#31 Girls Going Qovisti
     (Mischa Titiev, 1932-1940)

There is a current belief among the Hopi that boys have more tractable dispositions and better tempers than girls. When a boy has a fight with someone he “doesn’t mean it” and soon gets over his anger, but when a girl quarrels she nurses her resentment for a long time afterwards. In fact, it is said that an angry girl may, out of self pity or to spite her parents, decide to die. In such an event she turns her face to the west and refuses to heed the good advice of parents, uncles or medicine men. After a time, even fear and late repentance are of no avail and, despite all efforts to save her, the girl withers away and dies. This type of wilful suicide is called qövisti and is carefully distinguished from other self inflicted deaths. Instances of girls dying qövisti are freely cited.

Not all girls are said to be endowed with the capacity to become qövisti and some readily admit that they have tried it and failed, while others are pointed out as having latent tendencies in that direction. The symptoms are moodiness, sullen silence, and stubbornness. Men are by nature incapable of going qövisti as they want to live as long as possible. A native theorist told me that girls were subject to this phenomenon, because they put too high a value on themselves. As prospective mothers on whom the perpetuation of the clan depends, they become so vain (qwivi) that they disregard the instructions of their brothers and maternal uncles. Men and women alike are ever ready to admit the temperamental differences between the sexes, and a young woman once told me naïvely that one of the men in the village was “as mean as a girl.”


[#9] Hopi: “Girls Going Qövisti,” from Mischa Titiev, Old Oraibi: A study of the Hopi Indians of the Third Mesa, 1944 (field dates 1932-1944).   New York: Kraus Reprint Co., 1971, 1972.


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