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Sun May 26, 2013, 06:06 PM


Opinion: Should the Hopi people continue to have the right to kill eagles? Yes [View all]

The Hopi and eagles share a long relationship

Posted: 05/26/2013 12:01:00 AM MDT
By Peter Whiteley

Understanding another religion is no easy business. Americans nowadays often fool ourselves that religions can be put on or off like a suit of clothes, and that our own world-view is not religious unless we say so. We — especially secular humanists — also claim superiority for our idea of "nature," an abstract space separate from everyday life, for leisure, imagination, or scientific observation. Here, we can safely root for our favorite charismatic species, while ignoring the destruction of others.

Moreover, our recent arrival in the West, displacing and often destroying native species — Homo sapiens, birds, and others — makes explaining unusual Native religions even more problematic. But arrogantly judging Hopi eagle-gathering without objective evidence or any personal knowledge does little for mutual understanding of people or environment.

The Hopis have dwelt on the Colorado Plateau for at least a millennium. Their adaptation to a landscape of little water requires near-legendary toughness and respect for the natural environment. Hopi religion is fundamentally attuned to the environment and its metaphysical underpinnings. The strongest surviving indigenous tradition in North America, Hopi religion focuses on seasonal and daily attention to preserving the world in balance. Appeal to deity operates through prayer, song and ritual. Like wafers and wine for Christian communicants, certain material elements are basic: cornmeal, tobacco-smoke, honey, and feathers. Pahos that include eagle feathers are perhaps the sine qua non, carrying human prayers to deities and ancestral spirits.

"Eagles are our lifeline," as Percy Lomaquahu (whose name, coincidentally, means "beautiful eagle" used to put it. Without them, Hopis are cut off from their means to renew life forces. From a Hopi perspective, the world itself — not only locally, but globally — suffers serious problems without their religious intervention. Hopis have special relationships with many species, but eagles are qapaysoq hμitu, truly exceptional: They are human beings in another form. Each clan in each village only has certain nesting areas it may visit. The rules are strict, ensuring preservation of the population from year to year.


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Reply Opinion: Should the Hopi people continue to have the right to kill eagles? Yes [View all]
rug May 2013 OP
janlyn May 2013 #1
ZombieHorde May 2013 #2
janlyn May 2013 #3
ZombieHorde May 2013 #4
TreasonousBastard May 2013 #5
skepticscott May 2013 #8
pangaia May 2013 #6
LostOne4Ever May 2013 #7
Name removed Jun 2013 #9
hrmjustin Jun 2013 #10
ornotna Jun 2013 #11
Zorra Jun 2013 #12