Homolovi Ruins State Park Name-Change Proposal Probably Doesn't Go Far Enough


The Homolovi Ruins State Park near Winslow should change its name to better reflect its ongoing connection to native peoples, say members of the Hopi tribe.

The tribe is petitioning the state to drop the word "ruins" from the name.

But the part of brain that's stagnated since junior high tells us the name-change proposal probably doesn't go far enough.

Maybe something should be done about the name, "Homolovi," which sounds more like an event at a gay-pride festival.

Yeah, we know we're being damned culturally insensitive about this. And we know that "Homolovi" means "place of little hills" in a language that isn't our own. We wouldn't insist that the Hopi request a completely different name just to quell the giggles of the world's ignoramuses.

But still... 

Two years ago, we had a wonderful time exploring the Homolovi Ruins State Park near Winslow. Pottery sherds litter the ground near the low walls of ancient dwellings, and we'll always treasure the sketches of some of them made by the junior archaeologist of our family.

But after getting back, we noticed an interesting phenomena: People we told of our trip, once we mentioned the park's name, grew a sideways smile and typically said something like, "What was the place called again?"

Non-Hopis do seem to find the name a bit weird, admits Ellen Bilbrey, state parks spokeswoman. But, she points out, Arizona has other unusual place names, such as Dead Horse Ranch State Park and Montezuma Castle National Monument, which has nothing to do with Montezuma.

Bilbrey admits the word "Homolovi," (which she pronounces "ho-MOLO-vee,") may be "hard to understand if you're not understanding of Hopi culture, and you're not inquisitive and interested in the 22 different tribes in Arizona."

It's also hard to say without chuckling if you've watched too much Beavis and Butthead.

In the interest of redeeming ourselves somewhat, we'll also mention that Homolovi is having a re-opening celebration this Friday, with events running through the weekend. Despite the funny name, the park is great fun for kids and history buffs.



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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.