Going Native

Written by Leah LeMoine Category: Web Extras Issue: September 2017
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Miss Vickie.

Miss Vickie’s Hopi Reminiscences
Local celebrity Vickie “Miss Vickie” Kerr ruminates on her trip to Hopi land in an exclusive interview.

My best girlfriend was down from Canada, and we were on our way to the Grand Canyon. We stopped in Sedona and visited some friends, and they said, “Well, if you only have one day… You can take pictures of the Grand Canyon from postcards; you should go to the Hopi land instead.” So that’s what we did, and I am so glad that we did because it was just a wonderful experience.

We went to a little town called Old Oraibi and we found out later it’s the oldest settlement in the country. It’s been there for probably 1,000 years. It’s the oldest inhabited settlement in the country. I guess there was a time before we got there that you could actually drive up the first mesa, but when we were there it was under construction, so we climbed the stairs up to the top of it. They had a little welcoming center [there] – just a little hut, sort of. There was a young man there who shared the history of his people with us. It was just the two of us, and he spent a lot of time explaining that they’re a matriarchal society [and] talking about their spiritual beliefs. From that mesa, we could look over toward Flagstaff and we could see the San Francisco Peaks. And that’s part of their spiritual belief system, that their kachinas dwell there. As the sun went down, we walked around the village and people invited us into their homes to see what they were doing. The women were making pottery and the men were carving kachinas. I bought a bowl and my girlfriend bought a kachina.

We were up there when the sun went down and the stars came out. It was the most magical time. Her and I have talked about this, saying we have to go back. It’s probably different now, because this was ’98. It was the most magical time. The stars were so brilliant and so close that it looked like we could practically touch them. For miles and miles around, as we drove back down here to Phoenix, you couldn't see anything except stars.

We did try their food. You know, the Hopi grow blue corn. In one of the little gas stations they had that bread, I think it’s called pika [piki]. It’s made with the blue cornmeal, so it’s blue. It’s more like a mille-feuille [than bread] – many thin, little layers. It has the consistency of something like a French pastry, except that it’s blue and not sweet. I knew about the blue corn because I used to be in the snack food business [Miss Vickie’s kettle-cooked potato chips and other snacks] and I did a lot of research on corn and how important it was to the different Native cultures in North America. I had already read that the blue corn was something that they grew there, even though their conditions are dry and it doesn’t look like anything would grow. But they have a farming technique where they’ll plant the corn where the rain might come down the mesa and kind of like gently water the area where they grow food.

We were very welcomed. People took the time to invite us into their homes. Their doors were open. They told us, “As long as you don’t take pictures, we’re happy to have you come around and look.” It’s not a very big place at all. It was all adobe structures.

I was attracted to Hopi land because they have a lot of history, they have prophecy. Their backstory is that they came looking for this particular place that they ended up inhabiting, and they had to cross a lot of challenges to get there. The Hopi have a prophecy book, I think, and so I did a lot of research at the library after I was there, to kind of fill in the blanks. I wish I’d known before I went what I learned afterward. It’s such an interesting community.

I would love to [go back]. I just talked [to my friend] today and told her, “We really have to do this. It left a special place in my mind and in my heart.” And she said, “Well, you can go with someone else.” And I said, “It wouldn’t be the same.” It was a great experience, and it didn’t feel like we were tourists because we were the only ones there. We just went in with open minds and we had no expectations.