Those working out Tuesday afternoon in the France A. Cordova Recreational Sports Center probably weren’t aware that fresh tamales were being made above them in the center’s demonstration kitchen.
Those tamales were not the typical kind one might find at a restaurant with Mexican cuisine; they were made from a traditional Native American recipe presenter Iva Honyestewa’s ancestors have passed down for generations.
Honyestewa, an award-winning jewelry-maker and basket-weaver, has done her part to promote the preservation of her fragile Hopi Indian culture via artistry and presentation for over 20 years.
As she made the traditional blue corn tamales, she not only explained the recipe but also shared traditional stories and personal experiences that illustrated the intricacies of Hopi life. To the audience of about 20 people, she explained the Hopis’ clan system, the importance of basketry and farming to the culture as well as the culture’s calendar. Furthermore, she shared as much as she could about said calendar’s coinciding ceremonies.
Ally Coughenour, sophomore in the College of Science and an attendee to the presentation, said she hadn’t originally planned to go to the presentation. However, after deciding to write a paper on a related subject for class, she decided to go “last minute.”
“I’m really glad I chose (to come to) this,” said Coughenour. “(The best part was) definitely learning about all the different traditional ceremonies.”
Honyestewa says presenting is practically a part of her.
“Talking (openly like this) just shows the Hopi character (in me),” she said, explaining the open hospitality and neighbor-helping-neighbor concepts that are so ingrained into her culture.
“If (someone) helps me, in return I have to go help them; that’s constant,” she said. “As Hopis, we can’t be mad at each other ... we have our differences, we get upset, but we have to get over it quick because we need each other (to survive).”
Born and raised on a Native American reservation in Gallup, N.M., she says she has always been a part of a very tradition-oriented Hopi population. She still participates in traditional ceremonies, such as her Hopi wedding to her husband; she is also fluent in the Hopi language and personally runs programs to teach it to the younger generations on the reservation.
Honyestewa stressed that continuing these traditions through practice is particularly important as there are so few Hopi left – as of 2010, only 1,327 Hopi members were recorded in the census.