Wisdom of the Ancestors

A Hopi leader fought a lonely battle to stop a mining company from stealing water that helped build Phoenix. He succeeded. Finally

Masayesva maintains that closing the power plant also opens the door to a tremendous opportunity for the Hopi to transform its reservation into an economic powerhouse based on renewable energy. He's already helped establish the Colorado Plateau Clean Energy Initiative that is seeking to develop clean energy sources, including wind farms, solar and coal gasification.

The Black Mesa Trust is working with Phoenix-based Stirling Energy Systems to design and build two 500-megawatt solar-electric-generating stations on the Hopi and Navajo reservations.

Earlier this year, Stirling signed contracts to build two separate solar-generating stations of similar size with Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric Company. The Hopi/Navajo plants would cost about $1.6 billion, take two to four years to build and employ between 500 and 1,000 workers during construction.

Former Hopi tribal chairman Vernon Masayesva
Former Hopi tribal chairman Vernon Masayesva

While dark days still loom in the immediate future on Black Mesa with the imminent closure of the mine, it appears that the future for the Hopi is exceedingly bright, thanks to the vision of Vernon Masayesva.

"I have done my best," he told me. "I have accomplished what I set out to accomplish, which was to stop [groundwater] pumping."

In the early years of this epic struggle, Masayesva walked alone. One man versus the world's largest coal company. Now, miraculously, victory is at hand.

"There are lessons to be learned that I would like to share with the outside world," Masayesva said. "Never doubt the power and wisdom of our ancestors. That is how we made the difference with Peabody."

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