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The Hopi farmer championing Indigenous agricultural knowledge | Indigenous Rights

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Arizona, United States – Michael Kotutwa Johnson scans the barren landscape and wonders if he’ll get a crop this year.

It is March and the Hopi reservation, which stretches across high plateaux in northeastern Arizona, appears as a patchwork of varying shades of brown: The mesas – deep bronze in the morning sun – stand stately over beige houses and the light tans of sand-covered fields, shrubs and grasses. Dryness reigns. Within hours of arriving on the reservation, hungry winds suck the moisture from mouths, skin and eyes, leaving only grainy dust in their wake.

It is hard to imagine plants, or any life, surviving and thriving in this water-starved scene, and yet for millennia, maybe more, Hopi farmers have grown corn, beans and squash in their fields, feeding their families and keeping their communities strong and healthy.

The Hopis are one of the oldest living cultures in documented history, with a past stretching back thousands of years. This Native American tribe now lives on the 1.5 million acres (607,000 hectares) of its reservation in Arizona, which comprises only a small portion of its traditional lands. The Hopis live primarily in villages on high, arid mesas that receive less than 10 inches of rain and snow each year. But born farmers, they’ve learned how to grow crops in this unforgiving environment.

“Hopi farming is a testament to our faith,” says Johnson, a Hopi farmer with a solid frame and easy smile, who sports a Carhartt cap over his salt-and-pepper ponytail.

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