Paiute Indians Help Map the History of the L.A. Aqueduct

Photo retrieved from: www.thecaliforniareport.org

“Working on a documentary project in the Owens Valley on land owned by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) can be a little dicey. A truck zooms by as UC Berkeley scholar Jenna Cavelle and Paiute elder Harry Williams begin one of their mapping expeditions.

“Is this DWP land?” Cavelle asks Williams. “’Cause they’re right there, looking at us.”

DWP is aware of the project, but the two haven’t asked permission to make trips onto department property. Still, Cavelle feels generally secure when she’s with Williams because of a sanctuary agreement between DWP and the natives that allows them to come onto the land.

“This is our homeland. Kick me off, you’re gonna have to drag me,” Williams remarks.

The water wars that drained the Owens Valley 100 years ago to feed the Los Angeles aqueduct are today the stuff of literary and cinematic legend. But the Paiute story has been left out of the tellings. Before the arrival of white settlers, this tribe had a sophisticated water system of their own. This year marks the centennial anniversary of the aqueduct’s construction, and Cavelle and Williams are working to uncover this lost part of California’s water history.”

Read more: The California Report

 

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