The University of Arizona

Hopi Summer Traditions

The Hopi Butterfly Dance

Kopatsoki: painted wooden headdress

Kopatsoki: a Hopi Butterfly Dance headdress from the Paths of Life exhibition

View details

The Butterfly Dance takes place in August and early September. The main participants are Hopi youth and young adults who are accompanied by a chorus of singers comprised of dads, uncles, brothers and in-laws of the dance participants. It is a beautiful dance and one full of color, splendor, meaningful song lyrics and contentment. Up to a hundred or more pairs (girl, boy) of dancers fill the village plaza.

Maidens wear an elaborately painted headdress made for them by their dance partners. This headdress or "kopatsoki" as it is called in Hopi becomes a keepsake for the Hopi maiden once the dance has concluded. Their black mantas are adorned with turquoise beads and pins and hand woven sashes.

Hopi/Tewa Senom Dance Group

The Hopi/Tewa Senom Dance Group performing the Butterfly Dance at the ASM 2001 Summer Solstice Celebration. Photo by Geoffrey Ashley.

The boys wear loosely fitting velvet shirts that flow in the summer breeze and handsome kilts that are embroidered with cloud and rain symbols. Like most Hopi ceremonies, the Butterfly Dance is a petition for rain, good health and long life for all living things. The dance also recognizes the butterfly for its beauty and its contribution in pollinating plant life.

The book: "The Butterfly Dance"

Illustration by Gerald Dawavendewa

"The Butterfly Dance", a book by Gerald Dawavendewa

"The Butterfly Dance" is a children's book written and illustrated by Gerald Dawavendewa. The book tells the story of Sihumana, a young Hopi girl of the Rabbit Clan who is preparing for her first Butterfly Dance. She is nervous and excited about participating in the dance for which she and her partner, Holetsi of the Bear Clan, have been practicing for many days. Her grandfather tells her: "When you dance, Sihumana, you are like a butterfly that flies from flower to flower, helping them grow. You bring rain for the flowers and plants and you make everyone happy." In the illustrations the characters are shown as the animals of the clans to which they belong.

Gerald Dawavendewa reading his book

Gerald read and signed copies of his book at the ASM Summer Solstice Celebration in June 2001. Photo by Geoffrey Ashley.

Other Hopi Summer Traditions: Niman

The Hopi/Tewa Senom Dance Group is a group of singers, dancers and musicians from 3 to 18 years of age who live in Phoenix. The group was formed to present traditional Hopi social dances in various venues to share Hopi traditions with others and, equally importantly, to pass on their cultural heritage to Hopi children living outside of traditional villages.

Gerald Dawavendewa is a member of the Sun Clan of the Hopi Tribe. He received a B.A. in fine arts from the University of Arizona, Tucson. He currently works as a freelance graphic designer and museum consultant. Previously, he completed an internship at the National Museum of the American Indian and has worked at the Arizona State Museum as well as other institutions around the country.