Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

April 10, 2023

Quechan Preston Arrow-weed 'The Land You Know Has Been Given to You'

Quechan elder Preston Arrow-weed

The Land You Know Has Been Given to You

The Gold Mine

Robert Lundahl

I just turned the recording on so we're official. It’s really nice to meet you could you could you both introduce yourselves for whomever might be listening to this podcast or reading this article – who are you and why are you here and where are you?

Preston Arrow-Weed

Preston J Arrow–weed, I'm on the Fort Yuma reservation. What else do you need?

Robert Lundahl Who is the fellow next to you?

Preston Arrow-Weed Oh this is Faron.

Faron Owl

Basically I've worked with Preston and just trying to help as much as I can on all these fights that we're involved with but it's been very good experience.

Robert Lundahl

I've been paying attention and that's what I wanted to talk to you about, so could you describe the event the other day? You guys had a run and went out to a sacred place with a geoglyph, and an official BLM geo-glyph sign there. So this is close to Oro Cruz, which is a gold mine is that correct?

And what are the issues there with Oro Cruz? Why did you have that run?

Faron Owl

Well, I took Preston over there; I went a couple times before Preston has gone actually to the Oro Cruz or American Girl Mines – which are close to each other. And we went back there and looked at the areas of Oro Cruz and also American Girl, and both of them are just devastating and Preston can pick up the story from there…

 Preston Arrow-Weed

That's not the only thing out there (the geo-glyph). There's more out there. It's been recorded by the BLM it's been recorded they have many things out there. This is just one of them. There's more out there but they don't bring that up.

They know what they're doing, they should bring that up, but they don't bring up the research they've done. We've asked them to do it, to bring it in but they won't do it. So I believe they know what they're doing but they're still doing it. They still destroy. Now I think too that they're (the geoglyphs) important because eventually we might find the meaning of them – because not even the experts know what it means I don't think they do, if they do they would say it, but I think there's so many things out there. We don't know even nature itself. We don't understand sometimes and what we're doing to it and I think that we see what happens when you do some things against nature and that's one of them. And one of the things they've done is destroying… like the mountain for instance and that I didn't like, the destruction of that mountain. 

I don't like the destructions that I see simply to get gold to line their pockets to get money– that's not reasonable for me to say it's okay to go and just destroy everything. I don't think so. And I think when I and (other) people knew what their people saw, and what had happened but no one said nothing… when I saw it, well, I was angry because they were created the same way we were.

They created people. They created mountains. They're the same so that's when I was, I became angry, “let's do something about it.”

I've even seen them uh talking about gold on television, talking about people to save gold because that's a good thing to save and use later on, well you can save as much as you, well, as much as you can to save for your family or your future but what if the earth falls apart? You know I don't think you can use that gold to save yourself or to save the world but that's exactly what they're doing.  They're digging for gold everywhere they can. For what? You know what is what good is that?

Basically all you're doing is for every sack full of gold that these people are getting, there's a place somewhere where they destroy the environment; they don't realize that. Somewhere creatures, animals are dying. They don't know that somewhere out there they could contaminate a lot of water. They don't know that.

 As long as they have that gold in their hand they think that's good saving, that's good for their future. There will be no future if you keep doing that with the gold. And among other things that happen with that gold mine is also the lithium problem.

The Lithium Problem


Over here, we're dealing with lithium. It’s another thing and I think that they don't care because of  right now the geothermal out there and plus the San Andreas Fault over there that they're digging right near it. 

If they can they can go on until they can cause an earthquake. They can do a lot of damage and so they really don't care. They just want whatever they can get out of there


Of course it's the public that lets him do it the public the public is the one that's responsible…

Robert Lundahl

Yeah the BLM and the Department of Interior – so you're talking about they let them do it. Is that you mean the federal government?

Preston Arrow-Weed

… But the companies do it. You have to let them do it. I mean of course you know that the corporations have a lot of money. The people with the money are doing this and I think the people with the money are also running the government, you know… 

They're doing that too so they listen to them and then the lowest one the totem pole is the public. The public wants it because they think they're going to get money. They do want money, they do get it matter of fact, and they give grants in Imperial Valley. It grants a lot of people and so they've bought their way in there. So those things happen but I don't well also I think even the public they are not from this area they came from somewhere else and if anything happens that it's no longer livable they can just pack up and leave. But us, we came from here we were here way before they came, so where can we go? We have no place to go. All the creatures in the desert, they have no place to go. either. They're going to die there, but it doesn't matter to the people, they want the gold, they want whatever they can get, the lithium, whatever. There's so many things that they do without any consideration to that the future, what can happen, what will happen, and I think there are things that are happening in this world.

That they will not admit that there are things happening now, well one of the most famous things that the global warming, you talk about that but the result of that are these storms and floods and the weather is changing and everything is changing. That's because of what we did. I mean what humans have done.


What they're doing there's no longer… there's no balance anymore and I mean if there's gold there that's meant to be there. If there's lithium there, that's meant to be there. Whatever is there is meant to be there. Anything you, that you want to use, use a little bit if you need it, don't not take all you can, you know, just like when we want to eat, we know that we can get meat but we don't try to get all the meat and then freeze it and sell it, no, we just get what we need and eat and go on, we, you know, in moderation.


When the Spanish came, they wanted to sell everything. We didn't think like that. We just get what we need, what we want and that's it. We feed our family, that's it. But when they came, oh, they wanted to sell it, they want to do all kinds of things and that's the way we are today, they are today, they want to get as much as they can, all they can, but they don't think about the consequence of that. 

Robert Lundahl

I have a question on the lithium production, they want to tie that to the geothermal because the geothermal makes a brine and then they can extract the lithium from that. It sounds like a really good idea, like two processes at once, you know, to save energy, but you know that's untested technology. 

Presto Arrow-Weed

I understand they really don't know what they're doing, too, I hear they don't know what's going to happen – It’s almost experimental too, what they're doing, so they really don't know either, don't care I guess, if it goes wrong, goes wrong, they'll deal with it whatever way they're going to do it…

Quechan run to protect sacred land. Credit Bradley Angel, Greenaction

Somebody Pays

Robert Lundahl

…Well, somebody pays. Who pays? Who takes the risk? Is it you? Is it your community that takes the risk on that if they fail and you're left with a big mountain of toxic sludge?

Preston Arrow-Weed

The community does not know the problems that we're having. They don't know. All they know is that you can get money and that's it, but the problems we have here, they don't know that. I mean, what we're talking about like the environment, the destruction of the environment, things like that, they don't know that. They only want… money, all they want is, I don't know, comfort, I guess, so think about that.

In our time, our people, they knew that. And for instance they, I know that they moved from place to place when we depleted an area of certain things that we would move on. They would move on to another place in another place once it's you know the deplete area of our game and let it build up again. Some people stayed, you can see that in our history where we came from uh the North and we came down we lived here and here and here all the way down. But when you came to this area for instance, it was underwater. The shoreline was way up at Palm Springs and we were on the shoreline we lived there and then when our water receded we came down into Imperial Valley and because they had archaeological studies done they find artifacts also.


When that was receded and they came down there were others who went along the mountains too, went to Jacumba, to the ocean, went San Juan Capistrano, up towards the mountain again by Palm Springs, then came back down south to Imperial Valley into Yuma area. 

By that time the Colorado River was flowing, but it took thousands of years for that to happen – science will not accept that, but then when I talk about they say, oh yeah yeah, we do have artifacts over there at uh Palm Springs… in that area coming down this way. They say “yeah” but what does that tell you, that we've been here a long time. And it is our area. 

Robert Lundahl

You mentioned that you have fish traps that are similar to up north is that true? Can you tell me a little more about that? 

Preston Arrow-Weed

The Salton Sea, on the north on the west side of the Imperial Valley now, fish traps were built along the banks it's like a “v.” They pile rocks and made a “v” right along the shoreline it uh that V is showing a little opening. They would have a big circle and they would all getting started making noise and whatever and all the fish would come closer. Closer they got into that hole and went in there and then they closed it. That's how they got their fish. And there's a lot of them over there uh on the West Side, but of course it's long ago so you can barely see them but they're there because I've seen them too.


They're there, it goes all the way up on the north side, on the North side and over there you could even see that where the water level used to be along that mountain long ago.

Robert Lundahl 

We were talking about moving as opposed to migrating, right? And we talked briefly about the DNA evidence about migration from Alaska and they've dated that in certain cases, so are you are you talking about migrating or moving? 

Preston Arrow-Weed

I can only tell you that my people in this area do not migrate, they just moved, they just moved until they deplete the area or they need something else so they move to another place, another, there's evidence of that. They might stay that two, three, four, maybe thousands of years and then they moved but it took all that time to reach where we're at– so you can see how long we've been here based on that.

You can see that we didn't migrate here, if we did migrate we would come straight down through here bam, bam; it doesn't happen that way but we did from place to place until we got here 

Robert Lundahl

The Lightning Song that you sing tells that story, right, because you sang it out there on the land – it's part of it. You got everybody singing the first couple of lines I think…

Preston Arrow-Weed

 Oh yeah, I've used the Lightning song a lot. Our journey down this way when we first lived here, but there again it's the same thing I'm saying... to migrate, you can migrate in one day. The geese fly through here, could fly here through the one day in a migration but I don't think we did that in one day. It took thousands of years, hundreds and thousands of years. That word they use I don't think it fits us at all.

I heard that some people went to court, natives, Wendsler Nosie, Sr., Oak Flat, and the people who wanted the land told him that that land belonged to the government.

All right, how did they get it? When you really look at it, they stole it. You know I talked about our land and they say that BLM has it now. How did BLM get it? 

I noticed like for instance the gold mining, they say they're using claims, claims that they bought from someone they were out there. Their claims are only what, 200 years, the oldest that claim it goes back, and there's evidence we were there before that claim. But that doesn't mean nothing. United States declared that, you know, that's not enough proof so they go by their claims that they create or what they put there…

Robert Lundahl

If that's not right within their memory, within their organizational memory of United States of America…

Preston Arrow-Weed 

You know they could make any law to say that this is the way it's supposed to be and then whatever you know is gone.

They’re doing the same thing using religion. Our religion was before the Bible, I say. Our religion goes way back before they did that. I asked about the religion once, the Bible, and they said something like two three thousand years or something like that. Well we go beyond that and what we believe so who is telling the truth I mean they can make any law to say that, like for instance, in California the state of California, they wanted the land, they wanted the gold, and what they do? They start shooting and killing the Native Americans in California and then to make it worse, they enacted and passed laws that there was a bounty on them and you can shoot them and kill them long as you bring them their heads–see they made that law–see they did that too. They've done everything to get what they want on this land, and is that justice?

Is That Justice?

I mean it's wrong. I even kind of think about today… Recently I heard that Russia is committing crimes against humanity. America has been doing that since the time began for us since they came, they've been doing the same thing he came and took it still, they provoked our people into war but we couldn't win the war because of the modern technology they had at the time up to today. We couldn't win and they took our land – they even enacted laws, enacted rules, enacted everything and we didn't understand it either. Do you think that’s fair? 

I think the Russians probably learned from the American people how they do it, so it's been done. America isn't as great you know, in what they've done.

Robert Lundahl 

There are all these projects that have something in common. We are talking about the Willow oil exploration project up on the North Slope. It's a traditional area and people live subsistence style there and that's where they gain their foodstuffs, so basically that means, what, you have to go to Safeway now? And then you went up and talked to the Nevada mining people the indigenous mining people about Thacker Pass, right? And that's another lithium production area, where they hope to produce lithium but it was on the site of a massacre , that the BLM claimed not to know about as the project was approved by the Trump administration 5 days before leaving office. 

“Thacker Pass is spiritually and culturally significant to tribes in Nevada, an intrinsic part of their history and stories, says the tribe (Reno Sparks Indian Colony). It’s also one of the few remaining places in the Great Basin where tribal citizens can still gather traditional foods such as chokecherries, wild potatoes and onions, and medicines like the toza root.” -- Nevada Current


And then you have Oro Cruz about gold mining and I don't know what chemicals they use there but it sounds pretty toxic to me (cyanide, cadmium, arsenic) and then the question of Lithium Valley, where is Lithium Valley, you know, I mean where does it start? Where's the boundary? Whose land is in it? No one knows that and they've never done it before (extracting lithium from geothermal brine), which Lawrence Livermore Berkeley Labs cautions involves “significant technical challenges.” 

“Geothermal brines in the Salton Sea region of California are expected to be a major domestic source of lithium in the future but that significant technical challenges need to be overcome.”

Preston Arrow-Weed

I don't know either because I've heard that the lithium Valley thing. I think they have a board or something and our representative isn't our greatest and I mean he's not saying much. I saw them once at the meeting but nothing was said about it of course. I complained a lot.

Our belief is just as strong. Our belief was that that area where the Salton Sea was that there's some story about that and that story is, our belief was, that the giant snake came in there (to Imperial Valley) from the ocean. It was a white snake, a big giant snake and he had black spots on it, the snake, that were a repository of knowledge, came into Imperial Valley and he surfaced in the ocean there somewhere. I would think it would probably be Obsidian Butte. And they had a ceremony, and one of the ceremonies they had, a what they call the House of Darkness; they built a little house there and the snake went in there and they closed him up and he couldn't get out and they burned it… like cremating him… and when it burned it well, all the bodies popped from the fire and all the black spots, the repositories of knowledge, left the body, went out and went to all the mountains in the area and there's some mountains around that area that it went to,,, there's one south of them called Eagle Mountain, and all to the north and all the way to the west, and Oro Cruz is some of that–went to those mountains too.

That’s what we believe, what the Kamya believe in, the Quechan, but that doesn't mean nothing to them, you know, they expect us to believe in the Bible (laughs), so things like that happen and I think  it's wrong to even consider that, that their uh Bible is better than ours, our belief doesn't mean nothing, but it shows that our creator does not want to destroy everything, but according to their belief it's okay to destroy, so which is better, you know, which is better?


But then on the other hand I do believe that there are some good Christians too.  I believe that’s true but they're not around. People are using religion to do the wrong things too. I think it's probably a good book. I've seen some of it. I don't think it's bad but people are misusing it to do what they want to do. I did research when I was in college I did research on Jesus Christ. There was a man, he did exist, he did go talking about the things that were wrong, and he tried to stop it. He talked about the things that they were doing and because of what he said, what he was doing, they killed him. They killed him because of that. There was such a man as Jesus Christ; there was a man it's true, and they killed him because he was telling the truth, and he was trying to stop it and I think so he was trying to say the Bible was okay, if you did it this way it's okay but that way’s wrong but they wouldn't listen to him, they tried to change it. 

I'm saying that all religions are okay but it just depends on how you use it and I believe there… we believe that there's different ways to reach the Creator our way is okay, their way is okay, everybody's way they have that's their way to reach the Creator, no one is better than the other. But America thinks theirs is better than ours, see that's what happened.

Robert Lundahl

 Okay well that's religion. Let's talk about law. There's a bunch of laws here that nobody seems to pay much attention to these days with all these projects, like NEPA, National Environmental Protection Act, the National Historic Places Act that protects cultural resources. NEPA has a provision for the human landscape–everything people do in the cultural landscape, however far that extends – so we have these laws, what's the problem? What's the problem with… what happens when these projects get into court and they don't listen?


Preston Arrow-Weed

They change them but it's not fair the way they do things, not fair the way they fight or whatever, it's not fair they 

got the upper hand, so that's what's happening to us. Who will fight for us, who will fight for us? We at home here, at this point there's only about a handful, they're saying things, doing things what they can. Faron and I, and some people who've joined us but the rest don't know.

Avi Kwa Ame


I try, we try to tell them, try to tell them, what to tell everybody, what we know.  We had a gathering here I thought it was very successful last week, Saturday. And we just returned from one in Parker, and I thought that was great: there was a lot of people there, and then recently Avi Kwa Ame, the National Monument, see we got that and so Avi Kwa Ame is what they declare the National Monument. Our home here or our paths and roads go directly to that mountain so we're connected to it.

So what is America going to do? Cut us off? Disconnect us from our mountain? Because that's our belief too, that's our belief too, we sing the same song, and we tell almost the same stories about that area, so America to cut that belief, you know cut whatever we talk about, oh that's really something to do that.

 So we are connected to that now, and that's going to be a danger to them. They can try their way to stop that too. Eventually. They can probably throw it out, say “hey yeah, forget that,” you know. They'll do that too. Whatever they do, they'll change. It doesn't matter. All they have to do is have a quorum and they vote on it and they say okay, forget it. To me that's not fair. They're not going along with what is fair and what is right or wrong; they're not going by them.

Robert Lundahl

Well you know some people will say everything's changing now because the Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland is a native person and the new discussions on policy that they've had is they're not going to do things the old way anymore they're going to go toward co-management with the tribes. But all of these projects that I mentioned there's no thought of co–management it's all the old way like “we want to do what we want to do” and you guys don't really get to have much input into this process and if you do, “consulting” whatever that means you know, get somebody on the phone or try to call or something it's “consulting” but there's not “consent.”

Preston Arrow-Weed 

No I think that she's under pressure from all sides, you know, every side. You're under pressure to do this or do that if you do this, this is going to happen, they got it to where she can't say yes or no because, in little politics just little politics I was a tribal councilman one time two terms I served and I know the pressure, what's going to happen if I change or do this you know, they had me, but I just made a bold move “nope it's going to be that way” and that was it what I said went. I went the right way and I don't care about the consequence we're going to do it and that's what I did, but I can see why leadership is kind of hard. They don't want to do this because they're this or that or this or that for their own safety or whatever and I see that and I'm sure that happens to the Department of Interior, you know, because she's a Native American, ah man, they're hitting her from all sides. And we're talking about money – if you do this we're going to cut your people off or whatever. They'll get her. You can't say nothing.

 I once had a federal officer coming to investigate a case somewhere they scared, or the county and everybody's scared her, and she took off  – she dropped the whole thing. They put pressure on her and I've seen that happen so that things like that do happen, and I'm sure that the Secretary of Interior is having a lot of problems, you know, to be in that position I'm sure she could say a lot but she can't, you know, she can't do it, and I don't know how long she's going to last but …

Robert Lundahl

Thanks for commenting on that because you know when you read the papers it goes one way and then it goes the other way so it's good to have, it's good for people to have an understanding that even at a top level that native people are getting pressure.

Preston Arrow-Weed

Well you know I'll tell you what happened years ago. There was another Secretary of Interior, I forgot her name and she was very strong in a lot of things. The Native American didn't like her.

Well they had a position of the Desert Advisory Council in Imperial County and that area, Desert Advisory Council so at that time I was living in El Centro with my wife, so but my name came up Preston J Arrow-Weed El Centro, so they uh everybody wanted me in there, so everybody voted for me they, the environmentalists they all wrote their letters to get me in there and I think she looked at it and Preston J Arrow-Weed living in El Centro now she probably thought I was a want to-be Native American. So she put me on, that was her mistake, but I got into the Desert Advisory Council. Boy, when I went to those meetings I just went against everybody that came in. I was the only one and nobody would side with me but they all respected me they said you know, Preston is the conscience of the board. Then I said, “why don't the hell, don't you follow me then,” I said “you know this.” 

I don't care how big they were. I don't care if they were very well known, whatever. I said no. I said, “you're wrong.” I would argue against them. I did that for three years I wouldn't give in but nobody gets that chance too often but I had that chance and I did it, what I could do. I never accomplished anything because the odds were against me, the same thing right now, right now. 

You know, Faron and I are doing this thing and that if we lose and they beat us, it just it doesn't mean that we lost it's, they lost, the people lose, they lose, everybody loses, the people lose, every creature in the desert loses, everything that's out there loses because nobody listens to us.

We don't lose. I think Faron and I we both have fine ways to go somewhere else and be safe if we wanted to be but it's the people here they don't know, even the tribal council doesn't know, that if we lose, they lose too, and yet they're the leaders, you know, and the county, the people living here, they all have to go somewhere but things like that happen, if we lose they lose.

Right now. they're fighting for the money, that's what they're doing, and it is our land. We were here before and there's a history, too, about Imperial Valley that when the people first came to the valley they did try to drive out all the Kamyas that lived here in Imperial Valley. They drove them out, shot them. They killed them. They started wars against them, they did that too, and eventually they did get them out of there. So they never did anything right, they was all wrong, what they've done. So now they're going to destroy you too, now they got rid of the people, now they're going to destroy the land, they can destroy everything in there our religion…

Robert Lundahl 

Well Imperial Valley, because of the Salton Sea and its problems, there's a lot of health problems in Imperial Valley, right? And very poor air quality. They can't get air quality, uh what do they call it, uh Clean Air Act funds for the county and that's a pretty bad situation, so if this goes bad, you know, then you have a layer on a layer…

Preston Arrow-Weed

Let's go back on that now. Now, a long time ago, they say that the Salton Sea went down and dried up and it came back again it dried and came back but when it dried up, nothing happened. But since the people came to Imperial Valley, all the chemicals, whatever, everything went in there. They're the ones that damaged it, it wasn't us. If it was the natural way, would have been okay but even the natural way was destroyed by these farmers using these chemicals there what do you call the to grow things they put a lot of chemicals in there fertilizer  – fertilize yeah fertilizer and other things, the cyanide went in there too underwater, yeah so that's them that did it so they're saying if the Salton Sea goes down all that thing's going to come up uh that's going to do what do you call the wind blowing the air this way it's going to affect us, so they want to do something down here they're going to get all that dirt and 

cover up those… see that's that's what they did. They did that.

The natural way would have been better if it just dried up and if they had nothing in there, it would have dried up and then maybe build itself back up again. 

Young Elders

But hopefully we'll keep trying, and the young people are coming to our classes, you know we call them young elders. There's no more of the old Elders anymore. We call them young elders because we're trying to teach them all we can. 

There's an old legend that came back to me. The legend is, I don't know if it's a warning or what that I heard that an enemy attacked the people. The enemy came in and killed every one of the tribe. The young kids all ran and hid.

After they were gone the young people came out and they were trying to survive and this old Warrior that been gone for a long time, he showed up and he asked, “What happened.” They told him, so that old Warrior was teaching them how to survive and they survived, and he also taught him how to fight, and when they grew up and they all got bigger and bigger they went back looking for the enemy and they destroyed them, and they came back again. That's a story so here I am. 

Robert Lundahl (To Faron Owl)

What  are your thoughts as a as an educator I mean Preston's getting his side of it and, you know, you have students that come into your class every day and you have to look at them in the eye and how does that go for you? How does it go for them?

Faron Owl

Well I think everybody that we've associated with from the Salton Sea to Fort Mojave, all of them are in that same concept that they need to get the young people involved, because it obviously, it's keeping the land the way it is, it's saving as much as they can and the sacred parts of it that we use, and that we've used, the plants and the animals that are out there.

They have that approach of educating the children, getting them involved, culturally, and telling them how important this is, especially like Avi Kwa Ame, on how important it is to not just one tribe – it's seven tribes that are involved with that and it that tells that story from that beginning where if you go to the lithium portion of it there in Southern 

California ours is gold you go to uh Arizona the Apaches are fighting with Oak flat. You go to Nevada they're fighting lithium, you go to Utah they're fighting uranium. 

Leadership Group

And so all those ideas that people are coming into a sense–hey we want to bury this or we want to dig this here or we want to see how we're going to create a green environment by getting like two (benefits–Lithium and geothermal) since like that lithium then all of that needs to have our people get together and create some type of, if you want to call it a networking, or if you want to call it some type of joint effort, all of us sit together and come up with a plan. Come up with goals and come up with a leadership group that can actually take charge and inform their people, let them know because, in our case, there's a lot of people don't even know what's going on. There's a lot of people that haven't been twenty two miles from here just to see the impact of the gold mine and what it really does. So I think once people see that they realize that this is bad.

When we ran out last week to the geo-glyphs, you know that was a story, and Preston met us out there and he told everybody the story. You saw the film on that, and it shows how important our area is and Oro Cruz just a little ways and American Girl it's just right over that mountain, and how devastated the land is and a lot of people have not seen it because it's kind of hidden from the main road.

In the education portion of it, I think we're going the right direction, getting our young people involved, culturally but more importantly about our environment. Now every little thing that happens to it, how what it impacts our environment, what we breathe, and what's most important for my tribal lands is that we are trying to preserve everything for our young people. 

Robert Lundahl

mm-hmm and you said preserve “everything.”

Faron Owl 

Yeah, as much as we can… the language, the songs, the stories, and like Preston, he knows the songs and he knows the stories. He knows the words to tell the people what's going on. 

At this point we're in the beginning stages of creating something that's a positive for our community.

With Preston Arrow-Weed and Faron Owl Bradley Angel and Robert Lundahl, Producers Directed by Robert Lundahl Thank You Greenaction, Ah-Mut-Pipa Foundation ©Copyright 2023, Agence RLA, LLC, Greenaction
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