Mojave Elder Victor Van Fleet leads tribal Bird Singers in songs to protest energy development destroying lands sacred to Native American peoples in the California deserts in Robert Lundahl's documentary

Documentary debuts on Cortes Island

Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Robert Lundahl's Who Are My People explores dark side of green energy development

“Who Are My People?” the first film to investigate the dark side of green energy development in California, will premiere in Canada’s Manson’s Hall on Cortes Island, 7 p.m., Feb. 6.

The film, from documentary filmmaker/investigative journalist Robert Lundahl, explores the destruction of Native American cultural sites, intact desert ecosystems, and biodiversity values, in the rush to profit from “Green Energy.”

“It may seem inconceivable to those on the left,” said Lundahl, an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, “that their own ambitions could be aligned in the historical context with ‘Indian fighters,’ John C. Fremont and General George Armstrong Custer, who suffered defeat at the Little Big Horn.”

In the quest to develop green energy in the deserts of California, for example, some say environmentalists and green energy supporters lack an understanding of the consequences of their actions and choices. Global energy firms like NextEra, Brightsource, and Iberdrola participate in what some have called a  “gold rush” for the new green energy profits.

At risk are a fantastic array of Native American cultural sites, now facing the bulldozer. The Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT) have litigated the issue, filing a complaint on Dec. 4 while alleging the religion and culture of CRIT’s members are strongly connected to the physical environment of the area, including the ancient trails, petroglyphs, grindstones, hammerstones, and other cultural resources known to exist there.

“There is a lack of awareness on behalf of the environmental community of indigenous rights,” said Lundahl, himself an active environmentalist.

Mainstream environmental groups like the Sierra Club and NRDC have supported large solar despite environmental and cultural degradation.

The issue has come to a head in the California deserts where the ARRA stimulus program loan guarantees and cash grants have provided up-front capital for developers in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Companies like Solar Millennium, a large solar provider, now bankrupt, and Brightsource, whose string of failures to permit large solar projects, have contributed to what some perceive as an industry “black eye.”

“Isn’t it great that the big environmental groups and the utilities can agree on strategy?” solar power expert Bill Powers explains in the film.  “It just happens to be a very high-impact strategy.”

Lundahl’s film, “Who Are My People?” includes gorgeous aerial photography and haunting descriptions of over 20 large geoglyphs, now endangered. They form a mythic landscape, one from from another time or dimension of experience, located along the Colorado River. Indigenous elders, Ron Van Fleet (Mojave), Phil Smith (Chemehuevi), Alfredo Figueroa (Chemehuevi), and Preston Arrow-weed (Quechan), tell the story.

The Feb. 6 screening is sponsored by CKTZ radio 89.5 fm and The ECOReport.