A family tradition of serving the Hopi Tribe began from a young boy’s interest in petroglyphs he discovered while herding sheep near the Utah-Arizona border. 

Sheldon Talbot’s fascination with Native American culture grew stronger over the years and he passed his knowledge, and more importantly his connections, to his children and especially his son Mike Talbot before he died in 2016. When the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic hit, Mike immediately thought of the small Hopi villages and got to work to help like he knew his late father would have.

“My siblings and I feel strongly that Dad would want us to be the first to help the Hopi people,” said Mike Talbot’s sister, Lehi resident Judi Talbot Pearson. “He would definitely lead the way to get supplies to them,” added Mike Talbot.

Sheldon Talbot worked for the Bureau of Reclamation and the Central Utah Water Conservancy District and often interacted with the Hopi Tribe in an official capacity, nurturing a relationship that would continue for the rest of his life and now with Mike Talbot. After he retired, Sheldon Talbot requested that he and his wife, Karen, be assigned to the nearby Navajo Reservation for their mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They were called to a family history mission in Tuba City, Arizona. The Talbots divided their time as missionaries recording oral histories of the Hopi people and working in the Family History Center in Tuba City.

Sheldon Talbot continued to visit what he called “Hopiland” after he and his wife finished their mission. “Dad’s research on the Hopis was multi-tiered,” explained Mike Talbot. “He worked on translating their calendar, recording their genealogy, and translating stories of their people contained in petroglyphs.” Mike often accompanied Sheldon to Hopiland, meeting with tribal elders, a rare privilege. On Sheldon’s final trip, he officially passed on his work with the Hopi Tribe to Mike. “I’m happy to continue the tradition of researching the Hopis,” said Mike Talbot. 

Several weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic, Mike Talbot contacted a friend who is in touch with the small villages where the Hopi Tribe live. Talbot learned that the remote villages were on strict lockdown and running out of supplies, especially cleaning and hygiene items. While the COVID-19 numbers sound low in comparison to the Navajo Nation numbers, the percentage is much higher because there are so few Hopis. The nearest hospitals are more than two hours away and not many villagers have running water or electricity.

“No one can go in or out of the villages right now. They’re being very careful and staying in lockdown to be safe. Every tribal member is important,” explained Mike Talbot. He and his siblings organized a donation drive focused on cleaning supplies and toiletries. The truckload was taken to a drop-off location and Mike learned later from his friend what a huge impact the supplies had on the people and how grateful they were. Right away he started collecting donations and money from cousins and by putting the word out on social media for his next trip, Thursday, July 9. “I collected way more than I was expecting. People I don’t know very well jumped right on it,” he said.

Mike Talbot will continue to make trips to Hopiland with donated supplies for as long as they need the help. To contribute money, Venmo @Mike-Talbot-2 and write Hopi Relief in the message. To donate cleaning or hygiene supplies, send a direct message to Mike Talbot on Facebook. “Every penny will go toward supplies to help the Hopi Tribe,” said Talbot.

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