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Human Rights

Techqua Ikachi: Land and Life

By Alan Gorg

In America and other industrialized nations, we need to focus beyond our own energy and environmental problems and consider the sufferings of others—not just of those in the Middle East. The production of oil has become a concern because of the danger of accidents, radioactive contamination from nuclear energy, higher gas prices, smog and pollution, the threat of global warming, and the war.

What few recognize is that native peoples around the world are suffering pollution, impoverishment, and sickness and death from exploitation of their lands by oil and mining.

My wife and I were founding members of the Committee for Traditional Indian Land and Life (T.I.I.L.), which through the 1960s and 1970s supported traditional causes, primarily in the courts. Protests by the Hopi and Dineh drew our attention to northern Arizona’s Black Mesa reservation lands, where many had died from the carcinogenic effects of uranium mining. Our committee took a stance against the mining, using the slogan Techqua Ikachi, Hopi for Land and Life.

The resistance by Hopi and Dineh traditionals continues. A center for this widespread local opposition has been the Hopi village of Hotevilla, founded in 1906 after a clash between Hopi traditionals and progressives–those who converted to Christianity and sought the material benefits of Western technology. The traditionals were purged from the ancient village of Oraibi, causing them to found a new village, Hotevilla.

In 1969 the federal government provided the first electric power to Hotevilla. 

Equipment was trucked in. A group of Hopi elders attempted to block the work by lying down in front of bulldozers, ready to sacrifice their lives to prevent electric power. One ninety-year-old man did not survive.

This confrontation was the moment of truth.

The Hopi elders were concerned over the price needed to be paid. 

In traditional Hopi economy, there was no money. How were the Hopi to get money? There were few jobs other than working for the government or for coal, oil, and/or uranium companies. Welfare was another option. Like many indigenous peoples, the traditional Hopi share a belief and prophecy that taking oil and minerals is a transgression on Mother Earth and will bring disaster.

Evidence supporting this belief can be found in the toxicity at all mining sites and in the specter of a potential Doomsday which foretells of doom for those who forsake the natural way of life.

In those days I was a film student at U.C.L.A., and I began work on a documentary about Hopi philosophy, and subsequently a docudrama about the prophecy. Their political philosophy of consensus and their harmony with nature required that decisions were unanimous, and they had a record of a thousand years at peace.

We shot Autobiography of A Hopi, presenting the life and philosophy of a traditional. Reservation government police prevented us from continuing to film, so we developed a docudrama about the aboriginal prophecy of the land. On our way, we learned the Arizona conflict was but one aspect of a worldwide epidemic of appropriation and exploitation of indigenous peoples’ lands, including many other locations in the U.S.A 

Sites of recent protest demonstrations are Arizona, Nevada, California, Utah, Florida, the Dakotas, Alaska, Canada, Burma, Columbia, Indonesia, Tibet, the Arctic, Mexico, Madagascar, the Philippines, Russia, Chile, Brazil, Guatemala, Australia, Thailand, India, and China, with many others not reported. Civil war over oil has broken out in Sudan, Nigeria, and Pakistan, and is the cause of mass murder in Ethiopia. The only link between these people is the despoiling of their lands for the profit of others.

Almost forty years after that demonstration in Hotevilla, the 49-minute docudrama film Techqua Ikachi: Aboriginal Warning has been finished, and is dedicated to now-deceased Hopis James Kots, Helen Kots, David Monongye, Nora Monongye, Thomas Banyacya, Carolyn Tawangyama, Ralph Tawangyama, and Dan Katchongva, the elders who laid down to stop the bulldozers.

Those elders are gone, yet the protests by the Hopi and Dineh have not only continued, but the conflict has expanded. The Black Mesa community groups are currently opposed to a bill of John McCain’s. Conflicts worldwide continue and worsen.

The Hopi knew how to be civil long before modern civilization, which brought money and modern things, but no peace. The Hopi had lived their peaceful life in a difficult desert for many centuries, but now the lust for energy and minerals leaves them and many other indigenous peoples with little chance for peace.