Guest Viewpoint: Water is the lifeblood of Hopi Culture

Phillip Quochytewa Sr., head of the Hopi Water Team, is correct in that our natural resources were intended to be used to "help the Hopi survive and prosper." (Read the Observer, Nov. 11, "Hopi Council seeks only to ensure the survival of Hopi culture").

What Quochytewa, in his attack on Ben Nuvamsa and I, failed to explain is that the natural resources is to be developed "in the right way, at the right time, and for the right purpose." This instruction has been handed down from generation to generation since time immemorial.

Until that time comes, we were instructed to protect the "wealth" and not to "fall asleep," because if we do, the wealth, meaning our coal and water, will be "pulled out" from beneath us.

We, the Hopi-Tewa people, ignored the warning and fell asleep, some say drugged by the promise of money that promised prosperity.

Slowly, our people are awakening, and they are appalled at the magnitude of destruction and desecration of Black Mesa, some of us call Tuuwanasavi, Earth Center.

Over 45 billions of pristine drinking water pumped to carry coal to a far away city, is gone in just 35 years. Water, the life blood of Hopi culture, was destroyed. This amount of water is enough to sustain the entire Hopi population for over 300 years.

Countless numbers of our ancestral villages and graves have been systematically destroyed by destructive strip mining. This is like tearing pages from our cultural history, destroyed, in exchange for money.

N-aquifer water, the source of pristine water has been over-drafted and degraded. OSM has acknowledged that contamination is continuing.

Coal-bed methane gas, valuable Hopi assets, is released into the air 24 hours a day, when it should be captured and used to fire the Navajo Generating Station.

Air over the Colorado Plateau has been poisoned by uncontrolled emissions of methane gas, carbon dioxide, mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrous acid and other poisonous gases. The pollution is degrading the health of our land, causing people to become sick. Methane and carbon dioxide contribute 75 percent to global warning.

And there are many problems and inequities associated with the exploitation of our resources, so the far away cities can enjoy cheap electricity, and so farmers, industries, residential homes in Phoenix and Tucson can have access to cheap water delivered from the Colorado River via the Central Arizona Project. Delivery of water was one of the main reasons the Navajo Generating Station was built. Our water was priced at an initial price of $1.67 per acre foot, or about 326,000 gallons.

After 40 years of subsidizing energy companies and Peabody, the Hopi people are saying enough is enough. We need time to think, reflect on history of mining and instructions concerning our wealth.

We need time to seriously talk about the covenant, the Hopi people, made with Masau, Guardian of the land. The covenant is a promise to help Masau safeguard the land, not to destroy it.

"If you continue to disrupt the earth and tear up the waters, the land will no longer produce, springs will dry up and you will be forced to leave the land you have a commitment to protect, but you have failed to do so." This is what old man Roger told me.

Scott Canty, a decision-maker and spokesman for the Water/Energy Teams, recently told the Arizona Ad Hoc Committee on Water and Energy Development that they have plans to develop more coal and to build coal-fired plants on Hopi. Carbon Dioxide sequestration project is part of the plan. If sequestration is approved, our sacred homeland will become a toxic waste dump.

This is not preserving land and culture as the Water and Energy Team wants us to believe. The people know this and will not tolerate the Energy Team's hidden agenda.


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