Saturday, September 21, 2013

Talking stick

Pima Indian calendar or "talking" stick.
I am in Phoenix for my sister's memorial and staying next door to the Indian casino Talking Stick. I am reminded that there are two uses for a "talking stick." One is that a stick can be held and passed from one person to another granting the right to speak at a gathering. The other use is that a stick can be carved as a narrative object, with symbols recording a story or calendar of events. Inside the small museum space dedicated to Indian art, a talking stick of more recent making and of the latter form is on exhibit. I am also working on a short op-ed piece for our local paper, attempting to put part of our recent AEP/SWEPCO hearing into perspective. This bit of text is as follows:
Here’s the plan…

Lanny Nickel’s testimony in the Little Rock Arkansas Public Service Commission (APSC) hearing on August 29, told that Southwest Power Pool (SPP) wants a huge Extra High Voltage (EHV) 345kV system to surround Northwest Arkansas, and just as reported months ago by members of Save the Ozarks, the Shipes Road to Kings River power line is part of that with additional parts to come up for APSC approval later. According to Nickel, SPP wants a robust system for "reliability". The extra transmission capacity for them is just an unstated bonus that will give huge profits. They prefer not to talk about that. .

In response to Save the Ozarks expert witness Dr. Hyde Merrill’s testimony, Nickel confirmed that the rationale proposed in the Notice to Construct issued by Southwest Power Pool is no longer a concern that would justify the project. But still SWEPCO and SPP have come up with additional reasons for the project, despite their old reason no longer holding water. Nickel and SPP attorney Kaplan showed those reasons on a big map, illustrated in airbrushed red colors (very professionally done and so convincing to the Judge that she asked to keep it). That map showed areas of concern along the route east toward Harrison on the Entergy side of the seam between suppliers. Melinda Montgomery of Entergy, testifying earlier for SWEPCO insisted that there were and are no reliability concerns or problems on the Entergy side of the seam, but in all fairness, she did acknowledge that having such a robust line in the neighborhood would provide extra reliability that was not really necessary. If the hearing in Little Rock was indeed an evidentiary proceeding, and not simply a dog and pony show for the kids, someone will have to examine the conflicting evidence offered by SWEPCO.

If the Notice to Construct is the basis for the application and the reason is no longer valid, the application is false or in error and should be dismissed. If AEP/SWEPCO has new reasons, then let them apply again. When SWEPCO's own witnesses dispute part of the new grounds presented by AEP/SWEPCO and Southwest Power Pool, and much of the information necessary to even evaluate the truth of Nickel’s testimony is kept from Save the Ozarks by SWEPCO and SPP’s refusals to respond to data requests, all parties, including the commission are kept in the dark. As long as we are purposefully kept in the dark, we have every reason in the world to distrust whatever conclusion the judge and commission arrive at that is not full and complete dismissal of the application.

Can folks see why all of us have been kept off balance by the process through which AEP/SWEPCO is attempting to claim eminent domain and destroy our properties, and damage the environment upon which the success of our tourist economy depends? AEP/SWEPCO and the Southwest Power Pool came at us with very big plans to build a huge transmission system hauling wholesale power throughout Northwest Arkansas, and beyond, claiming it was for our own reliability....our own good. They do this by putting forward one small step at a time, hoping we don't notice the full ugly effect, a process the US Army Corp of Engineers calls "piecemealing". If we don't stop the Ships Road to Kings River power line proposal, there will be more and more of these ugly projects all across North Arkansas and up through Missouri. Distributed power generation promises to save us from the ugly grid.

Go Solar and Save the Ozarks.
About the talking stick as shown above:
In the absence of a formal written language, the O´odham of southern Arizona relied on oral tradition for memorializing significant events. The Oos:hikbina—translated from O´odham as “stick cuts upon”—was one way the Akimel O´odham (River People) annotated oral history. The other manner of revitalizing human memory is through songs. Most often, an Oos:hikbina was made by trimming a dry saguaro cactus rib flat on one or two sides to enable the recorder and keeper of the Oos:hikbina to etch dots, small notches, V-shaped cuts, and deep straight lines across the stick representing years. The symbols were often painted with natural pigments of blue soot and red clay. This Oos:hikbina, kept by Mr. Joseph Head and acquired by the collector Edward H. Davis in 1921, records events beginning in 1833. The Gila River Indian Community, the keeper’s homeland, was established by executive order in 1859. Several battles in which the Akimel O´odham and Piipaash (Maricopa) joined forces against enemy tribes are recorded. Natural phenomena and European influence—including the coming of the railroads in 1878 and 1886—are revealed with etched symbolism. The Oos:hikbina does not record every event that affected the lives of the Akimel O´odham and Piipaash, but it does provide insight into the inevitable progression of new beginnings.

—Barnaby Lewis (Akimel O´odham) Traditional singer, knowledge-keeper, and cultural preservation officer, Gila River
Make, fix and create...

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