The first motor vehicles appeared at Hopi in the 1920s, but they were few and far between, and the clay and sand reservation roads were frequently impassable. It wasn't until the late 1940s that Sue and friend LaVaun Mowers visited the Hopi mesas on a regular basis. In 1947, while sitting on top of a house at the Hopi Second Mesa village of Shongopavi, watching the Snake Dance, Sue noticed a woman weaving a basket. “I bought it because it was beautiful and the only one she had. I think we were the only outsiders there at the dance."
The most problematic segment of the Bacharach/von Preissig collection for the Museum is the kachina dolls.
The most problematic segment of the Bacharach/von Preissig collection for the Museum is the kachina dolls. This is because of the many complex issues surround the sale of kachina dolls by Hopi carvers and the use of kachina imagery by non-Pueblo and non-Indian peoples. Tithu, or kachina dolls, are physical extensions of spirit beings and integral elements of Katsina religious ceremonies. They are visual catechism books made as gifts, or blessings, for Hopi girls. These Tithu have intrinsic religious value. Many Pueblo traditionalists wish to keep these religious values private; however, many carvers at Hopi earn their livelihood making the figurines for a non-Pueblo market, and the sale of arts and crafts is a major contributor to the Hopi economy.
Also at issue is the fact that other tribes as well as non-Indians produce "kachina" dolls for sale. Mass-produced kachina dolls bear only a superficial resemblance to traditional carvings. The carvings in Travels With My Aunt are more correctly labeled “tourist dolls,” as they are not faithful representations of figures in Hopi cosmology called Katsina. Some are lathe-turned instead of hand-carved--made with a series of saw cuts from a rounded piece of wood, resulting in rudimentary arm forms un-separated and bent around the body. These non-Hopi figurines are a part of the appropriation and commoditization of Native spirituality.
The transformation of Native material culture from use in utilitarian or religious realms to objects regarded as tourist souvenirs, means of livelihood, or mere commodities exposes the often invasive nature of tourism. Much to the consternation of the curious, Pueblo peoples have felt it necessary to turn inward and go underground to preserve and protect centuries-old traditions and beliefs.