LFLS 004: Talking Water With Paiute Elder Harry Williams and “Paya: The Movie” with Jenna Cavelle and Chris Morrow
Show Notes for LFLS 004:
For those who don’t know, the history of the Owens Valley is one of conflict and confrontation, some would also argue collusion of government entities with the City of Los Angeles and their Department of Water and Power (LADWP) coming out as valley’s largest private landowner in Inyo County, California.
Despite being over 200 miles away from the metropolis of L.A., the issue of who owns and controls the land and water affects nearly every element of daily life in the Owens Valley today.
Our guests are here to discuss their activism and efforts to protect the land from further environmental degradation.
Interview 1: Harry Williams
In our first interview with Harry Williams, Paiute Elder from the Bishop Paiute Tribe in the Owens Valley. He discusses his connection to his home, his love for the water and life it brings and his activism over his life to protect the land of his ancestors.
We recorded this interview from the top of the Chalk Bluffs while overlooking the Owens River at the north end of the Owens Valley,
Harry shares some accounts of the first white explorers to Payahuunadu/Owens Valley:
Captain Davidson’s journal upon seeing the Indians and the ditches they had constructed and were using.
He named today’s “Round Valley” after his middle name “Wind Valley”…”said it was the most beautiful place he had ever seen.”
Growing up in the Bishop area:
“This was our playground.”
“Water access was fundamental.”
“Playing in ditches, we used water to keep cool.”
“Would go take bath at Keough’s Hot Ditch every Sunday before school. “
Inyo: “Land of the Great Spirit”
“We have to take care of this world, this valley, for the generations to come.”
Ancient Ditches found up at Coyote Flats. Round Valley ditch system. Another near Millpond.
Our Ancestors, “they understood about water and life. Spread the water you got life. Plants gave food for the animals, birds; just created life.”
Harry shares some details about his Environmental Activism and Advocacy for the rights of Mother Earth.
From Tribal leadership to Owens Valley Committee to CA Statewide rep, he has advocated for the voiceless since the 1990’s.
“I’m not a doctor, I’m not a scientist, I’m a human being.”
“We’ve been in a drought for 100 years. As soon as they put that aqueduct in here, they just drained the hell outta this place!”
“Took us twenty years to get the Long Term Water Agreement.”
“I been consistently opposing Inyo County and L.A. cuz they don’t implement the Long Term Water Agreement. It’s a legal document.”
“Mitigation Projects still in the planning stages since 1991. None of them been implemented, but L.A. still gets what they want.”
“I’m here looking at that area that used to be called ‘The Forest’. Now it’s the ‘Standing Dead Trees'”
“We’re outta balance. Mother Earth provides certain things for certain areas.
“They’re not living in their means.”
“If you live in a desert, act live you live in a desert.”
“If you live by the beach, realize you got rain.”
“L.A. right now, gets enough rain water every year; sometimes in a single storm, to satisfy all their needs. But they don’t care. All their water is made to just run off to the ocean. They don’t care. L.A’s attitude is, “they got the Owens Valley, they got all this free water.”
“This water has paid for itself…”
“This valley has paid the ultimate… hardships of death. All I see is lifeless and death.”
“They gotta realize, civilization’s gotta be civil.”
“It’s gotta be civil to each of us.”
“We have each individual rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”
“When you take my water from me, you kill the birds that make me happy. You kill the plants and animal that gave me comfort…and knowing that this world’s a great place. It gives us everything. But if you take too much, too much greed. Greed just ruins everything.”
“One of my biggest goals is just to smarten humanity up”
“The Owens Valley is just a microcosm of the rest of the world.
“You can only grow so big.”
“If you don’t have water, you don’t have life.”
“This drought is teaching us something that needs to be taught to the rest of the politicians…its not all about money.”
“Some of them will argue. But the rich can always move.
“But me, I got no place to go. This is my home. This is where I’ll stay and where I’ll be buried.”
Call to Action:
“Don’t be shy”
“We are not in a winning or losing race.”
“Tell the people who are paid to protect our rights. Do their job. Tell em to do what they were elected to do.”
SONG: “Paya For The People”
Performed and Written by Obsidian Domes
Kwaz:Hey when I speakIt’s poohaa for the peoplePaya overflow, the music floodin your speakersBeat by Sabzi, Blue Scholars citationNow let me get back to exactly what we’re facing.In our home known as the Owens River ValleyThe biggest enemy is L.A. D.W.P.That be the acronym for Los Angeles Department of Water and PowerCapital “P” for “Power”Steal our land and waterTake it and sell it back to usAt premium ratesMan, our elders would be mad at usYou better do something when water war is at your doorThe fight is the same as its been since they came hereDraining our landand polluting the airIt’s time we stand up and say “It stops right there!”No more politicians in the pockets of conglomeratesNo more rats infestin’ with the snakes who be folloiwnMulholland Drive be a monument to murderersInitimidation is the tactic they deferred to us.Corruption obviousPitting family members opositeOne paid to doze another’s home, man that’s poliitcsAnd that’s far from all of it.Lawsuits just to stall the shitPick up a book, Go to school, Get a scholarshipI’m sick of itAll of this ignorant indifferenceI speak for the paya when I sayPut an end to it
Now spark a fire for the cold in the dark
Peace and war both pumping soul in my heart
and no the can’t keep what they stole from the art
They love to see beef cuz it throws us apart.
More Fire for the People
And More Paya For the People
More Land for the People
And More Culture for the People…
Scruples:All my people…F#@k the gospels, the preachersTalk real subjects, robbed underneath yaRight below your feetSmile when they greet yaSteal it from your tableand sell it back to feed yaKeeping you submissiveDependent on their charityTricked you!Thinkin they provide something necessaryLeach resourcesThese are enemiesTheft. Funded.Paid for.Legally.Dark man in chargeNow you think its gonna changeDrank the Kool-AidMedia, washed up all your brainsWasteful people department is the themeEverything we gotIs everything they needTurn profit without paying tribute to the kingWatch how fast your ass ends up in a slingBankrupt economies to citiesNo simileWater is to powerAs power is to greed
Kwaz: HookNow spark a fire for the cold in the darkPeace and war both pumping soul in my heartand no the can’t keep what they stole from the artThey love to see beef cuz it throws us apart.More Paya For the PeopleMore Land for the PeopleMore Language for the PeopleAnd More Culture for the PeopleMore Songs for the peopleAnd more Dancing for the PeopleMore Love for the PeopleAnd more Life for the People
People is a pronoun we assume to be humanityWhere I come from people is proper use for everythingTree people, Plant People, Ant People, UsGrand mountains looking down, they are old ones to trustWhat the planet really needs, is the paya just to run freeLike animals and humans need the trees just to breatheWe’re all connected by the systems we’re a part ofNo matter our God, we all need Mother Earth’s LoveWe gotta do our part to reduce the abuseCome to my home to view what over use can doRe evaluate our needs be wary of the greedFocus on our health and expose the wealthyThe iPhone can be the eye witness to the throneOr do we patrol ourselves for monthly access to the globeIs big bother winningOr are the people in control?The tide will only turn when we apply what we know.I,Spark a fire for the cold in the darkPeace and war both pumping soul in my heartand no the can’t keep what they stole from the artThey love to see beef cuz it throws us apart.More Paya For the PeopleMore Land for the PeopleMore Language for the PeopleAnd More Culture for the PeopleMore Songs for the peopleAnd more Dancing for the PeopleMore Life for the PeopleAnd more Love for the People
INTERVIEW 2: Jenna Cavelle and Chris Morrow
For our second interview we have Jenna Cavelle, an award-winning documentary filmmaker and student at USC Film School and Chris Morrow, Ph.D. candidate in Environmental Engineering at the University of Southern California
“Paya: The Water Story of the Paiute” is a documentary on the history of the “Numa”, or “The People” otherwise known as the Paiute Indians of the Owens Valley and their historical use of water, known as “paya” in the Paiute language.
The film premiered at the Red Nation Film Festival in November 2015 and brought home gold for Best Documentary Short. Currently, the documentary is being shown on the film festival circuit and Team Paya is booking colleges/universities and festivals interested in screening the film.
Some highlights of our discussion:
How and why did Jenna come to work with the Paiute community and how did the film come about?
How much water was flowing through the “Indian ditches” before they were taken over first by ranchers and then LADWP?
Chris’ studies showed that 400% more water was flowing thru the ditches than local tribes have been acknowledged for having rights to.
First User Rights:
Have been used in Arizona for Tribal Water Rights cases, but have yet to have a case in California go in the favor of tribes. Also known as Prior Appropriative Rights, these types of water rights have been used in CA since the dawn of the Gold Rush Era.
Google: “First User Rights” / “Prior Appropriate Rights”
History of Oppression in the Owens Valley:
1863 – Forced March of the Owens Valley Paiute to Ft. Teton…
Overview: Natives of the Owens Valley were starved out of hiding in the mountains and forced to surrender at Fort Independence and then marched over 200 miles south to Ft. Tejon, near present day Frazier Park, in between Bakersfield and Los Angeles. Land and water sources taken over by the settlers/ranchers with the help of the U.S. military.
50 years later…
Colonization happened again..second wave of major change with the take over of Owens Valley water by the City of Los Angeles.
During that time, L.A. and S.F. were contending for who will be the major cities of the California.
The movement of water in California is directly tied to the development of major cities.
As residents of L.A…what do you think of this dependence on distant water sources?
Solution shared for a thirsty city:
Wastewater treatment recycling; Every gallon of water that is recycled in LA is one less gallon taken from somewhere else.
To see the trailer for Paya, visit payathemovie.com (*no www.)
To Donate to the cause, please visit payathemovie.com/donate