7/7/2004 Council focuses on clean water
The Council for the Parliament of the World's Religions, a widely-attended conference that seeks "to achieve a more peaceful, just, and sustainable world" and that counts the Dalai Lama, Dr. Jane Goodall, and environmental activist Dr. Vandana Shiva among its thousands of delegates, will convene this July in Montserrat and Barcelona, Spain. One of the Assembly's four focus topics this year will be increasing access to clean water.

Owens Valley resident Harry Williams submitted a short abstract to the Council in response to a request for information about local tribes and their relationship with water. We reprint it here with Harry's permission:

To: The Council for the Parliament of the World’s Religions

From: Harry C. Williams, member of the Owens Valley Paiute tribe

Consequences of water needs of Los Angeles’s rapid growth and the world’s need for clean water

First of all, I would like to thank this council for their discussion on Mother Earth’s lifeblood. I live in the Owens Valley, California, in the county of Inyo (land of many spirits), and my people have lived here for more than 10,000 years. The Great Creator blessed my people with the valley to live and to prosper. My people hunted, gathered, fished, and evolved here. They built elaborate irrigation systems that grew thousands of acres of nuts, grasses, and other seed-bearing plants, and that hosted many animal and bird habitats.

In the 1860s, it all started to change. The U.S. government sent cavalry troops to investigate claims of horse thievery, which proved to be false, but a news reporter who accompanied their troops witnessed the abundant water sources and grasses of the valley. Soon cattle ranchers entered the valley and war began.

The battles lasted for several years until peace was reached. The Paiutes learned to work with the ranchers, but the natural balance of the valley started to crumble. The 1900s brought water speculators to the valley who dreamed of using the valley’s water for the small city of Los Angeles.* Today, the valley is dying because of the never-ending growth of Los Angeles and the never-ending need for water.

The Owens Valley and eastern Sierra Nevada provide Los Angeles with more than half of its water, and Los Angeles still wants more. The greed of humanity should not overwhelm the needs of other men and animals alike.

Myself and many other people of the valley pray every day for one of God’s greatest creations, the Owens Valley. When you discuss fresh water, please remember the impacts to all of God’s creatures, big and small, for some can’t fight back and say, “What about me?”

God bless you all, and God bless Mother Earth, for she is the greatest gift of all. Please help protect her and all her beings.

Harry Williams
Bishop, California

*For more information, please read Cadillac Desert (Marc Reisner, 1993), or see the Owens Valley Committee's web site at
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