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Hopi Village Breaking Ground for New Prosperity

The concept of planned development has been in place in Sipaulovi for more than 30 years; the ideal location of houses, fields, ceremonial buildings, and public gathering places was laid out to maximize land use on Second Mesa. Planned commercial development, in Sipaulovi, or anywhere in Hopi, is a more recent idea, but a much needed one. Unemployment rates on the reservation have been reported as high as 80 percent and as low as 50 percent – depending upon the source – although the term “low” is, of course, relative. Of those who do work, about 45 percent are employed by the federal or tribal governments. The remainder work in a variety of areas, including cattle production, arts and crafts shops, or at the few restaurants, service stations, and other small private-sector enterprises located on, or near the reservation. A primary source of revenue is the coal located on Hopi lands.

A new development planned by Sipaulovi Development Corporation could change that. Concerned about the economic outlook for its future, and especially for its young people, the village plans to break ground on a 15-acre marketplace in 2012. Upon completion, the commercial development will include a restaurant, hotel, gas station, convenience store, RV park, commercial office space, and a museum devoted to presenting the story of Sipaulovi Village and its history.

Located on Second Mesa, Sipoulovi is one of the twelve villages that comprise Hopi. Founded, according to its residents, by the Sun Forehead and Bear Clans, it may be one of the most entrepreneurial villages. It is one of the few with a formally adopted policy for tourism. Sipaulovi Development Corporation, a non-profit corporation of the village government, was formed in order to facilitate tourism and other economic activity. Bonnie Secakuku is general manager of the village government. She says that the marketplace development will “help our young people continue to live on the reservation.”

Sited “just before the junction” of State Highways 87 and 264 from Winslow, the first phase of the project is slated for completion in 2013. It will include a convenience store and commercial office space available for lease to both Hopi and non-Hopi businesses. “Exercising their right as a village and tribe,” according to Secakuku, businesses will be required to give hiring preference to Hopi employees.

While groundbreaking is intended to begin next year, controversies over ownership of the land have introduced some delays. The Sipaulovi Corporation intends to apply for a federal grant to assist with infrastructure. To do that, the United States government must issue a Findings of No Significant Impact (FONSI). That will happen when an environmental analysis and review are complete. But, the two other villages on Second Mesa, Mishongnovi and Shungopavi, “are throwing monkey wrenches in,” according to Secakuku, by laying claims to the land that have had an impact on the FONSI process. Another monkey wrench is that the current plans for the project are over two years old. The original plans were drafted with the help of Drachman Institute, a research and public service unit of the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at The University of Arizona. In order to begin construction, said Secakaku, “we will need to find someone to put together new plans.”

Despite these setbacks, Secakuku is optimistic that the project will go forward, as planned, in 2012. “One goal of the corporation,” she said, “ is to preserve and protect us as a village.” Providing economic opportunities for young people is a big part of that.

As for the success of the endeavor, Secakuku is equally enthusiastic. She expects that it will become a popular destination for travelers. “Location, location, location,” she said. FBN

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