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Strengthening Hopi Agricultural Traditions
By the Natwani Coalition Staff
The season of short days, cold air and laid-back times has passed and we are now in summer. For Hopi people, this is an inspirational time. It is the season for Hopis to celebrate a glimpse of what was promised if they fulfill their family, clan and village obligations. We call it natwani, which is a Hopi word that refers to “practices and rituals related to the continued renewal or rejuvenation of life.” Examples of these practices include planting, processing, harvesting, hunting and gathering of food.
Hopi dryland farming is a very intimate act, one that is not entirely predictable. It is challenging and rewarding all at once. Most rewarding is the recognition that this is the form of farming that has sustained Hopi as a people for thousands of years. And yet today, despite facing many of the same challenges seen in the past, Hopi farmers continue to be active as they confront a variety of new factors that affect farming and food processes. This onslaught of challenges can easily discourage farmers, which is why a community program has been developed to support and promote the benefits of Hopi’s time-honored food system and the community members who participate in it.
This program, the Natwani Coalition, was founded in 2004. The Coalition is a project of The Hopi Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit whose office is housed at the base of historic Oraibi village in Kykotsmovi, Arizona. The Natwani Coalition’s mission is to encourage and provide support for community members who are developing innovative sustainable strategies to address diet-related health issues, preserve Hopi farming traditions and restore the local food system. Our motto is: “Working towards preserving and restoring the healthy food system and agricultural traditions of the Hopi and Tewa people.”
The original initiatives of the Natwani Coalition included a pilot farmers’ market, the Wepo Terrace Garden restoration and youth project, a pilot orchard restoration project, the Hopi Food Assessment, the Hopi Historic Farming Photo Exhibit and the Hopi Agriculture and Food Symposium. These were developed with the aim of sparking interest from the community and bringing community members together to begin the process of information sharing and education. Some of the original initiatives have been completed or phased out, while others have continued, and new ones have been instituted as our goals have evolved.
The Natwani Community Advisory Board (CAB) serves as a voice for the community and a way for community members to become more involved in the work of the Coalition. In establishing the CAB, categories of skills and knowledge were identified; the CAB is comprised of active Hopi farmers, cultural advisors, youth, schools and environmental specialists. The CAB has become an important component of the Coalition, as it guides not only the initiatives, but also the cultural context and much of the practical information that is shared with our community members, including our Tewa and non-Hopi people.
The Hopi Foundation exemplifies “Itam naapyani,” the Hopi teaching of doing the work ourselves. The Foundation’s programs are designed to promote self-sufficiency, self-reliance, local self-determination and proactive participation in our community’s destiny.
The Natwani Coalition has cultivated a network of materials and programs that leverage the work that is being done at the family, village and reservation-wide levels. Partnerships have also been strengthened with other grassroots organizations, tribal programs, and among Hopi farmers, gardeners and food preparers. All play vital roles in current Coalition initiatives, which include:
The Coalition’s Outreach extends both near and far. We have been fortunate to be able to develop culturally appropriate educational programming for our local and non-local audiences. For example, the “Farming & Me” activity session for the Be Hopi, Be Healthy Summer Camp for Hopi youth is a short presentation that includes physical activity, which simulates working in a field. A video from the farming curriculum also helps the staff make a connection to farming for the youth, who actively engage and walk away with a better sense and understanding of the benefits of Hopi traditional farming.
The Hopi Community Food & Farming Mini-Grant Program assists farmers financially and gives them experience in grant writing and reporting. In addition, it provides them with an opportunity to network with other farmers, and to have a common place to share experiences and learn from one another. The grants also help support community projects that demonstrate Hopi agriculture and foods. An independent review team or community members is established for the application selection process. Factors considered include cultural strengthening, youth, family, and community involvement, healthy eating, and substance and alcohol prevention. In 2011, 13 grants were awarded, and this year, 18 received funding.
The Hopi Natwani for Youth Program (HNYP) is one of the original initiatives instituted to instill pride and inspire interest in Hopi youth about food and farming. The goal of the HNYP is to provide a comprehensive Hopi farming curriculum to Hopi school classrooms and youth programs. Lessons found in the handbook provide a guide for programs and participants that can foster a love of Hopi cultural farming. Lessons include recorded interviews with community cultural advisors that highlight traditional farming practices and other relevant topics.
Heirloom Seed Preservation – The Coalition’s work includes the conservation, preservation and protection of heirloom seeds, which play a vital role in Hopi culture and communities. These seeds have adapted to arid conditions over thousands of years and are essential to traditional Hopi foods.
Lastly, the biennial event that the Natwani Coalition organizes is the Hopi Agriculture & Food Symposium. This event is the culmination of the Coalition’s many activities. Over two days, the symposium brings together community members with the primary focus of Hopi agriculture and food. It provides opportunities for the many topics and issues that reflect the Coalition’s vision and goals to be shared, discussed, demonstrated and addressed. In making it a family affair, the Coalition provides an opportunity to bridge the gap that has grown over the years between generations. We believe that all children are our future farmers, gardeners and food preparers. Everyone who is a part of helping to support this vision has a role with the Natwani Coalition.
For more information on the Natwani Coalition or to provide tax-deductible financial support, call 928.734.2390, email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or visit www.hopifoundation.org
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