Liv Sears: It’s a Breeze

Liv Blog 2In 2005 Montana’s first wind farm, operated by Invenergy Services, took shape among the rolling hills of Judith Gap. Our group was given the opportunity to visit the farm as a quick day trip while staying in nearby Harlowton. With unloaded bikes, we traveled 13 miles north to where the ninety turbines of the Judith Gap Wind Farm rise high into the air over green meadows. Each able to produce around 1,500 kilowatts, they yield energy which is then contracted to Montana’s largest utility, Northwestern Energy. For all those in favor of finding alternative energy sources, one would hope that wind could have the ability to open many doors of opportunity for renewable energy in Montana, a way to veer far from coal. Coal has lasting effects on surrounding towns, polluting drinking water and undermining ranch land.

We made sure to get started on the road early, hopefully avoiding chances of wind; it generally isn’t blowing in the morning, but usually picks up later. Lucky for us, it played out in our favor and we had a pleasant outing, arriving just as the turbines started to turn for the day. This is in comparison to other days where we didn’t quite luck out in the same way, often facing headwinds that varied from a mild breeze to intense gusts, forcing us to lean into it to prevent from swerving into the grassy landscape that parallels the road. With our experiences, it’s hard to believe that wind wouldn’t be an efficient and abundant energy source in Montana.

Invenergy is a privately owned (and primarily renewable) energy producer with about 35 sites in the United States and even more internationally, generating energy through wind, solar, and thermal, and even trying to make progress with the battery storage obstacle. During our visit we were able to both explore the wind farm system as well as understand the center of operations that control the turbines and the energy that is produced.

Our guidance through this day came from the facilities manager, Michael, a man with experience in the wind energy production business. After a similar job elsewhere, he relocated to Montana to begin work with Invenergy. However, he expressed that this job was not taken only because it was familiar, but because he can appreciate the opportunities that develop from a rural lifestyle. While experiencing enjoyment from what Montana has to offer with recreational activities, Michael also cherishes the isolation of wide open space, the “big sky.” That, I can understand. I went into this day expecting compelling conversations and similar views in regard to the other half of our course that supports the topic of energy… climate change. But when climate change was mentioned, Michael confessed that he was not convinced. Maybe I was wrong to assume that a manager of a renewable producer would consider the effects that humans and fossil fuels have on the environment. He could admit that things are changing, but things change all the time, right? It’s a perspective we hear often from climate change skeptics.

So why was he working so hard to find success with wind energy while coal is still more reliable? As he explained, energy prices in Montana are inexpensive, and Northwestern is getting a good deal with their energy and transmission. It’s all about the economics. And that is what I realized goes for Michael too. Of course a steady income is top priority for some, so maybe it’s too idealistic to think that everyone would be motivated to pursue these projects because it is simply good. It’s hard to look past the disconnect between the motivation and the end goal. But if that motivation does happen to be money, Michael and Northwestern have found themselves an effective and inexpensive opportunity. Simply shown in data from the Public Service Commission, a board of individuals who regulate services such as energy and transportation, costs of energy production for Northwestern energy (per megawatt-hour) is less than half at Judith Gap than it is at Colstrip, the largest coal producer for the company. Not only that, but when considering the initial build, maintenance, and costs to operate the business, it is still significantly lower than coal, and continuing to decline as technologies advance.

Emma Thompson: An Eye Opening Experience

emma blog 2I’ve always been intrigued by Montana. In elementary school my family would make the trek from Austin, TX to Bozeman, MT to visit Jim Adams and his partner, Mary. Longtime friends of my dad, Jim and Mary would welcome us into their home nestled into the mountains outside of town during the blistering winter months. The memories I made there were countless. From learning how to ski on the slopes of Bridger Bowl, to finding out the hard way what happens when you scoot too far out on the ice of a not-so-frozen stream (disclaimer: you fall in and somehow don’t die of hypothermia). While experiencing the bliss of snowcapped mountains and the not so blissful feeling of a snowball getting stuffed down your pants is great, I was also introduced to an eclectic array of cuisines that expanded my palate. Some of these dishes included tender bison stew and juicy elk burgers, as well as a host of various dishes made from poultry raised by local Hutterite colonies. My dad and Jim would always rave over the quality of the meat that the Hutterite colonies produced which made them a staple of our visits. For a long time, I didn’t know much about the Hutterites, in fact, until this trip I knew very little of their history or lifestyle.

Hutterites are a religious group whose beliefs trace back to the Radical Reformation of the 16th century. Following a lifestyle based on humility and simplicity, their main trade is in the agricultural sector–farming and ranching. They also have a smattering of colonies across Montana, several of which have been along our route. On our travels we were given the opportunity to visit Springwater Colony outside of Harlowton. They have signs along the highway that boast fresh vegetables for sale, so we stopped by after a day spent touring Judith Gap Wind Farm in hopes of gathering some leafy greens for that night’s dinner. As we approached we were greeted by industrial style machinery and the strong musty smell one generally associates with livestock. Hutterites function as one economic entity, allowing them to spend the money made on top of the line farming equipment for their agricultural endeavors.

As we rode further into the colony, we came upon a school bus with a dozen young boys dressed in traditional garb clumped together. They greeted us in unison and directed us to a gentleman who kindly showed us to the produce they had for sale. After acquiring carrots, lettuce, and other fresh greens, we were offered a tour of the garden area. The young boys followed us around, giggling and joking with us. I felt some discomfort knowing that we were very untraditionally dressed in spandex and jerseys, but no one we met seemed offended or taken aback. After our tour of the gardens, another man offered to show us where they milked the cows.

By this point, we were the talk of the colony, groups of people coming to greet us, mainly men. We were invited to see the cows being mechanically milked and a gaggle of their babies that were only a few weeks old. Another Hutterite offered to send us home with a carton of eggs which we gladly accepted. Myself and my fellow bike pal, Morgan, followed the gentlemen to a building on the compound. We were led into a large room where the eggs are processed, cleaned, and inspected. The machinery was all very sterile and industrial. Before handing us our prize, our tour guide took us to a door that had warning signs not to trespass or allow visitors. He opened the door to a room filled with chickens in topless cages. I was informed that the room had 10,000 occupants.

It was very apparent that the Hutterites are immensely proud of the work they do and the efficiency with which they achieve their agricultural goals, yet what I saw was uncomfortable to say the least. My naivety had led me to believe that the Hutterites were in the business of small scale farming, instead I was struck by how much they appeared to be following a factory farming model.

The whole encounter was immensely fascinating and I am grateful to have been able to experience such a different way of living from my own. Yet, I am still unsure of what to make of the way in which the Hutterites go about their work. I felt blindsided and naive for not doing more research into their practices. All these years myself and many people I know have come to be under the impression that the Hutterites simpler way of living somehow made them unsusceptible to new age farming methods. Clearly, this sentiment was incorrect. The experience made me more aware of the importance of knowing where my food is coming from. The farming practices aside, it also opened my eyes to the alternative ways that certain societies function and how important it is not to judge those who live differently than myself.

Biophilia: a solution for change by Stephanie Fisher

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It’s February in Montana, 23 degrees below zero. A gentleman by the name of Hal Herring skis and sometimes stomps post-holes through the Bob Marshall Wilderness collecting snow samples this time of year. The Bob Marshall Wilderness is remote, even by Montana standards, and working within the expanse as a Forest Service snow survey volunteer is certainly no easy task. During their outings, volunteers like Hal use a snow sampling tool known as the Mount Rose Snow Sampler to quantify water content from a winter’s snowfall. Although a seemingly minuscule task, snow survey collection is essential to better understanding Montana’s extremely dry climate. Snowfall accumulation creates varying quantities of stored moisture which turns into fluid runoff during warmer seasons. Surface and subsurface water flowing annually towards streams, lakes and plant-life undoubtedly serves as an essential lifeline to many living things.

During this year’s WRFI course we were lucky to hear Hal speak directly to his work while visiting a public library in small town Augusta. Hal began our discussion by describing ways he utilizes his journalism and recreation skills to explore conservation and share relevant facts with those, “too busy or removed to gather the information themselves.” During one memorable recollection, involving a very strenuous day, he expressed love and admiration for Wilderness areas like, “The Bob.” Hal’s reverence for and fascination with often unseen Wilderness phenomena and naturally occurring places, those free from human presence, will forever invigorate me. I felt his stories tapping my curiosity, especially those about ways he is able to connect and sense or realize ‘place.’ When asked to describe connections to nature, Hal referenced ways he constantly aligns himself with the essence of EO Wilson’s book Biophilia; specifically how Wilson utilizes Biophilia to inspire readers about an, “urge to affiliate with other life forms.”  As Hal reflected upon Wilson’s writing he went so far as to eloquently express his own biophiliactic tendencies – especially those driven by memories of catching snakes while exploring his rural Alabama home.

As I sat listening to his stories, it suddenly dawned on me that not only did Hal and I share a common desire and freedom to roam wild as children, we were also inspired by influential people who valued reading and power of education. The description of his childhood and knack for the outdoors, specifically his close-connection to nature, resonated with me and it felt good drawing back upon wild and far-away childhood places in my mind.

I was born and raised in rural North Carolina and feel fortunate to have been given a chance to free-play while exploring the woods and rivers around my Appalachian home. Collecting and admiring rocks from some of our planet’s oldest mountains still stands out as one favorite childhood pastime. To this day, I like to think my love of the outdoors influenced a strong desire to better understand and ground myself in place – especially when life isn’t feeling so grounded. I have teachers, friends and family to thank for sharing the essence of education and wilderness with me. It will forever be their spirits that serve a constant reminder saying, “no one can take knowledge away.” I will always be grateful for these parts of my life – especially the ones directly responsible for shaping and forming not only my moral compass but an ongoing appreciation for all things wild. I’m happy to report that Hal and I very obviously share a wonderfully perplexing condition called biophilia.

Now, as a Montanan, I make time to explore and better understand wild things whenever possible. This wonderful place became my new home in 2013, while following my loving heart and yearning desire for a change in scope and community. While settling in Missoula, it was hard to not get distracted by so many questions forming in my mind about landscape, flowers, trees, animals, and the “newness” of such a vast and amazing place. Eventually I explored and learned alongside both local and fellow transplants how exactly realizing place can be more than just identifying parts of naturally occurring world. In the beginning I experienced awe by meeting challenges, feeling solitude, seeing beauty, conquering fears and the unknown, and how to humbly foster and respect others.

More than ever, my sense and realization of place is being deepened over the duration of my 700 mile cycling trip and I owe a lot to Montana’s rural places, its people and their crossroads. While journaling, I find myself in awe of my daily experiences. Riding through scenic Montana especially has granted me time to notice so many things I would have typically quickly passed by. My eyes catch normally unnoticeable birds in flight, flora in bloom, and fauna playing the wind. Who knew so many odds and ends would ever find their way along such a long and winding roadside? It’s as if my curiosity of each cited item takes my brain into a meditative state which is sometimes interrupted by annoyance and even discomfort. My discomfort is hard to describe, but certainly brings to light a certain and harsh reality of challenges that simply being outside can sometimes bring. All the while, I’ve noticed that my discontentment has actually heightened my awareness and love for these far removed places.

As skies clear, days grow warmer and winds pick up right on schedule, dehydration settles in. At this point being so parched and sun beaten seems to almost force an inability for me to gauge any level of comfort. Feeling this way is new to me and so too is deciding how to best cope with these levels of exhaustion. I feel myself growing and learning about how the joys and struggles that come with exploring this place by bike can bring a fantastic sense of gratitude and brand new reverence for a familiar yet brand new place, even under strenuous circumstances.

With each pedal rotation I am given more time than ever to contemplate deeper understanding of place and how it might nurture possible cross-roads for my own future. My values are deeply rooted in preserving and protecting the natural world and I’m convinced that I will always prioritize working to protect it; as consumer, educator even recreationalist. For the first time in my life I see how affection towards Wilderness areas, creeks, and backyards might even extend to overgrown parking lots. Needless to say, Hal made a lasting impression on me. If only, like him, we looked to connect “wilderness” in all of its forms, for the solutions necessary for bridging such vast value sets our nation currently upholds.

At last, it’s July in Montana. This side of the solstice still yields 89 degrees, above zero, as new found muscle groups power my bicycle from Wolf Creek to Augusta along the mesmerizing Rocky Mountain Front. In the confines of my close-knit group I push along rolling terrain hearing a familiar and peculiar song from the Western Meadowlark, my state bird. It’s call makes me smile and, as if it wasn’t enough, I then spot an osprey with a meal clasped in its talons, notice a cricket working its way to the edge of the road, and follow Lupine reaching for the sky as the hot sun reliably evaporates their seasonal lifeline. With every breath I willingly inhale the blissful essence of sage and it reminds me of one special person that I hold dearest to my heart. I know full well this meditative state won’t last forever, but I do now know that it’s entirely possible for me to return to this state of mind, body and natural sense of place. Embracing the rhythmic demands of cycling paired with a mind’s-eye glimpse of the things I love most, are and will remain responsible for getting me up, over, down and around from this point forward. I am so grateful for friends; what I’ve learned through this experience; what it means to be here, in this place, experiencing all that nature has to offer; and the importance of being guided by a deeply rooted value-set. I couldn’t be happier knowing I’m destined to forever being a Biophiliac.

Zoe McCully: Water is Life

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Listening. To the wind, whipping the Colorado River into a frothy turquoise skin. To the sound of rain pattering across my sleeping bag.  To the slow hollow slap of Lake Powell against the washed out rim of Glen Canyon. To the voices and experiences of multiple speakers and hosts: Steve, Dorothy, Buckey, Richard, Clorinda, Deryl and his sons. To our brand new instructors Uncle Ben and Aunty Eva. To the crackle of a fire burning apple wood and juniper.

This third section of WRFI has been one of wide open spaces, and open ears.  As we’ve traveled from Utah to Arizona, we’ve driven over mesas, past the Vermilion Cliffs, and over the Rainbow Bridge and Glen Canyon Dam, to visit Hopi and Navajo reservations. The sky has opened up and the wind has rushed south easterly across the land.

We have had MANY speakers share with us their lifestyles, thoughts, history, truths, and culture. We visited Glen Canyon Dam, looked down into the carp filled waters of Lake Powell and swam in the deep clear blue waters of the Colorado. We worked at the Star School, saw the application of solar energy and hydroponic food growing systems, and stayed at a home “off the grid.” We drank from a spring on the Hopi reservation, and used its water to plant cloves of thick stemmed garlic.

A reoccurring topic that comes up is water.  In the Southwest water is scarce, yet companies like Peabody Western Coal Company use it to slurry coal across the country and the Bureau of Reclamation has created an evaporating bathtub called Lake Powell. One of our hosts this section, Dorothy, let us work in her garden and described to us how Hopi people farm without irrigation using a method called “dry farming,” yet rely on springs to sustain themselves. She talked about how the water on the Hopi reservation has levels of arsenic so high she always hauls her water from these springs or buys bottled water jugs, to avoid drinking the contaminated tap water.

An elder from the Hopi Reservation, Bucky, shared with us information from an organization called Black Mesa Trust, also related to water. He also wouldn’t drink the reservation tap water and discussed how Peabody Coal, the company that runs the Navajo Generating Station, is depleting the springs, washes and aquifers that the Hopi people depend on for drinking water. He organizes the “Water is Life Run” a truth that is becoming an increasingly used expression.

When we stayed with Steve who lives off the grid outside of Flagstaff, it was clear that interacting with the resources you consume, by growing your food, or hauling your water, creates awareness for the source and scarcity of the things we depend on. I find in my own life complacency sets in when I live in a city where any food item I want is available year round, and water is always potable if it comes from a tap. So many systems are in place to support this instant gratification consumerism, so many corporations profit off it, and it is dangerously distancing people from the reality of the land.

Hearing the phrase “Water is Life” and learning about all the issues relating to water in the southwest made me think about how these issues parallel the Dakota Access Pipeline. Peabody mine is wasting water, depleting springs and aquifers, and the whole generating station that provides jobs to many people who live on the reservation is closing in 2019. The tap water is contaminated with high levels of arsenic. The reservation economies are dependent on coal and natural gas.

This is not so different from the high profile situation with Dakota Access in North Dakota. This pipeline has desecrated sacred burial grounds and threatens the land and water of the Sioux.  It puts the Missouri River, and drinking water of 7 million people in the Midwest at risk. A similar thing is happening in Utah and Arizona with coal and uranium mining on Hopi and Navajo land.

How many more front-lines or instances of fossil fuel companies exploiting the life giving water and land of Native people, and all people, are there?

How many corporations get to do their own environmental assessments and investigations when things go wrong?

Is there no accountability or responsibility to the people and land?

How many people are so distant from the resources that they consume, so used to a culture of fresh vegetables in cold winter climates, that there is no understanding of resource scarcity, availability and the reality of what the land can provide?

In the midst of these questions that swirl around my head daily and nightly, one of the things I have realized is the power of listening. It is a skill to be able to observe, absorb, and hear what people tell you, rather than make assumptions and automatically begin to analyze things before you start to even understand them. It is overwhelming to sit round a fire past bedtime, and hear so many stories, histories and current realities of exploitation, and not feel your brain jumping to guilt ridden solutions.  Randy Ramsley told us, “The land will show you what it wants to give you.” I believe this is something that can only be discovered through observation, and listening to people and the land they live on.

There is power in stillness; in slowing down from a culture of constant questioning and accepting the words of others. There is respect in silence and peace in the moments where all you hear is the raging of the wind as the sun sets over the sagebrush. However, I can’t help but wonder, what will happen to the world’s water, here and everywhere, if we continue on this trajectory of taking not giving, and masking the reality of the land?

Allison Ranusch: Dog Days

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Meeting with author and field ecologist, Cristina Eisenberg, was more than inspiring. Maybe it was her passion for all the research projects she has going on; maybe it was because of all the personal relationships she has created with the people of the Kainai First Nation; or maybe it was because of her knowledge with advanced technologies and western sciences, mixed with traditional ecological knowledge. Whatever it is, she is one bad mamma jamma.

Our day in the field with Dr. Eisenberg consisted of measuring Aspen trees and discovering the complicated web between wolves, elk, fires, bison, aspen, and grasslands intertwining with one another. Although this is a tricky concept, Cristina has figured out how to mesh advanced technologies and Western Science with Traditional Ecological Knowledge (T.E.K.). T.E.K. is a beautiful notion consisting of long-term knowledge, passed down to each generation, filled with detailed information from first nations about the local environment surrounding them. The cool thing about T.E.K. is that although it’s based off traditions from back in the day, new information can be added while old information is modified as the environment is transformed.

Contributing to the complex web in Waterton, wolves have been prancing around the grasslands, which have developed a rising fear within the elk. The result of this is creating elk to be more cautious of their surroundings and not allowing them to graze in an area for too long. This creates a harmonious balance within the grasslands. These grasslands are important to the carbon cycle for their sequestration capacity, which is necessary for the health of humans and wildlife. A simple way to solve this issue is bringing bison back into the picture. Historically free ranging, wild bison have enhanced the growth of aspen trees by rubbing their horns through them along with trampling them down. Plus, bison are a significant and cultural symbol of the Native Americans.

Before European settlers came to America, causing the greatest slaughter in history of bison, Native Americans on the plains relied on these bison for food and shelter. They created a link between Native people and the land, along with being a central figure in their ancient culture. These bison acted as bio-engineers in grasslands: shaping plant communities, creating habits for other wildlife, as well as transporting and recycling nutrients. Although many Native Americans still maintain a deep relationship with bison and the land, it’s difficult to express their interconnections because of the absence of bison. That being said, the mutualistic relationship between humans and bison is just one example on how we can all coexist with each other, to live on a happy and healthy planet.

Mikayla Daigle: A Journey of a Lifetime

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What an amazing experience my time with Wild Rockies Field Institute has been so far…I still can’t believe I’m here.  I have been so fortunate in my life to be able to travel to Montana many times and western Montana has a special place in my heart.  I’m so thrilled that this summer with WRFI I’m spending time there and also in Alberta and British Columbia, all part of the Crown of the Continent, learning about the conservation issues that affect this area.  The Crown of the Continent is a large, intact ecosystem containing Glacier National Park and Waterton Lakes National Park; it crosses international boundaries, and contains the headwaters to rivers that flow in three directions to the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean and Hudson Bay.  So far, our travels have brought our group across international boundaries and through a variety of protected lands; here is a taste of the places we have been and how the different types of land management tactics have impacted what we’ve experienced.

The first section of the Summer Semester consisted of time in the front-country in and around Choteau, MT and a nine-day, 52-mile backpacking trip in the Bob Marshall Wilderness.  For a first time backpacker, this was a completely immersive experience.  Besides our seven students and two instructors, we saw fewer than 25 other people; some areas of our backpack were more secluded than others as we went three days without seeing a single other person.  The sights in the Bob Marshall Wilderness were amazing.  We travelled through open, burned areas with young plants growing, large mountain valleys and forested areas with an overabundance of Bear Grass, through canyons next to streams, and trekked up and over mountains.  There was a consistent quiet on this backpack trip only broken by our own conversations and laughs and the occasional passing of other people hiking and horse-back riding.  There were no motorized vehicles, bicycles, roads, or sounds of industry which is usually rare; however, in a Wilderness area this is the norm.  Wilderness areas in the United States are the ultimate protection for ecosystems and species; they are untrammeled or unrestrained by humans, nature is at its most “wild” here.  Trails are sometimes managed in order to stay passable, but other than that, human impacts are minimized in Wilderness areas to offer great protection for the species that live there.

During section two, we visited a greater variety of places.  One of the days we spent at Two Medicine Lake in Glacier National Park; it was an incredibly relaxing day lounging on the shore at Paradise Point enjoying the weather and working on academics.  The lake was beautiful with its clear, cool water and mountains surrounding it.  But the experience was much different from that in the Bob Marshall Wilderness; the sights were equally impressive but not as undeveloped in Glacier.  The east end of the lake was developed with a historic lodge-turned souvenir shop, restrooms, and boat tour docks.  We also saw more people in the first ten minutes at Two Medicine Lake than we did in nine days of backpacking.  The experience was different because the National Park Service manages their lands much differently than Wilderness areas do; parks are for “the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations” and to preserve unimpaired land.  While the land and species within them are protected, national parks do see a much greater number of visitors as well as vehicle and bicycle traffic.

The backpacking portion of section two began after crossing into Alberta, Canada and spending a few days near Waterton Lakes National Park.  We began our five-day, 20-mile backpack trip from Red Rock Canyon in Waterton Lakes National Park and continued to Goat Lake.  The trails in Waterton, like in Glacier, were wider and better maintained than in the Wilderness area and had greater foot traffic.  The campsite at Goat Lake was also completely different from the Wilderness area; there were log chairs set up for a kitchen area and a bear hang already set up.  “Backcountry” camping in the National Park was easier than in the Wilderness area where we had to find proper camp sites with trees nearby to hang our food.  After spending a night at Goat Lake, we hiked up and along the stunning Avion Ridge that establishes the boundary between Waterton Lakes National Park and the newly designated Castle Wildland Provincial Park.  Avion Ridge provided a stunning 360 degree view of the wonderful, mountainous lands around us with Waterton to the south and the Castle to the north.  Once we entered the Castle, the trails changed immensely; mainly we walked on old trails previously used for recreation, such as four-wheeling and dirt biking, and forestry but now left to let nature take over.  And take over it did, one day we fought gravity on a steep uphill as well as the growing, tangled mess of Alder trees expanding into the old trail.  Since it is a newly designated protected area, the trails in the Castle Wildlands have not yet been maintained, the trail maps were not fully updated, and we didn’t see other people until we were at Bovin Lake, which is only four miles from the boundary of the Castle.  Now that it is a wildland, the Castle in Alberta will be managed similar to the Bob Marshall Wilderness and the species and ecosystems within will be protected from forestry and oil and gas industries that used to fragment the area.

It is incredible to be spending the summer in the Crown of the Continent region and seeing how public protected lands are preserving natural wonders, ecosystems, and species in a variety of ways.  I’ve had an amazing time on the first half of the course and I’m so excited for the things we will learn and see in the second half.  My time with WRFI has been a once in a lifetime experience so far and I’m thrilled for what’s to come!

Sra Feigelman: A Resilient Culture

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“What happens when life gets easy? You get lazy. You lose your momentum, your morals, your values,” a native Hopi woman and our host explained to us at her farm on the Hopi reservation. “That’s why we’re still here. Because life has never been easy for Hopi.”

In this section of the course, the group has been incredibly lucky to spend time on both Hopi and Navajo Reservations, where we’ve learned about their respective cultures first hand from the people that live it. One of our hosts welcomed us into her farm for a few days, a property which has been in her family for hundreds of years. In great detail, she enlightened us with the traditions, practices, food and beliefs of her people; concepts totally novel to us as participants of modern Western culture. She was also careful to explain the systematic and diabolic oppression unleashed upon her people by the U.S. Government throughout history; an oppression that remains seeded in Western culture today. However difficult, she explained Hopi history to be, she maintained a strong notion of resilience by the Hopi people.

Through waves of forced movement, murder, and religious imposition upon the Hopi people throughout hundreds of years, they have endured. In recognition of this cultural strength, I was dumbfounded. How could a culture such as the Hopi live on in the face of an entire country that wanted nothing less than to obliterate it?

In class we have defined the concept of resilience as a system’s ability to constantly return to a balanced state in a sea of positive and negative forces. However, given the presence of these ever-acting forces, resilience can also exemplify a system’s ability to change and adapt to great disturbance within its environment, however maintaining its ability to come to a regular, balanced state.

In Hopi culture, our host explained, it is deeply engrained values and practices that have maintained such resilience. Hopi tradition millennia old, like celebration of mother earth and father sky, culturally unique organic farming and technique, and a society structured by staunch equality and reciprocity represent only some of what has perpetuated Hopi peace and strength over such a grand and complicated tapestry of time.

Although peace has been declared, reservations set aside and formal apologies made, the struggle of the Hopi endures. Although Hopi Nation is sovereign by definition, the overarching presence of Western culture continues to weather Hopi. New age Western value of individuality, success and capital gain remain at war with Hopi tradition. Hopi youth are often incentivized to leave their reservations in search of better education and employment, leaving behind the wobbly economy and infrastructure left for them by the U.S. Government. Our Hopi host explained that to survive in the modern world, many young Hopi leave behind their culture so as to embrace these Western values of individual success, which often run opposite to Hopi thought around community and societal balance.

She described the subsequent weakening and loss of Hopi language, values and tradition.

However, she happily noted the persistence of Hopi heritage. Time has shown a revival: her children have returned to the land on which they were raised, and all in her family are encouraged to re-learn the language and participate in ceremony.

Growing up Jewish, my parents explained to me how important it was to stick to my culture. As a youngster, I don’t think I really ever understood why: my rationale was clouded with resentment for Sunday school and difficulty reading Hebrew.

Instead, as a confused adolescent, my values resided more with myself. Fitting in yet standing out, being liked by my peers, keeping up with fashion trends and possessing talent constantly swirled around my developing brain, leaving very little room for attention toward, let alone appreciation for, my culture. My culture that taught me morals and values, life lessons and the importance of family, gratitude and humility. I threatened my parents relentlessly with the promise that after I became bat-mitzvah, I would ditch my culture and everything I had learned for good.

However, Judaism too thrives off of its own resilience in a world that has never wanted it to. It wasn’t until I learned about these impositions of threat and violence throughout history that I came to understand the resilience of, and pride, I have for the Jewish culture. For no matter how hard survival has been for the Jewish people, it too remains, through tradition, community and celebration. And even in a society of aggressive individualism, I find that my Jewish heritage is always something I can draw back to.

In a world of change, culture is dynamic, culture is resilient.