Revitalizing Traditional Hopi Agriculture and the Hopi Food System

Samantha Honani-Antone


The Hopi people have long migratory and cultural histories that span the boundaries of the North and South American continents. As we traveled, we brought with us elements of various farming lifeways. Over many generations, Hopi farming has evolved and adapted to our unique landscape.

For thousands of years, one central question has governed humankind: How will we feed ourselves? Various cultures have answered this question in their own way—some successfully and some less successfully.

At Hopi, however, the question has evolved into something slightly different: How will we feed ourselves and remain Hopi? The process of becoming Hopi is integrally tied to how we feed ourselves.

When we eat, we face a fundamental contradiction. We privilege ourselves over other life forms. We take other life, plant and animal, so that we may live. How do we justify this in a moral universe? By what right do we eat? Although it may not be regularly or consciously asked, this question is present in virtually everything that goes on at Hopi. To put it slightly differently, how will we feed ourselves and respect all life?

The question ties agriculture to values. Hopi is not just a farming system; it’s a moral system. Farming is not just about feeding ourselves; it is a way to learn and practice values and through which we become fully human. That is very special and really, really, interesting.

Hopi has developed a very rich and complex philosophy and religion that is fundamentally rooted in farming. For this reason, what happens here is so important. It’s not just about diabetes and obesity, endangered seeds and environmental degradation, although they are very important. The key thing is about honoring the covenant that Hopi entered into when we came into this 4th World.

To help maintain and strengthen this Hopi way of life, the Natwani Coalition, a project of The Hopi Foundation based on the Hopi reservation, has implemented a Community Grant Program. This was developed to support our community members in growing, raising and producing food for their families and communities. Families often encounter difficulties in raising crops or in finding ways to prepare Hopi foods more proficiently. Due to these challenges, the Coalition provides the Hopi and Tewa communities with an opportunity to apply for funding to help them in these endeavors.

The grant program also offers opportunities for grantees to come together and learn from one another by sharing their experiences. This inspires and raises awareness about the kinds of work we can choose to undertake. Networking and getting to know fellow grant recipients doing the same type of work is also possible during the two workshops that the Natwani Coalition hosts.

The Community Grant Program began in 2011. The Natwani Coalition has since funded 43 projects in 10 villages. A team that includes farmers, health professionals and Hopi youth reviews each application. Projects that are accepted must align with the Coalition’s mission and goals to support practices and methods of agriculture, food distribution and healthy food consumption. Up to $15,000 is available for yearly agricultural projects from the summer through the fall.


Examples of Natwani Coalition Food and Farming Grantees


My Chicken Farm Project—Dianna Shebala

2011: “My project has now been in progress for three months. There has been a lot of learning, work and progress made toward our goal of having a healthy flock of chickens that will provide fresh eggs for our family and for our small vending business to sell to the Hopi public. I received a mini-grant of $300 toward my “Eggsventure.” This was used to purchase chicken wire, wire, plywood, feeders and the chickens. I did the majority of the labor with help from my husband and son. This has been a great experience. This project has taught me about the value of researching a project before starting, making a commitment, and the willingness to share what I have learned about my project and myself. I am very happy with my project and look forward to what the future holds for me and my chickens.”

2013: “Our children (56 chickens) have done well and have produced many eggs for our small business of breakfast burritos and egg sales, not to mention our own household use. We have been spoiled with fresh eggs on a daily basis. Although the chickens are work, we enjoy them a great deal. We are now at a stage where we will be replacing our hens in about six months, so we will be ordering new chicks. This will ensure good egg production and quality. We will butcher the older hens for meat consumption. It has been a learning experience that was well worth the effort.”


Bacavi Terrace Garden Project—Elvia Sanchez, Bacavi Village Youth Coordinator

For the 2011 season, the project was developed by 10 youth, 8-18 years of age. The springs and gardens are an important part of the history of the village of Bacavi. They had not been recently used. Besides revitalizing the garden, the goals were to develop essential elements of culture and traditions of Hopi planting among the youth and to strengthen community involvement. Although challenges were faced, those goals have been met. The garden looks amazing. It is touching to see what the youth started.

“Accomplishing a task goes a long way. It takes heart, dedication, responsibility and enthusiasm. The youth have truly demonstrated that, and they have greatly benefited from the project. Along with their coordinator, the youth have inspired other village members to use their plots. I am happy to report that four plots are being utilized this year in what used to be dormant space. Invasive trees have been removed and springs that used to be dry are now coming back.”


2012: Corn Clan Farming Project—Michael Kootswatewa

This project helps preserve the land for future generations’ use and instills cultural traditions. The grant provided support for tractor maintenance along with materials and supplies.


2012: Tawa Itana-Qa’ö Itangu—Jennifer Joseph

This project supports the teaching of Hopi tradition and culture to Walpi Village youth. Walpi elders teach the process of preparing Hopi foods and techniques of planting and preserving.



Lomasuminungwatuksumani—Helping Others Help Themselves

As a part of The Hopi Foundation’s mission to help others help themselves, the Natwani Coalition carries this idea, Lomasuminungwatuksumani, into its grant program. We are happy to report that each of the 43 projects granted demonstrate the four core Hopi values that are the foundation of the Coalition’s mission, vision and goals:


Food & Farming Community Grants—An Ongoing Challenge

Providing the needed support is an ongoing challenge because the Natwani Coalition is up against financial constraints. We hope that, in addition to the agricultural projects already in process, there will be adequate funding to support the work of our food preparers and seed savers, who are vital to the Hopi agricultural cycle. We are also seeking funding for food infrastructure repair projects, including storage structures.



Funding for the Natwani Coalition Community Grant Program has been provided by The Christensen Fund. For more information or to learn how you can support the Natwani Coalition, visit, find the Coalition on Facebook, email or call 928.734.2380. Online donations can be made at


Samantha Honani-Antone is program manager for the Natwani Coalition.



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