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! 

3 straw bale home projects
3 community ovens restored
10,000 clouds

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