Tutskwat Oqawtoynani September 2022 Cleanup “Honoring our Grandparents”

Harborage removal with tension line, behind and below Tewa Village. (Photo/Valerie Nuvayestewa)

Harborage removal with tension line, behind and below Tewa Village. (Photo/Valerie Nuvayestewa)

Our Elders are the greatest teachers we could ever ask for in this lifetime, in this sacred journey when we were young and looking for our sacred ways of life, our traditional Indigenous cultures: they gave us everything they could, they gave us everything they had, they filled us up with the things that kept them strong and the things that they knew were our sacred responsibilities as human beings. Our Elders, chiefs, clan mothers, and ceremonial leaders knew the law of the land. Our Elders knew how we as Indigenous peoples should walk on Mother Earth, and our people had a sacred way of life and how we would respect all life on our sacred territories on Turtle Island.” ~Danny Beaton, Mohawk Elder


Loading the cargo net with heavy metals and haroborage. (Photo/Valerie Nuvayestewa)

On Sept. 10, Tutskwat Oqawtoynani will host the third cleanup for the year. “Honoring our Grandparents” is the theme for this cleanup.

Danny Beaton stated that our grandparents “gave us everything they had, they filled us up with the things that kept them strong and the things that they knew were our sacred responsibilities as human beings.”

In keeping with this tradition, we are inviting all of you to join us Sept. 10 at First Mesa, Arizona, located in the northeast corner of Arizona, our tribal membership is at 14,506.

We are in a critical state of circumstances here on the Hopi Nation. Tribal programs were not ready to stand on their own two feet after the loss of revenue from Peabody Coal and many people found themselves without a job, working part-time, while most people are working longer hours for less than the Arizona minimum wage.

Now more than ever, we should embrace and honor our ancestry by helping to do our part to keep our environment clean. We understand that it means behavioral change, which is challenging.

Most of our people are struggling just to put food on the table every day. So how do we expect them to join us in keeping our lands, our waters, our fields and our mesa clean when they are worried about how they are going to pay monthly bills, put clothes on their back and we haven’t even mentioned addictions to alcohol and drugs.

If our people are filling themselves up with worry and despair, how can we encourage them to join us in our efforts to clean our sacred spaces? People must feel security for their own well-being before they can look outside of themselves.


Six of the 40 volunteers who helped to fill the 40-yard bin on the final day of the cleanup. (Photo/Valerie Nuvayestewa)

I remember as a child, when the winter snows were so deep and the icicles were taller than us, our grandfather would wake up earlier than everyone else to go clear a path around our homes. He made a path to the hay room, up to the horse corral, then to our home, and last of all, he cleared a path all the way down to our bus stop by the road.

We lived next door and when we woke up and saw the snow, we knew there would be snow tunnels we could run around and play in. He laid out the rugs he had made from unmatched socks he tied together so we could wipe our muddy feet on before coming into the houses. Our grandfather wasted nothing. How cool it was to run through the tunnel paths of snow, which we didn’t know until later, took hours for our grandfather to clear.

In retrospect, I now understand the deeper meaning of what my grandfather was doing for us. It was out of love for us that he cleared a path through the snow, it wasn’t just because our shoes would get wet and our feet would get cold from the snow, it was because he wanted to make things easier for us as we got up in the morning to go to school, we didn’t have to struggle and get frustrated wading through the deep snow and he wanted to send us off in a good way, telling us to have a good day and encouraging us to learn what we can at school, to be respectful and listen to our teachers.

He knew that by filling us up with his love and good energy was one way to ensure we would be at our best for the day. His intentions were set for us as soon as he first stepped outside and picked up the shovel to clear the path for us. I’m sure his muscles were sore after all that shoveling, and I thanked my grandfather for doing this for us, holding his hand as he was passing on. I knew he could hear me as I recounted stories of all that he had done for us to give us the best memories that a child could have, memories that I could pull from in times of hardship. I thanked him for the sacrifices he made for us in helping us to feel secure, loved and for living his life for all of us.

It is in this way that we must live our lives for the generations to come. We must do this by acting and showing them that we care about the future of the lands and waters so that it will sustain them into the future. We must show our children that we are securing their future for them.


Twenty-five truckloads of unbagged trash/harborage was loaded and delivered to the Hopi Solid Waste Landfill and to the 40-yard bin. (Photo/Valerie Nuvayestewa)

On June 20-25, we hosted a weeklong Summer Solstice cleanup, where we partnered with Walpi Village administration, Hopi Tribal Solid Waste Program, and Conservation Legacy, Ancestral Lands Hopi utilizing a tension line to remove bigger metals/harborage that we piled over the years.

We successfully removed over 4.14 tons of bigger metals, 25 truckloads of harborage trash, 331 trash bags at an estimated weight of 60 pounds a bag which totaled to 19,860 pounds of trash, (9.93 tons of trash) off the sides and the top of the mesa, which totaled totaled 14.07 tons removed at the June 2022 Summer Solstice Cleanup.

We estimate a total of 38 tons of trash have been removed from the back side of First Mesa to date, which does not include the weight of the recent truckloads of harborage trash.

Using the tension lines was a great help in safely removing the metals off the steep inclines of the mesa. Our 40 volunteers rock as they put in 626 volunteer hours for the week.

Imagine if half of our Hopi Tribal members picked up one bag of trash what a huge impact that would make!! If we were to have paid our volunteers the Arizona minimum wage, we would have paid out $8,012.80 for the week. We also received an estimated amount of $1,500.00 in-kind donations from community members, people from other villages, CKP Insurance, The Village of Walpi staff, Conservation Legacy Ancestral Lands Hopi, and The Hopi Tribal Solid Waste Program to cover the costs of hauling, dumping, traffic safety, and feeding people. We were happy to receive a donation from Abelard Foundation West in the amount of $10,000! Thank you, Joshua Delfin, from Common Counsel Foundation who worked with us to secure the funding. We appreciate all the support from everyone, we know that cleaning up the entire mesa top to bottom is a big task and financial support is key to building the capacity of Tutskwat Oqawtoynani.

Creating partnerships is key to our success in the future as well as continued support from our traditional leadership and volunteers. A big thank you to all who contributed to the success of the June 2022 Summer Solstice Cleanup!

The work that went into clearing the trash from the sides of the mesa must be looked at as cleansing the energy of the land to support our ceremonies. If we truly believe in our way of life as Hopi and Tewa people, we know we are intimately connected to our lands, our waters and all living beings. We live on sacred grounds whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. Our ancestors knew this to be true and lived their lives honoring our lands and waters, so we too, should choose to live our lives in this way. Yes, we will have sore muscles after the work on the ground is done, but the heart energy we are filling the land with every time we fill another trash bag is worth our sweat and tears, for once our mesa is clean, we will be filling our people up with strength, “a respect for all life on our sacred territories on Turtle Island,” and a honoring of those who came before us to clear the paths we now walk today!

Show some love for your family and join us for the upcoming “Honoring our Grandparents” Cleanup, Sept. 10.

Contact Valerie Nuvayestewa, project coordinator at (928) 737-2272 or h3h3imana@gmail.com for more information.

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