For thousands of years the Hopi tribe has been fostering resilience in their homelands of Northern Arizona. They are considered “the world’s best dry farmers” and have subsisted using agricultural conservation techniques that predate western science. Time-honed agricultural practices of the Hopi have naturally cultivated over forty unique corn varieties that are well-suited to harsh semi-arid environments. These drought resistant varieties are able to produce abundant harvests without external inputs even when rainfall is minimal. This segment of INHABITANTS provides a unique look into what makes Hopi farming truly “sustainable” and how taking an indigenous perspective can benefit future agricultural development.
Extended droughts, soil erosion, extreme heat events and dwindling water supplies are challenging food production worldwide. The adverse effects of climate change will be further compounded in the coming decades. One of the conventional western approach for coping with climate change has been to introduce Genetically Modified (GM) crops containing genetic material that has been artificially altered. Widespread use of GM pest resistant crops exacerbates environmental challenges by negatively impacting biodiversity, including insect herbivores and natural enemies, and soil microbiota.
“We have been planting our crops in a similar fashion for over 2,000 years. With the Hopi, corn is raised to fit the environment; unlike GMO based corn, which tries to make the environment fit the corn” - Dr. Michael Kotutwa Johnson
Documentation of sacred Hopi field preparation, planting, harvesting and eventual use will take place with traditional Hopi Farmer Michael Kotutwa Johnson. Michael will focus on the agricultural conservation techniques of his ancestors and current his work devoted to preserving these sacred traditions. Filming the sacred corn ceremonies will involve traveling to Hopi in April and October 2019. Michael shows how the indigenous breeding of seed genetics passed down for generations plays a crucial role for a sustainable future in North America.