Hopi Mission School was established in 1951 by the General Conference Mennonite Church as an outgrowth of its mission that began in 1893. It is located in desert country near Kykotsmovi, Arizona on the Hopi Reservation. The reservation is located in northeastern Arizona within 150 miles of the Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, Monument Valley, Painted Desert and Canyon De Chelly.
Predecessors of the Hopi were the Anasazi people who built pueblos about 100-200 A.D. A thriving culture emerged by 700 A.D., but pueblos were abandoned about 600 years later. The Hopi Reservation was created in 1882. It consists of high, steep-sided mesas and plateaus separated by wide valleys. The elevation ranges from 4700 feet in the south to 7100 feet in the north. The summer temperature averages 87 degrees and the winter temperature averages 32 degrees, with cooler nights. Light snow falls from January to May, followed by dry months, and then rainfall from July to October. The climate is generally sunny.
Villages were originally situated on top of the mesas and traditional religious ceremonies and dances still take place there. The Hopi population is approximately 10,224 among twelve villages. The Hopi culture dates back a millennium. Today, the Hopi still speak their native language and practice the ancient religion of Kachina. Religious practices such as dances honoring the Kachina, the spirit of the invisible forces of life, continue to play a part in the life of the villages. Languages, social activities, clothing and manners all have religious connotations. Many Christians will not participate in Hopi ceremonies or cultural practices or use traditional healers due to concerns regarding idolatry. As turning away from these activities is a renunciation of Hopi tradition, the arrival of Christian culture prompted the alienation of newly-converted Hopi Christians from their own people. Hopi Christians were pioneers in establishing churches. Divisions remain today between the Hopi and Christian cultures.
Hopi Mission School was created by a group of Hopi Christian families that wanted their children to be taught the Bible. Classes were first held in the Mennonite church in New Oraibi (now called Kykotsmovi). These parents asked Albert Jantzen, the pastor, to build a school for their children. A one-building school was constructed in 1951 for twenty-six students. With the exception of the 1991-1992 school year, Hopi Mission School has remained in operation since its inception. Today, the school consists of two buildings on a forty-acre site with eight classrooms (two of which were added in 2004), a cafeteria/auditorium, library and computer lab. A gymnasium is scheduled for construction beginning in December 2004, with completion scheduled for summer 2005.
Serving Kindergarten to Grade 6,enrollment has fluctuated from 32 to 120; the high for 2003-2004 was 65. Currently there are 47 students. When the school was established, there were few other options for primary education. Today, there are six public elementary schools funded by the federal government through the Bureau of Indian Affairs. In earlier years, grades 7 and 8 classes were offered, but those have since moved to the junior/senior high school located on the reservation.
The school is sponsored by the former General Conference Mennonite Church (now part of Mennonite Church USA), the American Baptist Churches USA and Pacific Southwest, and other church or humanitarian groups and individuals with a specific interest in the school. A parachurch organization called Compassion International had provided substantial subsidy support for several years, but discontinued that support completely at the end of 2000.
The school is governed by the Hopi Mission School Board whose members are appointed by several local churches: Keams Canyon Community Fellowship (Baptist); First Mesa Baptist Church; Kykotsmovi Mennonite Church; Bacavi Community Fellowship (Mennonite/Baptist); Polacca Assembly of God; St Joseph Catholic Church; Hopi Independent Church; and Hotevilla Independent Church.
Most teachers are provided by Mennonite Voluntary Service, with some having been assigned in the past, and currently, by the American Baptist Churches Volunteers in Mission program. Volunteer teachers have a strong commitment to teach and serve as role models, and are chosen on this basis. Volunteers also serve in support and administrative roles. Students are given individual attention due to small class size, affording them special opportunities. Although a majority of the students come from traditional Hopi families, the families support the teaching of Christian values in addition to a strong academic program. A number of graduates from the school have advanced to a higher education and have established themselves in professional careers.
The school’s budget for 2004-2005 is $236,375. An important recent source of income for the school, since the 2000-2001 school year, is the Arizona state income tax credit program that allows taxpayers to redirect a substantial portion of their taxes into a fund that provides scholarships for Hopi Mission School students. Even with this new source, and while the school has nearly 2000 supporters (individuals, churches and organizations), there is no reserve fund and it operates on trust and faith that it can meet the challenge of monthly financial obligations.Additional information about the school may be obtained by writing to