Paya: The Water Story of the Paiute tells the untold story of America’s longest lived water war between the Owens Valley Paiute and the city of Los Angeles. Using in-depth interviews, 2-d animation, archival footage and photography, Paya documents the history of the Owens Valley Paiute who constructed and managed sixty square miles of intricate irrigation systems for millennia, long before Los Angeles diverted the Owens River through the Los Angeles Aqueduct, 220 miles across the Mojave Desert. After the Indian War of 1863, surviving Paiute returned to the valley from the Eastern Sierra and White Mountains to find their ancient waterworks taken over by white settlers. Over 150-years later, the Paiute continue the fight to save their waterworks, which are remnant in the Owens Valley landscape. Using archival maps from 1856, the filmmakers spent four years working with Paiute elders to locate and map their remnant irrigation systems using GIS technology, ultimately laying the foundation for a ‘first use’ water rights case now underway. Paya is currently being used by the Owens Valley Paiute and the Native American and academic communities nationally to mobilize tribes.

Running Time: 36:23 minutes with credits

Festivals: Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, Red Nation Film Festival, Native Women In Film & Television Festival

Academic curricula: Columbia Law School, Vermont Law School, University of Arizona Indigenous Peoples Law & Policy Program, University of California, Los Angeles, University of California, Berkeley, University of Southern California, University of California, Davis, University of California, Santa Barbara

Awards: “Best Documentary Short” Red Nation Film Festival

The Owens Valley Indian Water Commission is no longer distributing DVD copies of Paya: The Water Story of the Paiute. A link to the video (via private YouTube link) can be sent for a $29.95 donation. The donation will go towards OVIWC water rights fund. Please complete the donation using the cart below. Please email for screening requests.

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