Pauline Esteves' Preface to the "Draft Secretarial Report to Congress"

The word 'timbisha' refers to a red material found in the Black Mountains not far from our tribal village at Furnace Creek. Our ancestors, the Old Ones, used this material, called ochre in English. They would use it like paint on their faces, to protect them and heal them. The Old Ones believed that this material, 'timbisha', strengthened their spirituality.

Our people, the Timbisha, are named after this material and so is our valley. The term 'Death Valley' is unfortunate. We refrain from talking about death. Instead, we refer to "one who it has happened to." Even more importantly, this is a place about life. It is a powerful and spiritual valley that has healing powers and the spirituality of the valley is passed on to our people.

Our people have always lived here. The Creator, Appü, placed us here at the beginning of time. This valley, and the surrounding places that the Old Ones frequented, is 'tüpippüh', our Homeland. The Timbisha Homeland includes the valley and the nearby mountains, valleys, flats, meadows, and springs.

Then others came and occupied our land. They gave us diseases and some of our people died. They took away many of our most important places. The springs.... the places we used for food. The places we used for our spiritual practices. They didn't want us to carry on our religion or our ceremonies or our songs or our language. The names of our places became unknown to some of our people.

We never gave up. The Timbisha people have lived in our Homeland forever and we will live here forever. We were taught that we don't end. We are part of our Homeland and it is part of us. We are people of the land. We don't break away from what is part of us.

Still, a lot has been lost. The current situation is very serious. We have no land at all. Very few of our people are employed. They need, for their welfare, housing and economic development. The plan negotiated between the Timbisha and the Department of the Interior will be of great assistance in bringing economic self-sufficiency, done sustainably, to my Tribe.

Economic development, if it is to work, must be done by the Timbisha people themselves. Now, there are very few opportunities within the Tribe. This plan will bring many opportunities with the Tribe. It is significant that this will be done, not just in one place, but in several places within the Homeland, because that is how the Old Ones always did it.

Most important of all, I envision that this plan will bring the people closer teogether. Many of us will be able to live and work in tribal communities once again. Our cultural preservation program will be greatly expanded once we have a tribal center. What we are fundamentally doing is re-educating many of our people as to who they are. The Timbisha people are not from some other Homeland. This is our Homeland. We will stay on, and this plan will give us the opportunity to do that in a self-sufficient, sustainable, and spiritual way.

Pauline Esteves
Timbisha Shoshone Tribal Chairperson (Retired)

Last updated: February 28, 2015

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