Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

September 7, 2015

New film 'Who Are My People?' takes on the Big Greens and Energywashing

Documentary Films and Public Policy Communications
Contact: Robert Lundahl

"Who Are My People?" to Screen at the Joshua Tree International Film Festival 9/19/2015

Film takes viewers inside efforts to construct the largest renewable energy facilities on the planet, "fast tracked" by US "Green Energy" Policies

"Who Are My People?" by documentary filmmaker, Robert Lundahl poses a conundrum for audiences. How can energy plants proposed to mitigate atmospheric carbon and fight climate change be so bad for the environment and for people? The plants destroy corridors for migrating species of plants and animals, deplete biodiversity values on the ground, and grind Native American antiquities, including giant geoglyphs held sacred by tribes, into dust.

To Alfredo Figueroa, Chemehuevi cultural monitor and founder of La Cuna de Aztlån Sacred Sites Protection Circle, it's nothing short of disaster.

It has been recently revealed that the giant Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, known for decimating the birds of the Pacific Flyway, which burn alive in the "Killing Flux" produced by the plant's three giant towers, is also built atop the route of a sacred pilgrimage, atop altars, and cultural resources, on the Salt Song Trail, sacred to the Southern Paiute, Chemehuevi and other Ufo-Aztecan groups.

Who Are My People? features a scene in which Figueroa, Mojave Hereditary Chief Reverend Ron Van Fleet, and Chemehuevi Elder, Phillip Smith, lead a group to the top of Metamorphic Rock, where trails converge, just outside Ivanpah's boundaries.

Here are triangular altars, shaped like arrowheads, that point in the direction of Clark Mountain to the West and Spirit Mountain to the East. Clark Mountain is the site of purifying hot springs, and Spirit Mountain is the center of creation for all Yuman and Hokan language speakers and groups.
The mountain, a Traditional Cultural Property, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 8, 1999.
In the film, Lowell John Bean, Ph.D. explains that for all cultures, history becomes religion, and he places Native opposition to the building of large, renewable, solar plants into context, as the tribes of many different language groups fought "Termination" policies of the US Government in the 1950s, and residential schools in the 1960's, to which Indian youth were compelled go. The schools forbade them from speaking their language, and according to Bean, enacted a deliberate policy of the US government intended to "deculturate" tribal peoples in Southern California and elsewhere.

For filmmaker Lundahl, who made two previous films with Indian communities in Washington State, "Unconquering the Last Frontier," and "Song on the Water, "Who Are My People?" carries on a commitment. "I had worked on a documentary dealing with the conversion of military bases in California, in 2009, and was introduced to Michael E. Boyd, Executive Director of CAre, Californians for Renewable Energy. CAre asked if I would help prepare a legal complaint v. the Department of the Interior, the Department of Energy and six of the first 10 Utility-Scale renewable energy plants in California."

Plaintiffs Alfredo Figueroa (Chemehuevi/Yaqui), Reverend Ron Van Fleet (Mojave Hereditary Chief), and Phillip Smith (Chemehuevi), are the subjects of the film.

Lundahl's camera follows these veteran activists (Figueroa worked alongside Cesar Chavez and with the UFW, United Farm Workers), and all, including Quechan elder Preston Arrow-Weed, are known as "Ward Valley Veterans" for their actions in stopping the construction of a nuclear dump site along the Colorado River at Ward Valley.

"Who Are My People?" is a work of history that chronicles a generation of Indigenous activists which came of age in the1960s and 1970s; now elders, they fight what is perhaps their last and most arduous campaign.

As we see in the film, which Lundahl says he was inspired to make by watching Barbara Koppel's Harlan County USA, these activists have quite a bit of fight left in them, as two of the projects that impact tribal lands come to an inglorious end for developers right before the camera's lens. That's no small feat considering each project is valued at over 2 billion dollars. Companies take one third of that up front in cash grants if they can begin construction, which in the case of the projects portrayed, they cannot, as a result of fierce Native opposition.

For more information about "Who Are My People?" visit For more information about filmmaker Robert Lundahl and RL | A visit

"Who Are My People?" is set to screen at 2:00 pm, September 19, 2015, at the Beatnik Lounge, Downtown Joshua Tree, CA.

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