The Shifting Nature of Subsistence on the Hopi Indian Reservation 


On the outstretched fingers of Black Mesa lie the longest continually inhabited settlements in North America. Here, on the Hopi Indian Reservation, roots of blue corn reach deep into sandy soil that sustained one of the world’s most biologically diverse agricultural systems for over one thousand years. In dry farmed fields fed by violent monsoon storms and in terraced gardens irrigated by ancestral springs, Hopi agriculturalists perfected a system of spiritual and physical subsistence that produced the majority of food consumed in Hopi communities. During the twentieth century, the rise of wage labor and increased access to cash facilitated the shift from a diet comprised primarily of traditional food produced by Hopi farmers to one dependent on food purchased in grocery stores or acquired through food aid programs, contributing to high rates of obesity and diabetes. Despite deep fractures in their food system, Hopis continued to produce and consume traditional foods while negotiating the terms upon which new foods were adopted into their culinary universe, demonstrating sustained resilience in the face of a shifting subsistence base.



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