Tribal elder and water activist Harry Williams, a UC Berkeley community scholar, took the stage at the 2015 Red Nation Film Festival awards ceremony to share honors for the festival’s “best short doc,” directed by Cal alumna Jenna Cavelle.
“Paya: The Water Story of the Paiute,” tells the story of how southern California developers gained control of Owens Valley water, and of Williams’ long struggle to trace the ancient system of water ditches his ancestors created there.
“I was relieved to hear the name ‘Paya’ to be announced,” Williams says of the awards ceremony in Los Angeles Nov. 22, the final day of the annual film festival. Cavelle “gave the statue to me on stage and I appreciated that.”
Cavelle first learned of the Paiute irrigation system, and heard Williams describe his decades-long efforts to support Paiute water claims, as a Berkeley undergraduate in the then-new American Cultures course “Researching Water in the West.” After graduation, she collaborated with Williams in the Owens Valley and began documenting the Paiute water struggle as a USC film student.
In his remarks from the stage, Williams thanked the American Cultures program at Berkeley, AC director Victoria Robinson and campus lecturer Patricia Steenland, who designed and teaches “Water in the West,” for their role in the genesis of “Paya.”
Trial elder brings water history to life for students (Berkeley News article, with slideshow, Sept. 8, 2015)