Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Mon, Nov. 11

The Natwani Coalition and the Hopi Foundation honor agricultural traditions of the Hopi people

S.W. Benally/NHO<br>
Leland Dennis displays a digging stick used traditionally to plant seeds. Hopi farmers continue to use these tools today.

S.W. Benally/NHO<br> Leland Dennis displays a digging stick used traditionally to plant seeds. Hopi farmers continue to use these tools today.

"It is the destiny of the Hopi People to be farmers." Leland Dennis, coordinator of the Natwani Coalition, is just one of the Hopi People who have gathered under the Natwani Coalition to honor this sacred destiny. According to Dennis, this destiny was handed down by Maasau, the sacred being who granted the covenant of farming to the Hopi People.

"The Hopi People received seeds, a water gourd and a planting stick," said Dennis. "It is a hard life; a farming system that must be sustained at an elevation of 4,500 to 5,000 feet on the average of six inches of precipitation a year. We depend on winter precipitation or monsoon rains for successful agriculture."

The Natwani Coalition is best described as, Working towards preserving and restoring the healthy food system and agriculture traditions of the Hopi and Tewa People.

The Coalition, a project of the Hopi Foundation, was established in January of 2004, seeks to address diet-related health issues, preserve traditional farming practices and to restore the food system of the Hopi people.

"Natwani means 'produce' or 'vegetables.'

"The word also refers to the processes and rituals necessary for life," said Dennis. "That includes the obligations and activities involved in the planting and gathering of food. These are the practices relating to the continuance, renewal or rejuvenation of life, such as planting and the ritual obligations such as ceremonies, hunting and gathering of vegetables and fruits and the cultivation of food."

The Hopi view of planting and agriculture is much different from that of corporations.

"As Hopi People, we understand company farming to equal mass production, mechanics, fuel, pesticides, pollution, and the distribution and wholesale of packaged goods," Dennis said. "If you translating these terms into the Hopi view of agriculture, mass production means planting larger fields. Mechanics is the use of the body, spiritual value and skills. Human energy is our fuel, with resulting pollution being non-existent. Our distribution system is that our crops are shared among our families and others in the community."

Dennis shared facts gleaned from the Hopi Community Food Assessment (one of the Coalition's projects) demonstrating the large food economy at Hopi.

"The Hopi People consume over $15 million worth of food annually," Dennis said. "If you include transportation and diet-related health costs, the Hopi food economy is worth more than $35 million per year."

Dennis shared a handout with attendees that revealed startling facts.

Currently, about 80 percent of the food consumed by the Hopi people is purchased in stores, and $6 to $8 million is spent off reservation. Over $7 million is spent transporting food to the reservation, and Hopi travel 15 million miles each year, releasing nearly 7,000 tons of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere each year.

"Each Hopi would have to plant five peach trees a year to offset this," said Dennis.

The handout also points out that the Hopi people do want better options from local stores. The majority of those involved in the assessment said that they would prefer to shop locally, and that reservation stores are "basically snack outlets" with lethal consequences. For example, on-reservation shoppers drink twice the amount of soda as off-reservation shoppers, and that the average Hopi drinks nearly three sodas a day.

"Drinking one soda a day doubles your chances of contracting Type II diabetes," Dennis said.

Dennis brought along a variety of agricultural products, natural salts, sifter baskets, and other items found in the traditional Hopi kitchen.

"The Hopi Historic Agricultural Photo Exhibit, which is currently being displayed by the Legacy Inn, features photos that document farming practices at Hopi in the late 1800s and early 1900s," Dennis said.

He featured several of these photos in his presentation, and especially enjoyed sharing a photo of a traditional interior storage room.

"These rooms were kept with immaculate cleanliness," Dennis pointed out. "Each family had its own storage unit, complete with bins and baskets to store all of the produce and food collected over the summer and fall seasons."

The Natwani Coalition has created a network of partnerships that assist in the vision of revitalizing and preserving the traditional life ways of Hopi agriculture. These include, but are not limited to, the Hopi Health Care Center, the Hopi Special Diabetes Program, the Hopi Cultural Preservation office, the University of Arizona Extension, the Village of Tewa, The Christensen Fund, and the Hopi Department of Health Services.

The next presentation in this series will take place on Aug. 6 at 6 p.m. The Natwani Foundation and the Hopi Foundation will present Series III - Food and Feasting: The women's role; corn and harvest time. This will take place on Sept. 10, Oct. 1 and Oct. 29. All presentations will take place at the Moenkopi Legacy Inn at 6 p.m. For more information call 928-734-2390 or see

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