Banyacya, Thomas (1909-1999)

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Banyacya, Thomas (1909-1999)

Thomas Banyacya, an elder of the Hopi Nation, was selected as one of four spokespersons of his people in 1948 to deliver an urgent prophetic message to all people. He was born on June 2, 1909, in Moencopi, a Hopi town in Arizona. He attended school under the name Thomas Jenkins, an Anglo name demanded of students at the time by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He later adopted the name Thomas Banyacya, a combination of the name he had been called as a youth and his birth name. In 1930 he entered Bacone College in Oklahoma, an institution set up for Native Americans. The college did not include studies of Native American culture, and Banyacya and a fellow student set up a medicine lodge for the use of the other students. He dropped his early plans to become a Christian minister and returned to his home as a school teacher.

Banyacya emerged out of obscurity among his people in 1941 when he refused to register for the draft. He served seven years in prison. It was soon after his release from prison that the Hopi leadership selected him as one of their four representatives who were sent out with the Nation's message of peace. This message was one selected from a host of Hopi prophecies and warned that ecological disaster was imminent. If humanity continues to destroy nature, nature will rise up and destroy humankind. The message was integral to the Hopi vision of their role as the people of balance, who are acting on behalf of all humankind.

Banyacya's first actions had some immediacy to them. In 1952 he organized a caravan to travel among the Native American people, encouraging the revival of interest in culture and ways. The next year he set up a meeting with President Eisenhower to gain conscientious objector status for the Hopi males. He also traveled to the UN building in New York to present the Hopi message. Soon afterwards he produced a passport as a citizen of the Hopi Nation and began to travel the world using it. During his many years of travel, he went across central Europe to Moscow and on another occasion to Japan. Most of his years were spent in the western United States.

Of the four messengers, Banyacya lived the longest. He passed away on February 6, 1999, in Hopi land.


Fitten, Ronald K. "Messenger Preaches Hopi Love of Earth." Seattle Times (February 21, 1994).

Thomas Banyacya. May 20, 2000.