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h, summertime, and the hills come alive with the sounds of music—lots of music. While the desert heats up below, the cooler elevations of the mountains nearby provide a fantastic opportunity to cool off and chill out with great jazz, blues, and even Zydeco. The desert’s first human residents lived a modified snowbird style existence. When temperatures climbed, so did the desert residents. The nearby mountains provided a close respite from the heat. Now desert residents can avail themselves of the cooler temperatures and change of scene our nearby mountains offer us. And there are plenty of reasons to head on up! First comes the 24th annual Mammoth Lakes Jazz Jubilee, from July 11-15. Then, it’s time for the Blues for the Zoo concert at Moonridge Animal Park in Big Bear Lake on August 4, with the 19th annual Idyllwild Jazz in the Pines festival on its heels, August 25 & 26. The Mammoth Lakes Jazz Jubilee serves up “hot jazz in the cool Sierra,” with a line-up that includes nearly 30 bands (so far) ranging from Bill Allred’s Classic Jazz Band to Cornet Chop Suey (from St. Louis), Gator Beat, The Professors (the instructors of the Mammoth Lakes Jazz Camp), the Side Street Strutters, Steve Lucky & the Rhumba Bums, and host band for the Jubilee, Temple of Folly with the incredible Yve Evans. Anytime is a good time to wander on up to Mammoth, with its fantastic winter sports and the region’s great summer recreational offerings, from hiking and horseback riding, to some of the world’s best trout fishing, kayaking, and just enjoy4 The Sun Runner – June/July 2012
ing the fresh air and the view. Work all that into the musical arrangements of the Jubilee, and you’ve got yourself a summer escape from the heat that can’t be beat. Check out the Jubilee’s website at www.mammothjazz.org for the festival line-up and links for lodging and recreational information. Moonridge Animal Park in Big Bear Lake is a great family day trip or weekend destination anytime. There are 160 animals from 80 species at the Park, ranging from black bears, wood bison, and bobcats, to raptors like the American kestrel, bald and golden eagles, and barn and great horned owls. Join Moonridge staff during the summer for the Daily Feeding tour at 3 p.m. daily (except Wednesdays), and animal presentations at noon daily (weather permitting). Get up close to these animals—including Jasmine, the 7 1/2 foot-long Columbian red-tailed boa—and the grizzly bears! Summer hours run 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, making the Moonridge Animal Park a perfect inexpensive family day trip to cool off! Stay the night and take in the fun and affordable recreational opportunities that Big Bear and nearby Lake Arrowhead offer, from fishing and boating, to all sorts of water sports, hiking, shopping, fine dining, entertainment, and fantastic lodging facilities where you can relax and enjoy a break from the heat, and the daily grind. Check out the Honey Bear Lodge & Cabins in Big Bear Lake, and Lake Arrowhead Chalets in nearby Lake Arrowhead, for the best in mountain lodging and hospitality. If you love the blues, then you’ll love Blues for the Zoo,
Cougar photo at Moonridge Animal Park by Margaret Spiess.
the benefit blues concert for the Moonridge Animal Park. Tickets for the one-day music festival are only $30 in advance, with kids 10 and under free. This year’s headliner is Zydeco “crown prince,” C.J. Chenier, with The Red Hot Louisiana Band. C.J. is the son of Zydeco legend Clifton Chenier, and does an admirable job of carrying on that family tradition. Jimmy Thackery, co-founder of the Nighthawks, is also featured in this year’s Blues for the Zoo, with The Drivers, and Alvin Youngblood Hart. The last weekend of August provides one of the best small music festivals of southern California, Idyllwild’s Jazz in the Pines. Held at, and benefitting, the Idyllwild Arts Academy, this festival is a class act. With three stages, the musical line-up this year includes the Luther Hughes Cannonball-Coltrane Project, Kenny Burrell, Brian Bromberg, Johnny Polanco y Su Conjunto Amistad, Tony Moore with Lori Jenaire, Sweet Baby J’Al with Bonne Musique Zydeco Band, Janis Mann, and many more. A special treat is being able to catch the Idyllwild Arts Students and Alumni group. Our recommendation is to head up to the hills early that weekend and stay as long as you possibly can. Check www.thesunrunner.com for your chances to win pairs of tickets to Jazz in the Pines—a $260 value! Book your accommodations early (they sell-out closer to the festival), at Bluebird Cottage Inn, Edelweiss Lodge, the Lodge at Pine Cove, or Wilder Cabins, for your jazzy weekend! Finally, when you just want peace and quiet, and an authentic mountain retreat where you can cool your body and replenish your soul, head up to Springville or Lake Isa-
Mammoth Jazz Jubilee photo by Robin K. Thompson.
bella. The Mountain Top Bed & Breakfast in Springville offers gourmet breakfasts and personal hospitality near the Trail of the Giants and the giant sequoias, while the Historic Hillside Ranch at the east end of Lake Isabella near Kernville, offers charming historic Whiskey Flat homes in serene surroundings.
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The Sun Runner The Magazine of the Real California Desert June/July 2012—Vol. 18, No. 1 The Sun Runner Magazine PO Box 2171, Joshua Tree, CA 92252 (760)820-1222 • www.thesunrunner.com Publisher/Executive Editor:Steve Brown firstname.lastname@example.org Founding Editor Emeritus: Vickie Waite Asst. Publisher, in memoriam: Barbara Buckland Theatre/Film Editors: Jack & Jeannette Lyons Literary Editor: Delphine Lucas Music Editor: Judy Wishart Calendar Editor: Lynelle White
The Sun Runner The Magazine of the Real California Desert
June/July 2012 – Glimpses of the Native Desert
Inside this Issue:
Getaway to the Heights of Summer Fun Special Section ... 4 Dry Heat, by Steve Brown ... 11 The Tortoise Telegraph, News gathered from around the desert – at our own pace ... 12 Questions Surround Secret Talks About Water Districts’ Project, by Nick Gerda ... 14 Contributing Writers Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Alert, Cynthia Anderson • Lorraine Blair by Seth Shteir ... 17 Philip Bonafede • Steve Brown Death Valley Jim • Carlos Gallinger Ocotillo Express Wind Facility Opposition Grows, by Gale Courey Toensing ... 18 Nick Gerda • Jack Lyons • Seth Shteir Mane Street Shoots—and Hoots—It Up, by “One Shot Scot” McKone ... 20 Gale Courey Toensing • Judy Wishart Crazy Cactus Grows Wild in Barstow, by Steve Smith ... 21 Contributing Photographers & Artists: Lorraine Blair The Makers, by Cynthia Anderson ... 23 Philip Bonafede • Steve Brown Canyon of Dreams—Little Petroglyph Canyon, by Steve Brown ... 25 Bill Dahl • Death Valley Jim Richard Erdoes • Carlos Gallinger Remembering Richard Milanovich, by Steve Brown ... 28 Karin Mayer • Holly Owen • Margaret Spiess Today is a Good Day to Die, by Steve Brown ... 29 Robin K. Thompson • Judy Wishart Remembering Katherine Siva Saubel, by Steve Brown ... 33 Advertising Sales: Gold Specimens: A Look at the “Types” of Gold Around the World, John Cucchiara, Senior Sales Manager by Philip Bonafede ... 34 Sun Runner Team Support: The Ways of Things—The Desert Snail, by Carlos Gallinger ... 35 Christina Dooley • Steve Hall • Isha Jones The Sun Runner Magazine features desert Ramblings From Randsburg, On the Trail ofRose Petals and a Thorn or news, desert issues and commentary, arts & Two...Reminders of Randsburg’s Dr. Burcham, by Lorraine Blair ... 36 entertainment, natural and cultural history, Death Valley Jim’s Desert Adventures: Trona, Part 2, columns, poetry, stories by desert writers, and more, for the enormous California desert by Death Valley Jim ... 37 Desert Theatre Beat, by Jack Lyons ... 38 region. Published bimonthly. MAGAZINE DEADLINE: July 25 for Film Talk, by Jack Lyons ... 39 the August/September issue, for advertising & editorial (Desert Writers Submissions due A Touch of the Desert finds its way to the LA Greek Film Festival, 7/5). To list a desert event free of charge by Steve Brown ... 40 in The Sun Runner’s online desert events A Few Words With Craig Prater, by Steve Brown ... 41 calendar, please send your complete press release and event information (preferably Hi-Desert Music News, by Judy Wishart ... 42 with photos) to calendar@thesunrunner. The Town of Yucca Valley Summer Music Festival ... 45 com, or mail to: Calendar, c/o: The Sun The Best Places to Stay in the Real Desert ... 48 Runner Magazine, PO Box 2171, Joshua Tree, CA 92252. Please include all relevant information in text format. Notices submitted without complete information or in an annoying format may not be posted. Event information absolutely will not be taken over the telephone or telepathically (it hurts!). SUBMISSIONS: By mail to the address above; by email: publisher@thesunrunner. com, or stop us when we’re at the Kelso Depot like everybody else does. SUBSCRIPTIONS: $22/year U.S.A. ($38/ year International, $38 trillion Intergalactic) Copyright © 2012 The Sun Runner. Permission for reproduction of any part of this publication must be obtained from the publisher. The opinions of our contributors are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of the magazine. Honest. We have made some effort to be accurate, but we are a desert publication after all, and we are not responsible for errors or omissions in material submitted to us, nor claims by advertisers. Advertising, press releases, and public service announcements are accepted at the mysterious discretion of the all-seeing publisher.
10 The Sun Runner – June/July 2012
Cover Art — Little Petroglyph Canyon, by Steve Brown.
Taken during The Sun Runner’s spring tour to Little Petroglyph Canyon, a raven keeps watch over the canyon’s ancient treasures. Want up-to-date advertising information about The Sun Runner Magazine, The Stumps Monthly, the new Sun Runner website, and our specialty publications? Call Senior Sales Manager John Cucchiara at (760)992-0838 or (760)808-3297 for our media kit and current advertising specials. Or call us at (7600820-1222 for the latest advertising opportunities.
“The other Desert—the real Desert—is not for the eyes of the superficial observer, or the fearful soul or the cynic. It is a land, the character of which is hidden except to those who come with friendliness and understanding. To these the Desert offers rare gifts: health-giving sunshine—a sky that is studded with diamonds—a breeze that bears no poison—a landscape of pastel colors such as no artist can duplicate—thorn-covered plants which during countless ages have clung tenaciously to life through heat and drought and wind and the depredations of thirsty animals, and yet each season send forth blossoms of exquisite coloring as a symbol of courage that has triumped over terrifying obstacles.” – Randall Henderson and J. Wilson McKenney There Are Two Deserts, Desert magazine, Volume 1, Number 1, November, 1937
he inherent arrogance of “American” civilization astounds me sometimes. It blows me away. Don’t get me wrong, I love my country and the ideals it stands for, but the policies and acts of our government and us, the people, are sometimes less than ideal, especially when it comes to both the treatment, and understanding of, the original Americans. Historically speaking, it would be incorrect to refer to what happened to Native Americans since Europeans arrived on this continent as anything less than genocide, some of it unintentional, much of it entirely so. And yet, while that statement will certainly meet with emotional opposition from many, it looks to me as if the cultural genocide has never stopped. Certainly, outright slaughter isn’t condoned any more, but on a more insidious cultural level, the heart of genocide against Native Americans beats still. And here in the desert, it’s underway, championed oddly, by the Obama administration, as the Department of the Interior pushes industrial wind and solar projects that steamroll over sovereign nation tribal rights, consultations, and considerations; ignores Native American testimony and oral history along with spiritual practices and culture; and, destroys invaluable cultural and sacred sites. Whether it’s near Blythe or Ivanpah, sites of large scale industrial solar projects that endanger, damage, and destroy Native American cultural sites, or now the Ocotillo Express wind turbine site along the border of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park that is a traditional cremation site for the Quechan Tribe of the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation, and is also held sacred by the Kumeyaay and Cocopah nations; irreversible, and purposeful harm is being done to Native cultural resources. With the destruction of these sites comes further alienation, and a loss of a history and culture of peoples we still don’t really
know or understand, hundreds of years after the first Europeans explored the desert. I’m not interested in placing blame. I do think there needs to be an awareness of the genocide that took place, and education about it, but when I’m looking at cultures, languages, and historic, cultural, and sacred sites vanishing from the desert landscape, I don’t think there is the time to spend on trying to legalistically assign blame for the horrible acts of the past. The present acts need to be addressed. The Sun Runner is making an effort to include more news from the Native peoples who have the desert in their hearts as their home. It won’t be easy. Even the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians didn’t respond initially to a request for information for a memorial tribute to the late tribal chairman, Richard Milanovich. But the problem isn’t stemming necessarily from the tribes, but rather just from a different manner of building relationships. It’s been difficult for me to carve out the time and travel necessary to build the personal relationships necessary to foster the trust and experience for successful cross-cultural communications and collaborations. And looking around at past history, and history now in the making, it’s understandable how tribal members may have some misgivings about easily trusting outsiders like myself. Eventually, however, it seems that tribal cultural interests may be best served in the long run by carefully finding nonNative partners who, like myself, don’t want to see the original culture of the original Californians vanish in the whirlpool of the current American “culture” of political scams, pushy pickpocketing marketing, and the mining of the American people (consumers all) as we all struggle to preserve vestiges of culture amidst the tempest. The original peoples of the desert have much yet to offer—in their own time, and their own ways. June/July 2012 – The Sun Runner 11
The Dismal Case of San Bernardino County and Desert Tourism It’s no secret that The Sun Runner has been heavily involved in promoting responsible tourism for the California deserts as one readily available and easily implementable industry that can both help our region economically, while also raising awareness of the value of desert conservation. We’ve been a member of the California Deserts Visitors Association for years, and have participated in the LA Travel & Adventure Show for five years, as well as this year’s International Tour Operators Pow Wow. We’ve produced attractions maps for visitors, and we’re getting ready to roll out the first dedicated visitors guide for the Joshua Tree Gateway Communities. We love the desert, and we want everyone else to appreciate it, enjoy it, and protect it. Back in 2011, we were informed at a local tourism meeting that the County of San Bernardino’s Economic Development Agency was thinking of “doing something” to promote tourism, by Yucca Valley Town Manager Mark Nuaimi. A check at the time by The Sun Runner of the one page of the EDA’s website dedicated to tourism destinations, led to the discovery of links that were out of date back more than a decade. There on the EDA’s “tourism” page, Joshua Tree National Monument, Death Valley National Monument, and the East Mojave Scenic Area were all listed as attractions. What a shame that the two national monuments had been national parks, and the scenic area had been a national preserve (the Mojave National Preserve), since 1994. It seems incomprehensible that the county’s Economic Development Agency could care so little about tourism that it hadn’t bothered to update its inventory of tourism assets for about 17 years. Needless to say, some folks understandably felt as if the desert portion of the county—the part of the county that includes portions of two national parks and a national preserve that together attract over three million visitors per year to the region—was getting neglected. If the economic development folks didn’t “get” tourism, what could they be expected to get about our region? We can report that changes have been made since 2011, and at least some are for the better, though there is still plenty of evidence that tourism is absolutely not a priority for those who run the county’s EDA. Keep in mind that the following 12 The Sun Runner – June/July 2012
problems with the EDA’s tourism material comes months after the existing errors in their site were pointed out to them. For instance, a check the last week of May found Death Valley National Park is still listed as Death Valley National Monument. Oddly enough, the web link leads to a “Requested Page Not Found” error (“Page Found in the Past”). And while Joshua Tree National Park is now correctly listed and linked, the Mojave National Preserve is nowhere to be found, while the East Mojave Scenic Area is still listed and its link from the page takes you to the National Park Service’s home page. The county, oddly enough, can’t even link to its own major tourist attraction—Calico Ghost Town, a county regional park. The link the EDA uses is to calicotown.com, not the county’s Regional Parks own page for it (which is pretty good, though rather generic in its information since it isn’t designed to be updated constantly). Calico is possibly one of the saddest missed opportunities of the desert region. While it sees a decent number of visitors, the town could be far more successful. The politics of the local business owners, one of whom apparently tried to shake down this magazine for money over our use of a photo of Calico that showed her property—in an editorial story promoting Calico as a destination—is complicated by having the county run the ghost town as a park. When the county got rid of their marketing staff for the parks, a brilliant cost-cutting move designed to help further destroy tourism in the region, the action led to this magazine not receiving news about Calico Ghost Town’s events for a year or more. We had previously promoted most of their events for free. We recently received a press release pertaining to Calico from an out-of-county public relations firm. Note to county: Please don’t tell us that saved the taxpayers a lot of money. It was bad enough having Calico run from San Bernardino, now our only news about the park comes from where? San Diego? The EDA folks don’t even list all of the county’s own parks on their “Live & Play Here” web page. A listing for the “Colorado River” doesn’t take you to the county’s own park on the river, but rather to a commercial website that is mostly oriented toward Arizona and Nevada and offers precious little information, with an events calendar for Blythe dating to 2009 (probably run by an ex-EDA employee). The EDA tourism website has obviously been put together
by either amateurs or interns (or possibly amateurs overseeing interns, or some other combination of the two). It randomly includes certain commercial enterprises as “premier destinations,” such as the Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa, and Bass ProShops, while excluding most hospitality-related businesses. Under “shopping,” the site includes a listing for Barstow Outlets, possibly one of the most embarassing post-apocalyptic malls in the western hemisphere (the link doesn’t work, of course), while leaving out the Tanger Outlet Mall just across the street from the Barstow Outlets, that is not only popular, but also houses Barstow’s California Welcome Center (which reportedly counts shoppers who walk by the CWC on their way to the restrooms as visitors to the Welcome Center, which is another story we’ll need to investigate). The EDA also offers a mystifyingly random selection of museums for visitors unlucky enough to land on its web page for tourism information. While we very much appreciate the listing for the Hi-Desert Nature Museum, Barstow’s Mojave River Valley Museum, and Victorville’s Route 66 Museum, the EDA folks are impressive for forgetting the Old Schoolhouse Museum in Twentynine Palms, the museum at the Kelso Depot in the East Mojave National Scenic Area (ahem, the Mojave National Preserve), the Western American Railroad Museum and the Route 66 Mother Road Museum—both in Barstow along with the Desert Discovery Center there, the Goffs Schoolhouse Museum, the Needles Regional Museum, the museums in Trona (excellent facilities), and more. The EDA misses facilities such as the Moonridge Zoo and other resources up in the mountains, but we’re not going to do all their work for them. Of course they’d best not rely on Discover IE for their desert marketing either—the only “desert” presence in their marketing video has some animated nighttime image of saguaro cactii in the moonlight. Great. They think we’re in Arizona. (Good news with the Discover IE folks though—the CDVA has partnered with them on a grant application for a visitors kiosk in the Ontario Mills Mall). We’re not leaving this on a negative note though. We’ve contacted the EDA folks to offer to share information about the desert’s resources for tourism and to work together to promote what San Bernardino County has to offer. Of course, we haven’t heard back yet..... (Note: Just before going to press with this issue, we did a search online for “San Bernardino County EDA.” Bing returned an embarassing page that is nearly all blue, says all of “We connect you to success!” and offers two choices: Job Seeker Services or Business Resources. Nada about tourism. If you do get to the right page (which is another web address), you are treated to information on the deserts, such as: “One of San Bernardino’s greatest features is its proximity to the mountains, deserts and valleys. For the experienced hiker, the best adventures await along the miles of trails that wind through the area’s varied terrain. You’ll also find lots of camping, biking, off road, and climbing opportunities. Many of our natural parks are renowned for their unique terrain that creates just the right mix of adventures, from beginner to advanced.” San Bernardino County—Come on out and enjoy our varied terrain and just the right mix of adventures, from beginner to advanced! We’ll continue our look at San Bernardino County and desert tourism in our next issue, and future issues such as our annual Desert Travel Issue (December/January). For more news about the challenges facing desert tourism and issues that stand to destroy or damage it, please read “The Death of Tourism in our area and across the American West,” and other related stories online at our new website, www.thesunrunner.com. June/July 2012 – The Sun Runner 13
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Questions Surround Secret Talks About Water Districts’ Desert Project By Nick Gerda Questions are being raised over whether public officials at several Southern California water districts, including Orange County’s second largest, broke the law by meeting — and in some cases voting — in secret on a controversial project to extract water from the Mojave Desert. The private Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project attracts both ardent supporters, who say it will provide a safe and reliable water supply in times of drought, and fierce detractors, who worry it will destroy a crucial desert aquifer that provides water for local residents and wildlife. But while that debate now plays out on a public stage, many of the initial discussions by public agencies on this highly controversial project were behind closed doors away from public scrutiny, records show. And according to a leading opengovernment expert, the legal justification used to hold those talks in secret doesn’t appear to hold water. Records indicate that eight Southern California water boards have discussed Cadiz in closed session at least 30 times since 2009, including two votes to authorize negotiations on the project. All were held under the real estate exemption to the state open-meetings law known as the Ralph M. Brown Act. That exemption only allows discussion of price and payment terms regarding a change in ownership or possession of land or structures, according to Terry Francke, general counsel to the opengovernment advocacy group Californians Aware. He’s considered a top expert on the Brown Act. But after requests, neither the Cadiz company nor Santa Margarita Water District, the most active district in the project, have pointed to any specific real estate that would change hands. The district appears to be obtaining an option “to get a commodity in the future from somebody else,” said Francke. “So I don’t believe that qualifies” for discussion under the real estate exemption. Santa Margarita, meanwhile, insists that the closed sessions were legal. “We did not do anything that was unlawful,” said Michele Miller, a spokeswoman for the South Orange County district. Santa Margarita commissioned an opinion on the topic by the law firm Best, Best & Krieger, which concluded that the closed-door discussions on water purchases are allowed because “water rights constitute real property.”
Francke disagrees with that notion, saying the exemption covers only land and buildings. Regardless of whether the closed meetings were legal, the Cadiz project is expected to have far-reaching ramifications. Using wells on 70 square miles of land it owns in San Bernardino County, Cadiz Inc. plans to pump 16 billion gallons of water every year for 50 years and sell it to Southern California water agencies. Santa Margarita, Three Valleys Municipal Water District in Los Angeles County and Jurupa Community Services District in Riverside County are now “project participants.” Cadiz presents its venture as a safe and reliable source of water that will also spur thousands of jobs and millions in tax revenue during four years of construction. A group of residents in the area around the project, however, are concerned about potential harm to the region’s aquifer, which serves as their water supply. Environmentalists have also expressed worries over impacts to desert animals like bighorn sheep and the desert tortoise. Cadiz CEO Keith Brackpool is a politically well-connected British businessman who first proposed a version of the current project in the 1990s. Southern California’s main water agency came close to approving it in 2002 but scrapped its plans after an outcry from environmentalists and opposition from U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein. The project lay dormant until Cadiz announced in June 2009 that smaller water agencies had formally shown interest in becoming involved. It now has three public and three private “confirmed participating water providers” and is undergoing a review of environmental effects. Records indicate that since early 2009, closed-door discussions on Cadiz have been held by directors of the Cucamonga Valley, Santa Margarita, Eastern Municipal, Three Valleys Municipal and Monte Vista water districts, as well as the San Diego County Water Authority, San Gorgonio Pass Water Agency and Inland Empire Utilities Agency. The Brown Act requires that nearly all discussions and decisions by water district boards take place before the public during an open meeting. Only narrow, specific exemptions like personnel and legal issues may be discussed behind closed doors. Separate from the legality of the closed sessions, questions also arise over whether top officials held policy discussions out of the public’s view.
According to meeting records, two of three districts now involved with Cadiz approved negotiations before ever publicly discussing why they are interested or what the project entails. A “letter of intent” approved by Santa Margarita’s board in May 2009 states that the district and Cadiz plan “to develop a binding memorandum of understanding” that will “incorporate the above referenced economic terms,” which include water prices. Santa Margarita’s first public discussion on the project didn’t occur until a year after the board’s approval of negotiations, records show. Because of this, Francke believes the board likely discussed policy issues in secret, a potential violation of state law. “If they did not discuss it in closed session, they must have discussed it in a secret session somewhere or in a serial meeting,” Francke said. “That takes into the secret realm a preliminary phase of decision making that the public is entitled to hear and see.” Serial meetings involve a majority of board members communicating, directly or indirectly, outside a public meeting on a subject under their agency’s jurisdiction. Santa Margarita, however, asserts that its board had no presentation or policy discussion on Cadiz inside or outside an open meeting before approving the negotiations. Approving the negotiations and intended agreement terms “was a preliminary step and a means to get the public and public policy discussions started,” the district declared in a written statement. “Before Cadiz or SMWD used resources to further review the proposed project and any policy considerations, both parties needed to know preliminary price and terms.” Miller, the spokeswoman, didn’t return phone messages this week. The district’s top manager, John Schatz, who is also the district’s attorney, declined to comment. Francke, however, doubts Santa Margarita’s claim. “The idea that there was never any preliminary discussion of these policy issues—I guess people are entitled to believe whatever they want,” he said. “Whether you’re talking about a car or a house or any other substantial and significant purchase or transaction, you don’t name the other party to negotiation, and then in closed session decide the policy issue of whether it’s a prudent thing to do and what are the advantages or disadvantages.”
Two members of Santa Margarita’s board, Roger Faubel and Saundra Jacobs, initially said they don’t remember whether the board held a policy discussion on Cadiz before approving negotiations. Faubel and board members Charlie Wilson and Betty Olson later declined to elaborate on the thinking behind having the board approve negotiations before any presentation or policy discussion, as the district says it did. “Why think about the policies until you know how much you’re going to pay,” Jacobs said before declining to comment further. Board President Bill Lawson didn’t return a phone message. Debbie Cook, an environmentalist and long-time opponent of the Cadiz project, believes Santa Margarita has been discussing policy in secret — another closed session on Cadiz was held this past December — and that it goes against the concept of open government. “They’re a policy making body, and they have held their policy discussion in closed session,” said Cook, who is the former mayor of Huntington Beach and a member of the Voice of OC Community Editorial Board. “So the public is completely eliminated from any discussion of this, and that is just counter to our democratic process.” Clarification: This article has been changed to reflect that the Santa Margarita Water District commissioned an opinion from the law firm Best, Best & Krieger on the legality of closed-session meetings on the Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project. It has also been changed to reflect that Debbie Cook is a member of the Voice of OC Community Editorial Board. Cook was named to the board after this article was published. You can reach Nick Gerda at email@example.com, and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/nicholasgerda. Story courtesy of Voice of OC, a non-profit investigative news agency dedicated to in-depth coverage of Orange County government and politics at www. voiceofoc.org. In other Cadiz news, the Santa Margarita Water District Board is hosting a meeting on June 27. The National Parks Conservation Association is hosting a free van trip from NPCA offices at 61325 29 Palms Highway, Suite D in Joshua Tree, to the meeting. The van leaves at 3 p.m. and will return late in the evening after the meeting in Orange County. If interested in participating, please contact Seth Shteir of the NPCA at sshteir@ npca.org.
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The Desert Writers Issue is accepting submissions through July 5. Short fiction, poetry, essays by desert writers or about the desert are accepted Send to: firstname.lastname@example.org June/July 2012 – The Sun Runner 15
16 The Sun Runner â€“ June/July 2012
Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Alert By Seth Shteir, National Parks Conservation Association Orange County’s Santa Margarita Water District and the Cadiz, Inc. are proposing to drawdown precious Mojave Desert water resources. The word conservation, which is present in the title of this project, is usually defined as saving something for future generations. But this project doesn’t save a drop for our children or grandchildren. It is an aggressive groundwater mining scheme that could adversely impact water resources, air quality and our federal lands. The Cadiz Project is Unsustainable This project is located in the desert of southern California in an area with very low precipitation. The Cadiz Inc. intends to remove at least 50,000 acre-feet of water a year (and if they can get away with it, 75,000 acre-feet per year in the early years) for 50 years and sell it to local water agencies in Los Angeles and Orange Counties. However, most scientists estimate the recharge rates are much lower with the United States Geologic Survey estimating that it lies between 2,000 and 10,000 acre feet/year. This means the groundwater levels will drop and drop, like taking more water out of a bathtub than you put in. This is, simply, unsustainable. The Cadiz Project could have adverse impacts on our federal lands and water resources. Cadiz claims that there will be no impacts to the Mojave National Preserve’s springs, but the National Park Service says that conclusion is premature. Another significant issue with the project is the delayed response in the aquifer. The cone of depression, or groundwater area of drawdown, is more extensive in the 100-year scenario (after 50 years of recovery) versus the 50-year scenario (at the end of project pumping). This indicates that unforeseen impacts that occur as a result of project pumping, even if project pumping is halted immediately, will continue to manifest for an extended period of time. Therefore, the aquifer system will be very difficult to manage under the monitoring and mitigation plan. A Flawed Impacts Analysis The impact analysis suffers in reliability as a result of the flawed hydrologic modeling. Of note is the continuously expanding outer limits of the cone of depression, or area of drawdown from pumping, after 100 years. Additionally, the cone of depression is anticipated to extend to elevations approaching the head at Bonanza Spring, which is located in Senator Dianne Feinstein’s new proposed Mojave Trails National Monument. This could affect this important spring. Climate Change It is likely that climate change will reduce the amount of precipitation that occurs as snowfall during the length of the proposed project pumping period, thereby impacting the amount of water that will recharge the aquifer. This issue is not adequately addressed in the impacts analysis. The Cadiz Project Violates the Intent of the San Bernardino County Groundwater Ordinance The Cadiz Project clearly violates the intent of San Bernardino County’s Groundwater Ordinance, which is meant to protect groundwater resources in San Bernardino County. Please see definition of Groundwater Safe Yield below and Section 33.06554 Permits, D below. Groundwater SafeYield: The maximum quantity of water that can be annually withdrawn from a groundwater aquifer (i) without resulting in overdraft (ii) without adversely affecting aquifer health and (iii) without adversely affecting the health of associated lakes, streams, springs and seeps or other biological resources. The safe yield of an aquifer can be increased by management actions such as artificial recharge, including infiltration and other similar actions. The recent San Bernardino County Supervisor’s action authorizing the an MOU between Cadiz, the Santa Margarita Water District and the County redefined the concept of “Overdraft” in the Groundwater Ordinance. This change in definition limits the ability of the County to enforce the concept as it is commonly understood and accepted. The MOU defines “overdraft” in Definitions (Term (2)(g)) to be spread over a 10 year period, and only when “temporary surplus” is exceeded. Overdraft can and should be measured and prevented on an annual basis, not the proposed 10 year period for determination, which will force the County or other enforcement authority to wait for 10 years before finding a condition of overdraft. For ongoing updates on the Cadiz water mining project and opportunities for public input, please visit www.thesunrunner.com.
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Ocotillo Express Wind Facility Opposition Grows By Gale Courey Toensing The Quechan Tribe of the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation is no longer the only voice in legal protest against a proposed wind energy project on the delicate desert landscape surrounding Coyote Mountain in southern California. The Desert Protective Council (DPC) and the Laborers’ International Union of North American, Local Union No. 1184 (LIUNA) and two of its members have filed a joint lawsuit asking the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California to stop the construction of the Ocotillo Express Wind Facility—a massive project of 112 turbines, each standing 450 feet tall, on more than 10,150 acres of public land in the Ocotillo Desert south of San Diego, including a 12-acre concrete batch plant lay down area, a 3.4-acre site for an operations and maintenance facility, a 2.1-acre substation, a 23.5-acre interconnection switchyard, up to three permanent meteorological towers, and around 42 miles of new access roads. Coyote Mountain and the Ocotillo Desert around it are sacred to the Quechan, Kumeyaay and Cocopah Nations. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar signed the Record of Decision (ROD)—the approval—for the Ocotillo Express Wind Facility on May 11 and grading work on the site began almost immediately even though a required Notice to Proceed had not yet been issued. The DPC and LIUNA lawsuit filed their lawsuit May 25 following a similar action filed in the same court by the Quechan Tribe of the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation on May 14. The DPC and LIUNA lawsuit names as plaintiffs the Interior Department and Salazar; the Bureau of Land Management, its director Robert Abbey and other officials; the County of Imperial and its board of supervisors; Ocotillo Express LLC, a subsidiary of Pattern Energy Group; and Pattern Energy Group. The lawsuit claims the approvals by Interior and Imperial County violate the National Environmental Policy Act, the Federal Land Management and Policy Act of 1976, the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Administrative Procedure Act. The plaintiffs also challenge project approvals by the County of Imperial including the Final Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report and other permits and findings. They allege that the approvals violate the California Desert Conservation Area (“CDCA”) Plan of 1980, the California Environmental Quality Act, the Public Resources Code, the California Endangered Species Act, California Fish and Game Code, and other statutes and regulations. The lawsuit says the land was protected by the CDCA until the Bureau of Land Management approved the project and that the CDCA was amended only to allow for the wind project even though the BLM has identified the project site as “high value lands for numerous protected species,” including golden eagle, burrowing owl, Peninsula bighorn sheep, migratory birds, bats, and other species. “In evaluating the project’s impact on these and other protected species, BLM ignored relevant scientific information, failed to assess the baseline from which to measure impacts, failed to fully and accurately assess some impacts and overlooked others, and failed to provide avoidance or mitigation measures sufficient to bring the project into compliance with law.” The lawsuit asks the court to set aside the approvals and stop all ground-disturbing activities until the violations are remedied. The Desert Protective Council is a 58-year-old nonprofit conservation organization whose mission is “To safeguard for wise and reverent use by this and succeeding generations those desert areas of unique scenic, scientific, historical, spiritual or recreational value and to educate children and adults to a better 18 The Sun Runner – June/July 2012
understanding of the deserts.” The Laborers’ International Union of North America, Local 1184, has around 4,000 members in the area of the proposed Ocotillo Wind Express Facility and “several distinct legally cognizable interests in this project,” the court document says. Union members have an “ownership interest in public resources” and regularly enjoy the “peaceful repose and diversity and rarity of species of plants and animals” at the proposed project site which listed as a California Desert Conservation Area. The union also advocates for environmental protection, the court document says. Two union members—Hector Casillas and John Norton—live near the project and would be directly impacted by its construction, operation, maintenance, and decommissioning, the lawsuit says. The project has the potential to negatively impact union members’ electricity bills, jobs, and health. “LIUNA members may be exposed to constructions hazards such as Valley Fever and other construction-related risks that have not been adequately analyzed or mitigated,” the lawsuit says. Meanwhile, Quechan Tribe elders led a group of around 70 tribal citizens to occupy the landscape at the proposed project site beginning on the night of May 30. Elders performed ceremonies for the spirits of their ancestors at one of the many cremation sites on the sacred land that has been used since time immemorial by the tribe’s ancestors. “The Quechan Tribe has been holding a vigil for the last five days on the site of the Ocotillo Wind project near some recently discovered cremation areas,” Terry Weiner, Desert Protective Council’s coordinator for Imperial County projects and conservation, told Indian Country Today Media Network on May 30. “There has been singing and telling of the creation story and just being together in this beautiful desert.” Some of the members are expected to stay on the site, said John Bathke, Quechan’s Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (THPO). “For different reasons some of the people refer to this area as the Valley of the Dead in part because there’s a lot of these funerary sites out here. We’ve warned BLM about the cremation and funerary sites but that doesn’t seem to faze them at all.” Bathke said the official survey was inadequate. “It was incomplete and a lot of people have criticized it. Actually, it was so bad that the tribal governments forced the company that did the survey to rewrite its report to fix a lot of its inadequacies, but the survey they did was such shoddy work that they wouldn’t catch everything out here.” Weiner said she expects increasing opposition to the project. “There is widespread opposition and there is a grassroots effort based in the little town of Ocotillo to organize against this.” She invited “all people opposed to the project” to attend the Quechan Tribe’s vigil “and plan the next steps in fighting this project.” Story courtesy of Indian Country Today Media Network, www. indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com. For continuing coverage of opposition to the Ocotillo wind energy project and other controversial industrial scale wind and energy projects underway in, or proposed for the California deserts, please visit www.thesunrunner.com. The Sun Runner Magazine opposes projects such as the Ocotillo Express, which do not respect Native American cultural and sacred sites, including burial and cremation grounds such as those found at the Ocotillo site, and any fast-tracking or approval processes that do not include proper sovereign nation consultation with the tribes, appropriate periods for public comment, and/or processes where overseeing agencies refuse to provide pertinent public information. June/July 2012 – The Sun Runner 19
TWENTYNINE PALMS ART GALLERY AND GIFT SHOP Desert Art Native American Jewelry and Southwestern Gifts 74055 Cottonwood Dr. (off National Park Dr.) Twentynine Palms, CA 92277 www.29palmsartgallery.com (760)367-7819
Open: 12 to 3 PM Wednesday–Sunday Summer Hours: 12 to 3 Friday-Saturday-Sunday
hort of having a time machine, it is impossible to travel back to the 1800s old-west boomtowns of Deadwood, South Dakota or Tombstone, Arizona. If it were possible to travel to that era of time in America’s history however, visitors would find dust-clogged streets lined with rows of narrow wooden buildings, towns made infamous with Wild Bill Hickok shot in the back during a poker game in Deadwood, and lawmen Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday shooting it out with the lawless Clanton gang at the O.K. Corral. Fortunately, since nobody has invented a time machine yet, the next best place to see lawmen battling the lawless in a western setting is to climb into a modern day automobile and visit the Mane Street Stampede in Pioneertown. Every Saturday afternoon at 2:30 through the end of October, the old-west re-enactment group, Stampede, performs a variety of shoot-em-up skits on an authentic western movie set that saw the likes of 1950’s American film legends, Gene Autry, Cisco Kid and Roy Rogers. On any given Saturday, audiences are delighted to see the sheriff have his weekly shave interrupted while stopping a feud between the cowboys and ladies in, “Ain’t No Floozies,” or, the hapless rancher accosted by the bad guys in, “Horseplay.” “Salty Sam” sometimes makes as appearance as well and teaches the young guns how he lived to be 85 as a gunslinger while “Allison and Hardin,” settle their differences with a shootout in the middle of Mane St. Or for the music-minded, the screeching violin in, “Harmonica,” is always an audience favorite. The re-enactment group, Stampede, is an all-volunteer organization with 27 members and was recently featured on the popular travel program, ABC. Channel 7’s Eye On L.A. So for a rootin’-tootin’ good time, dust off them boots, saddle up them kids (All shows are free with a family-friendly atmosphere, donations gratefully accepted), and join with the Mane Street Stampede for an afternoon of Wild West fun in Pioneertown.
For more information about Stampede shows, or to inquire about membership with the Stampede, contact “John Henry” at (760)831-5928 or “One Shot Scot” at (760)567-7750. 20 The Sun Runner – June/July 2012
s you trek through the desert you run across, hopefully not literally, all sorts of cactus. Of all the cactus out there one was born in Barstow and is now spreading all over southern Californi—Crazy Cactus. A bit of honesty, Crazy Cactus aren’t really cactus but are an interesting art project with an environmental and educational beginning. In Barstow we have a group that is dedicated to putting up historical murals, Main Street Murals, and as a side project they run a popular after school program that teaches various aspects of our history and environment. In 2011, the after-school group, under the leadership of production designer and artist David Brockhurst, used some cast-off pieces of leftover wood from an Earth Day mural project to paint and assemble the colorful and desert-inspired Crazy Cactus. The kids, and I suspect David, enjoyed painting and assembling the large pieces of art. “It feels good to know that we haven’t wasted any materials and we have created something unique to the Mojave Desert region that is youth-driven, plus we had great fun during the creative process!” said Brockhurst. At first the Crazy Cactus were displayed at the Desert Discovery Center in Barstow but soon word got out about the cactii and a gallery show was arranged at the Kelso Depot in the heart of the Mojave National Preserve to great acclaim. After that show the Crazy Cactus are scheduled to hit the road again. They are scheduled for a showing at the San Bernardino County Museum with an opening reception on Friday, June 29. Who knows where the Crazy Cactus will pop up again? Stay tuned to find out. “There was so much joy surrounding the creation of these sculptures, the collective exhibition exudes enthusiasm and we hope it is infectious!” noted Jane Laraman-Brockhurst, Main St. Murals’ president. Funds raised through the Crazy Cactus project will be used to support the after-school youth program which is in its sixth year and continues to offer free environmental education at the Desert Discovery Center. For more information visit www.mainstreetmurals.com and www.desertdiscoverycenter.com. You can like Main St. Murals on Facebook, or better still, come by and visit the Desert Discovery Center which is located just off the I-15 at the Barstow Road turn-off at 831 Barstow Road, Barstow. All enquiries please call (760)220-4351. June/July 2012 – The Sun Runner 21
22 The Sun Runner â€“ June/July 2012
This place belongs to the makersâ€” stronger than air stronger than water stronger than sun stronger than weather. Scholars call them hunters seeking magic to take their prey, or rainmaking shamans on vision quests. Driven by drought, others came from far off to learn that art. Shoshone descendants tell a different tale: the makers are water babies, the pah or oh, spirit-dwarves fraught with danger. People who glimpse them die soon after. At night, riders passing on horseback have heard the tapping of new images being riven into rock. Cynthia Anderson is a poet and editor who lives in the hi-desert. Her latest book, In the Mojave, is available at Amazon.com and at Rainbow Stew in Yucca Valley. Photos by Bill Dahl, a photographer whose award-winning images have been exhibited in Santa Barbara, Ojai, and Twentynine Palms. His website is www.billdahlphotography. com. See more of their work inspired by Little Petroglyph Canyon at www.rainbear.com.
June/July 2012 â€“ The Sun Runner 23
Images from Little Petroglyph Canyon, above. Historian and Sun Runner columnist Lorraine Blair talks about the history of Randsburg to members of The Sun Runnerâ€™s April tour, below.
24 The Sun Runner
he raven keeps watch as we move down the narrow canyon. He seems curious about us and why we’re here, slowly making our way, stopping to look at this rock face and then that, engrossed in the signs of humans here before us for thousands of years and what they may mean. I think it interesting that his (or her) family may have kept watch here back when the first figure was carved into these rocks, but I also think he’s waiting to see where we’ll stop for lunch. Ravens are as practical as they are clever and mysterious, after all. We’re an hour out of Ridgecrest in an isolated part of the Naval Air Weapons Station, China Lake, and we’re here specifically to spend time in this canyon—Little Petroglyph (also known as Renegade) Canyon. We’re on a tour we put together here at The Sun Runner to give our readers an opportunity to delve deeper into the history, and mystery, of our incredible desert region. We organized the opportunity, but it’s the dedicated staff and volunteers of the Maturango Museum in Ridgecrest, working with the Navy, who are the experts guiding us to, and into, the canyon (and one cannot say enough good things about both the Maturango and NAWS staff and volunteers, they are invaluable, and we are all grateful for their help and guidance). The tour has brought together Sun Runner readers from the Joshua Tree and Yucca Valley area, as well as from Santa Clarita, Long Beach, and Oceanside. We meet for lunch at the Randsburg General Store on Saturday, our first point of convergence, where my classic lime phosphate awaits. Our group is quite an interesting variety of people from
diverse backgrounds ranging from nursing and teaching to a Buddhist military chaplain. All have a strong interest in the desert and its history. I recall having read a previous magazine story about visiting Little Petroglyph Canyon in which the author extolls the beauty of the canyon itself, while bemoaning the drive for hours through the “wasteland” on his way to Ridgecrest. There is no wasteland here for any of us. The desert is naturally beautiful. Come at the right time of year and the trip up Highway 395 is like driving through a golden carpet of flowers. Wasteland, I think, is a term best reserved for places like Los Angeles. After lunch, we walk through the living ghost town of Randsburg. I’m pleased to be here on a weekend as most times I come through, most of the town is closed up. We meet Bart Parker at the Rand Desert Museum, and then head on up for a historical introduction to The Rand Mining District from historian, author, and Sun Runner columnist, Lorraine Blair. Lorraine, a Randsburg resident, gives us us a feel for Randsburg’s heyday as a mining town, with the help of docents Ron and Bev Atkins, a time when the Yellow Aster Mine and many others, brought millions of dollars worth of gold ore out of the earth here. You can read Lorraine’s history of “the Rand” in every issue of this magazine. After Lorraine’s presentation, some of the group pays the pioneer cemetery in nearby Johannesburg a visit, while we visit the new art galleries in Randsburg. After that, it’s off to Ridgecrest to check in at the Carriage Inn, and browse the loJune/July 2012 – The Sun Runner 25
cal book selection at Red Rock Books (you can find The Sun Runner there too). Some of the group heads out for sunset at the Trona Pinnacles, while we head over to dinner and drinks at Tokyo House with other members of the group. Sunday morning, we are briefed at the Maturango Museum before heading through base security and on through the base to Little Petroglyph Canyon. We walk the canyon floor, cooled on this unusually hot spring day by a breeze ghosting through, and we are surrounded by petroglyphs. Later, the breeze will die. Some of the petroglyphs are historically recent, while others date back thousands of years, maybe as ancient as 16,000 years old. And there are thousands of these fascinating images carved in this canyon and several others nearby. There are anthropomorphic shamanistic figures that appear from another time and another realm, medicine bags, bighorn sheep, men with bows and arrows, the sun, snakes, lizards, deer, dogs, tortoises, spiral, pits, lines, atlatls (spear throwers), and entoptic abstract patterns thought to relate to visual experiences during trance-like states. Little Petroglyph Canyon is extraordinary, the largest collection of petroglyphs in the western hemisphere, and one of the largest in the world. Within the Coso Rock Art National Historic Landmark, which includes this and a number of other nearby canyons (it covers an area over 56 square miles), it is estimated there are more than 100,000 petroglpyhs to be found, along with some pictographs. With an estimated historic population of the region only around 500, what we are witnessing is the result of an ongoing process that lasted for thousands of years. There are other signs of human occupation in and around the canyon. I wonder what the canyon was like during ceremonial use and everyday life. 26 The Sun Runner – June/July 2012
The Coso style of petroglyph is unique, with similarities to Mojave and Great Basin styles, though even Southwestern styles of rock art are present in the area. In the past eight years of running The Sun Runner, I’ve been blessed to have my eyes opened considerably as to the rich Native American history across the Southwest and California. As a historian, I think it safe to say, in general, the American people have only just barely begun to understand the wealth of cultures found on this continent prior to the arrival of Europeans. That we allow so much of this history to be destroyed, both physically, and culturally, is a crime committed out of ignorance and arrogance, a particularly sad combination of shortcomings. Here on the Navy base, Little Petroglyph Canyon and the Coso rock art district have been well protected, and I am grateful for its protection. We will return this fall to walk this canyon in another season, a small glimpse into a very different and beautiful, world. I found our visit to Little Petroglyph Canyon an intensely personal spiritual experience, and I know our group were moved by what we encountered down in this canyon. These places call to you deeply. They are both in the past and yet are very much in the present as well. The creators of the rock art here, as well as the meanings behind them, are still topics up for discussion (we’ll have a more detailed look into these matters in a future issue). Whoever they were, they were a cultured people on their own terms. While much mystery remains, to me it is important to not only approach these questions intellectually. You cannot come to know everything with just your head. This canyon of dreams calls for a deeper understanding that can only be reached by including your heart and your soul in the process.
June/July 2012 â€“ The Sun Runner 27
here are few Native American leaders in California who have served so long, or accomplished so much, as Richard Milanovich, the chairman of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians for nearly three decades. Milanovich died this past March at age 69. Milanovich served in many capacities with the Department of the Interior, the Autry National Center, the California Desert Advisory Council, the Native American Heritage Commission, and many more boards and organizations, from a local to a federal level. He was a strong and charismatic leader whose frequent smile and contagious laughter was matched by his will and decisiveness. “There was no one like Chairman Milanovich,” said newly elected chairman, Jeff L. Grubbe. “He was a great teacher, an inspirational mentor, and most of all, a friend. We were fortunate to have his experience, wise counsel and incredible foresight for so long. Chairman Milanovich strongly believed that our younger members of the Tribe must understand the battles that were fought and won. Only through understanding our past can we forge a progressive future for our people and the generations to come.” Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack noted, “Richard truly was one of a kind—a leader among leaders, and a treasured friend to me. He was tremendously respected not only in our local community, but throughout the entire Native American community as well.” Milanovich received numerous honors, and presided over decisions and agreements that led to the success of tribal projects ranging from the creation of one of the best entertainment venues in the Coachella Valley, The Show, to the formation of the San Jacinto and Santa Rosa National Monument. During his tenure on the Tribal Council, the Agua Caliente rose from poverty to affluence. Married to his wife of 35 years, Melissa, the Milanovich family includes six children, and at least one, Sean, has noted he wants to follow in his father’s well respected footsteps. 28 The Sun Runner – June/July 2012
onquered peoples historically have had difficult paths to walk to not only survive, but to endure and emerge with a sense of self, culture, and pride. And while the conquerors never seem to understand the plight of—or worth of— those they conquer, one thing remains universal: At some point in time, the conquerors will become the conquered in a process that has humbled many civilizations. The Native Americans are a diverse and “conquered” people whose time to emerge to fully engage, to participate, to lead, and to share their cultural insights as the original Americans, may be long past, but in a time of increasing societal rootlessness and exploitation, their perspectives could be invaluable. History moves at its own pace, a pace that constantly changes, but while progress has been made to include everyone from African-Americans to the LGBT community, the original Americans are frequently left out, as if they belong only to the past. Dennis Banks and the leaders of the American Indian Movement—A.I.M.— originally set out to achieve a modest step toward being included in the present tense of American society, a step where their humanity and citizenship as Americans would be respected. In Minnesota, police harassment was targeting Native Americans. Banks and this new and fairly informal A.I.M., a group as easily discounted by mainstream white society as today’s Occupy movement has been by many, wanted to see their civil rights respected locally. It was a small goal, but one that grew and took on a life of its own as it moved from Minnesota to Custer, South Dakota, and eventually, to the stand-off at Wounded Knee and Washington, D.C. An incredible, and important film for anyone who has an interest in contemporary American history, especially that history which has been shoved to the back, scoffed at, and frequently ignored, is A Good Day to Die, the documentary following the rise of Banks and A.I.M. made by a La Quinta couple, Lynn Salt, Choctaw, and David Mueller. A Good Day to Die is one of the most important films I’ve seen about Native Americans and their struggles to reach their place in contemporary American society. It is a powerful and dramatic film, well researched, with extensive sources, and
documents a chapter of American history that truly deserves closer examination. For woven into the story of Dennis Banks and the founding of A.I.M. are the personal stories of many Native Americans: boarding schools, forced assimilation and elimination of their native language, prejudice, discrimination, poverty, an unjust justice system, biased reporting, violence and intimidation, torn-apart families, and deep spiritual wounds. Though A Good Day to Die is a documentary, it moves and feels like a well-crafted drama. And it is, partially because it is all too real, and partially because of the hard work and skill of Salt and Mueller. The two have gone the extra mile in the making of this film, with extensive interviews and previously unseen historical footage that damningly reveals the bias of the white society, media, and law enforcement during the 1960s and 70s through their own words and deeds. June/July 2012 – The Sun Runner 29
As someone who covered the World Trade Organization (WTO) “riots” of 1999 and found that, by and large, the only real rioting that was going on was by the police, the 1973 “riot” in Custer, well covered in the film, seems oddly familiar. Banks and A.I.M. leaders and supporters gathered in Custer to ask authorities to charge a white man, Daryld Schmidtz, with murder for stabbing an Indian, John Wesley Bad Heart Bull, to death. Schmidtz had only been charged with manslaughter, though there are accounts of him proclaiming, “I”m gonna kill an Indian tonight,” and witnesses who were present when he, and possibly others, carried out his threat. Banks, along with John Wesley’s mother, Sarah Bad Heart Bull, and A.I.M. leaders Russel Means, Leonard Crow Dog, and Charlie Hall, got into an argument with the authorities which reportedly led to police choking Sarah. When some of the A.I.M. group came to her defense, a rather one-sided riot ensued. The film integrates TV footage of this event and others, some of it never seen before, that reveals as much about the events covered by what was edited out prior to airing on TV news, as what was left in, and how it was presented by whites, for whites. In a black and white piece of film from that time, Banks speaks slowly and purposefully about injustices against Native Americans. “This is where it started. This is where it’s going to end. It’s a good day to die.” Of course, whites took this in the most negative, hysteriafueled manner possible—the savages were preparing for battle. In reality, Banks’ statement meant it was a time to stand up for what you believe, no matter the cost. It wasn’t a statement to induce violence, but to put an end to it. Banks is a complex character and controversial today, outside, and inside, Native American society (many, many white American leaders would be more controversial if they 30 The Sun Runner – June/July 2012
received more honest scrutiny). But he is compelling, and through his story, we are introduced to the stories of many other Native Americans who offer first-hand accounts of injustices and the A.I.M. movement’s attempts to claw a way to a place of societal—and self respect—for Indians. “When you abuse people so long the only thing they can turn to is confrontational politics, they’re going to do that, just as sure as this sun that comes up and goes down,” Banks explains in the film. “I’d seen the news of the people protesting against the war and the civil rights marches of half a million people in Washington, D.C., but no one was speaking for Native people.” The story of how Banks’ story made its way to film is probably worthy of a screenplay itself as Salt and Mueller’s documentary, and the story of making it, proves, reality can be every bit as riveting as any work of fiction, and sometimes just as odd. Approached about making a film about his life, Banks initially thought in terms of a feature film. “He wanted Johnny Depp to play him,” Salt said. “He thought people would pay attention.” When asked about making a documentary instead, Salt said Banks first rejected the idea. “He said, ‘Nope. I’m not going to sit and talk about myself.’ He can get really tough.” But then Banks had an epiphany, Salt said. “Some of my own kids don’t know what I did,” Banks reflected. A documentary was born. Salt and Mueller, along with Banks, his daughter Tashina Banks, and other supporters, brought the film proposal before the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation’s Tribal Council. “I knew we had one shot,” Mueller noted. “We flew Dennis out along with his daughter Tashina. We all went to pitch the project to the Tribal Council.” Mueller had just finished co-directing, co-producing, and shooting (much of) Dalai Lama Renaissance, a film featuring the Dalai Lama and narrated by Harrison Ford. The film had been selected by 40 film festivals, won a dozen international awards, including two Grand Jury and three Audience awards, was released in 85 theaters across the U.S., throughout Germany, and distributed around the world. The knowledge of not just how to make the film, but how to get it seen worldwide, proved to be of value to the Tribal Council. Funding was approved. A Good Day to Die was released in 2010. The film won seven Best Documentary awards, and a great amount of praise. “A wonderful, sorrowful, compelling film,” said Ken Burns, no stranger to documentary filmmaking. “From classrooms of fear and forced assimilation, to the climactic stand-off at Wounded Knee, it is an essential chapter in the all-too-infrequently-told tale of those who can truly call this continent home.” The film takes viewers on a journey from boarding schools for Indians where their native languages and culture were often erased (Banks often ran away), a form of cruel cultural genocide that has had a devestating effect on indigenous peoples around the world, to Governor Jerry Brown providing asylum for Banks when he was being sought for prosecution.
The Filmmakers behind A Good Day to Die The superb craftmanship behind the making of A Good Day to Die is no accident. La Quinta couple, David Mueller and Lynn Salt, bring an impressive amount of experience to their filmmaking. David has worked as a writer, director, and producer for more than two decades. He was admitted to the Directors Guild of America in 1996 for his work on Universal Pictures’ New York Undercover (Fox), and The Wright Verdicts (CBS). He has written eight screenplays, seven which were written with Lynn, and has directed and produced 13 documentaries as well as national television commercials. Lynn is a produced screenwriter and producer-director who has worked in the motion picture industry for more than 25 years. She has written more than 30 screenplays, several of which were optioned by A-list Hollywood producers. David co-produced, and shot much of, Dalai Lama Renaissance, featuring the Dalai Lama and narrated by Harrison Ford. The film was selected by 40 film festivals and won 12 international awards. He directed segments for Dateline NBC in India, including the acclaimed one-hour special, Tibetan Medicine: A Cure for Cancer, and Living Off the Land, on cowboys in Australia, for the National Museum of Australia. He has directed numerous short-form documentaries for California television, as well as Peace Pilgrim, featuring the Dalai lama, Maya Angelous, and Dennis Weaver. David worked as director of corporate relations for the Autry National Center, where he raised more than two million dollars in support of the Autry’s Southwest Museum, and also worked as a producer for Akamai Technologies, where he developed, produced, and directed online shows and events for Fortune 500 companies. He co-founded World Service, with funding from the Rockefeller Foundation, to create an ecotourism and rural development training center in Costa Rica. Lynn has scritten show scripts for the First Americans in the Arts Award Show, has a screenplay optioned by producer Fred Roos, being considered by producers in the UK, and is also a member of the DGA. The two have just released a new feature film, Beautiful Wave, co-written and co-produced together, starring Aimee Teegarden, Lance Henriksen, Pat Richardson, and Helen Slater. June/July 2012 – The Sun Runner 31
A scene from the Custer, South Dakota, riots, 1973, photo by Richard Erdoes.
“We’re trying to get Governor Brown to see it,” Salt said of the film (an interview with Brown is included in the film). “He supported Dennis Banks and probably saved his life. He has a place in Indian hearts.” A Good Day to Die is American history at its best. It is history that took place within recent memory about a people marginalized for centuries within their own homeland. This is history, but with the feel of a dream. It seems unfamiliar, yet there is a nagging feeling inside that we should know this place, these times, these people. And the film has resonated strongly with both Native Americans and others around the world. “When we first showed the film to the chairman (of the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation), his daughter came over,” Salt recounted. “A medical student, she said this was the only time she had ever heard anything about Indians since she was in the fourth grade. “When we went to Yale, they (students) wanted to touch him (Banks),” she added. “I’m finding the 20-something generation so pure. They haven’t heard about it (contemporary Native American history), so this is educating them.” “It’s hard to believe in genocide,” Mueller interjected. “California was one of the worst places for Native Americans. There is a lot of dark history.” “History is so much worse than we can imagine,” Salt said, noting that Indians were treated as “varmints” until 1890, and some would strip the skin off of Indians they killed to make boots. Ah, who exactly is the “savage” is rarely as clear as some think when history is honestly and scrupulously examined. Salt and Mueller don’t dwell on the dark side of history though. They believe in the power of knowledge to help heal, even the deep wounds of centuries of neglect, abuse, and vio32 The Sun Runner – June/July 2012
lence. Perhaps even ignorance, the kind Banks and so many others experienced growing up and throughout their lives, can be lessened by acknowledging and admitting the dark history and making a conscious decision to shed light on it so the darkness will no longer continue. Perhaps. Salt recounted the story of Banks’ experiences in school during our talk. She noted that when Banks had run away enough times from boarding school, he was allowed to go to a regular school. He sat behind white kids, one of whom told him he was just like the “niggers.” “Why don’t you go back to your own country?,” the brilliant white student asked Banks. Indeed. Why not? Banks walked out of the classroom, and when asked where he was going, Banks found his destination impossible to describe. Maybe he just couldn’t get to his destination from where he was at the time. Maybe no one could. Mueller noted today most Americans still think of Indians as something from the 1800s, with little knowledge of 20th century (or 21st century, for that matter) Native American history. As Katherine Siva Saubel once told me, “We are still here.” Continued ignorance of Native American history and the stories of the original Americans is really no longer acceptable, and films like A Good Day to Die provide the means to help illuminate the dark and turn it toward the light. A Good Day to Die is currently available for educational DVD purchases, and on DVD at select Native American events, with a broader release on DVD planned for sometime in the future. It was recently featured at the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum’s Festival of Native American Film & Culture (The Sun Runner is a media sponsor for the festival), and we’ve made inquiries about possible additional screenings of this film. Check www.agooddayto diefilm.com for more information.
here are some people I have met who are so exceptional they defy comparison. They are unique, exemplary, and transcend human boundaries that often box in us lesser souls. One person who always will come to my mind as such a person is Dr. Katherine Siva Saubel. In my time in the desert, I have been privileged to meet a number of people who truly are great desert treasures, individuals who have freely given us their own personal contributions to our culture, and by doing so, have enriched us all in ways that leave any measure of material wealth woefully inadequate. Sadly, we are losing many of these treasures to time, though, as in Katherine’s case, their gifts to us will continue to work for us, and in some cases, through us, for many years to come. Dr. Katherine Siva Saubell, Cahuilla elder, scholar, co-founder of the Malki Museum, historian, mentor, leader, storyteller, inspiration, and cultural advocate, left us this past November. Her story is incredible, Native, and truly American. Born March 7, 1920 to Cahuilla speaking parents at Pachawal pa, the upper village of the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation, Katherine spent her early years in the mountains near Warner Springs where only Cahuilla was spoken. In the village’s isolation, her connection with her native tongue was engrained in her at an early age, and would prove to be a significant factor in her life. In 1923, on advice from a Cahuilla shaman, her family moved to the land of Pedro Chino, her mother’s uncle, at the Agua Caliente Reservation in Palm Springs. Katherine now added the Pass Cahuilla dialect to her native Mountain Cahuilla. In 1925 or 26, Katherine’s maternal grandmother came to live with her family. She spoke Desert Cahuilla, and from her, Katherine learned that dialect. Growing to understand all three Cahuilla dialects, Katherine also was introduced to English. Put in the back of a segregated elementary school in Palm Springs and ignored, she learned English with little help. Eventually, she became the first Native American woman to graduate from Palm Springs High School. Even at a young age, Katherine realized the imminent loss
of Native American culture and language. She kept a notebook describing native plants and their uses as foods, tools, and medicines and would later pass on much of that knowledge. Timid is not a word ever used to describe Katherine. In high school she waited at a bus stop on the reservation in front of a restaurant that displayed a sign, “Whites Only.” She told the owner to take it down—the restaurant was on Indian land and Katherine told him he had no right to keep Indians out of a restaurant on their own land. The sign was removed. In 1940, Katherine married Mariano Saubel, who lived at the Morongo Reservation near Banning. Mariano, like many Native Americans, served his country in World War II, gone from his family for three years. The two were married for 45 years, until Mariano died in 1985. In 1958, Katherine was introduced to Lowell Bean (another true desert treasure), then a student of ethnology and anthropology at UCLA. Thus began four decades of collaboration on Cahuilla culture. Sensing the danger of losing Cahuilla culture and language, this collaboration took on a lasting significance that will live for many generations to come. As part of this collaboration, Katherine was introduced into the world of academics, and became a leading scholar and advocate for Cahuilla culture. The Kennedy Scholarship for Native Americans provided the means for Katherine to study at the University of Chicago and University of Colorado at Boulder. She gave seminars at UCLA, authored Temalpakh with Bean, a guide to native plants and their uses (as well as many other books and articles), and traveled and lectured around the world. Her trip to the University of Cologne, Germany, was eyeopening, she told me. She was greeted in Cologne in Cahuilla, and the Germans had Cahuilla cultural artifacts that even she had not been able to find locally. Oh, and the Germans would not loan them to her, she noted. I lack the room here to list all of Katherine’s accomplishments, but there was a growing awareness of those who valued preservation of Native American culture and language (the two are intrinsically interwoven), that Katherine’s work and advocacy was extremely important. She was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame as the first Native American from California, and she received awards from across the country, and an honorary doctorate degree from La Sierra University. “Nobody wanted to know we were here,” Katherine said. “We were swept under the rug by non-Indian people who felt guilty about what had been done to us. So we were just a forgotten people, and now we can say we are still here and were here a thousand years ago.” Katherine Siva Saubel’s accomplishments during her life are impressive and invaluable. I will always treasure our brief afternoon together, talking about everything from how Juan Bautista de Anza was an asshole to the decline of Cahuilla culture and language, the importance of cultural preservation to how Willie Boy got away. May her memory, and all of the good she has brought to this world, be eternal. Mú’ chemqál. June/July 2012 – The Sun Runner 33
f you ever get out and find some gold you may notice something very unique among the nuggets you find. No two are alike! A matter of fact is that gold nuggets have a signature look based on where they are discovered. In other words, each gold nugget has it’s very own fingerprint which helps define its place of origin. When we travel around the globe we can find that gold nuggets and specimens are as unique and diverse as humans. A gold nugget is a solid piece of ore and may or may not have a tiny amount of quartz. It’s a pebble of gold, so to speak. A “specimen” is an example of gold in the matrix of either quartz, rock, amethyst, or other minerals with very unique features. Some complete specimens are nothing but gold, yet a specimen of a specific category which is still defined by it characteristics. Some examples of these categories are: string gold, wire gold, leaf gold, and crystalline gold, to name the more popular. The value of these specimens far outweighs the base value of a gold nugget because they are unique and very rare. Most gold nuggets are rounded, flattened and formed like a river rock because they have been on the move for millions of years and as a result they become formed. A specimen has remained intact with minimal movement and has been protected by nature from being weathered through time. I have listed several photos of these examples in this article for your enjoyment. Special thanks to Cordell Kent who supplied a number of the specimen’s here & Owns the Mining Exchange Gold Shop. His website in Ballarat Victoria Australia is: http://www.thegoldshop.com.au. 34 The Sun Runner – June/July 2012
If you have any questions about gold or gold specimens please feel free to contact me and I will be happy to answer your questions.
Philip Bonafede is a prospector and owner of Prospectors Depot, in Joshua Tree. You can reach Phil with your questions and comments at: email@example.com, or (760)366-3333. We’re looking forward to doing some prospecting with Philip this fall when it gets cooler. Are you interested in desert prospecting? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
n the Mojave Desert you’ll find a species of snail that is truly one of the most interesting life forms that live here and yet it is often overlooked or unknown to most people. To start with, this snail has a shiny black body and of course its common name is “white desert snail.” Without a doubt it gets its name from its white shell. At first one might think that this snail lives in the various springs and other water sources that dot the desert landscape much like some of the fish species such as the pupfish of Devil’s Hole in Death Valley. However, this is not so; this snail is a land snail and lives in virtually every mountain range in the Mojave Desert where there aren’t any springs or water sources of any kind. It truly is a desert snail. While it has a wide distribution, its population is very thin and one could wonder how such a small population could maintain itself and reproduce. However, the white desert snail has an answer to this; the snail is the true hermaphrodite; that is to say that each individual snail can reproduce on its own and thus does not need to meet up with another snail of the opposite sex. One of the adaptations this snail has in order to live in the desert is its ability to go dormant in the ground for two to three years at a time and even in the best years it probably only has 20 to 30 days of moving around on the surface. Thus, it is rarely seen or noticed. However, if you are observant and watch the ground a lot you will occasionally find the white spiral shells that have been left behind. I started noticing the snails years ago as I studied the various herds of bighorn sheep throughout the Mojave Desert and found a number of interesting comparisons between the two species. For one thing, the rams have large spiral horns and of course
this snail has its spiral shell. Then on the other side of things, the rams are large and they are a symbol of power and strength whereas the snail is quite small, humble, and slimy. While active only after a rain, the desert snail never uses or congregates around a spring. However, a herd of desert bighorn sheep must have this type of water available to them in order to survive. Steep rocky terrain is the preferred habitat for both bighorn sheep and the white desert snail. This type of habitat allows the snail to use cracks and crevices to go down deep into the earth with little effort and to escape the extreme heat, cold, and dryness of the desert environment. While on the surface, this little snail can utilize the runoff from the rocks as they collect and concentrate the water and moisture that it needs. The rocks also reflect the sunlight and cast shadows allowing the snail to find the most advantageous places for it to be in the desert environment. And while I understand the predator-prey relationship of bighorn sheep quite well, I can only speculate on the white desert snail as I have never seen any actual predation or sign of it. So I can only imagine two possibilities: one is that most animals don’t eat them because they have a bad taste (and we can see this with many species of toads) or on the other hand, it is picked off by birds and other predators whenever they’re lucky enough to find one although they would not actually go hunting for them due to their scarcity. And while this little guy does not have the title of rare or endangered, it can definitely claim the title of unusual and fascinating, and that is just the way of things in the desert. Catch more of Carlos Gallinger at www.thewayofthings.org.
June/July 2012 – The Sun Runner 35
hat is left of the world of the founders of Randsburg over a century after they came here? As you come into Randsburg from Highway 395 look up the hill toward the south and you will see the general area where the Yellow Aster Mine & Milling Company and the company owned cottages were once located. On Butte Avenue itself, an OHV parking lot sits on the site of the Yellow Aster Mercantile Building which, in 1911, was home to the Bank of Randsburg. (The eagerly awaited Bank of Randsburg opened in late October 1897 after a failed May opening.) A building which once housed the Yellow Aster Social Club (identified on the 1917 Sanborn Fire Map) remains in existence as does the former Yellow Aster Hospital. These sites are unmarked. In the case of Rose Burcham, little in Randsburg shows she was even here. Yet Dr. Burcham, a woman who was called the “safety valve” attached to the “boiler” which was the great Yellow Aster Mining and Milling Company, leaves what may be her most important legacy: words. Through Rose’s own writing as well as what was written about her we can glimpse her world…both fragrant and prickly. It is a false assumption to think that mine owners were at the top of the prestige and wealth heap. Gold mine owners were the center of a sandwich with (ideally) good workers on one side and generous and confident investors on the other. Mine owners went to enormous lengths to court potential investors and get them to open their wallets. Much of the ‘courting’ for the Yellow Aster was done in Los Angeles clubs, Jonathan and California Clubs for the men and for Rose Burcham a variety including the Galpin Shakespeare Club, Ebell Club and the Wednesday Morning Club. 36 The Sun Runner – June/July 2012
No owners’ mansions were built on the Rand. YAM&M Co. owners, the Burchams, John Singleton and Frederic Mooers acquired grand homes in Los Angeles where they also could entertain. An 1896 panorama of very early Randsburg shows small Burcham and Singleton Cottages as well as Mooers’ tent. Just before Christmas in 1910, Rose gave a talk at the Wednesday Morning Club in Los Angeles titled Women in Business. At that time, Rose was in the process of selling the (still standing) large mansion in Highland Park and purchasing three lots high on a hill in the Mt. Washington area. Rose responded to the curiosity of her audience and said that the idea of moving came about entirely due to Randsburg. The Los Angeles Herald related that Dr. Rose was “taught to prize expansive views and to admire wide reaches of hills and lowlands by several years of life in the desert.” Of the early days on the Rand, Rose was quoted: We lived in tents for some time and my home was the first to be built by the Yellow Aster Company. There were many inconveniences, to be sure, Perhaps the greatest of these was lack of water and lack of cooks. We got the water in barrels but we couldn’t get the cooks at all very often…and when we could generally they could not cook.
Rose continued: I enjoyed the life there [Randsburg]…because of the wonderful freedom. There was an outlook upon all the world which was inspiring and never since those years have I found a location in the city [Los Angeles] which offered me sufficient view. I want to see the sun rise and the sun set. This is a desert habit which I acquired when living at the mining camp, and one I find it impossible to outgrow. Rose tried to re-create the feel of Randsburg on a high hill in Los Angeles. She said she wanted to “refresh myself with the grandeur of the sun”. Rose’s house on San Rafael in L.A. still stands. So does Randsburg. Rose’s inspiring views are still here on the Rand...still providing refreshment. A taste is free.
n October of 1910, a little-known event took place at Searles Lake. The famed Arizona lawman Wyatt Earp, along with 33 other men had made their way to nearby Slate Range City with the intentions of jumping the claims of the California Trona Company. S.W. Austin would give an account of the activities in his diary as follows: October 20, 1910: A party of jumpers came in last night in five Automobiles and camped at Slate Range (City) on the East side of the lake. This morning they began to run a line of survey, westward from the patented claim in Section 12. I ordered them out as trespassers, but as I only have two men besides myself I could do nothing. October 21, 1910: Today (I) went to Searles (Station) to wire for a U. S. Marshal. October 23, 1910: As I could get no word of the Marshal’s coming I went direct to the Jumpers camp last night, met the party at six this morning and ordered them out. A man called Sprat, whom I afterward found to be Wyatt Earp of Arizona fame, made an assault on one of my men and only desisted when I threatened to shoot. After notifying all of the men I could see that they were trespassers on the Company’s property, I returned to Borax Works. October 25, 1910: Marshall arrived at Jumpers’ camp last night and caught 28 of the men and served them with summons to appear before the U.S. Circuit Court for Contempt. He found H.E. Lee among the rest. He had kept out of sight while I was there. The whole party had
consisted of 33 but a few left before the Marshal arrived. October 31, 1910: Contempt cases were brought up in the Circuit Court but were postponed and Austin says, “Will return to the Lake after giving testimony in reference to Assessment work.” It would come out in court in 1916 that Earp had acted on the request of LAPD Commissioner Tom Lewis. In 1913, the American Trona Company acquired California Trona Company. The American Trona Company had the funds to get things done, they finished building the previously abandoned Trona Railway, completed work on the unfinished processing plants, and established the company town of Trona. In only two years, American Trona did what nobody else before them had been able to do. They began potash production. In 1915 alone, they produced 250 tons of potash. Trona, being a company town, meant that American Trona owned all the business and housing in town. The company supplied housing to its employees and paid in script rather than U.S. currency. Script could be used around the town at other company-owned businesses like the for profit, script-accepting grocery store. American Trona also provided a school, a public library, and recreational facilities. During World War I, Trona flourished. Searles Lake was America’s only source of potash at the time. Potash is an important element in the creation of gunpowder. In 1916, potash production at Searles Lake grew to 36,000 tons. After the war, the price of potash plunged, causing American Trona to improve its
recovery process. With the roaring 20s and 1930s came the buyout of the American Trona Company by American Potash & Chemical Corporation, and the return of “Borax” Smith with his newly formed West End Chemical Company. In 1956, West End would merge with Stauffer Chemical Company and Kerr-McGee would purchase American Potash & Chemical Corporation in 1967. Seven years later, Kerr-McGee would become the only game in town with the purchase of Stauffer’s West End facility. KerrMcGee would operate the plants until 1990. Since 1990, the plants have changed hands three times. Current ownership is by India-based Sun Capital Partners who purchased it in 2007. The plants currently operate under the name Searles Valley Mineral, Inc. They are the town’s largest employer, employing well over 800 individuals from Trona and the nearby community of Ridgecrest. They currently extract and ship 1.75 million tons of chemicals per year. Events and places to see in Trona today: Trona Pinnacles National Monument: Located on the outskirts of town, the Trona Pinnacles became a National Landmark in 1968. They are the best examples of tufa formations found anywhere in the United States. These tufa formations formed underwater between 10,000 and 100,000 years ago. Camping is permitted, please use established campsites. Old Guest House Museum: Located on Main Street next to the old Fox Theater. The Old Guest House Museum is operated by the Searles Valley Historical Society. The hours are limited so please call ahead (760)372-4800. Gem-O-Rama Mineral Show: Held the second weekend of every October. Includes specimen collection on the Searles Lake bed and one of few opportunities to tour the mineral plants. For information contact the Searles Lake Gem and Mineral Society at (760)372-5356.
Join the ongoing desert adventures of Death Valley Jim at his website, www. deathvalleyjim.com . June/July 2012 – The Sun Runner 37
Desert Theatre Beat
By Jack Lyons Sun Runner Theatre Editor
ith sizzling summer temperatures come diminished live theatre productions. Out here, in both the hi- and low desert, that’s a fact of life. The result being a smaller Desert Theatre Beat column. But, not too worry, as Alfred E. Newman used to say. Your intrepid theatre editor and columnist can always find some intrepid theatre company for you to enjoy. For example, with many of our desert theatres shuttered for the summer, you can always head for the cooler climes of San Diego and Los Angeles, and Big Bear Lake and check out their theatre scenes. HI-DESERT THEATRES Theatre 29 – Twentynine Palms Theatre 29 is the youngest member of the hi-desert’s theatres and is the only theatre in the hi- or low desert that remains open year round. Thanks to an excellent air conditioning system and a toasty warm heating system, the family values theatre company has been pleasing audiences for 12 seasons, all year long. Their June production is “The Memory Jar,” a drama written by local playwright Kurt Schauppner, and is part of the theatre’s original play series, which opens Friday, June 8 and performs June 9, 10, 15-17. Performances begin at 7 p.m. Following “The Memory Jar” is the highly popular musical the entire family can enjoy “Seusical The Musical.” The production marks the 12th teaming of Director Gary Daignault and Musical Director Ed Will. The musical opens June 29 and runs through July 28. All curtains are at 7 p.m. For reservations and ticket information for both shows call the box office at (760)361-4151. Groves Cabin Theatre – Morongo Valley The award-winning Groves Cabin Theatre concludes its 2011/2012 Season, 38 The Sun Runner – June/July 2012
with an original drama “Pablo Picasso,” written and directed by local playwright Delores Becker Trost. The production stars award-winning actor Lloyd Steele as Picasso. Pablo was a larger-than-life creative force in the arts for most of the 20th century. His story is rich with the drama of life and his many romantic affairs are the stuff of legend. Picasso runs June 2-17. For reservations and ticket information call the box office at (760)365-4523, or visit www.grovescabintheatre.org for more information. With only 22 seats, reservations are a must. LOW DESERT THEATRES Palm Canyon Theatre – Palm Springs The Palm Canyon Theatre, now in its 15th season, presents “Forever Plaid,” the musical tribute to four-part harmony. The popular musical written by Stuart Ross opens Friday, July 6 and runs thru July 15. For reservations and ticket information call (760)323-5123. REGIONAL THEATRES The Old Globe Theatre – San Diego The Tony Award-winning regional theatre opens its Summer Shakespeare Festival Repertory Series in the Lowell Davies Outdoor Theatre beginning June 3 with Shakespeare’s “As You Like It.” It’s one of his most liked comedies about flirtation, friendship, and mistaken identity. It’s a lighthearted look at the fickle and passionate nature of love. “Richard III” is one of the most outrageous villains in all of literature. The Bard paints an unforgettable portrait of obsession, seduction, betrayal, and a man who would be king, at all costs. The third production that runs in repertory at the outdoor festival theatre is the Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee courtroom drama, “Inherit The Wind.” It’s one of the great American dramas of the 20th century. Based on the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, the play pits two great lawyers face to face in the age-old conflict between science and faith. The Summer Festival begins June 3 and runs through September 30. (Remember to take a sweater or wrap if you attend. Once the sun goes down, the cool sea breezes take over). For reservations and ticket information for all Old Globe productions call (619)234-5623 or go online at www. theoldglobe.org.
Community Arts Theatre Society (CATS) – Big Bear Lake To escape the sizzling June and July heat of our desert, perhaps a visit to Big Bear Lake area is in order. They have a wonderful community theatre company that presents first-rate musicals this time of year. This year they are presenting the lush Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “The King & I,” starring Robin Field as the King, and Diana Sintergardt as Mrs. Anna. Produced, directed, and choreographed by Karen Sargent Rachels, the show features a cast of over 40, and it’s a treat and feast for the eyes and ears. For reservations and ticket information call the Box Office at (909)866-4970. Center Theatre Group –Ahmanson Theatre – Los Angeles Music Center The “real” theatre event of the decade comes to LA’s Center Theatre Group, at the Ahmanson Theatre, with the spectacularly brilliant production of “War Horse.” This highly inventive spectacle that garnered five Tony wins for Best Play, Direction, Set Design, Sound, and a Special Technical Tony for Puppetry, opens June 14 and runs through July 29. I saw the New York/Lincoln Center production last October and was completely blown away by the sheer genius of how the creative team met the onstage challenges of capturing the power and the poignancy of a story about a boy and his love of his horse during World War I. If you’ve seen the movie, great! But you haven’t experienced “War Horse” on a gut level until you see the play. Take a trip to LA in June or July and see “War Horse.” You won’t be disappointed. For tickets and information call the box office at (213)972-4400 or visit www.centertheatregroup.org. Remember, a great nation deserves great art. Support the arts whenever you can.
Look for more desert theatre and film news from Theatre Editor Jack Lyons online at www.thesunrunner.com.
FADE IN: The world of cinema beckons us who live in the beautiful, but very hot climates like the desert, especially in June and July. One of the busiest places in the desert is the cineplex and the mall, where it’s cool and inviting. That having been said, one now should prepare for the annual influx of tourists, and visitors (more than 40,000) that accompany the largest short film festival in the world—The Palm Springs International ShortFest and Market. The 2012 ShortFest and Market will feature more than 300 short films in all lengths, formats, and styles, from more than 50 countries. All the films will be presented at the Camelot Theatres in Palm Springs beginning Tuesday, June 19 and running through Monday, June 25. Films can be as short as one minute or up to one hour. Every genre of film and type will be screened, i.e. live action, animation, stop-action, black and white, and color films. The subject matter ranges far and wide, from documentary films to dramas, comedies, and everything else in between. If you like short films then this festival is definitely for you. There are all types of passes and ticket options available to attendees, however, the Platinum Pass, so popular with regular attendees, goes very, very fast. I strongly suggest you contact the festival box office at 1-800-898-7256, beginning June 12 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and plead your case. I’m loathed to say this but most of the films playing the rounds at the commercial theatres and cineplexes around
Leanna Bonamici, producer of Shorts Showcase, and program host Christian Sesma, at the annual Shorts Showcase Awards screenings and presentation at the Camelot Theatres in Palm Springs. Sharon Wright’s “Change for a Dollar” took the top prize in audience voting. A wrap party was held afterwards at Lulu’s California Bistro. Shorts Showcase airs on KVCR television across southern California and at www.shortsshowcase.com.
the Valley, as well as in LA, and, more to the point, around the country, these days, are really not very good. The main reason for this feeling, which I’ve been harboring for the last several years, is that movies don’t tell quality stories anymore, at least not believable or grounded-in-reality stories. Think “The Avengers,” or “Avatar,” and a host of other comic book characters that have been made into movies as the basis for a movie, and, well, you get the idea. Money and grosses generally drive the decision concerning what movie gets made today, not a quality story. In the 21st century, our society has moved into the era of the “TV reality show” mentality and mindset where everybody competes against one another, with one “winner” at the end. There is no story, just a string of incidents strung together in a film full of eye candy resulting in nothing more than chewing gum for the eyes and ears. If anyone ever tells you America is not a violent country, just send him or her down to the local cineplex. Try and find a movie not loaded to the gills with mayhem and everyone packing heat,
where the collateral damage and the body count keeps on soaring. It’s the same formula for our TV shows and series. Every season more and more cop shows find their way onto the tube. Hollywood and the indies, have dumbed down the movie-making process and storytelling, in an effort to reach new audiences. As a result the industry is awash in technology and CGI saturated films stuffed with special effects, explosions, and car crashes to the point of boredom. As the old lady on the TV commercials used to bellow, “Where’s the beef?” Okay, okay, I’m off my soap-box. The Desert Classic Film Society of Yucca Valley, headed by film historian and noir film fanatic Chris Perry, provides an oasis of sanity in the current movie wasteland, by screening movies that tell a linear story and entertain you in the process. Screenings take place at the Bijou Theatre located at 57482 Onaga Trail in Yucca Valley. Seating is limited. Admission is $5. Call Chris at (760)365-0475. See you at the movies… FADE OUT: June/July 2012 – The Sun Runner 39
hen Sonny Bono, then the mayor of Palm Springs, chose Craig Prater to head the new Palm Springs International Film Festival, it turned out to be the beginning of a journey that has taken Prater around the world. Recently, The Sun Runner attended the sixth annual Los Angeles Greek Film Festival where Prater served as executive director, and another well known desert personality, Nicholas Snow, of Notes from Palm Springs fame (now at Snowbiznow. com), served as the intrepid director of publicity. The fourday festival, a celebration of Greek culture at a time when the Greek people desperately need something to celebrate, came off flawlessly. The festival’s theme this year was “Defeating the Crisis Through the Viewfinder.” Though the crisis in Greece and other countries (including ours), may not be defeated solely through artistic endeavor, the creative spirit embodied in the Greek filmmakers present at the festival, came across as triumphant. “This year’s festival was one of the most successful we’ve had,” said Greek Consul General Elisabeth Fotiadou. “I am glad to see more and more people interested in Greek cinema. The festival’s team did amazing work. The films they screened were very powerful; commented on the Greek society of the past and present; and depicted parts of Greece’s reality in a very sensitive and mature way, sometimes with a bitter sense of humor.” Consul General Fotiadou was herself, central to the success of the festival. The Orpheus Awards for the festival were presented during a celebration held at the home of Fotiadou and her husband, Dr. Vasilios Berdoukas, in Hancock Park. The couple personally, and warmly, greeted all those attending the ceremony, including international journalist, Brane Jevric, another desert-based media professional. While the celebration filled the couple’s backyard with filmmakers and festival-goers who wisely purchased a Gold Pass for the four day event, a banquet of gourmet Greek foods, prepared in large part by the Consul General herself, was set out, adding an element of Greek hospitality and a personal touch of class not often found at similar events. 40 The Sun Runner – June/July 2012
Festival co-founder and artistic director, Ersi Danou, presented a special Orpheus Award to Fotiadou for her support. “This was the least we could do to express our immense gratitude for all the support she has offered LAGFF throughout the last three years, and for hosting, along with her husband Dr. Vasilios Berdoukas, the Orpheus Awards at her elegant residence,” Danou remarked. “We are forever indebted to her.” But the films, and those who made them, remained the stars of the festival. Sun Runner favorites included The Palace, a short film from Cyprus and Australia by Anthony Maras (writer, director, editor, and co-producer), that proved to be 16 minutes of condensed, gripping wartime emotion, inspired by true events that took place during the 1974 invasion of Cyprus. One of the best anti-war films I’ve ever encountered, The Palace humanizes the invaded, and the invaders during a brief, but horrific and ultimately tragic, encounter. The Palace deservedly won the Orpheus for Best Short Film. A favorite documentary, Raw Material, took the viewer into the world of illegal gypsy immigrants in Greece who recycle found metals to survive. Raw Material is an incredible look by Christos Karakepelis into the marginal existence and shanty town life of this underclass of people, at once Greek, and universal. Apartment in Athens, an excellent Italian film about the Nazi occupation of Greece, won the Orpheus for Best Feature. Directed by Ruggero Diapola, and based on the book by Glenway Wescott, the challenges of the occupation is told through the difficult experiences of one Athenian family forced to host a Nazi officer. Contrasting the inherent belief in Nazi superiority with a Greek family coping with conflicting emotions and experiences brought on by their unwelcome guest, the stay results in tragedy for all. The Special Jury Orpheus Award went to Wasted Youth codirectors Argyris Papadimitropoulos and Jan Vogel for their film that takes place all on one blazingly hot day in Athens. Sayome, a documentary about a Japanese woman who married a Greek sailor and returns to Japan to renew ties with her family after 35 years of living on Crete, is a heartwarming and ultimately upbeat film that won the hearts of the audience, taking both the Best Documentary and Audience Choice Orpheus awards. The humor and originality of the comedy, Super Demetrios, was a welcome addition to the festival’s offerings, as the superhero of Thessaloniki (named for the patron saint of that city) takes on evil Captain F.ROM, who has turned the iconic White Tower of that Greek city into a giant frappe, and is bent on turning the OTE Tower into a giant gyro. While the flow of the comedy was at times uneven, the creative spirit behind it was delightful. For the film to be accomplished with a whopping budget of around 2,000 euros, shows a remarkable drive to accomplish super-human feats by director Georgios Papaioannou, the writers, and actors. This is a crew to support and encourage—they may be able to get all of Europe laughing it’s way out of the current crisis. In amidst the screenings of films were an industry panel and seminar and a touching tribute to Theo Angelopoulos, one of the most respected Greek film directors who was killed this past January in an accident while filming The Other Sea. Actor Stratos Tzortzoglou brought his creative spark to the tribute, which concluded with a screening of what turned out to be our favorite film of the festival, Eternity and a Day. Winner of the Cannes Palm d’Or, Eternity and a Day is nothing less than a heartfelt immersion into the poetry of Greece served up through music, imagery, and language - and the genius of Angelopoulos. It is a film of the mysteries and poetry of the heart faced with both life, and death,a dying poet and a lost young boy, where with one slow pan of the camera,
SR: When Sonny Bono picked you to head the new Palm Springs International Film Festival, did you ever think you’d be producing film festivals in the U.S. and abroad, all these years later? CP: I never gave it a thought. My first remark to Sonny when he said he wanted to hire me was that I did not have a film background. He said that he didn’t want someone with a film background, that I had what he wanted....fundraising experience, community involvement and my administration abilities. SR: What festivals and events have you managed since leaving PSIFF? CP: The Festival of Festivals for Cathedral City; The Bangkok International Film Festival for Thailand; The Film Forecast for Big Bear Lake; The Museum of Tolerance Film Festival for the Simon Wiesenthal Center; The Conga Caliente Festival in Tampa; The Coachella Valley Latino Film Festival; The Latino Festival for the National Hispanic American Educational Foundation... I average two to three per year and most of these are start-up events. Currently, I’m working on new events for Alcapulco, Belgrade, and Palma del Mallorca, Spain. SR: How did running the PSIFF help prepare you for the festivals you’ve managed since then? CP: Palm Springs gave me the basics. It’s so dramatically different with each festival. In Palm Springs as most US film festivals, you have to go to great lengths to raise the money. Money is always an issue. With foreign governments, financing comes from some department or departments within the government. It makes a big difference. Palm Springs also taught me the basics with film proone can go back in time, or across the veil that seperates life from death. When the dying poet and author returns for the last time to the house that holds so many memories for him, he makes the decision he will not leave it to go to the hospital to face his death. Instead, as he nears the end, he asks his dead wife again, “How long is tomorrow?” Eternity—and a day. Ultimately, the Los Angeles Greek Film Festival, represented well by a professional team from the desert working with the board, staff, advisors, and capable volunteers of the Eastern Mediterranean and Balkan Cultural Center, took us past the current crisis in Greece to the indominatable spirit of a people with courage, heart, and a creative spirit that cannot be valued in euros. For me, it connected me with what I love best about Greece—its ingrained, almost genetic, inclusion of the poetry of humanity in its people.
gramming, scheduling, juggling events and the importance of volunteers. SR: You just finished as executive director of the sixth annual LA Greek Film Festival, a fantastic smaller festival. What were the high points of that festival for you? What was it like working with Greeks and Greek Americans on a cultural project like this? CP: The high points? Easy answer. The volunteers are a seriously committed group of people. They worked hours beyond belief. They were willing to do anything. I watched petite young ladies loading trucks. I watched volunteers ranging in ages from very young to older seniors. They never stopped. It is basically a volunteer organization. They are committed beyond belief. Working for the Greeks? After doing so many different film festivals with so many different cultures, people are people. I’ve yet to find a group of people or a country that I don’t like. As for the Greeks as a group in their support of the arts, I have to say that they go to the top of the list. As we all know, the economic crisis in Greece is sad. And although we lost a large amount of funding this year, the money kept coming from the Greeks. Unlike the USA who chooses to cancel funding to the arts and education when times get rough, the Greeks don’t. The arts are a top priority. Another example of this is the fact that we had the filmmakers from all the films in attendance. Did our film festival pay for their trips? No. The filmmakers funded their own airline tickets and the Greek community in Los Angeles opened their homes to give them a wonderful, welcome home to stay while they were here. In my opinion, this is where the Greeks shine! SR: What are your plans for the future? CP: Right now I’m finishing up details with the staff/volunteers of the Greek Film Festival. Then I’m working on new festivals in Mexico, Spain and Serbia and locally (USA), as well as continued work with the Latino community. Opposite page: Actor Stratos Tzortzoglou in a riveting performance during the LA Greek Film Festival’s Orpheus Awards. His performance included the Aeschylian Pathos, an Orphic hymn to Apollo. The performance was directed by Lucas Thanos who also did the music and the photographs from a collection of Gisele Lubsen. Top left: Craig Prater, executive director of the LAGFF. Top right: Greek Consul General Elisabeth Fotiadou during the Orpheus Awards held at her home. The hospitality of the Consul General and her husband Dr. Vasilios Berdoukas was central to the success of the awards ceremony and banquet. June/July 2012 – The Sun Runner 41
ur tightly knit musical community was saddened by the passing of our beloved Judy Van Ruggles who recently lost her battle with cancer. Although it was expected it did not make it any easier on us. Dear Judy with her whimsical stories on her banjo, passing the tip jar for many bands or just dancing the night away at Pappy and Harriet’s, always had a smile and a kind word for everyone. She was a bright light who was a tough cookie right up until the end and she will never be forgotten and will truly be missed. Another passing that touched us all was Chris Ethridge who passed away on April 23. Chris was a member of the Flying Burrito Brothers and co-wrote several songs with Gram Parsons. I was fortunate enough to get to spend time with Chris, Sneaky Pete Kleinow and Spooner Oldham when they were here in 2006 for a Gram Fest. It was a blessing to hear many stories and get to know them. Stan Ridgeway (Wall of Voodoo) was in town and played at Pappy’s with his Stan Ridgeway trio. He had a real desert feel that night including the song Lonely Town, written while driving through the desert and capturing the feel of the desert not-to-long-ago. Ring of Fire the Carter/Cash cover tune was chosen to end the evening and still proves that Stan’s music retains that Wall of Voodoo flavor. I missed some great shows as I went on an extended vacation to Seattle, including the Joshua Tree Music Festival (which 42 The Sun Runner – June/July 2012
I hear attendance was over 2,500), the annual concert in Joshua Tree Memorial Park with Shawn Mafia and many others. But I had a great time in Seattle where the one thing I noticed was that everywhere I went they played great music. Imagine walking into a Marriott Hotel to hear the likes of REM and Wilco! The final night of my trip was a house concert thrown by Harry Oesterreicher at his “Harry’s Haven” in Ballard. It was a tribute to Barbara Buckland and I got to meet so many of her friends and local musicians from the Seattle music scene. It was a house filled with love and stories, poetry and song in Barbara’s memory. Harry and I went to Barbara’s favorite tree in the park and I now know why she loved Seattle so much and her friends also realized why she loved and moved to Joshua Tree after attending Gram Fest. I remember her as she watched the Thrift Store All Stars play, when she leaned over and whispered to me “ I am moving here,” and she did. Barbara, who worked for The Sun Runner after she moved down here, actually first met publisher Steve Brown many years ago, while he was living in Washington. He was volunteering as president of Victory Music, an acoustic music organization, and Barbara was helping run one of the weekly open mics Victory operated around the Puget Sound. Their collaboration continued, years later, in the desert. Don’t miss seeing Steve’s alter-ego, Shanghai Brown, and his band, There Be Pirates!, as they host the desert’s only pirate
The late Judy van Ruggles, above. Our thanks to everyone who gave of their love and their time when Judy was in hospice care. Opposite page: Chris Ethridge, Sneaky Pete Kleinow, Josh Hemmingway and Spooner Oldham. Seattle Musician Earl Brooks plays for Barbara Buckland, below.
beach party Mardi Gras, at 7 p.m., Saturday, July 7, at the Yucca Valley Summer Concert Series, outdoors at the Yucca Valley Community Center. Come in your favorite pirate, beach, or Mardi Gras attire and join in the fun! I’ll be there! There are some great shows coming up at Pappy and Harriet’s including Debora Iyall (Romeo Void) on June 29 and The Chris Robinson Brotherhood on July 21 (with Beachwood Sparks) you can always check the online calendar at www. thesunrunner.com for more details. If you have an event, now you can post it in The Sun Runner’s online calendar for free.
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