Visiting Hopi Mission School

During the 1989-1990 school year, our family did a term of Mennonite Voluntary Service. (MVS) We moved to the Hopi Indian Reservation in northeastern Arizona for eleven months and Dave and I were both teachers at the Hopi Mission School. Our son Joel was a grade five student at the school and our son Bucky attended Hopi Head Start.

Today we drove the four and a half hours from Phoenix up to the Hopi reservation to pay a visit on our way home to Manitoba. It was the first time in over twenty years we had been back there, but everything looked quite familiar. 
We loved our time at Hopi Mission and so it was quite nostalgic to drive down the road to the school and see it there at the end of the driveway. The Mennonite Church has had a mission on the reservation since 1893 and the school was founded in 1951. At one time it had over a hundred students.  When we were there in 1990 the school had around seventy students. Now there are only forty. 

We parked and walked up to the school, but the doors were locked. Dave taught grade six at Hopi Mission and coached the basketball team. I taught Grade one. Joel had June Sinclair for his fifth grade teacher. Our son Bucky attended Hopi Head Start. 

Volunteer construction crews have added quite a few new buildings to the grounds during the last twenty years including this gymnasium. …...

There’s new playground equipment and a new school bus. 

There were also two new houses for teachers and a volunteer housing unit, where up to 30 volunteers can be housed if they come to work on construction projects or do other jobs at the school. 

The house our family shared with fellow teacher Liz Yoder was still being used. It had been re-painted a different color but otherwise it looked just like we remembered it. 

Luckily we ran into Becca Yoder, an MVS teacher in her second year at Hopi Mission. She is from Iowa and a recent graduate of Eastern Mennonite University. When we told her we were former Hopi Mission teachers she said she’d be glad to open the school for us and show us around. 

Becca told us the school almost didn’t open this year because they were missing a principal, a couple of teachers, a cook and a bus driver in August. However more staff arrived, but not before some parents had registered their children at other schools because they thought Hopi Mission might not be operational. Shortly into the school year the principal and his wife left forcing some teachers to take on more than one grade of students and one of the teachers to assume the principalship.  Getting qualified teachers to volunteer at the school is an ongoing problem.

I saw the room which had been my grade one classroom. I can still remember the names of many of my students Ingrid, Edward, Charlene, Joe, Nuva, Irvin, Elwin, Benny, Matthew…………

Here I am back in 1989 with my grade ones. They would all be 26 or 27 years old by now. 

The room that served as a chapel and cafeteria at Hopi Mission hadn’t changed much.

The library is in a new location and looks much more organized and cheerful than it did in our day.

The bell outside the school we taught at on the Hopi Indian Reservation in Arizona.

The old school bell in front of Hopi Mission is still there. 

The students had done some neat artwork to decorate the school’s front windows. 

Our son ready for the eagle dance

I told Becca how our son Bucky had danced the eagle dance at a cultural celebration with his Head Start group the year we lived on the reservation. The Hopi Dads had taught Dave how to make Bucky’s eagle feathers and how to sing the Hopi songs the fathers chanted while the kids’ danced. Dave was also invited down into a kiva (an underground religious chamber) for the ceremony when his grade six boys were inducted into the kachina society. We often attended dances in the villages at the invitation of our students. In 1990 our participation in these activities was questioned by some of the people in the Hopi Mennonite churches. We’d heard from a recent Hopi Mission school principal that kind of concern about teacher participation in cultural events is apparently still evident today.

This is one of my favourite pictures taken on the Hopi Mission School grounds of our two boys having fun in an old bathtub they found in our garage. I can hardly wait to get home and look at all our other old photos from our year on the reservation. 

After saying good-bye to Becca and the school we drove to the Hopi Cultural Centre on the second mesa. We are staying here for the night in a very nice motel that is set up like a Hopi village. We had supper in the Cultural Centre restaurant. I had Hopi tacos, made on traditional Hopi fry bread. 

What next? Tomorrow we want to go to the morning service at the Mennonite Church in Oraibi which we attended when we lived here. 


Filed under Arizona, Education, Family, Religion

3 responses to “Visiting Hopi Mission School

  1. Joyce

    Maybe a volunteer position is the next chapter in your life…one never knows what God has planned for us in the future…safe trip home:)


  2. Could we have permission to run one of these photos in The Mennonite with an article? I will credit you, of course. Please email Thanks!
    Anna G.


  3. Pingback: Visiting a Quaker School in Costa Rica | What Next?

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