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In Arizona, a Native American model for preservation – without the casino

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Terry Thompson / Special to the Christian Science Monitor

(Read caption) The Native American Hopi tribe built the first major Hopi hotel, the Moenkopi Legacy Inn near Tuba City, Arizona.

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• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

Like other native Americans, the Hopi of Arizona have faced adversity, including seeing their homeland, or tutsqua, shrink from more than 18 million acres to 1.5 million acres today.

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Hopi groups disagree about how to preserve their culture: Build a casino or remain gambling-free? Encourage tourists or restrict them? Their responses have stayed on the conservative side – they have twice voted down building a casino. But now, with the support of their tribal government, the progressive Upper Moenkopi have built the first major Hopi hotel, the Moenkopi Legacy Inn near Tuba City. The tribe hopes to realize its vision of nurturing the tutsqua by extending hospitality toward kahopi (outsiders) who might now become kwaatsi (friends).

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The hundred-room hotel facilitates visiting the 12 Hopi villages perched on three mesas along Highway 264. It’s best to hire a guide because of strict rules about dress, photography, and off-limits areas. Visitors can watch artists, weavers, and potters at work and taste piki, a tissue-thin pancake made of sacred blue cornmeal. Corn, central to their creation stories, is used in Hopi ceremonies, always with the same prayer in mind: Let the rain come, keep the land fertile, let the people remain in their tutsqua. Perhaps the Moenkopi Legacy Inn will help meet these goals.