrinated by the public education system into believing that Christopher Columbus was the greatest hero that had ever lived. We had to participate in various plays, skits and reenactments of Columbus’s landing in the New World. We were required to bring something from home related to Columbus Day to show and tell our enthused teachers and classmates. We often were made to deliver speeches on the merits of the voyage of discovery and how this expedition was the very source of all things good in this world of ours. How many little ships did I fashion from different types of paper, those all-too-primitive representations of the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria? For me during those years, Columbus was a demi-god, a near-deity to be adored, honored and even worshipped in an
entirely pre-programmed, empty-headed, uber-patriotic manner.   

It wasn’t until I went off to college in the mid-Seventies and took several history courses where I learned, among other things about the man, that Columbus was undeniably a pedophile of the worst kind, a trafficker of little girls.Under the direct supervision of Columbus, native girls were sold into sexual slavery, with some of them as young as nine or ten years old being the most desired by so-called “dealers” and customers in this sickening trade. Columbus even remarked in a log book that he maintained where he stated: “A hundred castellanoes (a unit of Spanish coinage of that era, most often gold) are as easily obtained for a woman as for a farm, and it is very general and  there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls, with those of the ages of nine to ten years being the most in demand.”

Sexual slavery is commonly defined as the exercise of any or all of the powers attached to the “right of ownership” over a person. It consists of the repeated violation or sexual abuse or coercing of a victim to provide sexual services to include rape by the captor. The crime has the disgusting character of a continuous offense. Via modern international law, the definition of sexual slavery includes situations where persons are forced into domestic servitude, marriage or any other types of forced labor involving sexual activity, as well as the trafficking of persons, women and children in particular. That such perversities were allowed and even encouraged as bonafide business practices under Columbus was due to the fact that the native people whom Columbus first encountered were wholly regarded as sub-human, as no more than animal-like beings to be used for any purpose.

And what of Columbus’s men? A historian of that time, Peter Martyr, wrote that the men who served under Columbus were “debauchees, profligates, thieves, seducers, ravishers, vagabonds…given over to violence and rapine…lazy, gluttonous, caring only to sleep and carouse.”  The one word here that is the most alarming to me is “rapine,” which within the literary context of that time period meant “given to rape.” And rape, as we all know,
is the act of forced sexual intercourse.      

Besides establishing the value of female children as sexual commodities, Columbus and his crewmen came to view the native people of Hispaniola as simple beasts of burden, as willing slaves of extremely heavy, daily labor. The natives often worked in his gold mines until they perished of  sheer physical exhaustion. If any native worker did not deliver his or her quota of gold dust by the deadlines set by Columbus, the slave’s hands would be swiftly amputated by soldiers and tied around the neck in order to send a message that the gold quotas must at all times be met. At one point, one hundred of these slaves, no longer able to tolerate what was happening to them, killed themselves en masse and since Catholic law strictly forbade the enslavement of Christians, Columbus got around this particular problem area by refusing to have any native people baptized under any conditions. During Columbus’s second trip to the so-called New World, the intrepid mariner saw fit to bring along teams of vicious attack dogs. These dogs were trained to hunt down any slaves that tried to escape (if caught, they were burned alive). The dogs would invariably tear off the arms and legs of slaves upon capturing them or just rip them to shreds. And the Spaniards, being a cost-effective lot, quite often fed native infants to the attack dogs on those occasions when dog food ran low. Christopher Columbus obtained the lion’s share of his regular income from the native slave trade and he was also the first documented slave trader in the Americas. After all of the native slaves died off, they were rapidly replaced with slaves from Africa.  

Columbus’s campaign of unspeakable cruelty was so bad, even by the brutal standards of those days, that the Spanish Governor Francisco de Bobadilla had Columbus arrested, with two of his brothers, and bound in chains all three were sent back to Spain.Upon answering for their crimes against the natives, the King and Queen of Spain, glad beyond all measure that their royal coffers were being filled with gold, granted Columbus a full pardon setting him free to return to the islands to continue his work there.

Bartolome De Las Casas, a crewman of Columbus, was so deeply horrified by the violence being waged against the natives, that he entered the priesthood so that he could, in his own ministerial way, assist the native people. He gave descriptions as to how small children  who ran from the Spaniards had their legs cut off so that the sharpness of their blades could be tested.Wagers were placed among the men to see who was able to cut a person right in half with a single swipe of a sword. Native people also had their mouths filled with a crude soap that was boiling hot, which killed them agonizingly. De Las Casas witnessed in just one day how Spanish soldiers laughingly beheaded, mutilated or raped some 3000  natives.   

De Las Casas wrote: “Such inhumanities and barbarisms were committed in my sight as no age can parallel. My eyes have seen these acts so  foreign to human nature that I now tremble as I write.” Father De Las Casas devoted the remainder of his life attempting to protect the lives and limbs of countless natives, who were very quickly vanishing as a people. It has been noted by numerous authorities on the subject that prior to 1492 the indigenous population numbered in excess of three million on the island of Hispaniola. 20 years after the Spanish had arrived, this number was reduced to some 60,000. Then a mere 50 years after Columbus first set foot in the “New World,” not a single native person among the original populace first encountered was alive there. 
But, I ask of myself: What does this have to do with me, today, as an American Indian? Whenever the name “Columbus” comes up in any way, shape or form, I am compelled to immediately think of two words, sexual slavery and genocide. And more specifically, to me, the legacy engendered by what constitutes this initial European treatment of the Western Hemisphere’s indigenous peoples continues today: the general belief within U.S. society that Indians are not worthy of being treated as human beings at all – and this is the ongoing system of oppression of Indian people that is yet so very pervasive. In my own life, how many times have I been “hated on,”discriminated against, misjudged, assessed as “less than,” evaluated as unimportant, and had to just eat bowl after bowl of other people’s excrement simply for being an Indian? The instances are so many as to be almost incalculable. Where does this kind of maltreatment have its origins? In the time of first contact between Europe and the Americas the grand stage was set for the sort of brutal stereotyping, bigotry, and prejudice that absolutely every Indian person I have ever met in my life has come to know. Ask virtually any Indian of any age, from any tribe, about their primary concern as an Indian and they will inform you of one thing and one thing only – how they are so awfully, so thoroughly, misunderstood by a society that either reveres and patronizes them out of a powerful sense of historical guilt or views them as insignificant, repulsive relics from a long bygone chapter or two of a history that the vast majority of them know next to nothing of.  

That Columbus Day remains as an annual celebration in most of the United States underscores the profound inability of this society to acknowledge actual historical facts that have been very well documented, facts that if were widely known would have changed America’s relationship with its indigenous peoples long ago by a country that proclaims itself to be the world’s sole bastion of truth, justice and freedom for all. Columbus Day is a perpetual glorification of murder, slavery and sexual perversity of the worst order, but more than that it is the very cradle of a demonically driven, wickedly embedded racism that is totally oblivious to any sense of morality, decency or even limits.     

Melvin Martin is an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe of South Dakota. He is currently working on a novel about family dysfunction. And he can be reached for comment at pbr_74@live.com