Paiute Tribe hosts movement greats to teach sustainability.
This spring, the Bishop Paiute Tribe partnered with internationally regarded permaculture instructors to host a Permaculture Design Certification Course at the Bishop Paiute-Shoshone Cultural Center. Instructors included Jeanette Acosta, Penny Livingston-Stark, Melissa Nelson, Sky Road Web, Richard Bugbee, Warren Brush, Carmen Gonzales, Samantha Sprull and Darlin Rudy. Instructors encompassed a wide array of perspectives on the natural landscape, and included an ethnobotanist, a Miwok Song Catcher, and other representatives from various Native American Nations. The course ran from April 2-15. Registration for a full 2-week certification cost $950, but the first two days of the course, April 2-3, were free and open to the public. Scholarships were available and Tribal Employees were eligible for fee waivers.
According to Maya Jamal, a participant who identified herself as a nontribal member of the greater Bishop community, this workshop is the product of a long grassroots movement within the Bishop Paiute Tribe. “There are some amazing visionary folks here on the reservation, who have been talking about a food sovereignty strategy for a long time. There was a real question of ‘how can we collaborate and bring food sovereignty to the [Owens] Valley? What if we were cut off from our food supply and how would we sustain ourselves?” Jamal cited Tribal Elders and Council Members Paul Chavez and Kris Hillhad as leaders in that grassroots movement.
The Sheet spoke to workshop leaders Penny Livingston-Stark and Jeanette Acosta, instructors for the Regenerative Institute at Commonweal Garden in Bolinas, CA. Livingston-Stark said it is always a pleasure and a learning opportunity to work with the Native People of California because there are so many parallels between native knowledge and permaculture. Acosta added that the permaculture perspective takes into account the historical use of the land, a context that is important in traditional, native knowledge. It lends a common vernacular for reading the natural landscape, that people of all backgrounds and origins can share.
When asked about the particular challenges of doing permaculture in The Owens Valley, Acosta emphasized the role of water. “The watershed is both the asset and the difficulty, but the soil is very rich, the water is rich, and the people are rich. It’s not just about the Valley, it’s about L.A. If L.A heals its relationship with water, less stress will be placed on the Owens River Valley. So you see, this is really a grand opportunity to make something right, for everyone and everything.”