Run to Save the Geoglyphs from Giant Solar Project

October 30, 2010 - Blythe, California

The Killing of Kokopelli, Video of Blythe Spirit Run by Robert Lundahl >>here

Report from Blythe by Bob Ellis:

The Colorado River Tribes (the Chemehuevi, the Fort Mojave, the Quechan) put out the call: A Spiritual Run to Protest the Blythe Solar Project: from the Blythe Intaglios by the Colorado River; by mining roads and Indian trails over a pass in the Big Maria Mountains; across the Rice Midland Road; and west toward the McCoy Mountains to the so-far largest planned industrial solar project in the world.

We came from various towns in the desert and cities, ready to learn and support the effort to stop this dreadful mis-use of public lands. An initial gathering circle was incredibly moving as treasured tribal staffs, brought there in support of the spirit run by a member of a non-Colorado River tribe (from the Palm Springs area) were unveiled and offered to the runners to carry from the Blythe Intaglios along the 25 miles to the project site. Sage was burned, chants were made, folks from all tribes expressed their strong objections to the project and to the way they had been ignored by the BLM and the California Energy Commission. No "government-to-government" consultation as required by federal law has occurred. The tribal elders were determined to do all they could to build support from all peoples to prevent this project.

Unfortunately the Blythe Solar Project, recently approved by both the BLM and the California Commission, has not attracted strong environmental defenders. A few organizations commented at the scoping level, but no group has acted as intervenors or attempted to publicize the special problems with the Blythe project as they have with the Ivanpah Solar Project. As with the other approved projects, significant unmitigatable impacts will occur and the direct signature of the Secretary of the Interior has overridden any of the normal environmental protest channels. Most important for this project are the large number of cultural sites that will be affected, both those documented and those not yet documented, that the tribes are very concerned about.

After a prayer the runners gathered. Non-Indians were invited to run and three of us stepped forward willing to go at least part way. Together ten of us started off, joined the four who had led the way, and eventually fourteen of us--ranging from nine years to 69 years old--walked and ran the six miles through the Big Maria Mountains wilderness up to and over the pass, and down into Midland Valley north of Blythe. It was great to be moving, it was great to be accompanying the other runners--two of whom had participated in inter-tribal Spirit runs from Alaska to Mexico. What excitement as we came down from the pass to meet folks gathered there to greet us.

None of the invited press representatives had shown up to report the event. We were running late. The runners broke into relays to complete the run, twelve miles west past the project site and then south to the evening fire circle gathering near an off-ramp of I-10. While the runners finished, those of us who had not visited the solar project site were taken to see the Kokopelli and a neighboring geoglyph, surrounded by the planned southern portion of the project. One of these two large impressive and unfenced figures already had a motorcycle trail crossing it. The solar project has said the Kokopelli figure will be fenced off, but how can it be thought that any further spiritual use can be made of a sacred site surrounded by miles of industrial mirrors?

We gathered for a fire circle. The tribes provided dinner and dancers, singers, a healing circle, and an opportunity for all to express their feelings from the events of the day. Most strongly felt was the determination to save these sites from destruction, to save this valley from destruction, to educate the outside world as to what was at stake in this mad rush for solar at any price.

Here the price is too high. Here for native peoples and all society are special values which outweigh the land-rush mentality currently spreading out from Washington. Determination to gather together in new ways to stop this industrial smear was the byword. We felt we would ultimately win as our cause was just.

Several of us camped near Kokopelli that night. The next day we were shown several undocumented figures on sacred sites in and near the project site. The rush to destroy what you may not yet be aware of is happening here to the detriment of plants and animals, sacred sites and landscapes. Spread the word.


Bob Ellis - not the same person as last week.

Save Kokopilli

Organized by La Cuna de Aztlan Sacred Sites Protection Circle, Ward Valley Warrior Veterans, Mojave Spiritual Runners, the Chemehuevi Tribe, Californians for Renewable Energy, Inland Mexican Heritage, Danza Cuauhtemoc, Peace and Dignity Runners, and Escuela de la Raza Unida, this group came together to save the living tradition of geoglyphs that are maintained by local tribal people on Palo Verde Mesa, an ancient Ice Age terrace of the Colorado River covered with Ironwood washes and pebble-strewn natural desert pavement.

^Dawn at the Blythe area start of the Run.

^People came from near and far, and all walks of life: Native American, non-Native, environmentalists, Desert Survivors members, Sierra Club members, Democrats, Republicans, Tea Party voters, all who want to come together to protect the desert and its cultural heritage.

^Women lay out sacred bundles full of staffs that the runners will carry across the desert.

^The staffs were from all over the world: Peru, the Pacific Northwest, many indigenous tribal peoples from the Western Hemisphere.

^Runners, Native and non-Native were invited to participate in the Run. A volunteer from Basin and Range Watch took up a staff and ran through the Big Maria Mountains.

^Chemehuevi runner.

^The natural desert pavement of small stones formed by eons of wind and rain, cover thousands of acres of the Palo Verde Mesa next to the Colorado River (in the distance, Arizona mountain ranges rise in the distance). Here, for thousands of years tribes have maintained huge geoglyphs depicting cultural traditions.

^The geoglyph Cicimitl.

^Alfredo Figueroa explains the complex meaning of the geoglyphs here, which relate to the nearby mountain peaks, faces in rock formations, and constellations in the sky.

^Cicimitl geoglyph.

^Head of Cicimitl. These geoglyphs are threatened by the massive 7,000-acre solar development by Solar Millennium, the Blythe Solar Power Project.

^The eye of the Kokopilli geoglyph.

^A group explores the Kokopilli geoglyph on the southern part of the solar project site.

^Ancient lines in the stones are maintained by local people as part of a living tradition, between the Ironwood washes. This tradition may be simi;ar to the more famous Nazca lines of Peru's desert.

^Geoglyphs next to the McCoy Mountains. This scene would be completely changed with the 100% grading of the desert required by the largest solar project approved in the United States.

^Kokopilli geoglyph and Ironwood washes.

^Visitors look at the Kokopilli geoglyph on the natural stone surface.

^A stake left from Solar Millennium, the company wanting to develop this desert land.

^These geoglyphs need to be protected from off-road activity, and development of ill-sited renewable energy projects. This land is not disturbed, it is cared for by many people.

^The flute of Kokopilli. A runner carried a flute on the Run through the desert, playing at times while others sang. The Run was not a race, but an offering.

^Sacred Fire Ceremony at the end of the Run, next to the town of Blythe.

^Runners come in from the geoglyphs, and circle the fire at sunset.

^Runners circle the fire.

^Staffs in their bundles.

^The Run was a success. The staffs are wrapped up with care in their bundles. Runners are fed dinner and people sing and dance. Outsiders are invited in and asked to share the story.



HOME.....Blythe Solar Power Project.....Blythe Ironwood Forests