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Earth Notes

Earth Notes - Hopi Footprints

Planting corn on the Hopi reservation - a community service project through Hopi Footprints.

Flagstaff, AZ – Earth Notes: Hopi Footprints

For as long as there have been Hopi people, Hopi youth have been learning about their history, customs, and culture from Hopi elders. But as modern technology and economic pressures have proliferated in recent decades, passing stories on in traditional ways has become more difficult.

The Hopi Footprints project is an educational effort aimed at harnessing the power of technology to reverse that decline. Started in 2003 as a curriculum guide on Hopi culture for elementary schools, the program became an intergenerational project designed to preserve Hopi traditions, language, and culture.

Throughout the multi-year program, Hopi youths left the classroom and literally traced paths followed by their ancestors. Archaeologists and tribal elders shared the history and culture of culturally significant places like Mesa Verde, Homolovi State Park, Chaco Canyon, and Navajo National Monument.

At these sites, and an annual San Juan River trip, Hopi elders taught young people what it means to be a Hopi through traditional stories and songs.

The youth gave back to their communities by completing service projects, such as planting new crops. They also documented their experiences through a recent exhibit at the Museum of Northern Arizona and through four movies that present youth perspectives on Hopi culture.

According to Northern Arizona University anthropologist George Gumerman, a follow-on project will expand on the success of Hopi Footprints and will include five or six tribes. Native American food and healthy living will be one focus of this new digital storytelling project.

-Cecile LeBlanc