Alan Gorg: Global Warming And Indigenous Wisdom

Roundup: Media's Take

[Mr. Gorg, (B.S. 1952 and M.F.A. 1970, U.C.L.A.), is a teacher/writer/producer/director/actor.]

American history taught in our schools and colleges omits the one American society with the most outstanding record of peaceful coexistence ever in human history. The name Hopi means “Peaceful People” because long before the Dalai Lama or Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi, long before the European invasion, they lived in peace for a thousand years on the high desert of what is now northern Arizona.  No other society since the rise of agriculture has ever enjoyed anything near a millennium of peace— certainly not the Aztecs or Mayans or the constantly warring nations of Europe, Asia, and Africa which are currently the subjects of history education. 

Yet during my decades of schooling and years of history classes in Los Angeles City Schools, Los Angeles City College, Santa Monica College, UCLA, Stanford, UC Berkeley, and USC, I never heard mention of the Hopi.  Perhaps like with TV and newspaper journalism, war is news and war is history, and peace is no news and no history.  But following the history of the Hopi and their ancient prophecy could serve as a spiritual example for a simple life which may be the only way to control the present danger global warming and save human society.

Similarly, the accuracy of Hopi prophecy is unmatched by any other prophecy.  There are many Doomsday predictions based on moral and spiritual failings, but the Hopi prophecy is directed specifically against mining and drilling into the Earth. Their oral history tells of a time prior to that thousand years of peace, an ancient time when their ancestors chose their simple life while other kindred peoples were drawn to develop societies more rich with industry and material wealth.  The histories of the Aztecs and Incas show a fascination with gold mining and display which attracted quick conquest by the Spanish, and now comes modern science recognizing the danger of global warming from carbon dug and drilled from the ground, a perfect manifestation of the aboriginal warning. 

People are concerned about global warming and the environment, but few are pushed to seriously change their lives because the worst effects will be felt gradually and over a period of decades. But there are others who are in fact suffering and dying right now from the development of global warming.             

My wife and I were founding members of the Committee for Traditional Indian Land and Life (T.I.I.L.), which through the 1960’s and 1970’s supported traditional causes, primarily in the courts. Protests by the Hopi and Dineh drew our attention to Black Mesa in northern Arizona on those same reservation lands where in prior years many had died from the carcinogenic effects of uranium mining.  The Committee used the slogan TECHQUA IKACHI, Hopi for “Land and Life.”

The resistance by Hopi and Dine’ traditionals continues to this day. One center for this widespread local opposition has been the traditional Hopi village of Hotevilla, founded in 1906 after a clash between Hopi traditionals and those "progressives" who had decided to give up their traditions, convert to Christianity, and seek the material benefits of Western technology and industry. The traditionals were purged out of the ancient village of Oraibi into the desert wilderness in the cold and snow of winter and founded their own new village of Hotevilla.  

In 1969 the federal government brought in contractors to provide the first electric power to the village of Hotevilla. Power poles were trucked in, and heavy equipment arrived to clear the way for the installation. At this point a group of Hopi elders arrived on the scene to block the work. Those old men lay down in the path of the bulldozers, ready to sacrifice their lives if necessary to prevent electric power from coming to their village. One ninety-year-old man was injured and did not survive long after.

This scene of confrontation was the proverbial moment of truth for those of us from the civil rights movement.  To capitalist and socialist alike, belief in the value of material progress had always been fundamental.  Why would anyone resist progress? How could anyone criticize progress?

The Hopi elders were concerned over the price to be paid.  In the traditional economy there was no money because it was not needed. How were the Hopi to get money? There are few jobs on the reservation other than working for the government or working for corporations extracting coal, oil, and uranium out of the land. The only source of money for many is to go on welfare.

  There would also be a price more costly than money. 

Like many indigenous peoples, the traditional Hopi share a widespread belief and prophecy that taking oil and minerals is a transgression on Mother Earth and will bring disaster.  Modern evidence supporting this belief can be found in the toxicity at all mining sites everywhere and in the new specter of a potential Doomsday from the continued dominance of coal as our principal energy source.  Hopi prophecy, like scriptural prophecies, foretells doom for those who forsake the right way of life, but the Hopi and Dineh prophecies are very specific in describing mining and drilling as the sources of the coming catastrophe, and this focus is proving accurate with the rise of the specter of global warming.

In those days when we were traveling to Hotevilla to help the traditional Hopi elders, I was a film student at U.C.L.A., and I was inspired to begin work on a documentary about the Hopi.  Their political philosophy of consensus and their harmony with nature as farmers opened up my head.  The elders asked for a film about the prophecy.

During that period we shot our short AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A HOPI, presenting the life and philosophy of a traditional. This black-and-white 16mm documentary was a finalist in the National Short Film Competition and was also selected for Best of Filmex at the Los Angeles International Film Exposition in 1980.

Reservation government police prevented us from continuing to film there, so we developed a docudrama to present the aboriginal prophecy about the land. On our way, we learned the Arizona conflict was but one aspect of a worldwide epidemic of appropriation and exploitation of lands of indigenous peoples for mining and oil, including many other locations in the U.S.A.  Among sites of recent protest demonstrations are Arizona, Nevada, California, Utah, Florida, the Dakotas, Alaska, Canada, Burma, Columbia,, Indonesia, Tibet, the Arctic, Mexico, Madagascar, the Philippines, Russia, Chile, Brazil, Guatemala, Australia, Thailand, India, and thousands of demonstrations in China. Many others are not reported. Civil war over oil has broken out in Sudan, Nigeria, and Pakistan, mass murder in Ethiopia. More than five million have been killed in the Congo in civil wars over mining. There is no organizational link between these peoples. What they have in common is their suffering the despoiling of their lands for the profit of others.

  Almost forty years after that demonstration in Hotevilla, the 43-minute documentary/and docudrama film TECHQUA IKACHI: ABORIGINAL WARNING has been finished, aimed at schools and colleges, and dedicated to now-deceased Hopi elders James Kots, Helen Kots, David Monongye, Nora Monongye, Thomas Banyacya, Carolyn Tawangyama, Ralph Tawangyama, and Dan Katchongva.

TECHQUA IKACHI won the Neptune Award at the Moondance International Film Festival and has been honored at the Columbus and Chashama International Film Festivals here in the United States and at other international film festivals in China, India, Canada, Korea, and Latin America.

The DVD of TECHQUA IKACHI—and a supporting CD of study materials with production notes and scientific and news reports concerning the dangers as well as the worldwide conflicts arising from mining and drilling—are available through www.venicevisionarymedia.net/techquaikachi.html. The film’s trailer and background may be viewed there.

Our purpose with the film is to push the issue into consciousness. A change in human society significant enough to stop global warming would help all people, but would require reductions in manufacturing and consumption almost nobody is presently willing to undertake.  So we remain on track to fulfill the prophecy. 

In America and the other industrialized nations, we need to focus beyond our own energy and environmental problems and consider also the sufferings of others—and not only in the Middle East. Higher gas prices, more smog and pollution, the threat of global warming, and the many wars ongoing make the production of oil a personal concern for all of us. We worry over the danger of accidents and radioactive contamination from nuclear energy. What few think about or even recognize, native peoples around the world are suffering impoverishment, even sickness and death, from exploitation and pollution of their lands by oil and mining interests, but the prophecy and now science both indicate that ultimately everyone will go down together.

The Hopi elders requested a film be made about the prophecy. The elders risked their lives to block the bulldozers, as in our film. Those elders are gone now, yet the protest demonstrations at Black Mesa by the Hopi and Dineh community groups have not only continued, the conflict there has grown and expanded. Similar conflicts worldwide continue and worsen. A long list of urls for news reports is on our website.

The Hopi people knew how to be civil to others long before modern so-called civilization, which brought money and modern things but no peace and little civility. The Hopi had lived their quiet life in a difficult desert for many centuries in peace, but now the lust for energy and minerals leaves them and many other indigenous peoples around little chance for peace.  

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