“In 2012 I came to the Payahuunadu/Owens Valley for the first time and was instantly in awe of the magnificence around me. To the West the Sierras, to the East the Inyos and so much expanse, wilderness, desert and life in between.”

Kate Bunney

I had come to the Valley to participate in a course led by Gigi Coyle for community leaders from different lands and countries. Our focus was very much on how our work in the world could better serve the relationship between us, as human beings, and the earth we share. One day, as I was walking along Tinnemaha Creek I could suddenly see Pilgrimage – the image, sound, smell, movement of a group of people with the ask to once again walk the land with the waters.

Unknowingly I had walked into one of the most contentious water issues in the United States, a conflict that has seen the gradual desertification of Payahuunadu/Owens Valley, the constant increase in the urbanization of Los Angeles and still very few solutions on how to manage the water resources in such a way that there is enough for all – human beings, animals, plants and earth. And this is just one example of many unresolved water issues throughout the world, occurring right now.

As I began to speak this vision it quickly became clear that many people had had the same or very similar vision. In particular Gigi Coyle who became the co-founder of what would be Walking Water. Gigi had spent many years working internationally with communities and organizations witnessing how so often those elements we define as resources are really the life giving forces that make our circle of life possible.

Without more conscious inclusion of those natural elements as such in our daily life there is little hope for balance, justice and equity in our world.  She is committed to restoring our relations to water as well as fire as a pathway to building healthy relations for all.

A core advising team of Gigi Coyle, Win Phelps, Andy Lipkis and Sharon Shay Sloan quickly came together with their support and knowledge to begin the first steps. A vital part of those first steps was to ask permission from the Big Pine Paiute tribe, the original people of Payahuunadu, the place where the water flows. The Big Pine Paiute tribe became one of our core partners and Alan Bacock, water coordinator for the tribe, became ‘third’ in the core team after Shay Sloan departed year two.

Between 2015 and 2017 we walked our first journey from Mono Lake, through Payahuunadu/Owens Valley, and into Los Angeles in 3 phases.

And so today, 5 years later, this walk truly begins …. A much larger support circle of support and awareness is growing with those who wish to give time, experience and knowledge to Walking Water. In this sense, at the core of Walking Water’s vision, is collaboration and cooperation.

By Kate Bunney


My experience in the 2017 leg of the Walking Waters Pilgrimage was a special experience that enabled me to see and feel Tongva Land in an entirely new and thought-provoking way. I did not expect my ancestral ties to the city of Los Angeles to cause an internalization of the ills that plague the city to impact my mental/emotional state as much as it did, but mile after mile, I caught myself walking with a heart that was heavier than my backpack. I had many moments where the emotional labor of defending my home to outsiders got the best of me and I became critical of the entire intention of Walking Water. As we walked through the city, I had the privilege of getting to know many local and non-local souls who strive for environmental justice in their communities, and that heaviness I felt began to dissipate. Walking and focusing on the future with my Paiute relatives helped me understand that the creator needed me to see extreme wealth disparities, environmental racism, and indigenous erasure in order for me to establish a new political prayer and course of action to address all of these issues.

Annie Mendoza • Walker 2017