Tutskwat Oqawtoynani 2022 Earth Day clean-up a success
TUTSKWAT OQAWTOYNANI, Ariz. — Sixty-four volunteers gathered in the wind to clean an estimated 2.75 tons of trash on Tutskwat Oqawtoynani’s 2022 April Earth Day Cleanup.
Two half day cleanups were done, April 22, re-cleaning behind and below Tewa Village, and on April 23, moving from Tewa Village toward Sichomovi Village on the back side of the mesa.
Our community village cleanups started in 2016. It took us six years to clean the back side of Tewa Village only. This speaks to the enormity of trash that has been removed from behind and below Tewa Village. Keep in mind that we have not even cleaned the front side of Tewa yet.
Tutskwat Oqawtoynani, (helping the earth to gather its strength), formerly known as First Mesa Annual Cleanup, has evolved from a small family initiative to clean the entire First Mesa Villages, Tewa, Sichomovi, and Walpi from top to bottom, to annual community cleanup events that have attracted hundreds of volunteers over the years, not only from other Second and Third mesa villages and our neighboring Navajo relatives, but also this year, two individuals made the trek all the way from Rhode Island to help us out.
Vital partnerships have been created with our awesome community members, First Mesa Villages, national, local and border town businesses, tribal programs, as well as our Traditional Leadership here at First Mesa.
For this April Earth Day Cleanup, we received help from CellularOne and Hopi Telecommunications Inc., to feed our volunteers. There were donations of food and drinks from Tara Pablo, Candice Ami, Kareesa Mahle, Loretta Nuvayestewa, Sichomovi Village, Elise Lomawaima, Leah Whitman James, First Mesa Baptist Church, Pastor Park, and Lori Nuvayestewa. Walpi Village, CSA, Alan Chavez and their security staff helped us with traffic flow and parking and allowed us to feed our volunteers on Saturday at Itaaki Bathhouse. We also were surprised, yet happy to hear when we went to dump the 150 bags of trash at the Hopi Solid Waste Landfill, Danford Wadsworth, Director of the Hopi Solid Waste Program, informed us that we did not have to pay any fees for the trash we brought. Yay!! We’ll take all the victories, big and small!
New partners that have provided funding for our project this year is Colorado Plateau Foundation, Justice Outside and Northern Arizona Climate Change Alliance. We hope to make more connections as we are looking at another eight-10 years of cleaning to completely clear all the trash top to bottom from First Mesa.
One of the highlights this year was seeing the land returning to its healthy state in the areas we first started our cleanup back in 2016. We had originally intended to go back and re-seed these areas where the layers of trash were removed so we could bring back the grasses and natural plants. But we now know that once the land is cleaned, it can and will heal itself, and we are seeing the plants and grasses returning on their own because the land can breathe once again in those areas that were once covered with trash. This is a huge victory within itself as we know that the health of our environment directly affects the health of the people who live there.
The layers of trash that we see, like peeling back the layers of an onion, can be likened to the healing of our people in that there are layers of hurt, pain, grief, and sorrow, that we all carry within, layers that must be peeled back to move forward in a positive, healthy direction in our lives. We have experienced so much loss and pain over the past two years on the Hopi Nation and are all in different stages of healing. So, we must begin, again, to do the hard work of clearing the layers of “trash “on our lands and in our lives. Once we begin moving to action, we will begin to see new growth in all areas of our lives.