– Letter submitted by Daniel Pritchett
“Out, damned spot. Out, I say!”
Lady Macbeth’s repeated attempts to wash imaginary blood-stains from her hands and assuage her guilty conscience always come to mind when I see another of DWP’s efforts to sanitize its history.
The most recent example was a full-page ad in the June 27 Inyo Register. It included the customary invocation of Teddy Roosevelt’s utilitarian justification (“the greatest good for the greatest number”) for the LA Aqueduct, and platitudes about “working together.” As usual, references to “justice,” “betrayal of the public trust,” “Lippincott,” and “Eaton” were absent.
The fact that DWP still feels the need to defend its occupation of Owens Valley a century after the fact is, itself, the best evidence of the city’s guilt. My particular interest is the way DWP distorts particular words and phrases in its ceaseless attempts to wash the spots from its hands.
A current DWP favorite is the word “pristine.” In its June 27 ad DWP asserted in large print Owens Valley is, “Now – a pristine landscape.” By Webster’s definition of pristine (“not changed by people”) the only people who saw a pristine landscape in Owens Valley were the first humans who arrived here thousands of years ago.
When Euro-Americans arrived, they found a landscape with significant modifications by humans. Among other things they found networks of irrigation ditches, from Round Valley to Independence. The ditches had been dug by Native Americans to spread water, and life.
DWP, of course, does the opposite: it exports water and diminishes life in the valley. Calling our desiccated valley “pristine” insults our intelligence as well as our knowledge of history.
We also learned in its ad that DWP is “…a valuable partner in preserving the land…” [Italics added]. DWP preserves land the way mummification preserves life. Furthermore, describing the relationship between DWP and Inyo as a partnership is wishful thinking. LA’s conquest of Owens Valley has been described as “rape.” A criminal does not become a partner with his victim just because he has been forced to make trivial restitution.
The Inyo-LA Long Term Water Agreement and associated MOU were steps in the right direction, but their limitations are now painfully clear. As long as LA’s colonial rule continues, so will the drying of the valley. The final phrase of the Pledge of Allegiance is, “with liberty and justice for all.” We have been denied justice for over a century and discussions of what it might mean and how we might attain it are long overdue.