Water and Heritage Shield and Sípàapu

Arizona’s Black Mesa Trust (BMT) has been awarded the prestigious ‘Water and Heritage Shield’ by the International Committee On Monuments and Sites International Science Committee (ICOMOS ISC) on March 25, 2023. The award recognizes BMT’s work to raise public awareness of the significance of water and indigenous sacred sites worldwide, including the Hopi’s Sípàapu.

Location of Sípàapu

The Sípàapu, a rocky dome made of limestone and a spring located on the Little Colorado river, holds immense importance for the Hopi, Navajo, and Zuni tribes. The Hopi, in particular, hold a unique reverence for the environment and believe that living in a high desert environment would force them to attune their perceptions, leading to spiritual growth.

Importance of Sípàapu

For the Hopi, the Sípàapu is the place from where their ancestors emerged from another world into this one. However, the Sípàapu, along with many other sacred sites, faces significant threats from mining and dams. Peabody Energy, a coal mining company, began mining coal in the Black Mesa Plateau and developed a coal slurry pipeline to transport the coal to the Mohave Generating Station in neighboring Nevada, further endangering the Sípàapu and the surrounding environment.

BMT’s role

BMT has played an essential role in raising public awareness of the significance of the Sípàapu and the need to protect it. The ‘Water and Heritage Shield’ award recognizes BMT’s efforts to protect indigenous sacred sites, cultural and historical memory, and the right to access water.


The ICOMOS ISC is a non-governmental international organization dedicated to the conservation of the world’s monuments and sites. The organization aims to promote the conservation of heritage sites and encourage research and education in this field. The ‘Water and Heritage Shield’ award is just one of the ways in which the ICOMOS ISC recognizes organizations’ efforts in protecting heritage sites worldwide.




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