Needless to say, it was quite an honor.
I'll explain later why we were there. But for now, I was in a five person presentation speaking about corporate accountability. This was my presentation:
Possibly the best way to insure corporate accountability is for us all to band together to prevent particular abuses – and when I say all of us, I even mean other corporations – even other corporations that might have been abusers themselves.
Typically when we think of corporate abuses, we think of human rights or environmental abuses. But quite often, an abusing corporation is abusing other corporations also.
When it comes down to corporate survival, even an abusing corporation might be willing to do the right thing, and support the reform of poorly written laws.
I'm here today because I'm convinced that we have a window of opportunity to save my Western Shoshone Homeland – the high deserts and remote mountain ranges of the Great Basin. This is a vast natural area taking up much of the States of Nevada and Utah in the very middle of the American West. Other than mining, very little human development has occurred here because of how little water there is. However, this is exactly what makes the Great Basin so wonderful, it still retains much of the beauty my ancestors have called home for thousands of years.
When the U.S. took this land from our ancestors, we signed the Treaty of Ruby Valley that guaranteed we would not be left homeless and without game to eat or water to drink. Sadly, this treaty has been more a treaty of convenience than integrity. Now, Las Vegas wants to drain much of the Great Basin for its own opulently wasteful uses. It doesn't take a hydrologist to figure out what the consequences are of exporting water from the desert. We are facing the potential “dust bowl” devastation of an area bigger than some of America's smaller States.
And why? Because the U.S. has delegated water laws to the States and our State's water laws are so poorly written. Which is why I'm here today. We need help in keeping my Native Homeland from being robbed of everything it has of value and eventually transformed into our Nation's waste dump. Water is life. And a corporate driven quasi-municipality wants to take our water.
Nevada's water laws were written a century ago to placate miners and farmers. In a nutshell, Nevada's water law states; “First in use, first in right.” Now, it only makes sense that Native Americans were using Nevada's water for thousands of years, so we should have some rights to these waters. Our Treaty with the U.S. Government and the Winter's Doctrine both reinforce these rights. However, Nevada's State water law pretends that Western Shoshone rights to our own Federally recognized water don't exist.
Slicing up the pie for those who can afford to take it is no way to manage water in the desert. In the real world today, “first in use, first in right” translates to “the first to waste our water can have it for free!” The consequences of this corporate give-away water law will be catastrophic for everyone and everything in the long run.
Irrationally, Las Vegas is simply reacting to irrational Nevada water law. Las Vegas wants to export water from the Great Basin because if they don't, multi-national corporations will.
The watergrab isn't really what the people of Las Vegas want. This is what the developers and politicians committed to before the price of desalination dropped. In fact, now; trading desalinated ocean water for a bigger allotment of the Colorado River is cheaper than piping it in from the desert for hundreds of miles.
What we need are water laws that respect Native Americans, Rural residents, future generations, and natural wild areas. What Nevada needs are guidelines for writing sustainable water law – and U.N. help pressuring the U.S. Government to live up to their own commitments with worldwide help pressuring local Nevada corporations (such as Las Vegas hotels) to convince Nevada legislators to re-write these laws.
If this strategy works, it might possibly set a precedent for how to reform water laws across our nation.