Field Notes: Fiber and Dye Team (2015)

By reading the anthropologists’ field notes, the 1935 Hopi household interviews, Whiting’s Ethnobotany of the Hopi, and the notes in the Hopi Plants @ UMMAA on-line catalog we learned that the creation of the ethnobotanical collections was a cooperative one. For instance, the researchers seemed to take great effort to record the Hopi name in their field notes and interviews. They were also particularly concerned with the organization of the crops. As an example, one of the households interviewed sorted their squash by color and taste.  Jones and Whiting were very interested in the source of the seeds- especially whether they came from the husband’s or the wife’s family. Thus, it seems apparent these researchers had larger questions in mind about the structure of Hopi life. The field notes also provide information not only about the anthropologist’s’ perspective, but the Hopi individuals as well. In the letter that Don Talayesva wrote to Volney Jones and descriptions in Whiting’s book, we see that roots of wild plants, beans, seeds, and sunflowers are used to make bright dyes. These dyes are then used to dye cotton or materials for baskets.  Whiting noted that the sales of baskets, along with pottery, were an important element of the Hopi economy in the 1930s. These dyes are not only used in basketry, but are used for personal decoration, other arts and crafts, food and medicine, illustrating the Hopi use their plants for many purposes.