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Bearsville Theater to host benefit to help protect Hopi land

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  • Robert Schmidt
    http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080924/LIFE /809240315/1005/LIFE Bearsville Theater to host benefit to help protect Hopi land
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 30, 2008
      http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080924/LIFE
      /809240315/1005/LIFE

      Bearsville Theater to host benefit to help protect Hopi land

      By John W. Barry • Poughkeepsie Journal • September 24, 2008

      An improvisational rock and jazz trio Sunday night will stage a concert in
      Woodstock to raise money for American Indians battling water, mining and
      land issues in the Southwest.

      Medeski, Martin and Wood is set to perform Sunday night at the Bearsville
      Theater in Woodstock, with Apache and Hudson Valley musician Roland Moussa
      opening the show.

      Proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the Black Mesa Trust, a nonprofit
      organization founded in 1998 by Vernon Masayesva, of the Hopi tribe. The
      Black Mesa Trust addresses environmental, health, cultural and societal
      issues that concert organizers say have arisen over the decades
      Missouri-based Peabody Energy has pumped water out of Hopi land and mined
      areas of the tribe's land in the Black Mesa region of northeastern Arizona.

      According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, "An underground aquifer
      that sustains two Native American tribes in Arizona's arid Black Mesa
      region is showing signs of serious decline after three decades of pumping
      by the Peabody Coal Company, which drains more than a billion gallons of
      water from the reservoir each year to transport coal."

      Peabody Energy and Peabody Coal Company are the same companies.

      Attempts to reach officials of Peabody were unsuccessful. According to
      www.peabody.com, the company in the 1960s created "an innovative
      partnership with the Navajo and Hopi people to develop two … mine and power
      plant complexes at a time when the need for electricity in the Southwest
      was doubling each decade."

      In January, Stephanie Kristal, who owns the Soaring Eagle, a Woodstock
      store with products made by Native Americans, helped organize the screening
      of the documentary "PAATUWAQATSI-H2Opi Run to Mexico" at Tinker Street
      Cinema in Woodstock.

      This film was directed by Victor Masayesva Jr. of the Hopi, who is also the
      founder of Black Mesa Trust. Masayesva spoke that evening about the Hopis'
      relationship to their environment and the battle with Peabody.

      Medeski, Martin and Wood keyboard player John Medeski, who lives in Ulster
      County, attended that screening and in the days that followed, got talking
      with Kristal, whom he knows through his wife and her store.

      Both were impressed by what they heard and saw at the Tinker Street, and
      both wanted to do something to help Masayesva and the Hopi.

      "A lot of organizations, you don't know where the money's going," Medeski
      said during a recent telephone interview with the Journal. "With these
      guys, I just saw how grass-roots it was. … Things like this - it's sacred
      land for them."

      Underscoring Medeski's commitment to this effort are friends he and his
      band mates have in Wisconsin. The friends are members of the Hochunk tribe,
      American Indian vocalists and have performed with Medeski, Martin and Wood.

      "We need to give back," he said.

      Kristal's involvement with the Tinker Street Cinema event started with a
      phone call from the organizer, who simply knew about her store in
      Woodstock.

      Kristal said she was "extremely touched" by the mission undertaken by
      Masayesva and his wife.

      "I did not know a lot about the Hopi," she said. "I felt like it was such
      an honor to learn firsthand about the Hopi world view; their view of
      creation, why they're here. I was deeply saddened by what's been going on
      on their land."

      Reach John W. Barry at jobarry@... or 845-437-4822.
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