Long since closed to outside
observers, this recreation gives us a rare glimpse into the spectacle
that is the Snake Dance. While not technically a kachina, these
figures are highly regarded religious leaders who conduct special
"This is the snake dancer
who is one of the social dancers who used to appear in mid-August
at several of the villages. During the dance performance the
Snake priests, accompanied by the Antelope priests, dance with
live rattlesnakes and/or bull snakes in their mouths.
The live snakes are referred
to by the priests as their 'elder brothers.' These are obviously
not dancers with 'faces' and therefore are not 'Kachinas.' Information
in much greater detail can be found in the books Hopi Snake Ceremonies
by Jesse Walter Fewkes, and Moki Snake Dance by Walter Hough,
both from Avanyu Publishing.
In recent years the Snake
Dance has only been performed at the Second Mesa villages of
Mishongnovi and Shungopavi. There is no difference in the costumes
between the First Mesa variety and any of the other mesas. This
dance has been closed to non-Indians since 1986."
- Ricks, J. Brent, et al., Kachinas:
Spirit Beings of the Hopi (114)
Although Peter Shelton was a kachina carver, he was also well
known for his paintings. According to Southwest Indian Painting:
A Changing Art by Clara Lee Tanner, pages 279-280:
Peter Shelton was born and
received his early education in Oraibi [Hopi Third Mesa-Hopi
spelling is Orayvi]. Later he attended the Santa Fe Indian School.
His brother Henry is a fine kachina carver who does not paint,
while Peter is better known as a painter but has carved some
Indeed, there is a suggestion
of the kachina doll in some Peter Shelton paintings, for example
in the stance of the wolf. Colors in his water-based paintings
are more subdued but equally rich and as varied and bright as
the poster paints used on the dolls. Shelton uses modeling in
his painting figures, particularly in the body. Detail is excellent,
as seen in the designs on kilts and other ceremonial dress, and
the hair and claws on the Wolf Kachina. His Kachinas are often
quite long-legged and slender. Some abstract painting has been
done by Shelton in which he used Hopi symbolic deigns.