In 2021, members of the 12 independent self-governing Hopi villages, in collaboration with the NGO Black Mesa Trust, produced the ‘Proclamation to Preserve and Protect Sípàapu’, in which it states that both human and non-human beings have a right to Life.
The proclamation states:
“we, the Hopi people, believe Water is Life, all earthly beings; human, birds, insects, reptiles, trees and plants, animal life have a right to Life and each have a unique role in taking care of Mother Earth and is not a personal commodity”
The proclamation also states:
“European mindset treats sacred waters as a commodity, which has no beneficial value unless it can be trapped, put to beneficial use, one of which is to make money”
“water laws and water codes have been enacted based on western concept of water that water is a personal commodity protected by property rights laws”
While the Proclamation addresses this rights of “all earthly beings”; ultimately, the purpose of this Proclamation is to address injustices to Hopi water rights by the Arizona state and U.S. federal governments, and to protect Sípàapu, the holiest of Hopi sacred place. As such, the focus of the proclamation is the right to religious liberty and self-governance to Hopi and Tewa Villages. Therefore, in recognition of Hopi worldview, and that Sípàapu is central to Hopi religious beliefs and practices, the proclamation mandates the U.S. government to “designate Sípàapu as a traditional cultural place under the National Historic Preservation Act with a management and monitoring program.”
Vernon Masayesva, Former Chairman of the Hopi Tribe and the Founder and Director of Black Mesa Trust, explains that Black Mesa Trust was founded by the Hopi people in 1999 “out of concern for the depleting water supply and its long range implications for the health and viability of the Black Mesa ecosystem and native people.” Its mission is to “safeguard, preserve and honor the sacred land, culture and water of the Hopi People” and to “work toward creating a region where generations of Hopi and Dineh people can live and thrive in harmony with all of nature.” Sípàapu (what is now known as the Colorado Plateau) is home to 22 different tribal groups who consider it one of the holiest places on Earth and the heart of Mother Earth, or Tuwanasavi (Center of the Universe). Vernon Masayesva explains that overuse of water from the Little Colorado River Basin by non-Indians, corporations, towns and cities, and the State and Federal Governments is causing the sacred waters of Sípàapu to dry up, such that “The heartbeat is weakening. Water no longer comes in and out of the mound. It is dying.” (‘About Black Mesa Trust’).
On April 28, 2022, Hopi runners began a “Water Run” from Hopi to the State legislature in Pheonix Arizona, carrying a proclamation that calls upon lawmakers to pass a water law to protect the Little Colorado River’s ecological system, their sacred Sípàapu. The run was an effort to call attention to the threats facing their Lower Colorado River and their sacred site. On May 2nd, Black Mesa Trust (Vernon Masayesva, Beky Masayesva, and VaLaura Nasonhoya) and state Representative Jasmine Nygren introduced the “Water is Life” Legislative Proclamation, which was read into record at the Arizona State House of Representatives with a call to action to be considered by the full AZ State Legislature. This version of a proclamation to protect the Colorado River and its tributaries does not seek ecological jurisprudence nor does expressly address ecological jurisprudence principles (as in the ‘Proclamation to Preserve and Protect Sípàapu’); rather, the proclamation presented in the state legislature describes Water as “the interconnection among all living beings” and that Water “flows between us, within us” while pointing to Indigenous peoples role in preserving and protecting land and water systems for sustainable future for all communities.
As of May 2022, Black Mesa Trust says it is working on a bill to protect sacred Hopi land, water, cultural and historical sites for future generations.