Our Purpose Statement
To clean First Mesa of trash from top to bottom.
The Hopi Senom (people) made an agreement and commitment to care for this world and all living things with respect and to live humbly. It is in this same spirit, a community grassroots group has come together to take action with the vision: Through discipline and responsibility we will preserve the sacredness of our Hopi and Tewa Villages.
The First Mesa Annual Cleanup began in 2016 under the direction of the Nuvayestewa Family from Tewa Village (prior family cleanups were done as early as 2013 within the Nuvayestewa family). A small family initiative of 15 volunteers set up to clean the entire First Mesa Villages: Tewa, Sichomovi and Walpi, from top to bottom. This initiative has evolved to an annual community effort that has attracted hundreds of volunteers over the years. Vital community and First Mesa Village partnerships and business partnerships that support the success and vision of Tutskwat Oqawtoynani have been created.
To date we are the only organization on Hopi who is addressing the trash problem on the sides of the mesas. Most of the Villages across Hopi are cleaning on the tops of their own individual mesas and areas but they are not yet at the capacity to clean the mesas from top to bottom as we are currently attempting to. By modeling and taking action on how we are pushing through challenges within First Mesa, we hope to inspire other village to do the same. We were also happy that we were able to push through and cleanup a pile of trash below the backside of Tewa Village that was hindering our progress. In previous years we always stopped as this area, as the trash was always overwhelming. We made three concentrated efforts with our family/friends in 2021 and we were able to clean most of the trash in that area. We are now able to move forward again and begin cleaning on the back side of Sichomovi Village, which is the middle village on the top of First Mesa.
In the past years the clean-up has cleared over 20 tons of trash from the sides of First Mesa. More recently, due to COVID-19 and the shut-down on Hopi, guidelines we do not gather in large groups so we have cleaned on our own, with small family groups an additional 7, 860 lbs. of trash from surrounding communities.
Originally the goal was to accomplish this effort within six years, but the reality of the amount of trash that exists has extended the timeline well beyond six years. Systemic challenges of erosion have been unveiled on the sides of the mesa and the need for restoration and erosion control is evident and yet to be explored. This has called for stronger partnerships within the villages (Tewa, Sichomovi, Walpi) to assess the erosion and understand the depth of the issue as well as begin to explore the resources necessary to support our efforts.
The primary area where we work is in First Mesa, located in the Hopi Reservation in Northeastern Arizona, approximately 200 miles from Flagstaff and 70 miles from Winslow.
Virtual and In-person Cleanups
Programming for us has been hybrid. We find ways to engage the public and inspire them to clean on their own!
Community Planning Meetings
Planning meetings are held before every cleanup, with several teams focused on the successful implementation of event strategies and protocols.
Zip lines have been used under the watchful eye of Ancestral Lands to help move larger items of trash off the sides of the mesa.
The Hopi People
The Hopi Tribe is a sovereign nation located in northeastern Arizona. The reservation occupies part of Coconino and Navajo counties, encompasses more than 1.5 million acres, and is made up of 12 villages. Over the centuries we have survived as a tribe, and to this day have managed to retain our culture, language and religion."(Hopi Tribal Website)
Influences from the outside world and historical trauma have since changed our way of life. It is time to remember our sacred covenant with Maasaw, the ancient caretaker of the earth, to live as peaceful and humble farmers respectful of the land and its resources.
Tutskwat Oqawtoynani, formerly known as First Mesa Annual Cleanup, began organizing cleanups as early as 2016 due to the overwhelming amount of trash that was accumulating on the sides of the mesa. Trash covered up ancient foot trails and ceremonial pathways that surround the mesa. For thousands of years, foot trails in the southwest served as important routes which led to sacred places where prayers and offerings are deposited. Whatever the purpose, trails enabled the ancient people of the southwest to travel extensively across the landscape.
Hopi elder, Sakhongvaiya, (green tobacco standing in a row), Leon A. Nuvayestewa Sr. declared to his family that if "no one was going to do anything about the trash, he would." So began our humble work to clean our sacred, mesa home.
Our organization directly serves 1,985 people from the three different villages we are cleaning and who reside in First Mesa, Arizona. We all benefit from the work we are doing as First Mesa is where we gather for our ceremonies year round.
The primary area we serve is First Mesa, Polacca, Arizona, located in Northeastern Arizona, approximately 200 miles from Flagstaff, and 70 miles from Winslow, Arizona.