Advancing the Value of Ethnography

Cooperation without Submission: Some Insights on Knowing, Not-Knowing and Their Relations from Hopi-US Engagements


EPIC2018 Keynote Address


The headlines of the March 6, 1886 edition of the Illustrated Police News, read “Cowed by a Woman: A Craven Red Villain Weakens in the Face of a Resolute White Heroine—Exciting Adventure in an Indian Village in Arizona.” The lede was accompanied by this illustration showing anthropologists Colonel James and Mathilda Coxe Stevenson confronting Hopi village members who had barred their entrance into a village kiva (See Figure 1).

Figure 1: From The Illustrated Police News, 6 March 1886, (National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Museum Support Center).

The Stevensons were sent from the U.S. Bureau of American Ethnology to detail Hopi ceremonial culture, but the image shows them being thwarted by several Hopi men who supposedly planned to take them into “the underground chapel of the village … [to be] summarily dealt with.” Col. Stevenson is reported assuredly stating, “that while the situation was highly interesting, it was probably less alarming than it would have been to people unacquainted with the natural timidity of the Pueblos.”i

The image is thus one of intrepid Euro-American hero-scientists battling at the frontiers of knowledge, demanding a “right” to know what these Hopis are doing in their kivas. Today the image might also be read to suggest the ways in which Hopi have almost always taken exception to Euro-American knowledge-projects, especially those that desire to know “everything” about them.

Read in this light, I think the image resonates in other ways as well—ways that speak to our current sociopolitical moment in which confrontations challenging our sense of who has knowledge and who doesn’t, what counts as evidence of it, and to whom it can and can’t be shared seem to be fracturing our civic lives, our private worlds, and everything in between.

This talk then is my effort to reflect a little on what my experience doing ethnographic and advocacy work with the Hopi tribe might reveal about how knowledge is produced, transmitted and negotiated between parties like the Hopi and their non-native counterparts in the U.S. government, parties who may or may not share much between them. I ask after the practices of knowing, norming and relating that the Hopi police against intrusions like those of the Stevensons; intrusions that persist to this day, including my own. I argue that the limits Hopi present to Euro-American knowledge-projects resonate with ways that knowledge is produced, transmitted, and policed within Hopi society as well (Richland 2018). The Hopi have an abiding concern about controlling the unauthorized access to certain ceremonial knowledge, not only from outsiders, but by and between each other as well (Whiteley 1998, Richland 2009, 2018). Those who are not initiated into the relevant secret ceremonial societies, or from the right clans, cannot and should not have access to the knowledge of ceremonial materials and rituals that don’t “belong” to them. In Hopi, traditional knowledge is called navoti—“knowledge gained thru hearing” (Malotki and Lomatuway’ma 1987:58)—thereby marking its oral, secret transmission, and the authority that goes along with it. The restrictions on its distribution to non-initiates and non-clan members, and the way different clans and societies each have their own traditional knowledge, determines how people understand their duties and obligations to each other, with every clan expected to give the others their due, and to get it in return (Whiteley 1988, 1998).

Of course, Hopi do continue to refuse settler colonial epistemological intrusions by non-native US agents, or those funded by them. But I will argue, when understood in light of Hopi notions of knowledge and its transmission—such refusals involve less a shutting down of relations, but rather something more like an invitation to them. This explains their response to invitations from federal agencies to engage in the U.S.’s regime of “meaningful tribal consultations,”ii not by shutting them down, but insisting upon them as sites for staging a mode of “federal-tribal” relationship premised on Hopi norms, relations, and the knowing, and not-knowing, that they underwrite. As such, I argue they offer a somewhat different way to think about knowing, norming, and relating in our epistemologically fractured times. They compel us to take seriously the ways in which, for Hopi at least, and maybe for the rest of us as well, relations of differentially distributed legitimacy and authority comes as much from accepting the limits of our respective forms of knowledge, as it does from claiming to have knowledge in the first place. And in so doing, perhaps we can all come to have a more measured and appreciative view of our respective places in our overlapping social worlds. That is, that even in the face of this seemingly fractured view of the world, and despite our differential epistemological limits and lines, we nonetheless share in the making of the world together.

In what follows, I will show how this unfolds in a tribal consultation I participated in as part of a larger project I am undertaking with the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office or HCPOiii– the arm of the Hopi Tribal Government charged with protecting the tribe’s cultural property interests.iv

This consultation, which took place between HCPO officials and representatives from the US Forest Service in the Tonto National Forest in Arizona, were made pursuant to federal laws and regulations that require US agencies to consult tribal nations any time they propose a change in policy that might impact the tribe’s cultural resources.v In this case, the Forest Service had identified a parcel of land in the Tonto forest it wanted to sell to a private entity. The parcel had several Hopi ancestral archaeological sites in it, and so the Forest Service archaeologists solicited consultation from the tribe about their cultural significance. As I will show, how the Hopi actors respond to these solicitations can be productively understood by turning to Hopi concepts of navoti which see it as esoteric, sacred knowledge-property, whose sharing implies and produces relationships of ethical obligation to care for the sites. When read in this way, this scene reveals how Hopi use the consultation event as an opportunity to invite the USFS archaeologists into a relationship that comports with Hopi norms about traditional knowledge and its transmission, even though the archaeologists fail to see it this way.

I thus want to show how in taking up and enacting their authority to disseminate their traditional knowledge discursively Hopi actors engage with each other and their non-native counterparts in ways that do more than just give information about the meaning of their cultural properties. Surely it does this, but from a Hopi point of view, it also, simultaneously, enacts the relations—a community of shared normativity and meaning—that makes even understanding the Hopi perspective possible. It is in this way, I would argue, that matters of knowledge, evidence, and the ethnographic analysis of the social relations that they produce and entail—matters that I hope speak to the themes of this year’s EPIC conference—emerge in my work.

Knowledge, Evidence, Relations

Before turning to the Hopi examples in more depth, let me try to unpack a little bit more how I see knowing, norming and relating interfacing in my work, and do so by a brief detour into philosophy. In the Anglophone analytic tradition of epistemology, the classic definition of knowledge is (with apologies to Edmund Gettier who in 1963 posed substantial, but not yet entirely persuasive challenge to this definition. See Gettier, 1963) that knowledge is a “justified true belief,” (Ayer 1956). Well, what does that mean? The syllogistic formula usually goes like this:

Subject S knows proposition P if and only if:

  • P is true, and
  • S believes P is true, and
  • S is justified in believing that P is true.

I don’t want to dwell too long on the whole formula, and especially want to avoid going down the rabbit hole of asking after what might be meant here by “belief,” or “truth.” Instead, I’d ask that you instead just consider, for the sake of argument, the third clause of the formula, and specifically why it might be the case that knowledge is defined as a “justified” true belief. That is, why isn’t knowledge simply the holding of a “true belief.” Why isn’t this enough? Why must it be justified? And how does justification even work?

On his way to an answer that takes, importantly, a distinctly social and discursive turn, the philosopher Robert Brandom argues that, “To have the authority of knowledge… [a claim] … must not only be reliable, it must be taken to be reliable” (Brandom 1997: 157). To understand this, consider the following thought project, a version of which Brandom (2000) himself forwarded:

Say I have a penny—in fact I have one right here. Okay. Now, say I tell you, before flipping it, that I sincerely believe that upon flipping this penny, it will turn up heads. Okay. Then I flip it. And lo and behold it turns up heads. And indeed, you look at it, and it is indeed on heads. Would you say that I held a true belief when I told you that I sincerely believed it would turn up heads? I think you would. But would you say, without anything more, that I knew, that is, that I had knowledge, of the fact that it would turn up heads? Yes? No? I think not. Why? Well, because, you might say, however true my belief turned out to be, I wasn’t justified in holding that belief. You would want to know more, you’d want to hear my reasons for holding the true belief—you’d ask for and expect me to give reasons before you’d be willing to say I knew it would turn up heads. In fact, you might even want evidence of my reasons, you’d want to inspect the coin, maybe see if it was heads on both sides, before you’d be willing to say that my sincerely held belief that it would turn up heads actually counted as knowledge, and not, upon turning out true, was not just random, dumb, luck.

Okay, but then let me ask, would any reasons do? Would any reason or evidence I might give serve to turn my true belief into knowledge by being a justified true belief? No. We’d have to agree upon the norms by which we evaluate the reasons and evidence – we’d have to share, in this sense, in the values of proof that we ascribe to the evidence and reasons given for justifying our true belief and thus making it knowledge.

In a similar way, I argue, when Hopi actors engage in meaningful tribal consultation with their Forest Service counterparts, they are endeavoring not just to impart the sincerely held true beliefs they call navoti. For doing so requires that they simultaneously seek to secure the necessary relations of shared normativity—of understanding what does and doesn’t count as good evidence and sound reasons for holding the navoti they do, and the social relations that this both produces and presumes. As I will show, this effort for building communities of meaning and value, such that knowledge transmission is even possible, is built into Hopi understandings of traditional knowledge—of navoti as of knowledge gained through hearing. This is evident when we understand it as the sacred, secret resource of Hopi authority, one jealously guarded, and differentially distributed not just between Hopi and non-Hopi like the Stevensons or US Forest Service agents from the Tonto, but by and between Hopi from different clans, ritual societies, and villages as well. Each of these groups, Hopi and non-, are to be taken as having their own traditions, their own knowledge, sometimes legitimately and sometimes not, but each to be respected in the authority that redounds to them in light of those traditions. For Hopis I work with, the consultation engagements I observed involved not just assenting or refusing to transmit the relevant traditional knowledge. It also involved with it the invitation to and enactment of relations of shared normativity—of being in a Hopi community of meaning in which knowing and not-knowing both play a role—and against which Hopi knowing is only ever possible in the first place. It is this interweaving of knowing and not-knowing within the larger Hopi culture that my mentor, the Hopi anthropological linguist and justice Emory Sekaquaptewa described as the bedrock principle of Hopi social theory, a theory of social unity built among diversity, what he called “cooperation without submission.” To explicate this sense, I turn quickly to some background about Hopi and its history.

The Hopi, Their History, and Their Traditions

Today, approximately 7,200 Hopi tribal members, of the nearly 13,000 total, reside on the Hopi reservation, a fraction of aboriginal Hopi lands or These residents occupy twelve villages located on or around three mesas which before the 1930’s, operated under autonomous village leadership. In 1936, pursuant U.S. law, these autonomous villages federated into a single Hopi Tribal Nation, with whom the United States would recognize as sharing with it a “government-to-government” relationship. It is in furtherance of this relationship, that the Hopi, like other federally recognized tribes, are today able to avail themselves of the “meaningful tribal consultation” that, since the 1990s has been the first regulatory avenue that tribes rely upon to press their interests with federal agencies (Haskew 2000, Eitner 2014, see also National Congress of American Indians “Consultation with Tribal Nations,” 2012). For example, the underlying dispute in the recent confrontation between protesters and government agents at the Standing Rock Reservation was that the Army Corp of Engineers had failed to properly engage the Standing Rock Sioux in meaningful tribal consultation before issuing permits for the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline in a culturally sensitive area to the tribe.vii

But while the Hopi Tribal Government, including its cultural resource arm the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office, is the lead “outward-facing” institutional authority for dealing with the U.S. and its representatives, internally, Hopi traditional leadership and the traditional knowledge that they bear continues to hold sway over everyday life on the reservation. It is these customs and traditions, and the knowledge of them, that Hopi refer to as navoti (Richland 2009, 2018, Whiteley 1998). They are largely understood by Hopi as pointing to and enacting the knowledge necessary to enact the ceremonies that animate ritual life in the several Hopi villages. Indeed, the idealized image that Hopis have of village organization sees them as constituted of several matrilineal, matrifocal, exogamous groups they call ngyam or clans. Each clan has its own origin story which describes the migration of ancestors across Hopi aboriginal homeland, from various directions, to their current residence and their original admission to the village community. This admission which was premised on their performance of ceremonies efficacious for bringing rain, and it was in exchange for performing these ceremonies, pursuant to each clans’ esoteric traditional knowledge, and sharing with certain select initiates in ritual societies, that the different clans were first given land to farm. It is also those ceremonies that constitute the ritual cycle performed every year, a performance that is understood as (re)enacting this originary moment of village community-making and the social charter bonding clans (Whiteley 1998, Titiev 1944).

Performing ritual obligations, and knowing and transmitting their deeper significance, is how each component clan contributes to the annual (re)making of the larger community. It also explains why the secrecy of, access to, possession and understanding of traditional knowledge serves as a key source of social authority among Hopi. As Peter Whiteley explains, “one of the most distinguished terms for a man is navoti’ytaqa, ‘a man of knowledge’” (Whiteley 1998: 94). It is because of this, he argues, that for Hopi “ritual knowledge is a ‘strategic resource’ (Whiteley 1998: 71) serving as “the ‘currency,’ perhaps, of power” (74). Less appreciated is the extent to which not-knowing traditional knowledge is also viewed as a key part of the warp and woof of Hopi belonging. For all the objections that anthropologists report Hopis leveling against their knowledge-projects intrusions, they all explain that the objection is primarily that it is someone not initiated in the relevant ceremonial society, or a member of the right clan seeking to do so. The point, says Hopi critical historian Lomayumptewa Ishii, is that

There is a long recognition that a total understanding of the entire Hopi scheme of things is never attainable. In one sense, this lack of centralized knowledge ensures that different clans and societies must carry their weight in order for Hopi life to exist (Ishii 2001, 145).

And while this “poses a problem for Anglophones who want to know everything,” Ishii continues, for Hopi, it is key to Hopi understandings of their own place in the world. He writes, “the certainty associated with not-knowing is a form of Hopi knowledge in which we know the limitations of ourselves within our society” (Ishii 2001, 145).

It is therefore not surprising that discourses of tradition, who legitimately knows it, and what it provides for, are a regular and recurrent feature of also of the contemporary discourses animating Hopi engagements with non-Hopi agencies like the US Forest Service. Indeed, concern with the transmission of Hopi cultural information is an animating element of the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office’s mission. On its website, the Office origins is explained as a response to the theft of cultural property by non-Hopis, and the resultant impact this has had on the unauthorized transmission of traditional knowledge not only to non-Hopi, but among Hopi as well: “Through these thefts, sacred rituals have been exposed to others out of context and without permission…Some of this information has reached individuals for whom it was not intended (e.g. Hopi youth, members of other clans, or non-Hopi).”viii

As such, and as I hope to show now, when matters of Hopi knowledge-authority, its evidencing, and its transmission, emerge in the tribal consultation contexts I observed matters of knowing, not-knowing, and the relations they generate, are what makes these engagements meaningful for the Hopi, as a kind of “cooperation without submission” (quoted in Ferrero, 1984).

Hopi Knowledge and Consultation in the Tonto National Forest

In truth, trudging up a small rise on the dusty, unmarked chaparral trail that crisscrossed the Payson Ranger District of the Tonto National Forest in Arizona, I don’t remember my Hopi colleagues ever talking about matters of knowledge, relationships, or even normativity more generally. I just remember the heat. Though it was early morning, it was still July, with temperatures racing past the low 90s, even in the higher elevations of what locals call the “Rim Country” at the Southern edge of the Colorado Plateau.

The Hopi had been invited down to the area, about 130 miles south from the Hopi Reservation, as part of an effort by the US Forest Service to undertake what is known as a “Traditional Cultural Properties Investigation” on Forest lands. The Service wanted to ask the Hopi questions about the area slated for sale, for as it turns out, the lands in question contained twenty eight sites of possible human occupation dating from between AD 1600-1875 (Clark 2001). My Hopi colleagues, called these sites “itaakuku”—“our footfalls” because they mark not just the movement of those ancestors they call Hoopoq’yaqam (“Those who went to the Northeast”) but also the on-going paths of commitment they have to follow to care for the lands, an obligation first undertaken when the land was given to their ancestors by Maasaw, the diety who lived there (Hopkins, Koyiyumptewa, Hedquist, Ferguson and Colwell, 2017).

These sites then are not just spaces, but places, on a path of ethical living that the Hopi call Hopivewat, the Hopi way, and which makes up the complex and ever unfolding cycle of prayer and practice of village ceremonialism. As we walked along the trails encountering these various sites, my Hopi colleagues kept pointing to all the Hisatsinomancestors”—that had come to greet us as we approached their homes and for whom they are obliged to leave prayers and offerings—the hummingbird who zipped across our path, the young doe who bolted from the underbrush, and a hawk that soared above.

One can already imagine then the response that the Hopi had to being told that the sites they were visiting on that trip were part of lands that the US Forest Service was already planning to sell to private developers. To say they objected is an understatement. In a pre-consultation briefing, the Forest archaeologists informed them that the Hopi’s normally preferred recommendation in such situations—that of “avoidance” or simply leaving the archaeological sites/ itaakuku in the ground, undisturbed—was not possible. Instead, he said, the best option was to excavate. Upon hearing this, Hopi team member One (HTI) objected:

HT1: There’s ceremonies at Hopi that still recount the path ah- to Hopi. Which is- is still very much alive. And these places that—that they have left you know, people are-we believe that people are still there. Their spirits are still there. So we dis- we disturb that, or somehow allow for it to be disturbed, it’s a form of ahm taboo, I guess. It’s something that we highly respect.”

The Forest Service archaeologist in charge then clarified that the reason the Hopi had been asked down to Tonto for this consultation was not to consult on how to maintain the ancestral sites in place, but rather to help rationalize their removal. In order to justify the expenditure of federal funds for the excavation, the archaeologists were required to make a finding that the sites were of such significance that they’d be eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, and they wanted the Hopis help with making that case.

The National Registry’s eligibility criteria are outlined in Title 36 of the Code of Federal Regulations, and define the criteria of significance as inhering in those sites that “are associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history; or that are associated with the lives of persons significant in our past; or … that have yielded, or may be likely to yield, information important in prehistory or history.” ix Federal regulations thus turn questions of “significance” on what such sites can tell us about the past. This might seem an easy test to meet for the Hopi in this case, especially given that they explicitly refer to such sites as their ancestors’ “footprints.” And indeed though they didn’t agree with the proposed sale and excavation, my Hopi colleagues nonetheless agreed to continue with the consultation, ready to confirm the import of these places to them.

And so, as we arrived on top of that ridge, the archaeologists asked the Hopi to tell them which of the “National Registry criteria …would this meet …,” Hopi Team member one responded, bluntly, “all of them.” A few aching moments of silence followed before one Hopi team member offered more:

HT 1: I mean like in the- in the South, where these people migrated from, they built pyramids. From that pyramid they—they watched the solars, you know. Here they probably couldn’t build a pyramid, so they looked for the highest points…because they’re still on migration… So these things are good teaching points for our generations. They come, and you, know “These are places where they did that.”

Note first how the significance of these sites is formulated here as clearly important in light of historical events, but also in a way that would seem to fly in the face of scientific credibility. That is, the story is told as if the 1,500 or so miles between the pyramids of central Mexico and the ridge on which we now stood, and the millennia between the ritual occupation of those pyramids and the dates of occupation of the Tonto—were all compassed by the same group of people.

But however accurate according to natural scientific norms of evidence, such a view would miss the import of these places as itaakuku “our footprints”—sites of ceremonial obligation and understanding of value to Hopi today (Hopkins, Koyiyumptewa, Hedquist, Ferguson and Colwell, 2017). This is what is implied by the claim that these footprints are good teaching points for “our generations”—itself an interesting turn of phrase which points to the enduring cultural value of places like these, given that the teaching of the events of migration are always for Hopi, central aspects of ritual performance and the complex informational-ethical demands that such places make. Of course, these comments are as implicitly historical as the regulations’ language is implicitly contemporary. But what is different is how the authority of the regulation’s criteria for “significance” underwrite a scientistic way of viewing the world that excludes the Hopi commitments to their teaching significance for “our generations” in the present. It is as if the “significance” of these sites as evidence of the “facts” of the past exclude the concern that Hopis have for their care as ongoing places of ritual obligation.

This particular Hopi significance became evident just moments later, when the Hopi team member found himself interrupted by a visitor, which he noted to the other Hopi team members:

  • 099 HT1: What was that?
  • 100 ((Bird Screeches))
  • 102 HT4: Masap’ye?
    • The bird?
  • 104 HT1: Pas pay himu- ahm masikwayo aw himu pu’ yanti?
    • That thing – ahm grey hawk came here for something?
  • 105 HT2: Owi. Pay hiitakw umungem sel-se’ela.
    • Yeah, it’s been here for you(pl) since this-this morning. Masikwayo.
    • (That) Grey Hawk.
  • 106 HT3: Um hm.

The arrival of the Masikwayo, the Grey Hawk, comes at the end of HT1’s narrative about the significance of the site/itaakuku, but not before its interruption arrests the narrating event itself. HT1, in collaboration with HT2 and the masikwayo, thus stage a key moment in extending the evidence of traditional Hopi knowledge, and the true beliefs so justified, to the present moment we were sharing. As such the narrative he was telling of ancestors that visit and therefore must be cared for at itaakuku like these, places of past occupation and future education, is one that is evidenced in the arrival of the ancestors to the Hopi here, and now, and, implicitly, to the archaeologists to whom the knowledge of these traditions has now been transmitted. This is made explicit a few minutes later by HT1,

HT1: You know, so far, we’ve seen some- what was that- bird? Remember, we said, yesterday, that the—the spirits are very much alive here. Well, they know that we’re here. So they would come visit us in-tha-that kind of form. Animals or whatever, you know. They will-they will come around…. It was interesting, when we were in ahm Teotihuacan, the people there told us that, “You know, when you go up to the sun pyramid, there will be a lot of monarch butterflies there. They’re our people that come to see you.” So when I went up there, Man, there was butterflies all over the place. Right up on top of that. Well, we believe the same thing, you know. When you come visit here, then they will come.

Here then the significance the Hopi team member assigns to the site is laid bare. The arcs of care, and the evidentiary norms that give proof to the knowledge of Hopi traditions about the significance of these sites, now move through and give meaning to the tribal consultation moment itself. In just this short trek up the ridge, HT1 tells us, we met beings, like that hawk, that embody the ancestors who live in these places, just as they had had explained they do the day before to the archaeologists. Moreover, in describing his recent trip to Teotihuacan, he narrates how the indigenous people down there hold the same belief that their ancestors reside in such places and will visit those who come to these sacred places. I would argue the archaeologists are expected to remember that Teotihuacan is precisely the kind of pyramid described as a site that Hopi forbearers would have relied upon when living in Central Mexico, prior to their sacred migrations to the Northeast, including when they arrived to where were standing at the very moment. And just as on that trip from the South then, and as he experienced on his recent trip to Teotihuacan, so too had we just now encountered Hopi ancestors living here, verifying not only that this place, this itaakuku was, is and will always be significant, but that it is significant in ways that press upon and encompass all of us—Hopi and non-Hopi alike, who had met on the ridge that day. No wonder he summarizes “ we believe the same thing. When you come visit here, they will come.”

The consultation about this site wrapped up shortly after this exchange, and the Hopi team members, archaeologists and I started to make our way to the next site. As we did, another one of the Hopi team members, speaking to me, reiterated that indeed, “That was probably one of the ancestors that showed up.” This seemed to remind his colleague of something, who turned to him and said, “Let’s remember to take our offerings down there,”—an offering that Hopis are obligated to leave for ancestors, and which, in many ways, bind ancestors to the living with whom they are in relation, and which, after this consultation, I would argue was meant to include the non-Hopi archaeologists as well.

I wish I could tell you that the Forest Service heard the significance of what the Hopi were imparting to them. But alas, they didn’t, and the sale of the land and excavation of the sties was completed by the summer of 2016. This seemed to confirm some of the skepticism I heard among the members of the HCPO. And yet, this too was not unexpected. Even as one HCPO member confessed to me that he wasn’t sure consultation was even worth it, he understood that the office’s participation in them was not likely to change:

TM: I’m not sure it’s making any difference. I’m not supposed to be as dark and uh, negative as that. [The HCPO Director] assure[s] me that we have to keep teaching them. I argue or debate…violent revolution or peace? And I say, “Would you invite [the Conquistador] Cortez in for dinner?”, and he goes “Yes.” I guess even the ignorant have to be treated with respect. (Personal Communication, July 8, 2013, on record with author)


For all these reasons, then, I believe we see in this engagement Hopi staging acts of “cooperation without submission” in the consultations they held with the US forest service. Moreover, it is a scene that, however small and seemingly insignificant points to the possibilities that meaningful tribal consultation requirements have afforded. It suggests the meaning these consultations have for Hopi and other tribal actors engaging in them is one way they undertake the speech acts that simultaneously assume and announce a domain of Hopi normative authority. For Hopi at least, I have elsewhere called these domains of normativity their jurisdictions—literally domains of juris-diction legal speech—because I believe Hopi work in and through them to compass, however partially and imperfectly the normative commitments of both the non-native regulatory commitments of the U.S. Forest Service and the sacral obligations of the Hopi tribe. I call consultations domains of Hopi jurisdiction, because they can be understood as places of engagement where Hopi introduce talk of their knowledge, and their norms, and their evidence justifying that knowledge, but always within a field of competing normative spheres—of other jurisdictions. I see them as sites where Hopi and non-Hopi social actors engaging each other in and through consultation can, if they recognize it, enact the necessary relations for negotiating their multiple sets of rights, obligations, and the claims to knowing and doing those rights and obligations imply. For just as with the flipping of coins, so too with the significance of sites, one cannot claim to have or transmit knowledge—justified true beliefs—about them to someone who is not already in relationships of at least some shared sense of meaning and normativity. We have to agree on the norms and values of what is and isn’t good evidence that will justify our true beliefs, and that requires a kind of relationship by which we at least can agree on what is knowable and what is not, and how.

In this sense, this talk speaks to questions of truth, knowledge and their evidencing, which, are not only alive to and for us in this conference. Even more importantly, in this time of “alternative facts and fake news” these questions seem more pressing than ever. And as such these questions beg others—questions about whether the epistemological commitments of law and science and religion might be capacious enough to allow that the different meanings of engagement among various tribes—“theirs” and “ours” ethnic, political or otherwise—can be given a principled place alongside each other. It asks whether we might be able to get an angle of repose, not on an uncritical assumption of others’ knowledge, but rather a sufficient amount of meaningful relationality—by which we acknowledge what we cannot “know” about each other as much as what we do—and that this is true because we have come together, meaningfully around our respective though inevitably different concerns. Maybe we could all do, right now, in a bit of “cooperation without submission.”

i. Illustrated Police News, 6 March 1886, page 1.

ii. Executive Order 13175 of November 6, 2000, Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments, Federal Register Vol. 65, No. 218, pg. 67249; Barack Obama Presidential Memorandum on Tribal Consultation, November 5, 2009

iii. The Website of the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office:, Accessed September 10, 2018

iv. Hopi Tribal Council Res. H-70-94 (1994) (on file with author) (�[N]ow therefore be it resolved that the Hopi Tribal Council . . . . That it authorizes the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office to exercise administrative responsibilities to negotiate and enter into agreements as necessary to address the repatriation of sacred objects [and] objects of cultural patrimony . . . ).

v. (36 Code of Federal Regulations 60.4, The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990, 25 U.S.C. 3001 et seq.; The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966; See also Parker and King (1990), Guidelines for Evaluating and Documenting Traditional Cultural Properties, National Register Bulletin No. 38).

vi. United States Census, 2010.

vii. See �Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief,� Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, (Standing Rock I), 205 F.Supp.3d 4, 7 (D.D.C. 2016), Filed July 7, 2016.

viii. Hopi Cultural Preservation Office website: Accessed November 7, 2018.

ix. 36 CFR 60.4 Criteria for Evaluation, reads: �National Register criteria for evaluation. The quality of significance in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering and culture is present in districts, materials, workmanship, feeling and association and

  1. that are associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history; or
  2. that are associated with the lives or persons significant in our past; or
  3. that embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or that represent the work of a master, or that possess high artistic values, or that represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction; or
  4. that have yielded, or may be likely to yield, information important in prehistory or history.


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Brandom, R. 1997. “Study Guide.” In Wilfred Sellars, Empricism and the Philosophy of Mind. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Eitner, M.2014. “Meaningful Consultation with Tribal Governments: A Uniform Standard to Guarantee that Federal Agencies Property Consider Their Concerns. University of Colorado Law Review 85: 867-900

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