BACAVI, Ariz. - On July 21, the Hopi Special Diabetes Program, Hopi CHR and Pa'tuvi programs held a special presentation on the importance of traditional Hopi foods.
Matt Livingston, a community outreach specialist from the University of Arizona, has been here for 18 years researching different aspects of Hopi culture such as Hopi farming and Hopi cooking. Recently there was a survey taken on single parent head of household families and traditional cooking. There is also a Hopi cookbook that has been revised through the efforts of these groups and is recommended to anyone wanting to learn to make traditional foods.
Starting the presentation was Beatrice Norton from the Hopi CHR program on the importance of traditional Hopi foods. She explained that the cover o f the Hopi cookbook utilized traditional artwork in combination with the food pyramid in basic Hopi colors. She explained that Hopi food is a way of life and the main staple of the Hopi.
There is spiritual, medicinal and many other cultural uses of Hopi foods. She explained that Hopi corn meal or ungmni can be used on cuts to dry up the wound. She says that with talent, practice and prayer a Hopi woman can perfect Hopi cooking. She went on to explain that Hopi food should be respected as a living entity because it provides nourishment and life. She explained food should be shared, never declined, and never thrown away, even if you have to give it to the dogs. Most of all don't be mad when cooking, it will go to the food. She stated that when finished with a meal, always be thankful to have eaten.
Iva Honyestewa from the Hopi Pa'tuvi program next made a presentation regarding the survey. The survey was conducted during a three-year period and created data from all the villages. Participants ranged in age from 18-87. One interesting finding was the fact that just a few people cook traditional food outside of ceremonies. Some of the strengths of the Hopi women were resources such as financial, political, social and cultural resources. Hopi women set norms and articulate values and norms to younger generations. It is absolutely necessary to carry on the cultural and spiritual importance on to the next generation.
She stated, "There is a need for resurgence of Hopi traditional foods."
Livingston added that the survey information is available to anyone wanting to use the data to write a grant or set up a Hopi food program. Data from each individual village is available.
Cassandra Yaiva from the Special Diabetes Project made a presentation on the importance of diet in the overall health of an individual. She wanted to make clear that it is always not easy to make healthy changes to one's diet. She made a point by showing well-known fast food images without any names that were easily recognizable by the crowd. Then she showed numerous plants that were traditional Hopi food, which many in attendance were unable to name. She wanted to make the point that foods that have been here for centuries should be easily recognizable to Hopi children on trails and in the fields as easily as the fast food images.
She continued to explain that things have changed since our ancestors ate native foods.
In the past, choices were fairly limited, but now, everything is readily available to us. In the past planting was done by hand. Now, tractors do much of the work. In the past, kids played stickball. Now they play video games. She reinforced the claim that a Hopi food diet contains whole grains, more fruit and vegetables, low fat and high protein.
Yaiva stated that sometimes kids don't seem interested in learning traditional ways, but they actually would like to learn and are very eager to participate. She states even boys can help out in traditional female picking and cooking.
In the survey, about 25 percent of the respondents said that traditional cooking was learned from a male family member. In our busy days, however, sometimes there is no time to make traditional foods. Some suggestions offered were to prepare food items such as hominy ahead of time and dry it out for later use. Canning was also suggested since blue corn doesn't freeze too well and crumbles.
Increasing Hopi food consumption has added benefits by offering a well balanced diet, better meal choices, increased physical activity, increased knowledge of Hopi, increased use of Hopi language (lavayi) and can balance traditional and modern lifestyles.
There is also a push to get Hopi foods into the schools and a suggestion was made to have local stores sell Hopi food.