Imagine being able to travel the exact same trails and river canyons while listening to rushing river water. Or sleeping under the stars while snuggled in your sleeping bag in the exact spots where your Hopi tribal ancestors have been before on either salt, herb or hunting excursions.
You don't have to imagine any of that if you've been a participant in one of the Hopi Tribe's Cultural Preservation Offices' annual San Juan River research information trips.
To be able to see, smell and gather medicinal vegetation that will be put to use in traditional ceremonies or sharing a special once in a life-time experience with your own tribal community members from all age levels in intimate cross-generational cultural exchange is just one of the benefits of this annual excursion.
This year marks another successful documentation and information gathering trip for both Hopi men and women who traveled the San Juan River to gather perspectives on cultural, natural and biological shifts in both river water recovery, vegetation and erosion that might have exposed ancient burial or habitation sites.
In 1992 a Record of Decision was made by the Department of Interior secretary on the Glen Canyon Dam Environmental Impact Statement that regulated how much Hopi water was being released for off-reservation electrical power, which transitioned into a monitoring phase.
The Hopi Tribe, through its Cultural Preservation Office, became the first tribal cooperating agency when the Hopi Tribal Council passed a resolution to support such tribal water monitoring efforts.
Over the past 30 years there have been significant adverse effects on the cultural, biological and natural resources downstream. However, it is hoped that these constant Hopi monitoring efforts will ensure that some water recovery is possible.
Since then, the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office (HCPO) has sponsored - with funding support from the Bureau of Reclamation through the Grand Canyon Research and Monitoring Center in Flagstaff - Footprints of the Ancestors Program, a grant-funded program with additional funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Christensen Fund.
The funding provides for two annual trips down the San Juan to gather information that is vital for ongoing research and water monitoring.
The trips, one for Hopi females and one for Hopi males, include Hopi students in each excursion.
Selection of participants is made by random drawing and recommendations from Leigh Kuwanwisiwma, HCPO director, and Michael Yeatts, Hopi tribal representative, and Footprints of the Ancestors recommendations for the student portion.
Each participant is asked the same research questions upon return and this information is compiled to track decline and recovery statistics, as well as perspectives on cultural and historical experiences from both male and female attendees.
With over 300 key Hopi archaeological sites in this river area, this annual documentation is vital to sustaining and enhancing preservation efforts for the Hopi people.
At the end of the experience, the partcipants were treated to a potluck supper complete with entertainment provided by Desert Country, a local Hopi band. River experiences were shared with family and friends who attended this special evening.
The 2009 participants included Annetta Koruh, Jolene Johns, Georgina Salazar, Lillian Dennis, Megan Jenkins, Anita Poleahla, Gloria Lomayestewa, Shirley Seweyestewa, Patty Wells, Carolyn Fred, Marilyn Masayesva, Betty Poley, Sam Tenakhongva, Gene Pooyouma, Robert Jenkins, Eric James, Steven Kuyvaya, Gareth Poocha and Mervin Yoyetewa.
The trip would not have been complete without trip leader Michael Yeatts and river guides Lyn Roeder, Robert Jenkins, Lyle Balenquah and Wil Talashoma.
The Hopi Cultural Preservation Office will be looking for new participants for next summer's trip.
If you have questions about the program or would like more information, contact the HCPO at (928) 734-3000.