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Health, Science & Environment

Great Salt Lake ‘healing’ needs Native American input, Shoshone leader says

Great Salt Lake
Emily Means
/
KUER
The shoreline of the Great Salt Lake has expanded as its water levels have receded over the years.

To save the Great Salt Lake, Indigenous voices and knowledge need to be included, according to Darren Parry, the former chairman of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation.

When science and Indigenous wisdom collaborate, Parry said environmental healing can happen. He gave a public, virtual lecture this week through the University of Utah on protecting the Great Salt Lake and its watershed.

Parry said Indigenous people value the spiritual nature of land, water and people. He said the Shoshone people were among the first to live “in abundance” in the Salt Lake Valley.

“Western worldviews say that the land and its resources should be available for development and extraction for the benefit of humans,” he said. “Indigenous worldviews believe that the land is sacred and is only given by the creator to be carefully and lovingly maintained.”

The Great Salt Lake reached a historic low last year and lawmakers have introduced several bills in the Legislature to help it reach healthy levels. The body of water is important for air quality and wildlife.

Parry said he’s grateful there’s more bipartisan support to protect the lake, which he pointed out is shrinking because of human activity. But Utah leaders seem unwilling to talk about what he calls the “the monster in the room” — climate change.

“We have to increase political pressure for climate legislation which will immediately reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” he said. “There's an old Native American proverb that says. We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”

Parry is also advocating for policies that would protect instream flows and encourage more sustainable agricultural practices. There’s several pieces in the state Legislature addressing water, including a $40 million Great Salt Lake Restoration bill.

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