Friday, February 18, 2011

Piki Bread

Yesterday morning a co-worker came to my office with a gift of piki bread, a gift she promised several months ago. Piki bread "is a thin dry rolled bread made by the Hopi with nixtamalized corn meal, obtaining its dark grayish-blue color and unique flavor due to the use of blue corn and culinary ash. The light, thin sheets are dry to the point of brittleness, melt in the mouth, and have a delicate corn flavor." (wikipedia)

Piki Bread.

While digging a footer to begin construction of a sun room in July of 2008 I hit something hard. Thinking it was just a layer of caliche I came down hard with a pick and pulled a piece of sandstone out of the ground.There is no sandstone for miles, only volcanic cinders, so I know I had found something.

Piki Stone.
Piki stone discovered while digging a foot for the sun room.

A co-worker is Hopi so I showed her a photo asking what it might be and she replied "a piki stone", a stone used to bake piki bread. At that time she promised a gift of bread.

Reassembled piki stone.

When she gave me the bread she said it was made different than usual because it was the time of the bean dances and the initiation of children. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to talk so I was left which many questions that will have to wait. I did a web search and found the following.
The Bean Dance (Powamu) is the most complex of all ceremonies and is considered to be one of the most important of the Kachina dances. It occurs in February, and is divided into two parts. One part is the time when disciplining of the children occurs, and the second part is to promote fertility for the upcoming growing season, which is when the initiated males grow beans in the kivas. The Katsinam appear in the villages carrying the bean sprouts and bringing gifts for the children in the morning and a dance is held later that night. Young children are also initiated at this time into the Katsina societies.

The disciplining of children occurs during the other part of the Bean Dance ceremony. That is the time when the Katsinam in this painting appear. During the Powamu, or purification ceremony, there is a procession of Katsinam that will go from house to house to lecture unruly children, and in some situations, adults. They are, from left to right, Ha-hai Wuhti, the grandmother Katsina and also the mother of the monsters. Behind her stands a Soyoko known as the Black Nata-aska, an uncle from the Ogre family, and two Soyok' Wuhti's who are attendants and considered to be Aunties. Behind them is another Ogre known as Wiharu, or White Ogre. He is also an uncle, as are the four other Soyokos standing behind him. The last three Katsinam are He-heya's. They are uncles also.
As the Ha-hai Wuhti talks to the children, she will tell them what they are doing wrong and give them assignments to prove their worthiness. She also informs the children that she will feed them to the Soyoko's if they fail to meet their tasks. At this time all of the Uncles will begin growling as their mouths flap and their saws are raked across the ground. At the same time, the Ha-hai Wuhti will also inform the children that the Aunties have baskets of food for the Uncles, but, they could be added to the basket if they don't behave. During this ordeal, the three He-heya's will be intimidating the children with their ropes as if they want to tie them up. This is a very solemn time, and the audience watches with great reverence. It is a time of regeneration, a time when purity is renewed and the beginning of another life cycle.

I found the above here which shows the painting. On another site I read an interpretation/opinion that may help:

Monsters enter the village and go to each house, threatening to eat children who have misbehaved, and demanding fresh meat. (It is my opinion that these monsters represent hunger and the lesson of preparing for winter is well-taught.)

I have three reactions. First, I'd like to know, to hear, to see, to experience some of these ceremonies but ignorant, arrogant and thoughtless outsiders have forced the Hopi to close some of them. Another co-worker who is not Hopi grew up on the reservation where her grandfather and father were doctors. As a child she learned the Hopi language and played with Hopi children. She remembers feeling a sense of shock and horror as a preschool child at the behavior of outsiders at a snake dance.

My second reaction is one of sadness at the challenges that face not only the Hopi but all small cultures. Their beliefs and values are being overwhelmed and lost to a world economy that values only wealth and gain. Sad, truly sad.

My third reaction is one of slight envy. I've lived in seven states and had thirty-some mailing addresses over my life. I had a sense of "belonging" for only the first ten years of my life. After that I was the outsider, the one who didn't belong. I wonder what it's like to live in a small group, to have a sense of culture and heritage, to experience a history with the land and shared memories with extended family.

I am truly thankful for the gift. Next week I want to talk with my co-worker and learn more.


Blogger Anvilcloud said...

What a neat find. Does it cause you to feel some sort of connectedness with the place? Maybe that's not the word or thought that I am searching for but can't find.

2/18/2011 08:14:00 AM  
Blogger Buffalo said...

There is much that can be said about a people endowed with the certainty of their superiority, and their mandate from god, that enables them to impose their rightness on all whom they come in contact.

2/18/2011 11:05:00 PM  
Blogger Regenia said...

Wow! How interesting is all this? I would LOVE to talk to your co-worker some day if I get back to Arizona. In the meantime, write more!

It's strange that I am reading this today. I woke up this morning and within 3 seconds(truly) I was thinking about neighborhood schools. (Evidently that was an issue is area voting in November.) As I lay in bed, I was trying to understand why people just want to be with others like themselves? It seems, at least to me, that we should WANT our everyday lives to be more interesting and fun by differences in those around us. If I had to be around only people like me I would learn nothing, have no dynamic conversations, etc. So why wouldn't I want that for my child?

I actually wanted our daughter to go to bilingual preschool. Not because I loved the idea of preschool, but because she would learn lots of interesting and valuable things about people very early on. (She didn't because it was an hour away, and most importantly, we couldn't afford it. She didn't go to preschool at all, perhaps the only one out of all her friends.)

As it turned out the first house we bought was near an Italian family. The little girl could not speak English until she began to play with Trista. It was fun to watch them "play". When I would ask what they talked about, Trista would say they didn't know what each other was saying YET. It didn't seem to phase either of them.

I'm going to write what I was thinking about when I get time. And I sure look forward to reading more.

2/20/2011 09:00:00 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home