Visit from Hopi Tribe Members Renews Awareness of Native American Perspectives

Jadyn L.
By Hailey T.
December 16, 2019

“We’re split between our own culture and western society” 


How does one embrace an inevitable future and hold on to the past? How does one respect and celebrate a past filled with tragedy?  These are questions that Iva Honyestewa faces as a Native American.


Alongside her husband, Ed, Iva Honyestewa described her experience as a Native American artist whose tribe is slowly succumbing to Western influence. Although Honyestewa is part Navajo, she is a member of the Hopi tribe. Honyestewa does try to maintain the Hopi cultural traditions, but that can be difficult when the number of tribal members is declining. 


“We’re split between our own culture and western society,” Honyestewa explained. In fact, her own son is one of the few members who is still fluent in the native language of Uzo-Aztecan. 

Honyestewa shared her Hopi culture with Westridge, as well as her work as a basket-weaver and jeweler, during Upper School lunch on November 11. Although attendance at the assembly was only mandatory for eighth-graders, and students in Honors and AP U.S. History, a number of students congregated in PAC to hear the Honyestewas speak about their experience as Native Americans in a changing society.


Since 1990, November has been designated as Native American Heritage Month.  The Honyestewa talk presented Westridge with a point of view that is too often glossed over in history textbooks. “As a country that proclaims itself to be a ‘melting pot’ of cultures, teaching the younger generation the story told by Europeans is only going to silence non-European voices. The so-called ‘melting pot’ is nothing but cultural assimilation,” Izzy C. ’23 observed.


Native American perspectives are presented in certain grade levels throughout the history program at Westridge. Students in eighth grade spent a good portion of first-quarter studying Native American history in the American Studies program. “I think it’s important for students to understand that history is a story, and the perspectives through which stories are told can greatly impact our understanding of an event or idea,” said Masami Hansen, Eighth Grade English teacher and Spyglass Faculty Advisor.  


“It’s true that history is often told by the victors, but we try to teach students to look for and be sensitive to different perspectives and voices,” said Jennifer Irish, Eighth Grade History teacher.  


For some students, eighth grade is the first time the complex history of Thanksgiving is presented.  But for the Honyestewas and many others, Thanksgiving is another reminder of the absence of indigenous perspectives and voices. “They are trying to get rid of who we are as native indigenous people,” Iva explained. “A lot of stuff happened, and it’s only us who know what happened.”


“Something I realized was that instead of glorifying a genocide on Thanksgiving and only focusing gratitude on that one day each year, we, like the Hopi, should practice gratitude throughout the year,” explained Summar B. ’21, who attended the assembly.