Hopi Future Hinges on Economics of Energy 

Wayne Taylor, Chairman, Hopi Tribal Council 
Arizona Central
Jul. 15, 2004

The Hopi Tribe of Arizona regards the newborn as being very sacred. When a child is born in the Hopi way, the mother and baby are protected and cared for by the members of the village. There is a naming ceremony involving the parental aunts. The aunts each wash the baby's hair, and as they do so each says a prayer for the child.

Basically, the prayer asks that the baby prospers and lives a long life, without pain.

Of course, Hopi traditions surrounding the birth of our children are fading away, victims of modern life. Many of us don't even teach Hopi anymore. Our language is vanishing.

Our young people are being forced to leave by poverty and the lack of jobs on the reservation. Our children are growing up without being exposed to the culture and traditions taught by their elders.

Fifty percent of our adults do not have jobs. Our villages lack adequate water, sewers and utilities. We have no roads or infrastructure to support commercial and industrial development. Many young people no longer regard the Hopi homeland as a place where they can live a quality life.

It does not have to be this way.

There is a plan to maintain the cultural and economic viability of the Hopi homeland for generations to come. The Hopi Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy of 2001 is a guideline for the Hopi to plan for the future while respecting the past.

For thousands of years the Hopi people have looked to traditional beliefs and practices to guide our lives. When recently presented with the opportunity to generate millions of dollars by operating a casino or leasing slot machines, the Hopi people said, "No. To profit from gambling is not the Hopi way."

Stewardship over the land is very much a part of our religious tradition. So much so that we can no longer allow operators of the Black Mesa Mine to use the Navajo Aquifer - the Hopis only source of drinking water - to slurry coal 273 miles to the Mohave Generating Station in Laughlin, Nev.

We have demanded that Peabody Energy stop using the aquifer by the end of 2005.

We make this demand despite the fact that royalties from the mine generate $7.7 million a year, more than a third of the tribal government's operating budget.

The California Public Utilities Commission is deliberating whether to allow the coal-burning Mohave plant to continue operations, supplying low-cost energy to growing markets in Southern California, Arizona and Nevada.

Along with the installation of $1.1 billion worth of upgrades to reduce emissions from the plant, the CPUC needs to be certain there is an adequate supply of coal to fuel the plant and a reliable source of water to deliver the coal.

The Hopi and Navajo Indian nations, Peabody Coal and experts in the field of energy-plant operations and hydrology believe that a pipeline from the Coconino Aquifer in Flagstaff would provide a sufficient supply of water to slurry coal from Black Mesa to the Mohave plant. After passing on to ratepayers the cost of the pipeline construction and emission-control upgrades, the price of energy to customers of the Mohave plant would still remain much lower than what is paid for energy produced by a natural gas-fired plant.

Shutting down the plant - forcing closure of the mine - would have a devastating impact on the Hopi Tribe. Our situation is dire.

We are working aggressively to implement our economic development strategy, to bring needed roads and infrastructure to the reservation to support housing and new businesses, and to do it in such a way that it does not erode our culture and traditions.

But we need help. We need a commitment from the public, Congress and policymakers in California, Arizona and Nevada to keep Mohave operating. We also need a commitment from the federal government to help the Hopi find a long-term solution to economic problems on the reservation.

The Hopi Tribe believes the federal government, recognizing its trust responsibility to American Indians, should finance an expansion of the pipeline so additional supplies of water could be diverted to the Hopi and Navajo nations. We need assistance in building roads, sewer systems and utilities necessary to sustain development on tribal lands.

As do all Americans, the Hopi want a bright and sustainable future. We want our homeland to remain a place where Hopi children, their children and generations to come can find opportunity.

We want our Hopi babies to live a good, long life, a Hopi way of life, rich with our culture and traditions. We want to keep alive the Hopi prayer.

The writer is chairman and chief executive officer of the "Hopi Tribe" [aka Hopi Tribal Council] of Arizona. 

NOTE: The Hopi Tribal Council (HTC) and the Navajo Tribal Council (NTC) are government entities created by the U.S. government, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), and Peabody Coal attorneys for the sole purpose of ensuring the lease of Hopi and Navajo land to oil and coal corporations. This is a matter of historical fact. In the past, the Hopi people boycotted and shut down the HTC because it did not serve the interests of the Hopi people. The HTC was reopened by Peabody and the BIA in spite of the protests of the Hopi people. Recent statements by Hopi people indicate that the HTC still does not serve the interests of the Hopi people, that it only serves the interests of Peabody and the U.S. government. 

Our questions are: What has the HTC done with the royalties it has received in the past 30-plus years? Why has it not gone to address the concerns expressed by Chairman Taylor? —SENAA International



Reprinted as an historical reference document under the Fair Use doctrine of international copyright law. http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.html