Hopi Tribal Elders Encourage Student Efforts To Save N-Aquifer<br>
Flagstaff, Ariz - In an unprecedented meeting held in Flagstaff, Arizona, Hopi Tribal elders traveled from their traditional homes on the mesas to encourage Northern Arizona University students who have recently taken up the cause of Black Mesa Trust. Organized by four Hopi students inspired by Trust Director Vernon Masayesva and Trust President Leonard Selestewa’s moving message about the spiritual value of water, the student group, Black Mesa Water Coalition, has vowed to assist the Trust in protecting the Navajo-aquifer. The entourage of honored speakers included two past Chairmen of the Hopi Tribe—Ferrell Secakuku and Vernon Masayesva.
Mr. Secakuku, who represented the Grassroots Coalition Committee, told members of the multi-cultural student organization that their assistance was valuable in helping document the damage done to the N-aquifer. “I’ve been in touch with our friend [Arizona Senator] John McCain, who is encouraging us to come up with our own independent report. We know that some of our springs are drying up, that Moenkopi Wash used to flow to our knees. Spiritual advisors report that there are sinkholes where the ground has shifted.” Proof, he said, was vital to the effort, and the students could be instrumental in gathering that data.
Mr. Secakuku spoke from the heart as he explained to students that two ex-Chairmen stood before them now, and that after his own term was up, he underwent some painful self-evaluation—as a Hopi man, rather than as a political figure. “I now know that we cannot rely on what water experts and attorneys tell us. We have to rely on what elders like Valjean [Lalo] say. What Vernon says is true, the water level is coming down. The water that is going away will not come back. You must make yourself believe that the water will run out.”
Mr. Masayesva challenged the students to investigate, research, ask questions. “It doesn’t matter what the government says, or what Peabody says. We can debate that the rest of our lives while the water runs out. The important question is, is this the best way to use water in the middle of the desert?
“I view a university as a learning center, a research center. Elders can tell you in their own simple way what is happening. The breathing holes of the earth are our springs. Our elders tell us that the breathing is getting weaker and weaker.”
“Ask questions,” he urged. “Where does the statement, ‘We are taking a half cup from a 50 gallon barrel’ come from? What are the facts? What are the assumptions? Let them tell you! “Peabody speaks so precisely and to the point. When they say they are using 1/10 of 1%, where did they get that figure? They say there are 400 million acre feet below us, and that during the life of the mine they would only take 240,000 acre feet. How do they come up with those figures? Did they go down there and measure it?”
Mr. Masayesva spoke of his frustration about the Western world’s tendency to operate from the standpoint of measurements based on best guesses. “They ignore the religious and cultural value of water to the indigenous people. All they’re talking about is quantification, they aren’t talking about what it means to Navajo and Hopi—the religious and spiritual significance of water to the Navajo and Hopi People.” Finally, he urged students to challenge what they are taught. “Don’t take their word for it—don’t take my word for it. Challenge me to prove what I am saying! Challenge other people. Remember, you are our eyes, our ears and our tongues.”
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