Long-distance athletes from the Hopi villages atop Black Mesa in Northern Arizona will run from the "center of the universe" to Sedona, Ariz., this month. They will be "Carrying the Gift of Water" across land, time and cultures.

The 130-mile, three-day journey from the mesas to the banks of Oak Creek Canyon has been organized by Sedona’s Institute of Ecotourism to raise awareness of the impact that humans have on the earth’s very limited supply of fresh water.

The idea was inspired by the 1,500-mile Hopi-to-Mexico City Run last March when runners from the Hopi villages took messages about the Hopi water ethic to the 4th World Forum on Water. "Carrying the Gift of Water" is a collaboration between Gardens for Humanity, Black Mesa Trust and the Institute of Ecotourism.

“This important event will unite Hopi tribal members and members of other Native American tribes with other communities throughout Arizona,” says Diane Dearmore, executive director of the Institute of EcoTourism, “Water connects all people transcending all cultures, ethnic backgrounds and belief systems. Water is the precious gift of life. My hope is all of our eyes will open to the very important role water plays in our lives.”

Black Mesa Trust executive director Vernon Masayesva, recently described a Hopi view of water:

“Within this living system, water from each of the four terrestrial directions – from rivers and springs, from great aquifers and tiny seeps – bring life, give life, sustain life among all life. And when its work is done, the waters are re-gathered in the celestial sea, the home of the cloud ancestors. There it is renewed and rejuvenated, and then transformed again into water, into rain and snow, sleet and hail, mists and fogs. It falls toward the earth, toward the depths of the great sea, and rises again to nourish the lakes, the ponds and the streams upon which all beings, all brothers and sisters, depend. It returns and the great cycle of water is renewed bringing new energy to the universe.”

The runners will carry the water gathered from sources on tribal lands in a traditional Hopi gourd, the ancestral water vessel. The run is organized as a relay, with each runner traveling a distance of one-quarter mile on each leg of the run. The public will be invited to join the runners along the way.

The Hopi runners for this event range in age from 12 to 85. Long-distance running is an ancient Hopi tradition that is widely practiced on the mesas today.

The run is scheduled to begin on April 20 with the Hopi runners starting in their villages, traveling through Flagstaff on April 21, and arriving on the banks of Oak Creek in Sedona on April 22. The runners will be greeted at the close of the run with a multi-cultural reception with officials from the Hopi, Apache, Yavapai-Apache, Havasupai, Hualapai and Navajo Tribes; religious leaders representing faiths throughout the area and Sedona city officials.

Many activities are planned throughout the week to celebrate this multi-cultural event, including a creek-side concert, traditional Hopi cooking, seed planting and a Hopi art sale.

For more information, telephone 928-282-2720 or visit www.ioet.org.