Payahuunadü: The Land of Flowing Water

A film screening of Manzanar, Diverted: When Water Becomes Dust and conversation about Japanese American Incarceration and Indigenous Dispossession


Fields of Knowledge
  • Health / Sustainability
  • Politics / Economics
  • Social Justice

Organizing Institutions


Contributing Institutions

Penn Program in Environmental Humanities, Penn Cinema & Media Studies, Center for Experimental Ethnography, the GRASP Lab, and Penn Engineering Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion


Aaron Levy, Diedra Krieger

Opens to public





4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Slought and collaborators from the University of Pennsylvania are pleased to announce "Payahuunadü: The Land of Flowing Water," on Monday, April 10, 2023 from 5:30-7:30pm. The program will include a film screening of Manzanar, Diverted: When Water Becomes Dust and a public conversation about Japanese American Incarceration and Indigenous Dispossession. Featured speakers include Ann Kaneko, the director and producer of Manzanar, Diverted, Davina Ruth Two Bears, a visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Postdoctoral Fellow at Swarthmore College, and Jane Robbins Mize, the Public Pedagogies Fellow at the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities. This event is free and open to the public, and light refreshments will be provided.

An inspired and poetic portrait of a place and its people, Manzanar, Diverted follows intergenerational women from three communities who defend their land, their history and their culture from the insatiable thirst of Los Angeles. In this fresh retelling of the LA water story, Native Americans, Japanese-American WWII incarcerees and environmentalists form an unexpected alliance to preserve Payahuunadü (Owens Valley), "the land of flowing water."

Featuring breathtaking photography and immersive soundscapes, the film recounts more than 150 years of history, showing how this distant valley is inextricably tied to the city of Los Angeles. It reveals the forced removals of two peoples--the Nüümü (Paiute) and the Newe (Shoshone) who were marched out of the Valley in the 1860s by the US Army and Japanese Americans who were brought here from their West Coast homes and incarcerated in a World War II concentration camp. Water lured outsiders in and continues to fuel the greed which has sucked this once lush place dry.

Filmed over five years, Manzanar, Diverted captures stunning and intimate imagery of this valley, combined with archival gems and careful research to narrate this epic story of the American West. It begins before colonizers came to the valley and then shows how the US Army and settlers took over the Valley; how the Los Angeles Aqueduct siphoned the Valley dry; how incarcerated Japanese Americans made the land green again; how Patsiata / Owens Lake became a huge health hazard and how this Valley now bears the pain of these stories and the consequences of losing water to diversion.

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Manzanar is the name of the former concentration camp that was constructed where an orchard community had thrived before the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) bought it out. Now, it is a national historic site where its annual pilgrimage unifies descendants of those incarcerated and activists who strive for social justice. In a David and Goliath fight, Japanese Americans living in Los Angeles and Native Americans and ranchers from the Valley form a coalition that stops construction of a massive LADWP solar facility across the Valley from the historic site. The film offers a hopeful message of how communities can come together to overcome histories of oppression and halt further development and monetization of a land.

In anticipation of the its release, the film team held a national Day of Action on July 17, 2022 entitled "Converging Conversations." Partnering with 18 Million Rising, Tsuru for Solidarity, the Sierra Club, Nia Tero and many other groups, this event spotlighted local actions, highlighting resource extraction, incarceration and environmental justice in a livestream video relay. The 2.5 hour live stream uplifted water and land protectors. Visit manzanardiverted.com to watch the live stream recording of this event.

Click here to access an interactive national map exploring how Japanese American incarceration was entangled with Indigenous dispossession.

Ann Kaneko is the director and producer of Manzanar, Diverted: When Water Becomes Dust as well as an editor and cinematographer. She is known for her personal films that weave her intimate aesthetic with the complex intricacies of political reality. An Emmy winner, she is in development on 45/45 a personal film about the beginning and end of life. She was a Fulbright, Japan Foundation Artist, Film Independent Doc Lab and Jackson Wild Multicultural Alliance fellow. She has been commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts, the California Endowment and the Skirball Cultural Center. She currently teaches Media Studies at Pitzer College.

Davina Ruth Two Bears is Diné (Navajo) originally from Birdsprings, Arizona. She is currently a visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Postdoctoral Fellow at Swarthmore College. Davina's new project involves the Old Leupp Boarding School's reuse as a Japanese Isolation Center in 1943 during World War II.

Jane Robbins Mize is a writer, teacher, and literary scholar in Philadelphia. She is currently a doctoral candidate in English at the University of Pennsylvania and the Public Pedagogies Fellow at the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities. Her current research considers the industrialization and imagination of water across the twentieth century.


"The outsiders came into this valley and renamed it. We call it Payahuunadü which means the place where the water always flows."

-- Kathy Jefferson Bancroft, Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Tribe


"Water was also the means of resistance whether they were etching it in the concrete of the water reservoir, or with the beautiful, amazing gardens. Water became this metaphor, both of the oppression, but also of the resistance to that."

-- Monica Mariko Embrey, Granddaughter of Sue Kunitomi Embrey and Sierra Club Organizer


"Manzanar is one little tiny square mile of land that has a deep history of forced removal. That can be forced removal to this place -- like the government did with Japanese Americans -- or from this place -- like the government did with Owens Valley Paiute."

-- Rose Masters, Manzanar National Historic Site Ranger