James F. Brooks is the author of Mesa of Sorrows: A History of the Awat'ovi Massacre. From his Q & A with Deborah Kalb:
Q: You’ve lived in the American Southwest for many years and been fascinated with the history of the region. How did you come up with the idea for Mesa of Sorrows, and what has been the importance of the Awat’ovi Massacre in Hopi history?--Marshal Zeringue
A: I was a fellow at the School of American Research in 2000-2001, and was finishing Captives and Cousins, a history of intercultural slavery in the Southwest.
I was wrapping the book up, and was wondering if there were any cases in transactions of women and children between or within indigenous people.
Ruth Van Dyke, a colleague, said there was a terrible event where some of the survivors were women and children, and were distributed over other villages.
I don’t think I would have done the book unless the story was revealing itself in a way that you could get a sense of redemption and forgiveness…
I really believe these guys [in a Hopi delegation who attempted to negotiate with the Spanish] were trying to figure out a way to avoid all this, but it didn’t work out. Once I was to that point, I thought the book could do some good in the world.
It’s something that’s haunted them [the Hopi people] for a long time. It shaped their fundamental cultural views around communitarian commitments and pacifism.
Q: You write that your previous research on the Southwest involved violence between different groups of people, and this time you wanted to look at violence within a group of people. How did this book develop?
A: I imagined this early on as intra-cultural violence, except I realized it’s the social product of difference even within a group. You may imagine yourself as a community, but when tensions erupt...[read on]