Blog Post

Walpi-WMF Partnership Kicks Off with Cleanup

On Tuesday, November 3, I made a presentation about the 2012 Watch to about 30 members of the Hopi community at Walpi Village, First Mesa, AZ. This kicked off a three-day cleanup campaign, WMF’s first joint activity with Walpi following its inclusion on the Watch.

Walpi, the Hopi “Mother Village,” dates from the late seventeenth century and is located in the high desert of northwestern Arizona, perched on a spectacular finger mesa—long and narrow, with sheer drops of over 100 feet on all sides.

Wes Bernardini of the University of Redlands introduced me with a brief presentation on his documentation and modeling of the archeological remains of the original Walpi Village, located at the base of the mesa. We were hosted by Gail Poley, Walpi Community Service Administrator, Marvin Lomayestewa, Walpi Elder Coordinator, and Lee Wayne Lomayestewa, Repatriation Officer at the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office in nearby Kykotsmovi.

My presentation elicited about an hour of questions and statements, ranging from the physical issues confronting Walpi—including the use of concrete block in recent alterations and the deteriorating condition of portions of the retaining walls along the edges of the mesa—to more prosaic concerns like controlling litter. Interestingly, while refuse has been tossed over the edge of the mesa for hundreds of years, it has only become an issue since the pervasive use of non-biodegradable materials in the past 50 years. There was also considerable discussion about setting up a training program in traditional construction methods at Walpi. Everyone was excited that we were starting out our working relationship with the cleanup and was ready to roll up their sleeves.

On Wednesday, November 4, the cleanup work crew met at 9 a.m. The materials and food provided for the cleanup by WMF—shovels, rakes, gloves, rope, and garbage bags; water, apples, oranges, and snacks—were distributed. About 25 people—men and women, young and old—showed up. We began the work at the base of the southwest corner of the mesa; the plan was for the cleanup to proceed clockwise around the mesa for the next three days, going as far as they could. Good weather helped on the first day; the crew worked until about 5 p.m. and filled at least 200 bags with debris, mostly plastic and glass bottles and aluminum soda cans. The difference was amazing. We were fueled by a big lunch generously provided by the Walpi women at midday.