The Grand Canyon contains many places that are sacred to the Hopi tribes of northern Arizona. Ceremonial trails, shrines and ruins in the Grand Canyon connect the Hopi people to their past. Now Grand Canyon visitors are connecting with Hopi people at the center of the Hopi universe. The Hopi Cultural Center and Center of the Universe for Hopi people is only 155 miles east of Desert View Watchtower in the Grand Canyon. Explore Hopi offers glimpses of Hopi life that have not always been available to the common Grand Canyon visitor.
“The type of wood that you use is important in Hopi cooking,” says Dianna Shebala as she stirs Kupunki, parched blue corn during a culinary demonstration and impromptu cooking class at the center. The cedar wood coals do not burn as hot as pinewood and are an integral part of the recipe. “I use the pine when I cook piki bread,” she adds. Piki is thin, paper-like bread made by putting a type of blue corn meal on a hot, flat rock. The swirling smoke with strong scents of cedar makes the outdoor scene almost surreal.
The Hopi-grown corn is mixed with sand and continually stirred in the kettle. The sand, too is a special type of sand used in the place of oil or butter. The distinctive sand harvested nearby, keeps the heat constant and roasts the kernels evenly. When the kernels have plumped up from roasting, she sifts the sand out using a mesh strainer from the everyday kitchen. Next, she adds another distinctive ingredient: Zuni salt. “The salt that I am using I got by trading this and that. It comes from Zuni and is not processed in anyway. It is just cleaned and washed.” Zuni salt, similar to gourmet sea salt comes from the sacred Zuni Salt Lake two hundred miles away. Shebala mixes it with water and drips a light coating of the mixture to the parched corn with her fingers. The blue corn is hot and delicious with just the right amount of salt.
“We use a lot of ingredients from around here – as is necessary – to make our food,” explains the Hopi culinary expert. “When you talk about natural food, this is as natural as it gets.”
Explore Hopi helps visitors connect with people like Dianna Shebala who enjoy sharing their sometimes-guarded culture. Guests meet with artisans and learn about Hopi Kachina woodcarvings, basketry, jewelry or other arts. Those interested in archaeology take tours to petroglyph sites that are restricted unless you are with a native guide. Others may visit Oraibi village, the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in the United States. The Hopi Cultural Center Restaurant is the only restaurant in the country offering traditional Hopi dishes.
Off the reservation, Explore Hopi lifts the veil and invites you to experience ancient Hopi sites in Sedona and learn more at the Hopi Travel Plaza in Holbrook, AZ. Explore Hopi tours compliment any Grand Canyon vacation.
Explore Hopi is sponsored by the Hopi Tribe Economic Development Corporation, HTEDC. HTEDC was formed in 2005 by the Hopi Tribal Council to create and harness an economic environment that will blossom, by securing resources, and provide the guidance and training that allows Hopi Tribe members to prosper and preserve their homeland and culture. Headquartered in Flagstaff, the HTEDC owns and operates, on behalf of the Hopi Tribe, the following enterprises: Hopi Cultural Center Restaurant & Inn on Second Mesa; Days Inn Kokopelli in the Village of Oak Creek (Sedona); the Hopi Travel Plaza off I-40 near Holbrook; Hopi 3 Canyon Ranches near Winslow, Springerville and Flagstaff; and the commercial properties of Heritage Square, Continental Plaza and Kachina Square in Flagstaff.