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Obama Cites Wisdom of Washoe People in Climate Change Speech

President Barack Obama conveyed his message on climate change through the words of a Washoe tribal leader on Wednesday.
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President Barack Obama conveyed his message on climate change from Lake Tahoe, Nevada on Wednesday through the words of a Washoe tribal leader, “’What happens to the land also happens to the people.’”

Obama visited the lake on August 31 to announce conservation efforts at the 20th Annual Environmental Summit.

“It’s been written that the air here is so fine, it must be the same air that the angels breathe,” Obama said in his speech. “So it’s no wonder that for thousands of years, this place has been a spiritual one. For the Washoe people (Native Americans), it is the center of their world.”

The Washoe Tribes of Nevada and California are a federally recognized tribe and according to the tribal website Gewe (the coyote) brought the Wašiw people to their homeland surrounding Da.aw (Lake Tahoe) and were told they were meant to be here by Nentašu. For the Washoe, the lake is the center of their world both geographically and spiritually.

“And just as this space is sacred to Native Americans, it should be sacred to all Americans,” the President said. “And that’s why we’re here, to protect this special pristine place, to keep these waters crystal clear, to keep the air as pure as the heavens, to keep alive Tahoe’s spirit and to keep faith with this truth, that the challenges of conservation and combating climate change are connected. They’re linked.”

The conservation efforts Obama announced include:

— “supporting conservation projects across Nevada to restore watersheds, stop invasive species and further reduce the risks posed by hazardous fuels and wildfires”;

— “Incentivizing private capital to come off the sidelines and contribute to conservation because government can’t do it alone”;

— “In partnership with California, we’re going to reverse the deterioration of the salt in the (Salton) sea before it is too late and that’s going to help a lot of folks across the West.”

“I’ve made it my priority in my presidency to protect the natural resources we inherited because we shouldn’t be the last to enjoy them. Just as the health of the land and the people are tied together, just as climate and conservation are tied together, we share a sacred connection with those who are going to follow us,” Obama said.