Grades 7-8 | Informative | Text-Dependent
Prompt: You are about to read two texts: “The Tomorrow Seeds”, the story of a Hopi Indian who is shown visions of the future, and the Author’s Note, which explains factual information about Hopi culture. You will then write an essay explaining the main character’s two visions and how the Author’s Note provides information about the way each of these visions represented something that actually happened. Use details and information from both texts as you write your response.
When Spanish explorers first reached the desert Southwest in 1539, they were welcomed peacefully by the pueblo Indians calling themselves Hopituh Shi-nu-mu, which means “the peaceable people” or just “the People.” But by 1675, the time of this story, the People, known as Hopi to outsiders, have come to resent the intrusion of the Spanish settlers and governor, and even more strongly, of the missionaries, or Black Robes, who tried to impose a new religion and language. The Spanish were often brutal, but they had also introduced new plants for cultivation, such as watermelon, called kawayvatnga in Hopi. Eventually, the People outlawed even the black robes’ garden seeds in the effort to reject the new ways.
Though an uneasy peace lasted for several more years, the People, led by Popé, drove out the Spanish settlers and their black robes in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. During the bloody conflict, lives were lost on both sides, churches and homes were razed, and fields destroyed.
Afterwards, the people restored their dances and other religious customs, but their old way of life could not be reclaimed fully. The valley had, in some ways, been damaged beyond healing by the conflict and upheaval. The people eventually moved to the mesa top, where they live to this day.
Recent archaeological digs in Southwestern caves have uncovered caches of native garden seeds — squash, melons, and corn — still able to grow after hundreds of years.
SILENT AS A DOVE’S WING, the desert night lifted toward dawn. Taw! Now! Now was the safe, sacred time Moki had seen in his dreams. Time to disobey the village elders. Time to follow the visions he'd been given.
Rising from his blanket in the kiva, or sleep house, Moki cradled a leather pouch, hoping to keep silent the seeds inside. But seeds have their own life, especially these — the People's bumpy blue seeds of corn, sakwaq’a ö, and the red, forbidden kaway-vatnga of the Black Robes, the Spanish missionaries. Clutched in Moki’s hand, they whispered as he moved.
Moki held his breath. Perhaps the gentle rattle of the seeds would betray him. But no, the visions held faithful. As he silently climbed the ladder out of the kiva, the men of the village slept on.
Chilled by the desert night air, Moki slipped quickly through the darkness, scampering up ladders that led from his pueblo to the base of the steep mesa wall. There he found an ancient path, visible to the hawks soaring above the canyon but hidden from below. Cautiously hugging the cliff face, he felt the way with his feet until the ledge narrowed to a rocky splinter. Then, grasping for hand and toeholds, Moki scaled the wall of rock, pulling himself up and still up, clutching the bag of seeds in his teeth.
On top of the mesa the sky was a tipped bowl of gray blue. Surrounded by red and yellow cliffs, sheltered from the dry desert wind, this was the hidden place Moki had seen in his dream.
Breathing a prayer, Moki prepared the ground to receive the gift of seeds. He knew well how to plant; the People's men tended all growing things. To honor the number of visions he'd seen, his hands formed four central mounds where the forbidden seeds would grow into the strange, delicious fruit brought by the Black Robes. Around the kawayvatnga like a fence Moki planted sixteen hills of the People's corn, four on each side.
As Moki’s fingers carefully smoothed a blanket of earth over the seeds, his ears detected a gentle patter, like rain on leaves. Nearby, from deep within the rock, water dripped through a crack in the cliff. Touching the cool, wet seep, he channeled its trickle to the hidden garden.
“Drink, little seeds of tomorrow,” Moki said. “Grow strong.”
With night melting into the many colors of dawn, Moki hurried to retrace his steps to the village before the others awoke. Silently, he lay down again in the kiva, but he did not sleep.
EVERY MORNING, before the dawn, Moki climbed above-mesa to tend the seeds in secret, as the visions told him he must. Soon, shoots of corn speared through the damp earth, and vines of glossy melon leaves nestled around the young stalks. A rare rain shower rinsed the dusty valley below. Desert winds dried the gardens of the Black Robes and the People. Hidden on the mesa, charmed by the sun and watered gently by the split rock, Moki's corn and melon garden grew through the summer. Grew and flowered. Flowered and set fruit. Tiny, at first, then bigger and bigger.
In the valley something else was growing — angry feelings between the Black Robes and the People. Unspoken thoughts hung in the air, thick as smoke. If any angry words were uttered by the People, it was Popé who said them — loud, and hot as fire. There was the People's way, he argued, and the way of the Spanish settlers who did what they wanted to the earth. Even their spirit leaders, the Black Robes, were thoughtless. Hadn't they outlawed the People's seasonal dances that maintained the harmony of earth? Hadn't they told the People to abandon their language and speak the invaders' Spanish? The People were expected to work the farms of the settlers and Black Robes; how could they also care for their own families?
For speaking against the rules of the Black Robes, Popé and other medicine men from the pueblos had been put in the governor's jail, where four died. Popé was free now, but not silent. He talked even more strongly of pushing the Black Robes and settlers out of the People's valley.
Quietly, the People talked and wondered what to do. “At the birth of the People, we were given this valley. If all the intruders stay, where will we go? If we are pushed from the valley, where will we be safe?”
MOKI KNEW. The visions had shown him two ways to live. The first — with seeds for tomorrow — was a way of sharing. The second was not a way of sharing at all. Which was right? Moki had watched the Black Robes quietly tending their gardens. They were careful in their planting. Careful in their weeding and harvesting. So were the People. Popé did not believe that the Black Robes did anything carefully. Either the People lived in the valley, or the Black Robes did, Popé said. Moki knew the People listened to his words. No one talked anymore as if the two groups could get along.
Every day, as Moki pulled weeds from the melon vines and guided the rustling corn leaves toward the sky, he wondered, was it wise to choose only one way and ignore another? Earth shared day and night; each had its place. They didn't fight. Together they made the People's world complete. Perhaps the Black Robes and the People could live side by side, if each were as careful with each other as they were with their gardens.
Once corn and melon had grown in harmony in the People's gardens. Moki remembered the first harvest: the ripe melon rind splitting with a sound like thunder, its pink flesh dribbling juice, sweeter than spring rain, down the People's chins. Not everything, then, about the Black Robes was bad. The melon seeds had been a good gift. In the manner of the People, the village women had saved the best of those tomorrow seeds for the next year's growing season. And the next, and next.
But not now. Because the Black Robes did not allow the People to live their old way, no one remembered the good gift. No one saved the Black Robes' seeds now, except Moki.
And if the village elders knew of his hidden garden? His disobedience could bring trouble raging like a storm wind. But trouble might come anyway, and with it, the second path shown in his dreams.
The thought of this second choice always ended Moki's gardening time. After slipping unnoticed into the kiva, he would lie with pounding heart until the men and other boys awoke, comforting himself that he was following the first choice of the god of visions. As to the other way? For now it was as secret as the garden itself. He would not — could not — speak of it to the elders. What if they did not believe a boy's dreams?
IT WAS NEARLY the day of harvest when clouds, boiling black and furious, rolled across the valley. Wolflike winds howled through the villages of the People and the Black Robes. Flying sand stung both white skin and brown.
Shreds of green corn leaves, ripped by the wind, spiraled down from the top of the rain-washed mesa. Puzzled, the People looked up, and up. Battered corn stalks hung over the edge of the cliff.
Moki’s heart twisted at the sight. The tomorrow seeds! He raced to the ladders and the secret path on the cliffside. The windstorm had wrecked the corn, but were the melons destroyed, too? He had to know.
The answer lay scattered across the mesa top. Ragged stalks and tufted ears of blue corn littered the ground. Tangled melon vines crisscrossed everywhere, torn from the earth. And then he saw them, in the middle of the wreck of a garden — the crooknecked melon fruit, far, round . . . And unhurt.
Relieved, Moki turned to find that the People — Popé, too — had followed him. In a glance Popé took in the garden site and closed his face with anger. Moki's heart stuck in his throat. How could he save the tomorrow seeds now? The storm hadn't destroyed the forbidden ones, but surely the village elders would. What could he do? Nothing in the visions had prepared him for this.
Popé pointed an accusing finger. “You! And the forbidden seeds!” He pulled one of the hated melons into his arms. How to explain this treachery?
“It . . . it was the way of my dreams,” Moki began. “I saw the People's corn like a shelter around the Black Robes' melons.”
Popé saw. “Four melon vines,” he said, his voice unyielding. “The People's sacred number.”
Moki spoke calmly, but his heart pounded as if he’d run a footrace. “One for each time the vision came to me.” He nodded toward the fat melon in Popé’s arms. “They have grown well together,” he said. “Perhaps we can, too, if we choose to try again. It was one way shown in the visions.”
The People murmured. Truly, melons and corn flourished side by side. Was it still possible for the People to live with the Black Robes?
Popé nudged a twisted corn stalk with his toe. “Is it the wish of the People to sacrifice sakwaq'a o so the Black Robes’ kawayvatnga can grow?” he stormed. Popé held the melon overhead. Moki stared. The unthinkable would happen. Popé would smash the melon, and with it, the tomorrow seeds and any hope of sharing the valley. Was it time to speak of the vision’s second choice?
A hand gripped Popé’s upstretched arm. “Hold,” said an elder of the People. He turned to Moki. “The visions showed you this place?”
“Yes,” Moki said. An inner voice poured words from his heart and lips before he could stop them. “Here is ground for us, high above the Black Robes. With water even in time of drought and shelter in the cliffs. It is a good place, a hidden place.” He took a deep breath and said the rest. “If peace cannot be, we have this place out of reach.” There! At last he'd revealed the secret of the vision. If peace cannot be. Would the People abandon their gardens and pueblo in the valley to live high atop the mesa?
The elders looked. They saw it was true. Ground and water enough for all of the People. Popé, too, saw a place of safety. He did not smile, but he held out the melon to Moki, who cradled it.
The elder spoke. “It is true that the seeds of the People and the Black Robes grow well together. Perhaps we can share the valley. It is not for today to know if this hidden place will be needed tomorrow. For now,” he rescued another melon from its bed among the fallen stalks, “we will give thanks for the good harvest Moki has brought.” The People nodded.
IN THE HARVEST CEREMONY, the People gave thanks for the gift of the Black Robes’ seeds as for their own corn. The women would save the best seeds, both kawayvatnga and sakwaq'a o. The men would plant and tend them. The gods would see them grow . . . together. For another season, the People and the Black Robes would share the valley.
With his own silent prayer of thanks, Moki touched a hand to his leather pouch. It would again hold tomorrow seeds, both blue corn and melon, and not in secret. It was good, just as the visions had promised.