Remembering Thomas Banyacya

Photographs © Kerry Richardson

It was recently reported by the New York Times that Thomas Banyacya passed away on February 6, 1999 at a hospital in Arizona near his home on the Hopi Reservation. Times reporter Robert Thomas, Jr. wrote that Banyacya "spent half a century on a tireless and often thankless Hopi spiritual mission to save the planet from the ravages of modern materialism and greed."


Thomas Banyacya with a painting of a petroglyph representing prophecies of the Hopi indians.

Thomas Banyacya talks with Phillip Deere at D.Q. University in California, 1981.

Thomas Banyacya speaking at the Indigenous Uranium Forum during the Global Radiation Victim's Conference in New York City, 1987.

Brief report of Thomas Banyacya's speech at the Indigenous Uranium Forum held during the First Global Radiation Victims Conference, New York City, September 28, 1987.

Reported by Kerry Richardson.

Thomas Banyacya spoke at the Indigenous Uranium Forum that was held as part of the First Global Radiation Victims Conference at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City in the Fall of 1987. A Hopi Indian who lives near Oraibi, a village that has been inhabited continuously since before Columbus came to the "New World," Banyacya was educated at boarding schools in California and Oklahoma and then returned home to learn from his people. In 1948, he said, Hopi spiritual leaders, some close to 100 years old, held a four day meeting at which they shared prophecies that had been passed down to them. The meeting was prompted because two major prophecies had come to pass. One, that the white brother would try to take all the land of the native people, was being fulfilled by a 1946 Indian Land Claims Commission law that would give money to extinguish Indian claims to land, an idea contrary to Hopi religious beliefs that land belongs to the Creator. The second major prophecy concerned someone among the white brothers inventing a "..gourd full of ashes, so small, going to be so hot, so powerful, that if he allows that to fall on the Earth someplace, it will just burn everything to ashes. Nothing will grow there for many years, many sicknesses will come out of there, and many living things underwater will die from heat." Banyacya said it described what had happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Banyacya is the only one alive out of four people who were chosen at the 1948 meeting to spread word of what was discussed, and to warn people "..not to make any more of these gourd full of ashes, or anything that destructive, because, if we do that, we're going to build up so much power that, eventually, we're going to blow ourselves or burn ourselves up with what we invent if we do not stop."

According to Banyacya, the "Four Corners" area (roughly the area of the Navajo and Hopi Reservations that include places such as Oraibi, Big Mountain, and the uranium mining areas such as Monument Valley) is a particularly important region. "..When things happen, the only way we are going to survive is to keep that land in the Four Corners area which is surrounded by sacred mountains, shrines built up there, that is the center, spiritual center, so if we are going to survive, we have to protect that. We must do everything to keep everything in the ground, not to allow anything to be taken out for destructive use, but somebody snuck in there and took that uranium out, make that atom bomb against our wishes or knowledge of the Hopi leaders. So that must be left in a natural state, because if bombs start throwing in this country, if you survive in here you will know that there is a safe place over there, you may have to crawl over there to get there to live again. Animals and birds will come there. That is the prophecy that they stressed everyday in four days, that I must tell the world that that must be protected and they even say that it just might be someday protected by a human chain formed around that area to keep everything out."

Banyacya explained that the Native peoples of this land were put here by the Creator with instructions to keep this land very clean through prayer, meditation, ceremonies, and fasting. Without written documents, law making bodies, or a money system to pay leaders, they believed there is a spiritualness in every living thing around us, and a spirit in people that makes us choose what to do and correct ourselves when we err. At the present time, much human effort and mineral resources go towards making weaponry, and so nature is turning against us with extreme weather, volcanoes, big winds. These things, he said, are related to the present behavior of mankind. The Hopi elders warned that the white brother might turn away from spiritual ways, and use his inventions destructively. We are in a most dangerous period, and prayer and meditation are needed. At one point, Banyacya showed a painting of petroglyphs on a rock near Oraibi, explaining the meaning of certain features. One line leading upwards represented an all out materialistic path with success in inventions that could easily lead to blowing ourselves up. Another line represented an alternative spiritual path with a possibility of cleaning up our mess without hatred. Banyacya said that someday many nations would come together, we would realize the wrong and dangerous things, and people would start creating better feeling and harmony and clean up the mess without bringing World War III upon ourselves.

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