At 7:12 a.m. Saturday, Hopi tribe members began their day of celebration and raising public awareness by raising their own: Four members at the amphitheater at Salt Lake Community College turned to the four directions and welcomed the elements earth, wind, fire and, most of all, water.
A dozen or so, clad in full ceremonial gold and turquoise and somehow equal to the purple mountain majesty to the east and west, danced prayers of gratitude that have survived despite the best efforts of new world conquerors and modern world conceit.
The elements are not something to be faced and overcome, they are to be welcomed and blessed, said Ruben Saufkie, a member of the Water Clan who traveled from Hopi, Ariz., with a gourd of sacred water to bless the group.
"We are all one, but we are all separate souls, like the clouds," he told the group. "But we are now clouds coming together to remember what we have forgotten spiritually, that we are all made of water, and we are all one."
According to Hopi tradition, the elements are to come together that relatives will find each other "and in the process we are finding who we are," he said. "There are no barriers; we are all connected."
Despite a tradition dating back eons and a daily meditating and thanksgiving to ancestors, "we have lost much and been scattered. Some say the world is waking up. We are barely waking up. We're looking to the sun again and to all that is unifying and good."
Raul Ruiz, a chief who lives in Lehi and has been taught steps handed down since the 16th century, said he feels a great responsibility to continue the tradition through public performance and private meditation.
"Every step and sound has meaning and gratitude and focus on our Mother Earth," he said, adding that those who were converting Aztecs into Christians and wanting to do away with the ceremonies didn't realize the spiritual and sacred nature of what they were seeing.
The elements are not to be taken lightly, but they are not the duality or some kind of conspiracy against humankind, Saufkie said. Posters highlighting a three-day conference at SLCC, which concluded Saturday, were headlined, "To gather the strength from within to endure."
Strength can be found in elements by aligning with them rather than dead-setting ourselves against them, he said. "That makes commodities of rivers when water should be flowing and given freely."
Taking from all that is provided us is a path to chaos and both physical and spiritual turmoil, he said.
"You don't have look too far today to see it," said Oscar Lopez, who dances to keep a spiritual promise he made and to stay connected to his elements during the daily stresses of making a living as a carpenter.
"What I see today is no matter if a person is poor and has nothing, or someone is wealthy and has everything, something is missing," Lopez said.
The pursuit of wealth and keeping it "has led to many bad things, and ultimately there is no meaning there," he said.
According to several conference attendees and anthropologists who study the Hopi, the welfare of all humanity and the entire planet is their unique responsibility, both for the social and spiritual nourishment of their own coming generations and for everyone, everywhere.
These days, there's no true connection with the Creator or with each other, just mostly a lot of commotion, said Lopez's co-dancer and wife, Rosa Lopez, who works for a health insurance company."I just get so happy when Thursday comes and I know we are getting together to practice," she said. "But it's the spiritual connection of this energy coming through and this long-running thread to our ancestors and to the elements that is real and so amazing. I cannot be without it."