By Gigi Coyle

Photos by Teena Pugliese

On November 18th and 19th, 2022 Walking Water and the Owens Valley Indian Water Commission (OVIWC) co-hosted Walks of Resilience and Accountability along the LA river/Paayme Paxaayt and an evening with film and conversation at the Audubon Center at Debs park. We were grateful for how many and who showed up with such attention and care, asking questions, offering their experiences, meeting each other and walking many miles along the river. It was noted time and time again, the difference when meeting this way than when working from our offices or even our homes, when fighting for justice and envisioning change needed …. how important it is to resource, to reflect, to be with others who care, to make relationship with that which sustains us … the water, nature, community with all relations. How important it is to be sure to know where our water comes from, what is being sacrificed – to visit the places we are longing to protect. So, the true highlight for me as always, was the import of including the waterways when we have such conversations – simply witnessing what
can arise when in that company. The highlights for me included walking with activists, organizers in the trenches, community leaders and maybe especially the children; people who have been on these issues for lifetimes, alongside and with those brand-new, listening to the stories and maybe the river for the first time. To have Bishop and Big Pine Tribal members travel all of this way to share so honestly and heartfully. To ask, do you know where your water comes from and what has been impacted? This adds to the knowledge and inspiration we all need to keep moving towards a more just, shared and caring world. To sit with words of welcome and learn of shared histories from the Tongva, the first land back now happening, to be with East Yard youth, so awake and willing, to envision the steelhead swimming, to have so many herons reminding us of who lives where and why, all contributed to a journey worth making.
We want to thank OVIWC for the essential sharing, good company, the film Paya which we watch over and over again as part of deepening our understanding and love. And, thanks to Marcos Trinidad for welcoming us at Audubon for the evening. And, we have to mention, of course the potluck with offerings from many, highlighted as always by Teri Red Owls’ offering. Thanks to Roland Pancheco speaking for TreePeople and his Tongva ancestors, and for Cindy Donis and the East Yard, a community of youth who care coming to walk again. YES – We hope to walk again – to offer such seasonally – to carry story and each other along the river as a way of remembering what was, what is possible and contributing to what will be. With gratitude again for all who came and all who hosted. May the stories, the truth, the prayers and meaningful actions, the waters – all continue to flow, be shared and together may we co –create a more just and loving future for all beings.

More Voices

“I feel blessed and grateful to have participated in Walks of Resilience and Accountability.  My heart was happy to see paya (water) doing what paya does -creating life. The section of the Los Angeles River that we walked was teaming with life despite being next to a freeway and in a concrete channel. As I walked along the river, I prayed for the life that paya created in the river – the birds, waterfowl, critters, trees, tulles, and other plants.  Also, strongly in my mind and deeply in my heart were the homeless, the unhoused people that live along the river. My prayer was also for them. I hope to someday walk along the river and see it flowing pristinely with no trash and more life. I hope to see space for the unhoused so that they have comfort and dignity. I hope to see more of the paya in the Payahuunadu watershed stay in our homelands.  I hope to see more people in relation with water, which is a life force.” Teri Red Owl – Director, OVIWC

“Walking Water gives us an opportunity to walk with our relatives whether Indigenous or Non-indigenous. We weave our knowledge, challenges, healing, and spirit into our walk though meaningful essential conversations and engagement. We know that building relationships is key to bringing change and a fundamental part of the walk is intention. I bring my children ages 5 and 6 to the walks as because they are our future leaders and it is important for them to learn, listen, and speak their truths. My son and daughter stated, they walk because water is important for all life, and we are protecting that. So, we walked for those without a voice, we walked in gratitude, and we walked in reverence of water.” Kyndall Noah – Communications specialist – OVIWC

“I am still drinking in and incorporating the beauty of our time together. Walking and dreaming of ancient times, coming together to form a prayerful constellation…. offering songs, silence and connections to all our waters as we walked along the captured and concrete paved path the LA river now knows as home. We found silent sages in our youth, and powerful guidance from their curiosities and open hearts. So many questions stirring: What memories are held in our waters? How can we encode and remember the realities that our ancestors created and cared for and that may have been forgotten and are calling for our attention? May we remember what ours is to do together and to learn, honor, love and listen to the Paya (water).” Teena Pugliese – Walking Water photographer

“Water brings and carries life, prayers and stories, the energies that make us connect to ourselves and each other. When we honor water, we release into the world the same substance that gives meaning and purpose to all life. Our walk brought life to us, meaning to our personal and collective efforts and a deeper appreciation for the dreams the water and the river carry. May we continue to share in the wisdom and dream again. Thanks to all the who continue to honor the waters ways.” Orland Bishop – Walking Water guardian– ShadeTree

“I appreciate, support and participate in Walking Water because its goal AND approach for tackling and intending to bring about significant change and healing to an urgent and persistent crisis: LA’s water supply, sustainability, and resilience. Meaningful lasting solutions require deepened and transformed awareness, commitment and relationship between the people of LA and the water they consume, use, waste and pollute, and the impacts those actions have on the people, communities, and land of both Los Angeles and the areas from which we Angelinos take and import our water. Walking Water brings people from those lands together to literally walk with the waters of the LA River (which include a mix of waters imported from the Owens, Sacramento and Colorado Rivers as well as the LA River itself), to see and learn, listen to the water and each other and to their hearts. This level of deep relationship and learning is essential for the kind of meaningful change required to achieve safety, resilience and justice for all of us.  I have witnessed it work.” Andy Lipkis – Founder of TreePeople, Director ARLA


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