Please allow me to introduce you to these two tribes; you may not have had the honor of knowing them except in historical context, perhaps even as footnotes, such as ‘see the Navajo Long Walk’ (and may I say ‘fuck you, Kit Carson’ here).  These First Americans living on reservations on the sere lands of the desert Southwest have been betrayed continually over the centuries by our federal government, but assuredly are not footnotes, but human beings trying to live, thrive and survive in spite of genocide, both actual and cultural, broken treaties, and even betrayal by some of their own tribal members.

The Hopi people, often called ‘the Peaceful People’ or ‘the Cloud Callers’, especially by the Navajo, live in the parched mesas of northwestern Arizona.  Their creation stories describe their ancestors having emerged into the present Fourth World from a sipapu (a hole in the earth connecting to the underworld) at the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers.  By tradition and long belief, they take seriously and soberly their belief that they were given the task of upholding the world and keeping it safe from harm.  At the link you can see Walpi, and read of the Fourth World story, the clan formations, and other history.

Arizona Hopi reservation

(with thanks to Moyan_Brenn, via

According to their beliefs, there are many gods they call Kachinas, spirits of assorted powers and purposes who winter in the San Francisco Peaks to the north and come home to Hopi during appointed seasons when The People need their hope and attention.  They’re honored by dances and ceremonies designed to please them; participants carve and paint representations of the spirit gods to wear for the ceremonies, or ‘dances’.  Old Oraibi, toward the western end of the Hopi Mesas, is the oldest continually inhabited village in the country, made of stone and clay, as all the villages are.  They blend into the surround rock so well as to be almost invisible.  Visiting these generous and patient people’s villages is stepping into another time, another dimension, one scented by sage and sand, and steeped in reverence for life and land, the gods, and laced with the humor that most First Americans have in abundance. [cont.]

From the traditional Hopi Shungopavi Village’s brand new website created because for the first time ever, the elders are alarmed enough by the current crises concerning water around the globe:

“The Meaning of Hopi

When Human Beings entered into this world, the world of the Creator, they asked permission to live here. The Creator told them he lives very simply, with only his planting stick and a few kernels of corn. If they were willing to live his simple life, they would be allowed to stay.

Human beings were given Three Sacred Duties

They were given Corn, a Planting Stick and a little Water, to live from the Land.

They were given Sacred Religious Instructions, to Uphold the Natural, Spiritual and Universal Worlds, for the Continuing of all Life.

They were to remain Faithful to His Instruction, to always maintain His Way of Life.

The Hopi People, since ancient times, honor these Three Sacred Duties.
Only when upholding these Sacred Religious Instructions does one earn the name Hopi.

The Hopi, loosely speaking, could be said to use their spiritual practices to influence their environment, including performing the  Snake Dance to petition the Kachinas for rain to ripen the maize that is their staple crop.  The dance isn’t open to tourists any longer, as we proved too big a distraction.  As improbable as it might seem, I utterly believe in the power of the Cloud Callers; I saw the Snake Priests dancing in prayer and intentionality, holding poisonous snakes in their mouths for hours…make it rain. This is a brief account I wrote (disregard the incorrect photo Rayne kindly added back then); witnessing it…changed me forever.


(thanks to Chazz Lane, via

Their origin stories include the teachings of Changing Woman and other holy people; ‘Friend of the Navajo’ author Tony Hillerman wrote great mysteries with plenty of knowledge of their, and other Southwestern tribe’s ceremonies and religious/spiritual beliefs.

Their eight-sided hogans are far apart, as a result they’ve developed careful protocols for visitors, and having to haul every cup of water they use, honor rain in ways anglos simply can’t fully grasp.  Those who live on the vast desert lands still live the way their ancestors did long ago, without power, phones or plumbing.  Theirs has long been a matriarchal society, although recent ‘acculturation’ has forced some changes to that.

As desert dwellers, water is of critical importance to both tribes, both for survival, and especially for the Hopi, for the ceremonies; caring for sacred springs is a vital mission to them.

On March 14 Senate Bill 2109 was introduced by John Kyl and John McCain.  Its purported intent is to ‘settle’ Native water rights claims on the Little Colorado River, but will extinguish treaty-guaranteed Navajo (Diné) and Hopi water rights and hand them to Peabody Coal , the Navajo Power Generating Station’s owners,  and AZ several cities.  In this next step down the long trail of broken promises and treaties, even the trinkets and beads are embarrassingly even more…token.

Much native water has already been poisoned and taken; this bill’s passage would actually codify further water-theft and environmental destruction in trade for…some nebulous chimera of a water project…i.e., even inferior to beads and trinkets: at least the trinkets were solid bits.

From the Native News Network site:

“Senate Bill 2109 45; the “Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement Act of 2012” was introduced by Kyl and McCain on February 14, 2012, and is on a fast track to give Arizona corporations and water interests a “100 th birthday present” that will close the door forever on Navajo and Hopi food and water sovereignty, security and self-reliance.

S.2109 asks the Navajo and Hopi peoples to waive their priority Water Rights to the surface waters of the Little Colorado River “from time immemorial and thereafter, forever” in return for the shallow promise of uncertain federal appropriations to supply minimal amounts of drinking water to a handful of reservation communities.

The Bill – and the “Settlement Agreement” it ratifies – do not quantify Navajo and Hopi water rights – the foundation of all other southwestern Indian Water Rights settlements to date – thereby denying the Tribes the economic market value of their water rights, and forcing them into perpetual dependence on uncertain federal funding for any water projects.”

Hopi and Navajo protest at the Big Dick Johns meeting April 5

Yesterday in Tuba City, Arizona, Navajo and Hopi protesters marched and rallied as Johns Kyl and McCain met with Navajo President Ben Shelly to discuss the bill’s ‘further dismantling of Navajo and Hopi water rights’.  Pictures and commentary of the protest and issues are here at Censored News.

Now the thing you need to understand is the long history of the BIA setting up puppet governments on reservations that were industry friendly.  As well, the federal government has worked hard at divide-and-conquer strategies pitting tribal members against each other; usually there’s payola involved, but much of it has been hard to prove.  At Hopi, a decade or more ago, the G built new houses for the Hopi, all miles away from the home villages, enticing the young people of the tribe to accept a new materialism and creature comforts for their traditional clan and family based lives.  At the same time, Peabody Coal drove legal wedges between the two tribes over coal-laden Black Mesa, which resulted in the cruel and cynical Navajo-Hopi land dispute, reverberations of which will linger long.

To wit;  from the Navajo-Hopi Observer:

PHOENIX, Ariz. – While Hopi Chairman Leroy Shingoitewa and his Water and Energy Team were in Phoenix last month discussing preliminary details of SB 2109, community members, including farmers and ranchers, were upset they have never been consulted by the Hopi chairman or his council members of the terms or conditions of SB 2109. Sipaulovi Rep. George Mase heads the Water and Energy Team. SB 2109 – titled “Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement Act of 2012 – has been introduced by Sen. Jon Kyl (R). SB 2109 would approve the settlement of water rights claims of both the Hopi Tribe and Navajo Nation. SB 2012 was termed as “an agreement in principle” by Shingoitewa in a formal press release issued by his office.

Hopi ranchers and farmers also voiced their demands that if a final decision regarding their water, which they consider “sacred” is to be made, that this can only come through a formal BIA referendum vote of the entire Hopi and Tewa community people. [more is here]

From Navajo Ed Becenti via Native News Network:

“S.2109 and the “Settlement Agreement” deny the Navajo and Hopi people the resources and means to assess comprehensive long-term water needs of every community, village, and watershed; and deny the resources and means to plan for, and develop sufficient domestic, municipal, industrial and agricultural “wet water” projects essential to the permanent well-being, prosperity and health of their homelands and children’s children. This is absolutely counter to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1908 Winter’s Doctrine that explicitly reserves and safeguards the water needed for that permanent well-being and prosperity.

S.2109 and the “Settlement Agreement” deny the Navajo and Hopi people the resources and means to bank their own waters, or to recharge their aquifers depleted and damaged by the mining and energy corporations that S.2109 benefits. S.2109 and the “Settlement Agreement” require Navajo and Hopi to give Peabody Coal Mining Company and the Salt River Project and other owners of the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) tens of thousands of acre-feet of Navajo and Hopi water annually – without any compensation – and to force the extension of Peabody and NGS leases without Navajo and Hopi community input, or regard for past and continuing harmful impacts to public health, water supplies and water quality – as necessary pre-conditions to Navajo and Hopi receiving Congressional appropriations for minimal domestic water development.

This is coercive and wrong.”

Yes it is, Ed; and it’s sad and sick and we will try help you in your quixotic battle against corporate/government interests.  We are now waging a few of the same battles First Americans have waged since Columbus mistakenly hit the eastern shore of this land and named you ‘Indians’.

“‘Thou hast outraged, not insulted me, sir; but let Ahab beware of Ahab; beware of thyself, old man.'”

~ Herman Melville

Please call your state’s Senators and urge them to vote NO on SB 2109; let them know whose side you’re on.  If you’d even send it to friends, I know the Diné and Hopi people will appreciate it.

With government-archived historical pictures and some fresh ones, this is a song from a Basket Dance, an end-of-harvest give-away celebration.