Ariz. - Michael Kotutwa Johnson, a University of Arizona (UA) doctoral
candidate in Natural Resource and Environment, believes that Hopi
is the ultimate example of sustainability and durability.
way we farm and how we hold our home communities together, most
of our community members are still doing things the old way and
I really encourage our younger Hopis to not lose those traditional
aspects, to learn everything they can about Hopi farming, Hopi house
building, everything they can about our soil and our moisture, because
they don't and can't teach those things to you in a western science
institution," said Johnson.
42, son of Caleb and Nancy Johnson, is one of three children who
were raised off-reservation in Winslow. But their Hopi roots are
in Kykotsmovi with his Hopi grandparents raised in Old Oraibi.
graduated from Winslow High School and attended Cornell University
where they had an outstanding agricultural program run by Dr. David
MacKenzie, who was doing extensive research on tomatoes. This sparked
an immediate farming nerve.
already had a serious interest in farming. He was a constant companion
to his late grandfather, Fred Johnson, at their family cornfield.
interest is so genuine that over the past four summers, Johnson
built a Hopi stone and solar powered "Hopi Earthship"
studio at his cornfield so that he could live at his farming area
during the planting season, keeping a watchful eye out for crows
and other predators.
been since this experience at U of A, that he has had more time
to focus on his own home community, including farming at his field
where he has been planting and harvesting 23 different varieties
of organic Hopi crops for the past 25 years.
does most of the field work himself, hauling water to use in his
studio home, cooking on a Hopi traditional fireplace area. From
time to time, his father joins him to help plant or weed, but he
likes to utilize as many Hopi old traditions of doing things, which
he says takes more time and labor, but that these Hopi methods are
just effective today as they were for Hopi ancestors.
was lucky to be able to apprentice under a Hopi stonemason from
Sipaulovi five summers ago. I had to haul and quarry the stone from
about two miles away. It was pretty labor intensive, but I also
knew that I wanted to learn how stone was harvested, shaped and
cared for," he stated.
are so many important values to learn at Hopi. If our younger Hopis
would take the time and effort to learn from their family members
about these traditions, then we won't ever lose what makes us ...
Hopi. I really encourage our students to talk with their uncles,
aunts, grandparents about what they know. You can use your own Hopi
traditional knowledge in your studies at a regular university. It
helps with your discipline and appreciation for what we have here
on the reservation. We're really lucky that so many of our elders
still know quite a bit about the land and how to survive here and
are willing to share that knowledge," he added.
has focused on Natural Resource management and American Indian Studies
for his doctoral thesis, since there are so many ways of effectively
managing Hopi natural resources.
are simple, sensitive ways to enhance and preserve our water, our
land, our knowledge," he said. "I am interested in also
opening the administrative gate for our younger Hopi members to
have a voice at the national level of natural resource policy making.
In the past years, we have always had non-Native consultants advising
us on what is best for us, but its time for Hopis to start managing
their own resources, making informed, educated, pro-active decisions
about how our future generations will survive out here."
asked what he would recommend that students study if they are interested
in this field, he said, "I would take lots of science courses,
also calculus and varied types of biology and soil sciences. You
can even take these courses at a local community college, but it
helps to get a solid, science foundation on what is possible in
preserving Hopi lands and crops."
is being highly sought by outside environmental agencies to assist
in natural resource development and tribal considerations as he
nears his doctorate completion.
currently sits on the board for the Indian Land Tenure Foundation
that is based in Minneapolis, Minn. This board works directly with
federal Indian policy and how those policies are applied through
the United States.
though I am getting nearer to completing my doctorate, I still want
and need to come home to Hopi. You can do much in the area of education,
but if you don't come home, you also start to lose your life and
spiritual balance. I'm fortunate to have a place like this to come
back to and remember what is really important," Johnson concluded.