Tutskwat Oqawtoynani 2022 Earth Day Cleanup a success | Navajo-Hopi Observer

Valerie Nuvayestewa, Project Coordinator, Tutskwat Oqawtoynani,

TUTSKWAT OQAWTOYNANI, Arizona — Sixty-four volunteers gathered in the wind to clean up about 2.75 tonnes of trash during the April 2022 Tutskwat Oqawtoynani Earth Day Cleanup.

The clearing took place over two and a half days, 22 April cleaning back behind and under Tewa Village, and on 23 April moving from Tewa Village to Sichomovi Village on the back side of the mesa.

The clean-up of our community village started in 2016. It took us only six years to clean the back of Tewa Village. This speaks of the amount of trash that has been dumped from behind and under Tewa Village. Keep in mind that we haven’t even cleaned the front of the Tewa yet.

Tutskwat Oqawtoynani, (helping the earth gather its strength), formerly known as the First Mesa Annual Cleanup, has grown from a small family initiative to clean the entire First Mesa Villages, Tewa, Sichomovi, and Walpi from top to bottom, into an annual community cleanup event that has attracted hundreds of volunteers over the years, not only from other Second and Third mesa villages and our neighboring Navajo relatives, but also this year, two people traveled all the way from Rhode Island to help us.

Important partnerships have been made with our wonderful community members, First Mesa Village, national, local and border town businesses, tribal programs, and our Traditional Leadership here at First Mesa.

For this April Earth Day Cleanup, we received help from CellularOne and Hopi Telecommunications Inc., to feed our volunteers. There were food and beverage donations from Tara Pablo, Candice Ami, Kareesa Mahle, Loretta Nuvayestewa, Sichomovi Village, Elise Lomawaima, Leah Whitman James, First Mesa Baptist Church, Pastor Park, and Lori Nuvayestewa. Walpi Village, CSA, Alan Chavez and their security staff helped us with traffic flow and parking and allowed us to feed our volunteers Saturday at Itaaki Baths. We were also surprised, but pleased to hear that when we went to dump 150 bags of trash at the Hopi Solid Waste Disposal Site, Danford Wadsworth, Director of the Hopi Solid Waste Program, told us that we don’t have to pay any fees for the waste we bring. Yes!! We will take all the victories, big and small!

New partners who have provided funding for our project this year are the Colorado Plateau Foundation, Justice Outside, and the Northern Arizona Climate Change Alliance. We hope to make more connections as we’re looking for eight-10 years of cleaning to really clean up all the trash from top to bottom from First Mesa.

One of the highlights this year was seeing the soil return to its healthy state in the area we first started clearing in 2016. We originally intended to go back and replant this area where the layer of debris was removed so we could restore the grass and natural vegetation. But we now know that once soil is cleared, it can and will heal on its own, and we see plants and grass coming back on their own because soil can breathe once again in areas that were once covered in litter. This is a huge victory in itself because we know that the health of our environment directly affects the health of the people who live there.

The layers of trash that we see, like peeling the layers of an onion, can be likened to healing our people in which there are layers of wounds, pain, sorrow, and grief, which we all carry inside, layers that must be peeled back in order to move forward. in a positive and healthy direction in our lives. We have experienced so much loss and pain over the past two years at Hopi Nation and all of them are in different stages of healing. So, we have to start, once again, doing the hard work of cleaning up the layers of “garbage” in our soil and in our lives. Once we start moving to action, we will begin to see new growth in all areas of our lives.

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