Cleaning First Mesa: Youth Outside Liberated Paths prioritizes communities of color for grants
First Mesa Annual Clean-up has been selected as a member of Youth Outside’s Liberated Paths inaugural grantee cohort.
The grant making program prioritizes the leadership of communities of color involving some of the most pressing environmental issues and, as a grantee, First Mesa Annual Clean-up will be able to expand its programming to increase opportunities available to the community in First Mesa, Arizona.
“Cultural relevancy is a central underpinning of Youth Outside’s grantmaking and strategic programs. Youth Outside defines cultural relevancy as the ability to effectively reach and engage communities and their youth in a manner consistent with the cultural context and values of that community, while effectively addressing disparities of equity and inclusion within an organization’s entire structure,” its website states.
“Community orchards, gardens, and fields are tied to the covenant our ancestors, made with Maasaw (Guardian Spirit of the Hopi Fourth World) at the time of emergence in exchange to be given the right to live off the land today, promising to be humble farmers and helping to be caretakers of this earth,” said Valerie Nuvayestewa, a Tewa Village member. “Yoo-yangw, our grandfather, acquired the land we farm by maintaining his commitment as Katsin-mongwi (Kachina chief) at Mongkiva (Chief kiva) in Walpi Village, located on First Mesa. He spiritually believed that the rains come in happiness to visit the fields of the Hopi people living in harmony with all living beings. He always urged our family to never forget the corn, for they are our children. In this same spirit we attempt to honor his legacy that he has left for our community to prosper and steward forgenerations to come."
Youth Outside’s work is focused on the intersection of communities of color and the environment. It supports efforts like the First Mesa Annual Clean-up to help organize and build a sustainable base for community projects in order to continue to move forward in the next 5-10 years, according to Nuvayestewa.
“Initially this project focused within First Mesa Community; and as we begin to build momentum, we hope to be able to provide technical support to other Hopi Villages that have the same trash and environmental problems,” she said. “Our emphasis will be on community and individual responsibility utilizing Hopi cultural knowledge regarding stewardship for our environment. Our basic Hopi traditional values will be emphasized with individuals, families and clans in our educational sessions throughout the project period.”
The First Mesa Annual Clean-Up project was launched in 2015 by the Nuvayestewa Family to clean First Mesa.
Over the last several years more than 20 tons of trash were removed by 324 volunteers of diverse ages and backgrounds. These volunteers come together from the First Mesa area, as well as friends of the Hopi Nation, who contributed 5,376 hours towards this initiative.
“The community did not do this alone,” Nuvayestewa said.
She said key partnerships supported and played vital roles include First Mesa Villages’ traditional and village leadership, Ancestral Lands Hopi, Hopi Telecommunications, Inc., Cellular One, The Hopi Tribe’s Department of Public Safety and Emergency Services, Rezcycling, Navajo County, CKP Insurance, LLC, Arizona Public Services, The Hopi Tribe’s Department of Natural Resources, KUYI 88.1 FM (Trash Talk), First Mesa Elementary School students, Hopi Tewa Community Movement and other local Hopi artists.
The group's mission is to clean First Mesa Villages from top to bottom, according to Nuvayestewa.
More information about First Mesa Annual Cleanup project is available on its Facebook Page at First Mesa Annual Clean-up.