The Hopi nation perches on three rocky, arid Arizona mesas, 5,700 feet in the air. Of its 12 villages, Old Oraibi, founded between 1050 and 1150, is believed to be the oldest, continuously inhabited community in the U.S. Many things are in short supply on the Hopi’s 2,439 square miles of high desert, especially water and housing.
Over a four-year period, In Good Company volunteers had the rare opportunity to experience the Hopi concept of na’ya, which means "the coming together of people to work toward one goal." We partnered with Red Feather Development Group and hammered and plastered alongside the Nachie, Adams, and Sekayumptewa families to help build three straw-bale homes. It takes a community to erect the wooden tresses and heft more than 600 straw bales into place, but the resulting homes are energy efficient, fire retardant, nontoxic, cool in summer, and warm in winter. We also joined up with the nonprofit Kii’ Nat Wan Lalwa (KNWL) to help preserve ancestral stone homes in Hotevilla and Mishongnovi, and worked alongside KNWL to mix sand, clay, and water into a slurry to re-mud homes and community ovens by hand, Hopi style.
After a long day, volunteers shared meals in an open-air tent, showered with solar-heated water, and camped under the stars on the Hopi mesa. We also met renowned local artisans, visited sacred archeological sites, attended Hopi dances, and tasted traditional delicacies like piki bread. And we left with a new admiration for corn—not just food, but an essential part of daily and ceremonial life—and for Hopi dry farming, which enables tiny corn sprouts to flourish even on the parched, windblown mesas. We saw why the Hopi say water is life, and learned to give thanks Hopi-style: Askwali!
“The Red Feather build works on a system that is a tradition in Hopi. When a person is doing something, a project, the rest of the community will pitch in to help. We say yonta, that means, if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch your back.”
“In Good Company’s partnership with nonprofits and community groups is a shining example of how values-driven companies and their employees can help advance positive change in the world. Their passion to help and strong work ethic not only helped advance our immediate project needs, but has also led to long-term relationships that have helped Red Feather continue to expand our mission and impact.”
Impact/In Good Company Volunteers
“There were so many rewarding moments, it’s hard to say. If I get down to one, it’s witnessing the family place the first bale in the wall. It was like a moment that chokes you up.”
“Pivotal moments? The rare chance to share a meal and learn about Hopi culture face-to-face—with Hubert (Hopi marriage and beliefs), Lee (dry farming and his art) and Susan (her aspirations and entrepreneurship). Also, to sit and watch one of the young artists who came to our camp site, Otis, as he sketched. We talked about school, the up-and-coming Snake dance on 2nd Mesa which he'd fasted and practiced for, and his plans for the future. What blew my mind was that he ran after our Suburban, as we pulled out of the drive way, and gifted me the sketch he'd perfectly done.”
“I have thought of the trip and everyone involved every day since I have come back to my life.”