Tending Nature

Running Ditches and Slowing Water: Paiute People Adapt Traditions to Modern-Day Gardens

A constant battle over water, including a major leak in a pipe owned by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, inspired the Big Pine Paiute Tribe to revisit the irrigation traditions of their ancestors and connect them to modern solutions.

Joseph Miller, a member of the Big Pine Paiute Tribe, describes how a plot of land has been transformed into a park, community garden, farmers market and an irrigation demonstration project. Working with the natural contour lines of the land, they have run ditches and made a berm to help water flow slowly into a water retention swell. Miller says they have applied the three S’s of water from permaculture rules: spread it, slow it and sink it. This process has improved the soil health on the plot and has made it possible to nurture plants as large as fruit trees, creatures as small as earthworms and fungi, and organisms as microscopic as beneficial bacteria.

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