KATE– How would you describe the relationships between the different agencies as it’s not only LADWP but all these other agencies that are coming together.
KATHY– Right now I think they’re better than they’ve ever been before because we’re all at the table talking and I think that makes a difference. There’s been a time when we were just completely out of the loop. We have the Cultural Resources Taskforce now, it was a little strange at first but we really just get to know each other. Just to know that everybody has their concerns but LA’s, City of LA’s whole concern is to get their water to LA. Great Basin Air Pollution Control District doesn’t care about anything but the air, long as you get that dust out. State Lands is a land owner of California State Lands and first they weren’t really concerned because there wasn’t anything out there and they’re learning more. They were kinda like the absentee landlord for a while but they have really become interested. They’re really into environmental justice a lot more now than they used to be and have really become supportive and want to see the right thing done. They are responsible for what’s going on out there and it’s nice to see. Then there’s all the private land owners and there’s BLM. Most of them have been pretty supportive or they just back out of the issue they don’t want to get involved in. But its’s a lot better because we’re talking.
KATE– As an outsider I perceive there’s more and more this kind of a voice from the Tribe such as going down to LA and really being instrumental in what has happened there and generally that kind of movement. Do you see that, do you agree with that and how do you see what’s moving there right now.
KATHY– Right – I do see it happening and it’s nice to see that people are confident enough to stand up and speak and say this is wrong. That side of the story hasn’t been told and they (LADWP) haven’t had to respond to a whole lot until just recently but it’s because of that push, push back is the only thing they seems to understand. Then with the push back from all the other entities saying wait you’re not doing this right they’re coming around and at least making the appearance they are attempting to. Great Basin Air Pollution Control District is leading the way to making the Owens Lake/Patsyada a Federally registered nomination to give it some protections. The LADWP is coming up with a Tribal Engagement Policy they’re trying to learn how to work with the Tribes and everything. It’s a little rough start but they’re working on it. So as I said at least we’re going in the right direction, baby steps.
KATE– You’re an elder there in Payahuunadu for many of the younger generation. What do you feel that you want say and share with them?
KATHY– Uh probably the same thing I’d like to say to them all the time but young people don’t like to listen they’re just like whatever, especially the ones that know me are like oh yeah that’s just Kathy talking.
It’s funny though because I’ve worked with kids my whole life and you can put little things in there but I think the main message that I try to get to them is how important it is for them to know who they are. I think this gives them a strong foundation of the feeling that there’s a reason I’m different, I should be proud of it. Here’s what I can do because here’s what I know about my past, about my history, who I really am, about my family. I think that’s what’s really important because these are going be our leaders tomorrow. That’s what my elders put on me was when ever you make a decision you think about how did those first people make those decisions? What were they focused on? Does that still prove the truth today? And almost always it does, you know they weren’t dumb back then. [laughs] It’s so easy for young people to be distracted now a days with all the technology and everything and it’s so nice to just take them out. That’s why we take them to the mountains and they’re totally different kids. It’s neat because you can really show the magic of just living in the world, going and catching your own fish and cooking food on the fire and talking about stories and stuff. So that’s what I try to do is just make them proud of who they are because they should be and carry that on to know about their place where they live because it’s up to them to protect it, up to them to protect this place. We did a restoration project out here and I got a little crew of some guys to get paid to do it but a whole bunch others volunteered and they just loved it. It was so neat because they’re like ‘yeah we’re doing what we’re supposed to do, we’re taking care of our land’. What’s neat to see is when it comes back from them because you can tell young people all kinds of stuff but when they tell it back to you that’s when you know you made a little bit of a difference and they got it so that’s a good feeling. [laughs]
KATE– What is your dream for yourself and for the work for the Tribes. What would you really like to see happen in the coming years?
KATHY– I would really love to see all of the Tribes in this place get along and really be a solid part of all the decision making for the whole environment of this valley. I know we’re perfectly capable people and we’re starting to do that where we’re working very closely with a real positive message. And I still think it’s a little hard for people like LADWP, the government agencies, to see us that way how we’re presenting ourselves. I don’t think they quite know how to take it as we’re not as sophisticated as they are. We have people that really care and people that are really willing to do the work and get that message out that you know we have. We have something to offer, we actually have solutions if those guys will just listen. We’re the people, you know who better, to care for this land than the people who have lived here forever and really care about it and know how to take care of it. I, We lived here for thousands and thousands of years and they’ve come and destroyed it in less than a hundred so I think they need to rethink a lot of issues and that’s kinda what we’re trying to get them to do.
KATE– Yes, the question in a way is like who’s really sophisticated?
KATHY– yeah [laughs] exactly, you can say it, I can’t .
KATE– The last one question … what kind of support would be meaningful for you?
KATHY– Any kind of support would be meaningful. You know that’s why I love talking to you people like Walking Water and all of these organizations because you know people that I don’t know. I’ve always said if I have to talk to one person at a time I’ll do it, because I have a message you know. I love talking to everybody because they always get a message to a new audience. Different people come from different aspects and have different resources and just putting it out there is amazing. I’ve gotten support from people that think things that I’ve never even dreamed of. I never limit it to asking for something, I’m just saying come support us in any way that you can. Part of that’s just knowing the story because I think if you know the story you can’t help but also feel compassion about what’s going on and know that you can help. We can always use anybody’s help – financial or legal. I don’t like to get lawyers involved but um sometimes that advice is helpful too. Knowledge of what’s happened in other places with similar stories to ours, what’s been successful about it. So I just really like talking to people and learning from them and knowing that everybody makes a difference. There’s the big level of getting water back in, keeping water in this valley and filling up the lake. But there’s also the little issues of ok what’s this lake project doing to our cultural resources, our proof in our ancestors’ stuff that was left here that’s supposed to always be here and it’s our job to take care of it and they’re out there destroying it. We used to not have any control over that and we used to just take it and hide it from them and then realized no we need that archeological proof to help protect it. And then they used to just take off with it and we don’t even know where some of it went. So, what we’ve done is build a little curation facility or cultural center with the help of Metabolic Studios so we can keep the artifacts. Certain special artifacts still have to go to the city UC Riverside to sit on a shelf somewhere and that’s what we’re fighting right now because they are perfectly fine right here they don’t need to leave the valley. Nobody does anything with them once they’re down there. We care about them we want them here. So that’s what we’re in the middle of right now. One thing we’re looking at is building our own curation facility. The federal guidelines say there is supposed to be one in the vicinity of any big project like this so we’re in negotiations with LADWP to build us that building and an endowment to support it. I’m working with several facilities to figure out how to do this and so that’s where we would need funding and probably some legal help to draw up the documents to make it fit the federal criteria to hold collections so that nobody could argue that we didn’t have the right to do that. All the Tribes are demanding that that be done on Reservation land not on LADWP land, not on any other agency land so that they would actually be where they belong. That’s one of our smaller projects that we are on right now [laughs] that’s very important to us.