Ongtupqa: Hopi Music and Cultural Connections to the Grand Canyon

Explore our sacred spaces this summer when we welcome international recording artist and cultural storyteller Gary Stroutsos. In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Grand Canyon's designation as a national park, Gary shares highlights of the film Ongtupqa, showcasing Hopi music and unique cultural perspectives of the Hopi people.

Ongtupqa is the Hopi name for Grand Canyon that translates to “Salt Canyon.” This documentary film shares Hopi cultural connections to the canyon through music and spoken word, featuring Clark Tenakhongva, Vice Chairman of the Hopi Tribe and a renowned traditional singer. Ongtupqa includes stunning images of Grand Canyon, live music footage, time-lapse imagery, and much more. It helps explain Grand Canyon as a living landscape, something Hopi people equate to a house of worship.

“As Hopi, we were born within Grand Canyon and when we are done we return back to this place to rejuvenate life of a new beginning,” said Tenakhongva. “This is the cycle. This is the Hopi way. And these are songs and stories about that special place-Ongtupqa.

Ongtupqa is a historically significant recording as it features the Hopi long flute, a relatively unknown instrument whose sound has been missing from the Hopi Mesas for over 500 years. Excavations in northeastern Arizona from the 1930s unearthed four flutes that have been dated to 650 A.D., making them a mong the oldest known wooden flutes in North America. A replica of this end-blown instrument is played by Gary Stroutsos, a master flute player with over 40 professional recordings to his credit. Ongtupqa is the first of its kind to reunite the flute with traditional vocals.

The project celebrates the most ancient sounds to emerge from Ongtupqa, recorded inside its most significant structure, the Desert View Watchtower.

This special presentation takes place Saturday, June 1 from 1-2:30 pm at the Main Branch of Tacoma Public Library. The 20 minute edit of the film will be followed by Hopi flute music, an opportunity to interact with the flutes, and a Q&A period.

"Music has the power to connect people to place in a profound way."