The Killing of Kokopili, Sun Runner Magazine, Q.4., 2010 By Robert Lundahl 415.205.3481 firstname.lastname@example.org As a filmmaker, my relationship with the desert began as it does for many others, transversing a lonely landscape with its share of oddities and attractions all the way from Palm Desert to the Colorado, San Bernardino to Las Vegas. As the years shot down the lonely highways and back, I began to open my eyes and ears. The mysteries of the ancient petroglyphs, the life supporting oases and springs awakened; the realization of desert as habitat dawned. I always had a camera with me, and that made me sensitive to the wreckage and artifacts we leave behind, fighter jets on poles out by Lancaster and an airplane wing here and there.
Photo: Lundahl 漏1981/2006
In the desert, you are the main character, the protagonist. The desert is a reflection of you. If you are empty, or wanting, you will see the desert through that lens. If the desert itself is not enough, you may want to build costly solar apparatus with a lifespan of maybe 50 years and grade 100始s of square miles to do it, battle the desert for her gold and riches. Destroy 20,000 years of recorded history. Yes recorded. That始s what petroglyphs and geoglyphs are. In 30 years when we paint solar accumulating crystals on to the flat surfaces of our cars and houses, your public dumpsite will be someone else's cultural genocide. On the other hand, if you see nature and abundance and life, well, you're ok. The desert is the protagonist. You are a bit player.
Blessing, 29 Palms Band.
Writers like conflict, and conflicts between competing ideas about our future are eternal and ongoing. But there are times when a deeper conflict manifests which can only be described as a conflict of the soul. The drama is about power; it is about energy; and how the burgeoning cities of the southwestern desert obtain that energy. Oh, yes, and I am a documentary film maker. Documentary means you film it from real life. If this were docu-drama... Solar Millennium executives could play both the protagonists and the antagonists. DISSOLVE TO SOLAR MILLENNIUM, OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA (Executives around the conference room) "We've got public opinion behind us, how can we really mess this up?" Let's backtrack. In November, 2009, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar detailed several California renewable energy projects that are on a fast track to be constructed in the desert. “Under President Obama's leadership, we have entered a new energy frontier," Salazar said. “By putting these renewable energy projects on a fast track, we are managing our public lands not just for conventional energy development but also for environmentally responsible renewable energy production that will power our clean energy future.”
Hennar Gladen represents Solar Millennium at the Estela meeting in Belgium. European Thermo Electricity Association
CUT TO: SOLAR MILLENNIUM, OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA (Executives around the conference room) "Forget about building solar on rooftops and parking structures, brownfields, ag lands, airstrips, and places that make sense, close to where people use it, distributed, so terrorists can't knock it out... …we'll build out in the desert, in a semi–wilderness, centralized, get the permits and build long transmission lines and interconnects, so its complicated and expensive, and so one Iranian cruise missile could take out the whole enchilada..." Blythe Solar, a partnership of Chevron and the German firm Solar Millennium will grade and level 7500 acres of desert in an area near to the Blythe Giant Intaglios. The Intaglios are extremely large geoglyphs (images created on the surface of the Earth). Some say they represent Man, Woman, Creator, the seed and the “Trinity,” in the Uto-Aztecan cosmological view.
The Blythe Intaglios are not alone. Film makers Robert Lundahl, whose film, “Solar Gold,” and Robert Gonzales–Vazquez, have documented scores of previously unknown geoglyphs in the area, some even within the footprint of the Blythe Solar project. CUT TO: SOLAR MILLENNIUM, OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA (Executives around the conference room) "And we'll get the government, the taxpayers, to pay for it, or for a lot of it, they'll give us 'cash back...' Yes (echoes) Cash Back! Is this a bad idea or what?" And Solar Millennium is not alone. Seven companies are now expected to break ground in the California and Arizona deserts before the end of this year on eight utility-scale solar projects with a planned eventual capacity of more than 3,800 MW. The solar industry is benefitting from a push, and pull, by the Federal government. 3
Companies are anxious to break ground on their projects before the end of this year in order to meet a crucial deadline that will allow them to eventually be eligible for Federal cash grants from the Treasury Department that would reimburse them for 30% of the cost of construction. The developers are also lined up hoping to receive government guarantees of project loans from the Treasury's Federal Financing Bank. The seven companies are Abengoa, BrightSource, Chevron Energy Solutions, First Solar, NextEra, Solar Millennium and Tessera Solar. CUT TO: SOLAR MILLENNIUM, OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA (Executives around the conference room) "And we'll build them on... Native American Traditional and Religious Grounds!!!"
The Palen Mountains are sacred to the Native Americans and in Nahuatl they are called "Hue-Hue- Talpallan" meaning Hue (Ancient), Hue (Ancient), Talpallan (Reddish Earth) together "The Ancient, Ancient Reddish Earth". This area of proposed development is also home to Native petroglyphs, ancient trails, springs and a way of life and cosmological orientation that derives its symbolism and power from the very mountains ringing the valley to be paved over by the power plants. Six of the proposed projects have over 250 major cultural impacts each. For tribes across Southern California, resources which constitute the libraries and recorded record of existence and life in the territories of Indigenous cultures are threatened. They are held in trust by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management). CUT TO SOLAR MILLENNIUM, OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA (Executives around the conference room) "But wait, excuse me, excuse me.. Why would we want to build these plants on top of sacred geoglyphs, when there are other places we can build that are already distressed land like the City of Boron, Desert Center, Lake Tamarisk, Palmdale Airport, California City? 4
"Look, it doesnʼt matter. Itʼs solar energy, its ʻrenewable,ʼ no one is going to fight us. We can do whatever we please.” “We know any kind of lawsuit will wind up in Federal Court and we'll miss the deadline for our rebates, but if that happens it will be “Not our fault!” The State of California mandated the “33% Renewables Portfolio Standard by 2020” requiring that the State meet 33% of its energy needs through renewable energy by that time. With an unemployment rate nationally of 9.6% and a construction schedule coinciding with the 2012 elections, the Federal Government wants jobs. The third branch of governments in the State and the Nation, the Tribal Governments, are keeping quiet for now. But according noted anthropologist Dr. Lowell Bean there are concerns among Native people regarding cultural and environmental impacts. With policy and energy decisions looming that will define how the consumers and homeowners of the State of California will meet their energy needs, how much they will pay for it, and what "trade offs" will be made, it seems the three branches of Government may not be seeing eye to eye. A result left to the opinions of the Federal Judiciary would likely not benefit all or perhaps any of the stakeholders. What Solar Millennium executives really discuss behind closed doors is, of course, unknown. And while oneʼs imagination can create a multitude of scenarios, most make no sense. The permitting process is in disarray. At a CEC, California Energy Commission hearing in Sacramento, relating to the CECʼs permitting of Florida Power and Light subsidiary NextEraʼs™ Genesis plant at Ford Dry Lake, CEC Senior Project Manager Mike Monasmith, returning from a lunch break, announced the project would be approved despite major cultural impacts--on the basis of the overriding consideration of the power needs of the state. In other words, the result was announced before the data had been gathered. Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA) requires Federal agencies to take into account the effects of their undertakings on historic properties, and afford the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation a reasonable 5
opportunity to comment. The regulations also place major emphasis on consultation with Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations, in keeping with the 1992 amendments to NHPA. Consultation with an Indian tribe must respect Tribal sovereignty and the government-to-government relationship between the Federal Government and Indian tribes. Here is gets fishier. When "good" renewable energy projects go bad. What happens when oral history and digital photography collide? Who believes what? Five of the six projects with major cultural impacts are on BLM (Bureau of Land Management land, which holds Native Cultural interests in trust. At the proposed location of Solar Millennium/Chevronʼs Bythe Solar plant, geoglyphs of Kokopilli, Cicimitl, and the foot of Creator, lie within the project boundaries. The BLM says the geoglyphs weren't there in a 1994 photo from Google Earth, so Solar Millennium can feel free to bulldoze them. Mohave Elder Ron Van Fleet, a descendent of the last Mojave traditional Chief, Emmett Van Fleet says they were. Under the Section 106 process, that should be enough. Some suspect digital photographic evidence provided by the BLM may have been altered. When asked about the discrepancy, noted anthropologist/ethnographer, Lowell Bean, who has worked with the Cahuillas for over 50 years said, “We have a conflict.” In the CEC’s presiding members proposed decision (PMPD) it appears that BLM believes that it is better qualified than the tribes themselves to identify whether or not the Kokopilli/Quetzalcoatl and Cicimitl geoglyphs existed prior to 1994. The BLM Palm Springs Field Office archaeologist provided Energy Commission staff with a Google Earth location for the Kokopelli geoglyph and another nearby geoglyph identified as Cicimitl. It appeared to staff that the two geoglyphs were located within the project boundaries. Staff considered the two geoglyphs as potential cultural resources subject to impacts. The BLM Palm Springs Field Office Field Manager and archaeologist met with Alfredo Acosta Figueroa and other representatives of the La Cuna de Aztlan Sacred Sites Protection Circle on March 2, 2010, to view the two geoglyphs and some other sacred sites identified by Mr. Figueroa, including the Creator’s Throne (a rock masonry feature), and some ancient trails Mr. Figueroa says connected these two geoglyphs and the throne to the Blythe Intaglios and other sacred sites. The site visit and analysis of the geoglyphs determined that that these geoglyphs are recent in origin (Kline 2010). These conclusions were based on reviews of historical maps and aerial photography, allegedly showing that these geoglyphs did not exist prior to 1994. The BLM is relying on the May 21, 1994 and June 15, 1996 Google Earth photos below to determine their age. But the geoglyphs clearly existed. While the Kokopilli/Quetzalcoatl image is barely visible due to the poor quality of the Google Earth image the Cicimitl geoglyph is plainly seen in 1994. 6
May 21, 1994 and June 15, 1996 Google Earth photos used by BLM to determine the Kokopilli/Quetzalcoatl and Cicimitl geoglyphs did not exist prior to 1994.
The pixel structure of the 1994 image on the left appears to this trained eye to be soft in the middle which might indicate use of the clone tool in Photohop to replicate and paste over images. Patterns of vegetation appear also to be highly regular and the 1996 image on the right appears more complex overall, suggesting significant alteration of landscape in ways that are unexplained. Bean gathered data from Native Sources Phil Smith (Chemehuevi), Ron Van Fleet Sr. (relative of Traditional Chief Fort Mojave Emmet Van Fleet), and Blythe resident Roy Robles under Section 106, indicating Kokopili, Cicimitl, and Creator's Footprint geoglyphs predated 1994, as presented in BLM FEIS, however due to scheduling inconsistencies and improper public notification, confusion and doubt has been created as to whether this data will be included in the FEIS by extension, amendment or other legal process.
Figure 1. BLM Special Edition Surface Management Status Desert Access Map 1999 with Geoglyph locations shows that the Solar Millennium Blythe Solar Power Plant will be built on top of the current sacred cultural site of interconnected trails between Blytheâ€™s Giant Intaglios and the other giant geoglyphs of Kokopilli/Quetzalcoatl and Cicimitl 7
Figure 2. Giant geoglyphs of Kokopilli/Quetzalcoatl geoglyphs of Cicimitl
Other examples of a permitting process gone awry include: Persistent comments to the effect that Tribal representatives need more time to respond have not been given credence, but qualify in and of themselves as satisfying Section 106 requirements according to several of the project FEIS documents. A new low for the BLM. Incredulously, at a closed door meeting on August 11, at U.C. Riverside Extension in Palm Desert, BLM Regional Director Holly Roberts commented that adequate efforts had been made to contact the tribes for input under Section 106 were immediately contradicted by the lack of invitation by email to Ft. Mojave Tribe, and statements that "they didn't answer their phone." Look, thereʼs a good chance itʼs Aztec. Listen to La Cuna de Aztlan Sacred Site Protection Circle. In a February 8, 2010 e-mail to Allison Shaffer of the BLM’s Palm Springs Field Office, Patti Pinon, Chairperson of the La Cuna de Aztlan Sacred Sites Protection Circle, expressed concern that the proposed project would be constructed on a Kokopelli geoglyph and numerous other images and ancient trails that lead to other geoglyphs a few miles away. Failure to incorporate substantive evidence provided by La Cuna de Aztlan Sacred Site Protection Circle related to Cicmitl, Kokopili and Creator's Footprint geoglyphs, trails, and land based geometries in accordance with Uto-Aztecan cosmology and traditions, seems to fit the pattern dodging Section 106 compliance. 8
This dodgy behavior would also include the failure to take such logical steps as reaching out to Uto-Aztecan experts, non-locally, including in Mexico (Yaqui, Tarahamaru, others) and Arizona (Tohono O' Odham, others). No wonder they didnʼt find anything. The BLM has relied on applicant anthropologists, BLM anthropologists, and contracted anthropologists to provide data reflected in Section 106 without proper vetting by Tribal authorities. Now whenʼs that report due? Anthropologist Dr. Lowell Bean was hired under the auspices of a BLM contractor to gather data from Tribal sources on a time schedule that is inconsistent with the period for public comment. Obviously this has created confusion and doubt. No one seems to know whether Beanʼs data wlll be included in a version of the FEIS, which is closed, or the Public Comment period is also now closed for Blythe Solar. In conclusion the permitting of all of the six projects with major cultural impacts suffers from the same kinds of problems due to process shortcuts. Ivanpah, Lucerne, Imperial, Genesis, Palen, and Blythe Solar projects “fast tracked” status has resulted in inadequate evaluations of environmental and cultural resource impacts and therefore inadequate EIS documents in all cases. Similarly the lack of adequate Section 106 consultations appears across the board. In producing my film, “Unconquering the Last Frontier,” www.unconquering.org, I researched the history of the damming of Washington Stateʼs Elwha River and its impacts on Native peoples dating back to the 1890ʼs. What was revealed was a process of encroachment, brutalization, displacement, economic marginalization, cultural dissociation and forced acculturation into the European culture. Eighty years following the construction of dams blocking the salmon runs that provided spiritual and material sustenance to the Native peoples, Congress passed the Elwha Ecosystem and Fisheries Restoration Act of 1992, mandating full ecosystem restoration and restoration of 11 runs of anadromous fish. The dams are scheduled to be removed in 2011, 100 years after they were built. A lesson to be learned is that it can take a long time to correct a problem once it is allowed to occur. Another lesson to be learned is this: Dams were not built to control rivers and generate power, for the economic benefits of that were always known to be short term, dams were built to control people. The generation of power by multinational corporations, including oil companies like Chevron (Blythe Solar, Palen plants), and power companies like Florida Power and Light (NextEra™–Genesis Plant), will over time feed the energy needs of Southern California, including Tribal businesses and reservations, thus making the tribes “customers”, no longer of local firms, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas 9
and Electric but of international investment bankers and multinational firms with trillions of dollars of investment funds behind them. Their disregard for the Tribal perspective is exemplified by the Solar Millenium/BLM FEIS with all its inherent inadequacies. In the future, Tribal solar and energy projects will interconnect with the power grid on the terms of the current applicant/providers and their successors, with the Tribes excluded as independent power generators or only under the contracts of the multinationals. Any joint venture projects developed in partnership with applicant companies will be subject to their terms and contracts. The hard earned sovereignty of Tribal governments will vanish like the surface of the desert under the blades of bulldozers run by investment bankers and the world始s energy firms. Ultimately this is a fight for independence, for sovereignty, and for survival of Tribal peoples. You can help say no to this corporate land grab by writing your thoughts to Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior, at the following address: Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street, N.W. Washington DC 20240. With projects quickly moving to the approval stage those wishing to participate in the appeals process or to file a lawsuit may do so on the basis of public comments filed in each of the projects. Public Comments related to the following cases may be found here: http://www.energy.ca.gov/sitingcases/. SES Solar Two Project (Imperial Valley Solar) (CACA 47740) Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (CACA 48668) Chevron Energy Solutions Lucerne Valley Solar Project (CACA 49561) Blythe Solar Power Project (CACA 48811) Genesis Solar Energy Project (CACA 48880) Palen Solar Power Project (CACA 48810) Robert Lundahl is a documentary film maker.
Film Maker, Robert Lundahl has released a series and 2 long form documentaries about indigenous communities to Public Television. His films are in use by universities such as Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, the University of Washington, and by institutions such as the Smithsonian.
Alfredo Figueroa with his son Jesus, pictured with the El Tosco geoglyph. El Tosco, the first man, descends from the "Tree of Life" Tamoanchan, the mountain seen in the background.