Working Together for Good Health

In northeastern Arizona, Hopi people in the village of Kykotsmovi are renewing their connection to the land through “permaculture.” It’s a return to traditional farming and ecological wisdom that engages numerous generations through three principles:

  • Care of the earth
  • Care of the people
  • Share the surplus

Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture (HTP), a nonprofit organization, grew from a small youth project to a community wide effort that provides people with training and education to develop healthy strategies for strengthening food security. Since 2004, the organization has hosted workshops for community members to share, learn, replant fruit orchards, build family gardens and develop composting systems. On a single day in 2009, more than 200 Hopi children, teenagers, parents, grandparents and school administrators planted more than 100 trees at a local high school.  

“We’re creating leaders within our own community,” says Lilian Hill, founder of HTP. “Success is defined by being engaged in our community, being able to give back and contribute to being a healthy, strong, viable community while creating opportunities and teaching young people skills for success.”

Hopi people have long lived as peaceful and humble farmers, who have subsisted on a diet of corn, beans, squash, melons, pumpkins, heirloom fruits and medicinal plant foods. Like other Native communities, the health and wellness of its people depends on an intimate knowledge of homeland and relationship with the spiritual forces of nature. Their lives revolve around the cultivation, care and collection of seeds, fruits, roots, greens, berries and plants and trees that provide shelter, heat and comfort.

HTP has earned widespread support for its work from community and tribal leaders. It focuses on future generations through projects that engage youth, connecting them with place, family, culture and subsistence:

  • Youth in Sustainability Leadership Project: a four-month summer program that gives youth hands-on experiences in traditional farming, arts and culture. For youth ages 12-18, it focuses on community service, food justice and permaculture.
  • Hopi Permaculture Apprenticeship Program: an eight-week intensive training program designed for young adults, ages 18-30. It focuses on leadership development skills and most participants become youth mentors and teach permaculture workshops.
  • Other projects include working with schools to plant gardens and orchards, develop nutrition education and create places where children can learn.

(Excerpts taken from Permaculture Helps Us Remember Who We Are, by Lilian Hill, for Yes! Magazine.) Read more about engaging youth here