Flagstaff, AZ – Runners in neon yellow t-shirts pounded past the Hopi Health Care center last Thursday afternoon, the first day of their marathon journey. Dozens of onlookers cheered them on.
SFX: honking, men saying kwa kwai, beginning of applause, ambulance ambi
Nathaniel Quotsyma barked out support from behind the wheel of an ambulance. The emergency medical technician known as Wings says he was thanking the runners for their effort.
AX: 2:30 I was just encouraging them, to carry the message from Hopi for the whole world and let them see that water is very important without water life can't be
That, in a nutshell, is the message the runners are carrying to Mexico City. Rueben Suefkie, from the village of Shongopavi on 2nd Mesa, organized the run.
1:30 our simple message is that I hope we touch the hearts of the 4th world water forum's leaders. And also the people, that how water is sacred, and should not be privatized, and looked at only as a commodity, and should not be controlled.
Suefkie is a member of Black Mesa Trust, the grassroots group formed eight years ago to advocate for an end to the use of groundwater to transport coal from Black Mesa to the Mohave Generating Station. With his young children clinging to his legs, Saufkie says now that the plant has shut down, his goals for this run are broader.
AX: It's for my children that I'm doing this also, and my grandchildren that are coming also, for the future, because without water we won't survive, it's simply put, but there's nothing simple about it
Hopis traditionally have carried important messages through running. The Pueblo Revolt of 1680 was secretly organized through runners. Many of these 25 runners have also run from Taos Pueblo in New Mexico to Hopi to commemorate the revolt.
SFX: Walpi sound
Later in the day Thursday, a group of runners made the grueling 600 foot climb to the ancient village of Walpi, perched on the western edge on First Mesa. They were welcomed by a religious leader. The lead runner wore a small gourd of water around his neck, and carried an ear of corn and a planting stick.
which were the basic three elements that were given to us when we entered this fourth world, which the creator ___ gave to us and told our ancestors that I am a farmer here taking care of the land
Ruben Seufkie, along with several other participants, are accomplished distance runners but they won't be setting any records en route to Mexico City. They're splitting up the run into quarter mile increments so a wide range of runners can participate. Runners like 12 year old Kristine Somatskaku, who's getting tutored along the way so she doesn't fall behind her 7th grade class.
AX: The reason I did this, for the water, because I have little sisters and nephews, it's for them, just mainly for the water.
Somatskaku has been running with her older brothers to prepare. This is her first trip outside northern Arizona. (pause) The runners are scheduled to arrive in Mexico City March 15th. They don't have an official invitation to the forum. But they hope to convey to the forum's thousands of delegates the idea that water is much more than two parts hydrogen combined with one part oxygen to the Hopi, it's a living, spiritual entity.
For Arizona Public Radio, I'm Daniel Kraker on the Hopi reservation.