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Taking control of Hopi resources and our future

From the fluffy, white clouds over the massive, snow-crested San Francisco
Peaks near Flagstaff, Ariz., Katsina spirits annually descend on the Hopi
homeland, bringing rain, hope and guidance to a people confronted with a
thirst for survival.

Beginning in February and ending in mid-July, the Katsinam play a
significant role in sacred ceremonies that date back thousands of years.
The ceremonies are the heart of a traditional, culturally rich way of life
practiced by the Hopi Tribe.

What is known as the Hopi Way also centers on subsistence dry-farming
unique to the Hopi people, many of whom reside in modest, sandstone houses
in 12 villages clustered around three mesas on a vast and arid 1.6
million-acre reservation in the high desert of Northern Arizona.

The only source of moisture for agriculture on Hopi is melting snow and
infrequent, scattered rain showers that fall on tiny fields of corn,
squash, beans and melon. These last few years the snowfall and rain showers
have been fewer and far between. Many of our streams and washes have dried
up. Our crops have failed.

The Hopi people have demanded that Peabody Energy, which manages a
reservation mine, stop using the Navajo Aquifer to slurry coal by a water
pipeline to the Mohave Generating Station 273 miles away in Laughlin, Nev.
The aquifer is our only source of water for drinking and ceremonies. It is
as precious as the blood that runs through our veins.

Without an outside source of water, the mine is expected to close next
year, at which time Hopi will lose coal royalties that contribute a third
of our government revenues, money used to provide jobs and essential
services to the tribe. Our situation is dire.

A referendum was held in May to decide whether the tribe should establish a
casino on tribal land in nearby Winslow. The Hopi people said: "No.
Gambling is not the Hopi Way."

So now we face great challenges. Lacking economic development and with
little infrastructure on the reservation, there are few jobs and
opportunities for young Hopi men and women. They are leaving our homeland,
taking with them children who no longer speak the Hopi language and who may
never participate in Hopi ceremonies.

And our way of life, the Hopi Way, is gradually becoming a way of the past.

HOPE ON THE HORIZON

We have a strategy to bring hope to Hopi.

Fifteen miles north of Second Mesa, the tribe intends to grow Tawaovi, a
planned community of desperately needed housing, government offices and a
modest industrial park. It is the core of our strategy to create jobs and
opportunities for Hopi.

We also are planting the seeds to grow an energy economy around our
voluminous coal and mineral resources. We have enough supplies to generate
power not only for our people, businesses and industry, but consumer
markets off the reservation.

Energy production would be done in a manner respectful of the environment
and Hopi stewardship over the land. We are exploring renewable energies
such as solar and wind power. We have discussed potential partnerships with
investors seeking to manufacture biodiesel fuels and ethanol.

We are pursuing the importation of water from off the reservation. We hope
to build a pipeline to tap the nearby Coconino Aquifer. We recently
purchased the rights to Colorado River water in the Cibola Basin in
Southern Arizona.

Finally, we are restructuring our education system, upgrading and
standardizing our school curriculum to challenge our young people today, so
they can meet the challenges of higher education tomorrow. We need an
educated, skilled work force to serve a growing economy.

The education program will include instruction in the Hopi language, so our
young people can speak Hopi and participate in sacred ceremonies, so the
Hopi Way need not become a way of the past.

REACHING OUT

We have a long journey to a time of prosperity on Hopi. But we are
confident we can find our way. We cannot, however, go it alone.

We hope soon to play a significant role in the emerging national tribal
economy, a business and industrial network thus far fueled largely by
tribal gambling and tourism, but which will eventually involve all goods
and services, including energy production.

And we are asking the federal government to step forward and commit to its
trust responsibility to Native nations, particularly those practicing a way
of life that will not include government gaming. We on Hopi seek the same
quality of life others take for granted.

We do not ask for a handout. We ask for a helping hand. It is our hope the
nations leaders will recognize that the need to preserve and protect Hopi
is in the best interests of all American Indian and non-Native peoples.

And it is our prayer that for generations to come the Katsina spirits will
continue to descend from the clouds over the San Francisco Peaks, and find
a home on Hopi.

Wayne Taylor Jr. is chairman and CEO of the Hopi Tribe.