In 1990, I had the extraordinary opportunity to visit the home of Martin Gashweseoma and Thomas Banyacya, Hopi elders in Hotevilla, the last traditional village on the Hopi Mesas, in the midst of the searingly dry and vast Arizona desert. To Western eyes, this almost inhospitable land is where one Nation, the Hopi have thrived without warfare for over a thousand years. There is a sense of profound freedom, clear and stark as the distant horizon. The Hopi are the preeminent dry farmers on Earth. When they speak about the elemental realities it is on the order of revelation. Thomas shared the vision of the now famous Hopi prophecies that describe this time of Powateoni, of purification, of social and ecological disruption that will eventually bring a time of lasting peace over the world’s people. But before that, we will have to go through the eye of the storm.
When I first heard Thomas’ words, I received them mainly as stories, warnings about Western man’s way of life that was out of balance with the Creator’s Law, a law that was once the very basis of our own Declaration of Independence. An indigenous group has disappeared every year since 1900. What unique and immemorial relationship with existence has humanity expunged in the name of progress? The answers are starting to haunt civilization in ways we cannot measure.
The Hopi had been trying to get their message to the United Nations for years. They would succeed in addressing the General Assembly, but their voice would fall on deaf ears. Thomas raised his arms, as if brandishing an imaginary sword, the potential sword of nuclear annihilation, the nuclear sword of Damocles that hangs over all of civilization and the planet. The Hopi had suffered mercilessly at the hands of the U.S. government. In 1906 they were even starved so the “outlaw” traditional would sign a contract with Washington, DC. All in clear violation of what would later become the Genocide Convention Implementation Act.
They have been put in jails without trial in Alcatraz, had children kidnapped, and put in American schools, like so many Indigenous tribes around the world. Forced acculturation all over the planet has deprived Native peoples of their land, language and very being. Immeasurable wisdom carried on for generations, knowledge of the land that the dominant society needs to turn to in this of unprecedented climate change. It may save civilization as we know it. Indeed, it was the Hopi who warned the world of the “world shaking events” of which WWI and WW2 were the first. Have we begun the period of the third and final world shattering event, the separation from nature?
The elders believe that if the U.S. government continues to impose its jurisdiction and its way of life, not only will traditional Hopi way of life and a covenant with the Creator be compromised, but mankind’s very survival will be jeopardized. Mining at Black Mesa, just north of the Hopi reservation, has extracted much of the uranium that was used to fuel U.S. ICBMs (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles) during the Cold War. Hopi elders knew that the coal and uranium if extracted would upset the balance of the Earth. Draining the aquifer used for mining affected the rotation of the Earth. Is the inexorable drought out West partly due to the drying up of this vast underground body of water? The drought of 1996 was the worst in memory, so much so that the Hopi did not bother to plant corn, their staple crop. At the time when deserts and floods and fires are spreading all over the world, it is worth paying attention to the teachings of Earth’s preeminent dry farmers.
Caretaking is at the center of Native peoples’ concerns for millennia. “They hold the universe in their hands,” as the elders exclaim. But today they have lost the power to fulfill their “true role.” Native title to land was based, according to Hopi, on caretaking. Their home was not based on conquest. And they knew that any empire built on conquest must inevitably crumble. That is what we are seeing today. True title was implemented by the forces that give life. As we can plainly see today, America and the world are reaping the results of conquest, extraction and subjugation of the land, its first peoples and other species on whom we depend for our survival.
The results will be played out in our lifetime. “In a world where rulership can be seized by the strongest army, fulfillment of our trust as caretakers requires that we learn how to place wisdom in power.,” a speaker for the Hopi has said. Hopi are perhaps the only tribe never to have signed a treaty with the dominant power, the U.S. The very coal that lay under Hopi and Navajo (Dine) land was being dug up. How many people in our crowded cities realize that much of their electricity and economic ventures depend on the exhaustion of finite resources that were held together by an increasingly tenuous ecological web? Now with the heat dome over the West and the pandemic, many more are about to find out.
The very economic structure of our time was based on commercial dominion over aboriginal people all over the globe. The tens of millions of gallons of water used to slurry coal came from the Navajo Aquifer. The Ogallala aquifer is not far away, stretching from New Mexico all the way to South Dakota, but it has also been drying up with imponderable repercussions for the future of agriculture and the entire breadbasket of America. How long will it be before America has famines? Another Dustbowl. The Hopi prophecies state that we are about the enter the fifth world. The time of plenty when there was enough food and water and resources for everyone is coming to an end precisely because governments around the world have abrogated Native title. The devastation unfolding could be incalculable.
Few elders will be left to teach anyone “how to talk with the clouds” or what it means in terms of geophysics and the Earth changes ahead. When I first heard about the prophecies face to face with the elders who were trying to get the world to listen, I was flummoxed. I was told people on the coasts will have to move inland. I could not fathom the full extent of what they were saying. Their thoughts were clairvoyant. And their prophecies are manifesting world wide.
Many people come to the Southwest, some live in fine houses, immigrants from other states who don’t fully understand what the land has to teach. Many decide to build their “dream” house with no understanding of the water tables or reservoirs. They may live in fancy homes and drive the newest cars but in a very crucial way they have only seen the surface of the implicate order and have not lifted the hood of what the land and its first peoples have to tell them. Today many elders are dying due to the virus. Languages are fading away. And with them knowledge or rather a far-reaching wisdom about how the world actually works, that is far more radical than what science understands and what the dominant society is trying to find with the search for the most minute particles and black holes.
Native elders will ask, how will that knowledge of quantum mechanics serve us when we don’t even know how to live?
There was a time when NASA scientists were asking Hopi elders about what they could share about the Earth changes. Now we know. They are happening. And there is precisely nothing we will be able to do except go through the storm. Civilization has unleashed a monster beyond the wildest dreams of Doctor Frankenstein. The prophecies are daunting. They are not mystical and numinous. They are about an opening of an entirely novel order of being and relationship to the planet. An ancient metaphysics with a clear plumb line to the soil was being desacralized when Arizona Public Service imposed water, sewer and electric lines on a people who wished to maintain their sovereignty and who had no desire to pay taxes or become federal subjects, as we have all become. An entire way of living entrenched in an order of coherence our mechanical world cannot fathom, was coming unglued. The entire life force on earth was now in question.
Today forces are being unleashed that will challenge the very foundations of society. The Hopi somehow foresaw the “talking cobwebs” and “flying villages” and even the house of Mica, the UN, generations before these things came into being. Knowledge that issued from a time before the computer and pollution that is killing clarity and life itself. I thought of the strength of the traditional elders years ago who were able to run dozens of miles a day. Much like the Tarahumara of Copper Canyon in northern Mexico. I thought of the prescience that came before computer models that so much of our society is beholden to. I thought of the crops the Hopi grew in near impossible conditions thanks to their prayers and songs. Science can dismiss these prophecies as mere superstition, as mere coincidence that cannot be proved or disproved. But to the Hopi the psychic pattern of the mind lives connected to its counterpart, the events of the worlds that unfold in the physical realm. The last time I saw the Hopi mesas, I felt an ancient metaphysics ebbing in the global drain. No discoveries by nuclear researchers at the CERN facility could match the intrinsic mindfulness of the elders.
We face a more radical change in civilization than has ever occurred in the human time frame. The elders have warned us that the dominant society so very bent on subjugation and extraction of resources has “stirred the underground serpent,” which is bound to wreak future military and ecological havoc. Already the signs are here. We need to strengthen ourselves by running and taking cold baths say the elders. With the heat of the world now upon us, that will be a welcome respite for what we have unleashed on the world.
Traditional elders have been locked in a battle with progressives for decades now, progressives who subscribe to the police state and the coal mines and the machinations of the dominant society. The traditional elders emphasize that the contest today is between those who subscribe to such prejudice and those who recognize the human family as a balancing influence within nature.
If the mentality that rules the modern world wins, and the true caretakers of land and life lose charge of their trust, the human sojourn in this world will come to a painful conclusion, along with almost every other life form. But if the wisdom of the Ancient World prevails, our peaceful tenure could last indefinitely. It is time humanity chose either the path of annihilation or the path of everlasting life.
Not long ago Davi Kopenawa, an elder of the Yanomami of the Amazon, whose people have suffered invasions of their land, killings by foreign gold miners and unprecedented fires, told the world, whatever is happening to us, will happen to you.
Listening, respecting and acting on the wisdom of the first peoples of the world may save civilization. The elders have been right all along. The emergency is here. It has arrived. The time to act is now.
Learn more about Cyril Christo and Marie Wilkinson's work at their website.
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