Weaving the Web – Part II

Wiccan Rede * Winter 1986 by Jana

The connection between paganism and ecology, in particular amongst the Hopi and Navahoes.

PAVASIYA – The song of Creation. The first who was, say the people, is Dayowah, the Original Creator. He reigned over an unlimited, timeless, empty space. No other form of life was to be found there. This period was the first world, that is called Dokpeláh. Dayowah created Sóduknang, the God of the Universe, whom he ordered to arrange the endless space. Sóduknang then arranged everything; the universes, the four quarters, time, the boundaries of things, matter in clusters, like the airs and the waters, and he brought it all together in a peaceful separate motion. Kokyangwúdi, spider woman, was created. She then created the Holy Twins: Pökanghoyah and Palöngawhoyah, who were placed at the north and south pole as guardians and who keep the world in balance up to the present day. Then Kokvangwúdi created the trees, plants and flowers, the birds and the land animals. Then Dayowah (who guided Kokyangwúdi’s hands) moulded human shapes from mud. Four colours of mud yielded two people of every colour, men and women. The Kokyangwúdi sang the song of creation, Pavasíya, over the creatures of mud, after which the creatures came to life. Now also the people were created.

Kokyangwúdi taught the people to greet their father, the sun, wich is the Original Creator Dayowah. From Sóduknang the people received their power of speech. It was he who spoke to te people: “I gave you this world to live in and be happy. Only one thing I desire from you: honour your Creator through all times, do this in wisdom, unanimity and awe, out of love for Him who created you. May this thought reach it’s full growth and stay with you till the end of time”. Then the people spread to the four quarters and multiplied. They discovered that the earth, which makes everything grow and out of which human substance is made, is in fact the mother of all living creatures. Thus from that time on she was called Mother Earth, and the maize became her symbol. Now the people had a father and a mother, Father Sun and Mother Earth. So they lived happily, frugally and in contentment in the first world, Dokpeláh.

However, one day evil came into the world. The people forgot the instruction they got from the Creator and started to fight amongst each other. Sickness and hunger came into existence. That is why Dayowa desided to destroy the first world. Only the ones that had lived according to his laws he spared by leading them to a safe place under the earth. The first world, Dokpeláh, was destroyed by fire. The second world, Dokpah, was created and history repeated itself. The faitful ones were saved, but the holy twins Pökanghoyah and Palöngawhoyah left their places on the poles. Enormous tidal waves flooded the unbalanced earth an then the earth froze into an uninhabitable lump of ice. When the holy twins took their place at the poles again, the ice melted. Now Sóduknang created Kuskurza, the third world, with all kinds of life on it. After many generations of humans, the evil returned as technological knowledge increased. Man learned to build cities and even to fly. They made war again. The world had to be destroyed again. The faitful ones were saved bij Kokyangwúdi, Spiderwoman, and an enormous flood destroyed all other life. The saved people were to travel eastwards on rafts made of reeds. There they found a land, governed by te creator of it, Maasauu, the Great Spirit. In this fourth world, Dúwakachi, Sóduknang made his appearance to the people for the last time. He spoke: “Look back, I made the water swallow up the stepping-stones on which you landed, like I’ve destroyed the Underworld, Kuskurza, by water too. But the day will come when you will remember your arrival, when these stepping stones will apear again as a testimony of the truth you will speak”. So the people arrived in Dúwakachi, the fourth world, which is the same one we now live on. They arrived in an exessively onvergrown and warm part of what is now called America.

The Shortest Ear Of Maize

One day Maasauu, the Great Spirit, made his appearance to the people for the first time, to give them the laws and instructions they needed to adhere to. The people were divided into groups, their leaders they chose themselves. Maasauu put down a number of corncobs, of different lenght and quality, to give the people sowing seed. The leaders snatched the most beatiful and the longest, the fullest ears, until in the end the shortest, and least desirable ear was left. This one was taken by the most humble and simple leader. Then Maasauu gave the people names and languages by which they could be recognized. He who had picked the last ear received the name Hopi. Now the people understood it had all been a test, because Hopi does not only mean ‘peace loving’ but also that those who are called by this name have to obey and trust in the Creator of this world, and never to distort any of his instructions or institutions to achieve influence or power, nor to corrupt the Hopi way of life in any other way, or their name will be taken from them! That is why the Hopi were assigned to be the strustees and the real owners of the continent. Maasauu said too: “You who have knowledge of the holy instructions, have to live very cautiously because you need to hold in honour the laws and on your shoulders will be the fate of the world”. The the Hopi could start their migrations, their wanderings, during which they put their markall over the continent. The instruction to wander was given by Maasauu too, and afterwards they were allowed to live again in the same part of America where first they met Maasauu and where te Hopi live to the present day. This promised land in not one of ‘milk and honey’, but on the contrary a dessert like country, rocky and dry. For this reason the Hopi are very happy there. For in an environment like this, man is really thankful for the harvest and praying for rain is inmanently signifant. So it is here that man feels his smalness and his dependence on his Creator.

Black Mesa

The Hopi have lived for thousands of years in the same environment. In the thirteenth century c.e. they settled down on the three mesas (table mountains) in what is now the 6th district of Arizona. in the ultimate north of of the Hopi land lies the Black Mesa. This mountain is part of the sacred Four Corners Area wher Hopi and Navaho live. It consist of thick successive layers of coal (guite soft and of a bad quality) and ground water in enormous quantities. The layers of coal regulate the constant level of the ground water in the mesa and in the lower lands around the mesa. The Hopi used to cultivate their fields there. However, at the end of the sixties the government, together with the Hopi tribal council, placed the Black Mesa at the disposal of Peabody Coal Company. In 1972 this company started to dig away the coal, layer by layer, by way of ‘stripmining’. They pump the pulverized coal to power stations in north-east Arizona, through a slurry-line. This cost 4,500,000 liters of ground water every day. Since 1972 these amounds desappeared from the Hopi lands, transforming the once famous scenery into a sandy desert. Springs dry up, pumping stations cease to work and are dismantled, somtimes even the village will runs out of water. The Hopi try time and again to stop the mining, but their protest and demonstrations do not have any effect.

Let’s first have a look at the origin of the Indian Tribal Councils. In 1934 president Roosevelt wanted to share the New Deal with the Indian peoples. The Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) was indeed a tremendous improvement, compared to earlier laws. However, the Indian people had to choose leaders (tribal councils), not in their own way, but by means of elections. Indian leaders were never elected before, but acknowledged by the tribe, as long as they were trusted by the people. Leadership was not based on a majority of votes, but by permission of all the tribes. Most of the Indians did not want to vote for leaders, because they already had leaders and because they did not recognize the Federal Authority. Now some Indians were forced to vote and in some cases the names of deceased Indians were put on a list of ayes. Usually the American Constitution requests a majority of 75% of the votes, to pass a bill or to elect a person. In this case a majority of 50%+1 was considered enough, until it became clear that even this amount could not be counted on. In the end the IRA became law by 15% of the votes in favour of it. Most Indian people now have two governing bodies: the ‘official’ council, acknowledged by the Federal Goverment, and the only legal conference partners of the government; and the ‘traditional’ council, acknowledged by the majortity of the population, but seen as illegal by the American government. The official council is considered to represent the entire population. The Hopi deny the authority of the official Hopi Tribal Council and declare their absolute Independence of the US because:

  • The Hopi never made war to the USA and therefore were never conquered nor defeated;
  • The Hopi have always lived under the laws of the Creator and still do so. They do not live by the Americans laws.
  • The Hopi never made any agreement with not signed a treaty with the USA, nor did they delegate any part of their sovereign power to any other political body.

So in fact the Hopi nation does not belong to the United States of America.

First The Land, Now The Rocks

The land of the Indian people were given was considered to be poor soil. it was hard to earn a living ont it by farming. Now the same lands turn out to be rich in minerals like oil, coal and uranium. Indians possess about 80% of the uranium in the US! The official tribal councils lease the land to the mining compagnies, who benefit from it. In 1975 the Indians only received 2% of the marked value of the uranium. In 1978 the price of uranium was doubled, but the Indians only received 1% of the marked value because their share had been fixed for ever. The Bureau of Indian Affairs keeps the Indian shares low to ease the exploitation of uranium on Indian land. (The BIA is part of the Ministry of Home Affairs and can be seen as the superior of the tribal councils). The most important uranium production areas lie in the southwest of the USA, in the Four Corners Area, wich consist of parts of the states of New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and Utah. The uranium is mined and processed on the lands of Navaho and Pueblo Indians and of Ute Mountain Indians. Uranium mining on Navaho land started in the fifties at the instigation of the Atomic Energy Commision. Kerr McGee was one of the exploiters of uranium, but left the area in the early seventies, when uranium mining did not pay anymore. They also left a pile of radioactive waste about 1.7 million tons, plus some extremely ill miners. The miners had worked in unventilated mine shafts an no one had informed them about the risks. Though Kerr McGee and the AEC know that radon gas in mines could lung cancer, the most simple protective measures were omitted. (Wearing mouth protection, changing clothes, showers). The compagny took no responsibility at all and refused medical care. Indian people worked in the mines because of the extremely high amount of unemployment (among the comparatively rich Navaho people 30%, up to 90% in the Lakota reservate Pine Ridge, also a uranium mining area) and because they were not aware of the dangers. And they were welcomed by the companies because they were not organized in labour unions. Unions would expect higher wages and better conditions of emplyment.

Uranium mining in Navaho country demands enormous quantities of water. The Churchrock mines used an average of 17,000 liters of water each minute, or almost 9 billion liters a year, during eight years. And the mining forms a serious menace to the quality of the remaining water. The uranium ore is crushed in special factories. In another factory the so-called ‘yellow cakes’ of concentrated uranium are made out of this powder, although it contains no more than 0.13% (or even 0.0025%) of uranium. The amount of waste is practically as high as the amount of ore, and contains about 80-85% of the radioactive of the ore. At first the tailings, as this waste is called, were piled next to the factories. The fine sand could be blown away by the wind and flow away with the water. Radon gas got away easily from the waste. If this material is liberated in nature, it seldom causes any trouble, because by the time it gets away from the rock in which was locked up, it has fallen apart. However if the ore comes to the surface, the libirated radon gas can cause lung cancer, bone cancer, cancer of the glands and all kinds of affections of the bronchial tubes.

Once it was realised what the risks were, one started to search for better ways of storage. No safe method was has been found up to now. One way of storage is dumping the waste again into the mines or pits, another is to store it in water basins, surrounded by earthen walls. On July 16th, 1979, one of the earthen walls of such a basin near Churchrock, Navaho Nation/New Mexico burst. Over 400 million liters of water with 1100 tons of tailings flew into Rio Puerco, in which hundreds of Navaho used to water their cattle. High concentrations of thorium and radium, and of diverse, some poisonous heavy metals were measured. the Navahoes are no longer allowed to slaughter and sell their cattle, which means they are bereft of their sole means of subistence. They are not allowed to use their wells any more and need to buy water. They can not, for they have no more income. Of the 1000 babies born in the Navaho area in 1980, about 50 were deformed at birth. The United Nuclear Corporation knew of weaknesses in the earthen wall, two years before this accident took place. This accident was worse than the one in Harrisburg, also in 1979, but many others took place since 1952. The quantities of waste from the pulverizing factories amount to 115 millions tons (in the USA, 1980). Add the nuclear fuel (and weapons) production to realize the magnitude of the problem. This is only the physical part of the story. Because of the decrease in the price of ‘yellow cake’ almost all uranium mines and factories have been closed. Apart from the positive aspects of these developments, 5000 miners are fired and are now jobless. They may get radiation sickness and they do not get any support from the compagnies or the government.

“I feel that the earth has a great power and spirit, like we have”, says Ernest Thompson, a traditional Navaho. “The function of the earth was from the start also takes cares of the people, but in answer to that we humans are to treat the earth with respect. By gaining uranium the outsiders take a direct hold of the heart of the earth. They disturb the balance of earth, by blowing up, digging up and removing what lies under the earth. The result will be very serious to all of us”. The destruction of the land and the exhaustions and contamination of wells and water courses signify the end of many of the natural sacred sites where the Navaho come to pray and to have ceremonies; the end of many of the plants needed for religious, ceremonial and medicinal use ant the end of the grazing areas for cattle. Lots of sheep, culturaly and economically of vital imortance to the Navaho, have died or are affected by the drinking of contaminated water from polluted springs. Another Navaho, Han na bah Charley, says: “It is an insult to our religious convention; it is a denial of the values of our religion; it cause spirital forces of the natural world to stand up against us and it diminshes the supply of resources we could fall back upon for help and protection. It is as if we would destroy the churches, bibles, altars and sacred sites and objects of the religion of the white people”.

Indian Resistance

In the Navaho nation opponents of uranium exploitation have set up an organization: the Amercican Indian Environmental Council. Together with the American Indian Movement and several (including white) environment al and anti nukes groups they campaign agains the big energy companies against the sacrifice of the Indian lands to the supposed needs of energy of the white American population. (It is illustrative indeed that the uranium production areas in the USA are called ‘National Sacrifice Areas’). Mr. Freeman, former head of the biggest American electricity suply works, the Tennessee Valley Authority, introduced electricity saving technology, instead of nuclear power. Economically this is the best solution to the energy problem, he said at a congress in Holland (Milieudefensie, dec. 1986, p. 32). The Black Mesa is situated in a part of Arizona that is known as the Joint Use Area (JUA). Both Hopi and Navaho live there, although the area was alloted to Hopi people on in 1882. Even before the minerals were discovered, the Indian Claims Commision tried to return the proprietary rights of the territory to the Hopi people. (The Navaho reservate is much larger and surrounds the Hopi district. Both people live together in peace). In 1951 a ransom of $ 5,000,000 was laid down in court. The US government should pay this amount for the areas the Indians had ceded. In the seventies both Hopi and Navaho benefitted from the revenues of the mining activities. The official Hopi Tribal Council wanted to gain all the money for their own people. First they tried to get rid of the Navaho by telling te Senate in Washington the Hopi people had a shortage of land for their cattle, because of the expansion of the Navaho at the expense of the Hopi. Although Hopi traditionals an all Navaho people protested against it, the Public Law 93-531 was introduced and ratified. This law devides the JUA in a Navaho and a Hopi part. Over 8000 Navaho people will have to move and, because no more land is available for cattle breeding, give up their way of life and go to live in cities. Most of them don’t speak English. They are not used to living in modern society and they do not want to. The Hopi Tribal Council wanted to obtain the ransom. In 1976 the US gonvernment agreed to pay the old amount and the Tribal Council accepted this offer, but first the Hopi population had to vote on it. This time the majority of the Hopi people planned to go to the poll, to prevent te renuncation of their property, their land. The election was called on a (holy) day when the traditional Hopi were to perform certain ceremonies. They asked to choose another date for the election, but the answer of the Tribal Council was that this was not possible and they’d better delay the ceremonies. Out of 5000 enfranchised people, only 248 attended the elections. 229 voted in favour of the renuncation. The Tribal Council considered this to be a clear majority. Three days after the election 1000 signatures of opposition were presented, but the Tribal Council did not accept the petition. The public in the USA and elsewhere objected to the Re-establishment Act (Public Law 93-531), therefore an amendment was added, stating that the people over 60 years of age were allowed to stay in the Joint Use Area; without their younger relatives.

What is interesting, is that the present developments were predicted in the Hopi religious myths. When the Hopi people had finished their wanderings and returned to their promised land, the Great Spirit Maasauu gave them more instructions. With his breath he made an inscription in a rock. He spoke:”These are your instructions, these are the guidelines for a right and pure way of life. It is a prophecy at the same time, a warning against the events which will happen from this moment on. This inscription will henceforth be known as Dangave, the plan of life”. Then Maasauu explained what the lines meant. For example: “people from another race will come and claim Hopi land for themselves. This race will have a ‘sweet’ or ‘split’ tongue and have many good things, that will bring you in temptation. They will come under the sign of a circle or a cross. When these signs are made visible, be extremely cautious”.

The First and Second World War were predicted and also the third and last destrution. This one will come from the inside and will have to do with people in red. Tidal waves will flood the land and fire will descend. The world will be destroyed by fire. Only the faithful ones will be saved. The oral traditions of the Hopi tell of the phenomena which mark the end of time. Telephone wires and the atomic bomb were predicted, and it was said: “once people in their insatiable desire for self glorification and gain will even reach to the moon and take something from it back to the earth”. Women will wear men’s clothes. Even the leaders will be confused and deceitful in that time. It will be difficult to decide to follow which leader”. Palulukon, the great watersnake of the south, reigns over all lequids: water, rain and blood. He appears of ten in the predictions. “When the day of purification is near Palulukon will become restless, because the interference of humans will have become so strong as to pollute the water. Therefore Palulukon will stretch himself more often or beat with his tail, so that the earth will tremble like a Hopi rattle”. In fact the earthquake has had an alarming high frequency during the last years.

The Pahana

The Hopi people believe they were stationed in their part of the earth to take care of the land by performing their ceremonial obligations, like other races were stationed elsewhere to accomplish their task in another way. They believed we need to keep the earth in balance, together, so that the earth will keep her course. The Hopi people are not alone. When they just lived en the fourth world, one very wise and learned leader had two grownup sons, the older one have a skin a bit lighter than his younger brother. The older brother crossed the ocean, towards the rising sun, to settle down. Meanwhile he had to listen carefully, because as soon as he heard his younger brother’s voice, he would have to hurry back. The changing way of life, coming from the race with the forked tongue would threaten to destroy his people. The Hopi, and together with them all of humanity, will undoubtedly disappear from the earth, unless the older brother returns. He is called Pahana, the One From Over the Big Water, or Lost White Brother. His symbol is a circle divided into four quarters, with a small dot in each quarter. The circle symbolizes the perfection of everything and the lifecycle of all that is created. The cross in the circle signifies the four quarters of the wind, while the four dots or little crosses mean the four races that live on the continents. Together they have to maintain the world in a balanced and harmonious movement.

Now the world seems to be out of balance, evidence is found in the destruction of our natural invironment and in the way people treat each other. The Hopi have come to the conclusion the European civilisation caused the lack of balance of the Earth. In Africa and Asia, and in the Americas are, they believe, still people living under the universal laws of the Creator. However, there have to be remaindersof the real values of life in Europe too. The Hopi pray daily towards the rising sun, to awaken the Pahana. And they ask directly for help from Europe. The Pahana symbol can be found in Egypt, Greece and Rome, in the Celtic and Frisian culture, and also the Vikings and the peoples on the Asian steppes knew and know this symbol, as well as the German and Dutch people. This all together points to the old knowledge which was lost, a forgotten promise. That is why the Pahana has to wake up, why lost knowledge needs to be rediscovered again. And because the problems of the Hopi are our problems too. In the words of the Haudenosaunee, an alliance of six Iroquois people: “The people that live on this planet, have to abandon the narrow idea of human freedom and have to start realising that freedom is something which includes all the natural world. What is necessary is the liberation of everything what makes life possible: the air, the water, the trees, all those things that enable the holy webb of life to exist”. Therefore let us form the Nakwách: the symbol of hands fitted into one another, the symbol of fraternity.

This article was compiled from three Dutch booklets published by the NANAI foundation: the Dutch Action Group North-American Indians, in Rotterdam.