'The Beginning of Life'
Planting time at Montezuma Well's Traditional Use Garden for 6th year
RIMROCK - For the past six years, the Friends of the Well have planted a Traditional Use Garden at Montezuma Well. Partnering with Gardens for Humanity and their fifth annual Spring Planting Festival, the field south of the picnic grounds is irrigated as it had been by the Sinaguans and the Hohokam, many years ago. Which means maximizing growth with minimal water.
On March 22, members of Friends of the Well, Gardens for Humanity, and non-affiliated volunteers spent the morning planting corn, beans, squash, melons, sunflowers, cotton, and gourds. And in October, the Friends of the Well will sponsor a Traditional Use Garden Harvest, a non-profit even where they will give away the fruits of their labor. Last year, nine families were fed with food from the garden, according to Jerry Honawa, Hopi elder and farmer. Honawa participated in the morning of gardening at the well. "This is the beginning of life," Honawa says. "This field is referred to as 'the mother,' as in the Mother Earth."
"Even mythologically, we came from the Earth," says Richard Sidy, president of Gardens for Humanity, who sees the Traditional Use Garden as an agricultural renaissance of sorts. And that the garden is at Montezuma Well, Sidy says, is appropriate.
"Before it became a national monument," Sidy says of the well, "it was a sacred place. These were pilgrimaged trails. Like the womb of the cultures.
"Families used to save their seeds," Sidy says. "This project reconnects us with the heritage of our area. We're all working together, building an agricultural team in the Verde Valley.
"We want to build that sense of place," Sidy adds. "We want to build a richer, cultural identity." Sidy says that projects like the garden "serve as a unifying source."
Bob Burke, vice president for Friends of the Well, talked of the garden as an opportunity to "get out with like-minded people, putting something in the ground, and watching it grow."
Rose Marie Licher, board member with Gardens for Humanity, says the process of working this traditional use garden is a "great way to find out how Native Americans survived without water. We need to learn these traditions our ancestors used to survive."
Kayo Parsons-Korn, president of Friends of the Well, talked of cotton as the Sinaguans' primary material for clothing, saying how clothing made of cotton kept them cooler in the warm summer days in the Verde Valley.
"I live where I cannot have a garden," says Judy Barnes of Cottonwood, "so I try to seek out gardens in the area where I can work. Maybe the green thumb in me, my desire to garden, continues. This is a way of me getting close to the Earth"
Gwynne Reese of Sedona says that she has been curious about Hopi dry farming. "Now I see what I could have been doing," Reese said. "I garden at home, and now I am learning what has been working for generations."
Shalene Yazzie of Flagstaff was one of many who volunteered her time planting at the garden. "In Flagstaff, it is too early to plant our corn. So I came here to get a jump start."
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