FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Despite its significance in Hopi culture, the Village of Oraibi, the unofficial capital and historic heart of the Hopi Nation, which is believed to be the oldest continually inhabited community (since 1150 AD) in North America, lacks access to running water to this day.
The village sits on a dusty mesa high above the desert floor, two hour northeast of Flagstaff. Today, entry is blocked by a manned security post and signs admonishing potential visitors not to enter. COVID-19 has shut down both the Hopi and surrounding Navajo Nation, which has a rate of infections higher than any state in the country.
To get water, residents must drive five miles to the nearest regulated source and haul it themselves or rely on water trucked in by the Hopi Tribe. Others acquire water from the thousands of unregulated wells across the region, which are tainted by bacteria, the after effects of uranium mining and high levels of arsenic.
Adequate sanitation and access to clean water have proven to be two of the fundamental factors affecting the spread of the coronavirus, access, which many homes on the Hopi and Navajo reservations do not have. One in three homes lack indoor plumbing. And with multiple generations often living under the same roof and sharing water resources, the situation is dire.
Red Feather Development Group, a non-profit created in 1995 to address the quality of living across Indian country already partners with the Hopi and Navajo nations to develop sustainable solutions to the housing needs within their communities, implementing programs that address home weatherization and repair, clean heating solutions and health housing demonstration workshops.
With the spread of COVID-19 on the Hopi and Navajo nations, Red Feather expanded its efforts to address and provide sanitary water solutions to families without running water in their homes.