The Hopi idea of committing suicide, or “sacrificing themselves” is difficult for a white man to understand, for it is very Oriental.
If a Hopi has enemies, or there is someone who is causing him great misery, he becomes so unhappy that he wishes to destroy himself. But he cannot do away with himself without “losing face” as the Chinese say, or in other words, losing his reputation as a brave man. Therefore, he looks about for someone, or some other tribe, who may be bribed to make a sham attack upon him or upon his village during which he will be killed. It is arranged with the enemy that he will be the first to rush out against them and as soon as he is killed the enemy will promptly retreat. Of course, a few innocent people may suffer in the melee, but this seems to be regarded only as a regrettable necessity.
A man desiring to make arrangements for his suicide will meet secretly with the “enemy,” taking him gifts and between them all the details of the affair will be arranged. It is agreed upon at this time that the victim shall wear all his valuables, such as strings of turquoise, etc., so that the hired assassins may thus receive the remainder of their pay from the body of the “victim.” And so it is that the Hopi suicide makes a glorious end!
I am told that many of the Navaho and Ute raids upon the Hopi villages were just such pre-arranged affairs.
[#7] Hopi: Edmund Nequatewa, “Making Arrangements for Suicide,” from The Truth of a Hopi and Other Clan Stories of Shung-opovi.
Flagstaff, Arizona: Northern Arizona Society of Science & Art, 1936, endnote 32.