Environment | National

SLC Weekly: Goshute Tribe battles to protect its water source

"In Spring Valley in eastern Nevada, the swamp cedar trees stand in somber silence. No more than a mile or so long, they are a narrow strip of sentries marking the place where, the Goshutes say, men, women and children belonging to the Goshute and Shoshone tribes were massacred in 1863 and again in 1897. In this hushed grove, the Goshute, along with the Duckwater and Ely Shoshone tribes, come to mourn and conduct spiritual ceremonies.

Rupert Steele picks off a piece of cedar bark and rubs it up and down an eagle feather. The former chairman of the council of the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation then throws tobacco in different directions at the entrance to the swamp cedar grove and sings a sacred song in Goshute. He explains he’s acknowledging the spirits of those killed by the U.S. military and giving them thanks “for letting us come here and visit with you at your house.”

Steele and the elders of his tiny tribe—out of 539 enrolled tribal members, approximately 200 live on the Goshute reservation in Deep Creek Valley, Utah—believe that where each murdered soul fell, the nutrients of their remains fed both physically and spiritually the swamp-cedar trees. “Otherwise you’d never see swamp cedar grow this tall and strong,” he says.

As Steele sings, he “feathers up,” fluttering the eagle feather up and down his body so that the spirits he has brought with him stay outside the swamp cedar site. Then he blows through an eagle wing bone, summoning the spirits of his ancestors. “I want spiritual help, I want them to be with us.”

That help is needed because the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) wants to run a multi-billion-dollar, 300-mile pipeline up to Spring Valley and four other valleys on the Nevada-Utah border—one of which, Snake Valley, is in Utah—to pump billions of gallons of groundwater to parched Las Vegas."

Get the Story:
Last Stand: Goshutes battle to save their sacred water (The Salt Lake City Weekly 5/10)

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