[Sdpg] Permaculture Helps Us Remember Who We Are /Hopi Indian Reservation, Lilian Hil/YES Magazine
Wesley Roe and Santa Barbara Permaculture Network
lakinroe at silcom.com
Sat Dec 29 08:39:23 PST 2012
Permaculture Helps Us Remember Who We Are
On the Hopi Indian Reservation, Lilian Hill was raised by her great
grandparents and beloved elders who taught her the three principals of
permaculture—Care of the Earth, Care of the People, and Share the
Surplus. Today, many Hopi young people are no longer connected to the
land. By returning to traditional farming and ecological wisdom, Lilian
and Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture are promoting a healthier Hopi community
and helping youth remember who they are as Hopi People. This is Lilian’s
by Lilian Hill
posted Dec 20, 2012
I live in the Village of Kykotsmovi, located in northern Arizona on the
Hopi Indian Reservation, where sandstone mesas stand high over the
valleys and sandy washes. As a child I was raised among my great
grandparents and beloved elders who were always busy caring for and
visiting their families, weaving baskets, cooking, and gathering
medicines and seasonal foods. These elders were my first teachers and I
miss them greatly. Although many of the elders did not have a formal
education, they possessed great knowledge and made a life for themselves
that was filled with great love, joy, and family. It has always been my
dream to be just like them one day.
Four generations prune and restore their family orchard in First Mesa, AZ.
Photo by Lilian Hill
In 2004 I helped form a youth leadership project, which grew into a
community initiative called Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture (HTP). The
initiative is committed to maintaining our distinct identity and ways of
life as Hopi people, so we may pass this knowledge to future generations.
Permaculture is an ecological, holistic, and sustainable design system
and philosophy for creating living spaces. It is a viable method for
finding sustainable solutions to modern problems, and has been
successfully used around the world to build beautiful natural homes,
grow food, revive deserts, build community, and much more. The essence
of permaculture is its three principles: Care of the Earth, Care of the
People, and Share the Surplus. I was fortunate to be raised with these
teachings on the reservation.
When I look at the landscape, I see rabbitbrush, snakeweed, Mormon Tea,
and four-wing saltbush, and newly planted fruit trees standing proud.
With the founding of HTP, I have witnessed significant changes in my
community. When I look at the landscape, I see rabbitbrush, snakeweed,
Mormon Tea, and four-wing saltbush, and newly planted fruit trees
standing proud. I see more birds, bees, insects, lizards, and wildlife.
I see more young people farming with their families, and being outspoken
about their knowledge. I see local schools planting orchards and
building greenhouses, and teachers who incorporate permaculture into
HTP Apprentices, Marshall and Ronson, squeeze an unsion of calendula,
yerba manza, chapparal, and comfrey for an herbal salve.
Photo by Christine Jimenez
Since time immemorial, the Hopi people have lived on our traditional
homelands as peaceful and humble farmers. Hopi have subsisted on and
continue to cultivate varieties of corn, beans, squash, melons,
pumpkins; heirloom fruits; native fruiting shrubs, like sumac berries;
and medicinal seasonal plant foods. Our health and nutrition depends on
our deep intimate knowledge of our homeland and our relationship with
the spiritual forces of nature. This life revolves around the
cultivation, care, and collection of seeds, fruits, roots, greens,
berries, and the plants and trees that give us shelter, heat, and
comfort. In this way we lived in accordance with the original and
spiritual instructions of our elders. We see this process as spiritual
growth, and our health and nutrition adapt to this growth.
It was not long ago that our community of about 8,000 people saw a
decline in the health of our community members and use of traditional
farming practices. The introduction of mass-produced and commodity
foods— imposed in the beginning by the federal government, and more
recently by international commercial food industries—has significantly
changed our life way and path as Hopi people, and has greatly
contributed to the increase of diabetes, heart disease, high blood
pressure, and obesity in our communities, and the loss of biodiversity,
including ancient heirloom seeds. Although some Hopi continue to
practice traditional farming, most people rely on food bought from
nearby cities and government commodity foods for their subsistence.
The essence of permaculture is its three principles: Care of the Earth,
Care of the People, and Share the Surplus. I was fortunate to be raised
with these teachings on the reservation.
Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture aims to provide the Hopi people with the
training and education necessary to develop healthy strategies for
strengthening food security. Since 2004 we have hosted workshops, where
community members come together to share, learn, replant fruit orchards,
build family gardens, restore artesian springs, and develop composting
systems. In 2009, over 200 Hopi children youth, parents, grandparents,
school administrators, and visitors planted over 100 trees at a local
high school—in 60 mph winds! This kind of commitment is inherent in our
culture as Hopi people.
Through our work, villages, schools, clans, and families continue
traditional Hopi values of Sumi’nangwa and Nami’nangwa, which mean “to
help others selflessly for the good of everyone.” In addition, we are
rekindling interest in relearning traditional skills, principles, and
values that have been overlooked in recent decades.
Second Mesa Day School first graders apply sheet mulch to their newly
planted fruit tree.
Photo by Jonah Hill
Our focus is on the next generation— small children, teens, and young
adults. Hopi youth are immersed in a world full of ceremonial teachings,
ecological knowledge and wisdom, and family responsibilities. They also
are absorbed by a lifestyle that is very different their own parents and
grandparents. Television, media, and mainstream culture have become a
huge part of Hopi life, and are shaping the ideas and identities of Hopi
youth today. Many young people no longer have connections to the land.
HTP has created youth programs, such as the Youth in Sustainability
Leadership Project and the Hopi Permaculture Apprenticeship Program that
allow Hopi youth and community to connect with place, family, culture,
and subsistence. When youth are engaged in activities that strengthen
their minds and bodies, their spirits are awakened to the beauty of the
world around them. Our program allows youth to be creative, to be
helpful, to learn ways to cultivate and grow, and to be able to do so in
a supportive environment. One of our participants, who has participated
in our youth programs for over 10 years is now studying to be an
herbalist, and hopes to open an herb shop in his village one day.
The Youth in Sustainability Leadership Project is a summer program that
focuses on youth leadership, community service learning projects, food
justice, permaculture, and traditional arts and culture. Youth, ages
12-18, gain hands-on experience with the guidance of local farmers,
builders, artisans, and tree experts.
Working with children is a kind reminder that no matter how much
knowledge and academic achievement we gain in our lives, the world is so
immense that we can never truly say that we know it all.
The Hopi Permaculture Youth Apprenticeship Project is an eight-week
intensive training program that supports emerging adults ages 18-30 in
developing leadership skills and implementing sustainable ecological
development within the Hopi community. Participants eventually become
youth mentors and teach permaculture workshops. Our elementary kids grow
food at school, and the littlest ones work side-by-side with their
parents planting fruit trees at the Kwangwa’Tsoki Orchard.
I am passionate about HTP because I want to be a part of a solution to
ensure that my community will be able to thrive and flourish. Working
with children is a kind reminder that no matter how much knowledge and
academic achievement we gain in our lives, the world is so immense that
we can never truly say that we know it all.
It has always been my dream to be able to live in my village and to
contribute to my community. My vision is to support the growth and
development of a new generation of Hopi permaculture leaders who have
the tools, training, and practical experience needed to promote a
healthier Hopi community. By remembering who we are as Hopi People
—through Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture —we will be able to flourish and find
solutions to the many obstacles and challenges that we face as a community.
Lilian Hill is Hopi from the village of Kykotsmovi and a member of the
Tobacco (Pipwungwa) clan. Lilian has studied at the North American
School of Natural Building and at Northern Arizona University’s Applied
Indigenous Studies Department, focusing on Traditional Ecological
Knowledge. She has traveled the world advocating for the rights of
indigenous people and environmental justice. Along with her husband and
four children, Lilian has built an earthen home in her village utilizing
permaculture. Visit Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture.
More information about the San-Diego-Permaculture