Last weekend (11 Nov 2010), a BYU student club and several members of the Great Salt Lake Professional Chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) traveled to the small Navajo community at Westwater (adjacent to Blanding City, UT). The goal was to repair a dilapidated traditional Navajo hogan that belongs to Jim Hutchins. Prior to our arrival, Jim had already removed most of his personal affects from structure.
The tired hogan was shored up with fence poles and wire (and other wooden materials), and was covered with tarps. The BYU group spit into 3 groups, leaving 5 of its members to help with hogan repairs. The rest of the members worked on the foundation of a Navajo home (near Aneth) and on finishing 2 rainwater harvesting systems (near Montezuma Creek).
EWB and Reclamation provided two individuals with field experience to assist with the hogan renovation. The Aneth Chapter (Navajo Nation) provided a backhoe operator. And Jim, the owner and Navajo elder, provided the expertise on how to do the job. After removing the unsightly tarps, the next step involved removing the earth/clay/bark from the top third of the circular hogan. Several of the cedar posts which support the structure needed to be replaced. This required the removal of about half of the horizontal roofing supports.
Once the cedar posts were replaced and the roof reconstructed (this was a jigsaw-puzzle-type activity), the narrow gaps between the posts were filled with cedar bark. The entire exposed area was then covered with bark. While this activity was going on, a small backhoe brought earth/clay material to the work site.
The shoring was then removed from around the base; then using teams of either Navajo kids or BYU students the top dome of was re-covered with soil. As time was running out, a van carrying the 10 other BYU students showed up and bucket brigades were formed to transport earth to the top of the hogan. The students worked hard and had a good time. By evening of the second day, the heavy lifting was largely done. The locals agreed to finish the project.
The hogan restoration was a cooperative effort of EWB, Aneth Chapter, Westwater residents, and Reclamation volunteers. Westwater residents provided lunch on the second day.
On 20 Mar 2011, I revisited Westwater to check how the reconstructed hogan was fairing. As it turned out, it was surviving very nicely. The Westwater residents had completed the job, and the hogan looked great.