Statement by HOPI Elders and concerned people
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The Colorado Plateau is a sacred ecological-cultural landscape. It is the Fourth World of Hopi, our world some Hopi Sinom (People) call Duwanasavi, meaning Earth center. It is a sanctuary (Waaki), a safe place known as the Colorado Plateau.
The heart of Duwanasavi is Sipàapu shaped like a giant ant hill that has been building up for millions of years. It is located alongside the Little Colorado River, seven (7) miles upstream from convergence with the Colorado River. It is a sacred shrine that symbolizes the emergence of Hopi ancestors from the Third to the present Fourth world.
Hopi ancestors sought refuge here, to start a new life, and a safe place to raise their children. The ancestors came to Duwanasavi as they were seeking refuge to avoid an ending to the Third World, a world of magnificent pyramid cities whose priests became corrupt and evil. Among the cities s one called Palatki or Palatkwapi, located somewhere in Mexico.
Sipàapu is the heart of Duwanasavi. Water comes in and out like a geyser. It is kept alive by waters stored under Sipàapu. It is heated by hot lava rocks. A Hopi elder, Gilbert Naseyouma, reported that the water no longer flows. He said the heart is weakening. Its breathe is weakening. It is slowly dying.
The weakening of Sipàapu is largely caused by the over-use of surface and groundwaters by corporations, towns and cities in Coconino, Navajo, and Apache Counties, and by the world’s largest coal strip-mining on Black Mesa which lies within Duwanasavi. The impounding of ground and surface waters has reduced water in the little Colorado River to a trickle. Most of the year it is bone dry.
Efforts to establish water rights to the Little Colorado River started in 1985. It started with a water rights claim by Phelps Dodge Copper Mining Co.; thereafter, over 300 parties have filed water rights claims. The Arizona Court Judge ordered all parties to negotiate, which is still going on with no settlement agreement in sight; yet, the non-Indians are still using the Little Colorado River and groundwaters without established legal rights.
It is the position of Black Mesa Trust Board of Directors and its Circle of Advisors that the federal government must prepare an Little Colorado River Basin Environmental Impact Statement before adjudication proceeds in state court. Any settlement negotiations must include an Little Colorado River Management Plan.
Failure to protect Sipàapuni will be a serious violation of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, National Historic Properties Act, United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights of 1948, and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The time has come when the protection of our religious rights, traditions, and customary law must become a reality under the First Amendment and other Acts intended by U.S. Congress to protect our freedom of worship. We are dedicated to protecting Duwanasavi-Sipàapu as all Hopis should. Not to do so will be a violation of a sacred agreement our ancestors made with Màasau to protect Duwanasavi, and we will lose our privilege of being here.
I addition, to calling on the Secretary of the Interior to order an environmental-cultural impact study, we have prepared a proposal calling on the United Nations to adopt “ The Declaration on the Right to Historic Cultural Memory “.
The protection of Duwanasavi, which is a rich cultural ecological landscape, including sacred sites, archaeological and burial sites, is fundamental to Hopi’s well-being, as well as those of different cultural groups whose cultural places are threatened.
We hope our U.N. Declaration will draw international attention and support.
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