Water is the source of life; we have fought over it, prayed for it, and even drowned ourselves in it. Man has manipulated water ever since he has been on Earth. Whether people used water to irrigate in the Fertile Crescent, diverted it to make pyramids, praying to Gods, or dammed it up. Our group of ten students got to witness two different cultures tying to manipulate water. We witnessed the Hopi tradition of the Kachina Dance and the 700 foot wall of concrete the American government has erected to irrigate the West. The stark difference between these two cultures was truly amazing!
We stayed on the Hopi Reservation with a great family who invited us to come see a Kachina Dance in a local village. When we first entered the village we could hear a low rumble coming from the middle of town. We soon climbed a ladder to get on top of a house and soon saw about 100 men dressed in masks, shaking rattles, bells on their right legs, and fox and coyote hides hanging off their backside. They were singing to the Gods for rain to come and fall on their fields and help grow their yield of crops. While singing, people of the village threw corn meal on the singers, blessing them. There were two men in the middle who were dressed lavishly and danced to the music. They were dancing for rain and sending up the message to the Gods. There were also women rubbing sheep scapulas over a ribbed log onto a gourd. All the gourds had some type of pictures of water or water animals. Coming from our culture it was intriguing to see how heavily the Hopi’s relied on the Gods to support them with rainfall and provide them with their sustenance.
After seeing the Kachina Dance we soon departed for the famous Glen Canyon Dam. The dam is a feat of human ingenuity, standing 700 feet tall. It was crazy to stand of top of the dam and go inside of it, pondering how much water was behind it. The whole facility showed what is wrong with thinking in the West. They had a monoculture of grass and a fountain of water out front, and an air conditioned building in a place where temperatures can reach 110 degrees. It was nice, but there was no sense of urgency that water is a scarcity in the arid west. We were still using water just like we would east of the 100th meridian. It was sad to see this huge dam and knowing how many ecological effects it has on one of the grandest rivers in the world.
These two different cultures have very different ways of looking at water. The Hopi’s try to appease the Gods and sing to them, showing them gratitude and their knowledge of working Mother Earth. While Americans try to exploit water and fit it to our standard of living. Hopi’s have a deeply rooted tradition that has worked for centuries. Americans are giving new thoughts on how to deal with water, which are unforeseen if they will work or not. The difference between these two cultures is one shows gratitude to what our Mother has given us and the other takes what is there and manipulates it to the cultures needs. Which one you think is better or more sustainable is up to your own values and thoughts. I know I have my mind made up…