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Current Watch Site
The heritage preservation of the Walpi Village
First Mesa, Arizona, United States
Perched on a narrow edge of the First Mesa, Walpi is the foundation for eleven Hopi settlements in the United States. Founded in the thirteenth century in a cleft of the mesa formation, Walpi was moved to its current location as a defensive measure after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. The village was built using hand-trimmed sandstone and earth, and grew over the centuries. The roofs consist of vigas (structural beams), latillas (branches used as sheathing), and a capping layer of willow twigs and earth. The walls are still hand-plastered by local women. During the 1880s and 1890s, the inhabitants began migrating to more contemporary houses in the nearby village of Polacca, and the permanent population of Walpi slowly dwindled in the twentieth century. Many Polacca families retain ownership of their houses in Walpi, but they are now used predominantly for public ceremonies. Walpi is a significant Native American site that represents traditional Hopi architecture and identity. Over the years weathering, insufficient maintenance, and incompatible interventions have compromised the integrity of the site. The Hopi community would like to restore the site using traditional materials and methods.
HOW WE HELPED
Following the inclusion of Walpi on the 2012 World Monuments Watch, WMF and the Walpi community organized a heritage day to bring attention to simple maintenance that is required to keep the site in good condition. Trash at the base of the cliffs on which the village is perched was cleared and the entire community came out in support of these efforts. In recent decades, trash disposal has become a frequent issue, as even the Walpi community, like all places in the world, faces the vastly increasing amount on non-biodegradable materials that accumulate. Trash that once was easily returned to nature, no longer breaks down easily. What was once, in essence, compost becomes landfill. New systems for waste disposal and removal need to be integrated into routine maintenance programs. WMF, the Walpi community, and Redlands University, hope to conduct assessments of historic buildings at Walpi, and establish a training program for conservation of historic structures.
WHY IT MATTERS
Walpi Village is a vital community embodying unique the traditional Hopi way of life. The village has retained its historical integrity, avoiding the introduction of running water and electricity. Some buildings in the village border steep cliffs and finding a way to preserve and reinforce them is necessary for the safety of the village. Walpi Village leads the surrounding First Mesa villages in religious rituals and is also the residence for the Kikmongwi, the village leader. Tourism began at the site in 1985 and. Walpi Village is the most visited Hopi settlement. Thus Walpi’s conservation is essential for community members as well as providing visitors with an important living illustration of Hopi rituals, architecture, and history.
World Monuments Watch Day
Watch Day at Walpi took place on October 6, 2012, with a community work day, or “naya.” Village members, including elders and youth, came together to plaster and repair the walls of homes located on Walpi’s plaza, and to clean up the base of the mesa. A feast was prepared at the end of the day.