At the end of February I walked into Bishop Elementary School’s office to sign out my son so that he could go to a medical appointment. As I walked in the door, I was greeted by the sight of two photographs hanging on the wall. The first was taken quite a number of years ago as students collected together created the image of a big horn sheep as depicted in petroglyphs. The second was a Kingfisher taking flight with students being placed as brushstrokes within the image. Walking Water sponsored the second image and as we prepared the students for being a part of the environmental art project there was opportunity to help students recognize that their involvement in the piece could feel small, but the end result would be one of beauty. As I mentioned the photographs to the staff who were there, it was great to see their faces light up as they remembered being a part of the project.
It is not often that we get to be a part of creating e a beautiful image with hundreds of our classmates and I hope that the students, as they come into the office, continue to be reminded of the day they were transformed into a Kingfisher. However, it is not always the nice things that stick in our memory. Sometimes it is the unsavory things we have been a part of or done that remain etched into our hearts. It may not be the healthiest of things to dwell on those experiences, but to reflect and to learn from them can help us make better choices in the future.
I had the opportunity to share about water with one of the 5th grade classes at Bishop Elementary School in the fall of 2019. The lesson I wanted to teach was that if we are going to have a future then it was important for everyone to recognize the water common to us all and be respectful of all the needs which exist.
In order to help things sink in we did an activity to show what is needed for all. In the beginning of the activity we had students drink from the water source as plants, animals and Nuumu (Paiute). We then added different water users in consequent rounds which lead to more and more conflict as the water was more difficult to obtain. By the end of the activity, the students were all mad and the teacher was flustered seeing her well behaved students transform into an angry mob. However, the point was pretty clearly made through their behaviors that we need a new model for a healthy future for all. It is going to take all of us respecting one another and working together for a sustainable future to be had. At the end of the day as we were just about done cleaning up, one of the students came up to me and in a sweet, sad voice wanted me to know that she was sorry.
We can learn a lot of things in a sorry. The students questioned who they were and what they valued that day. I am hopeful that the activity will help the students to reflect and slow down before reacting so that they can be prepared to listen to the questions and patient enough to wait for any responses. To tell you the truth, I know that I have been impacted by that activity and continue to meditate on what I learned through it.
Whether through beauty or pain, our experiences can help us in moving towards a better outcome when we recognize all as part of the journey. As we walk on our individual journeys and encounter others on a similar path, the companionship provided and the exponential impact of working together create ripples which reach beyond our own understanding.
Alan Bacock is the water coordinator for the Big Pine Paiute tribe. To see the short video of the Kingfisher go here.