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Native Tribe Protects Lizard, Creation Myth

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The Quechan Native American tribe have taken to the courts to try and save an endangered lizard habitat. The Imperial Valley Solar Project, which would be built on close to 6,500 acres in the California portion of the Sonoran Desert, could potentially destroy the habitat of the flat-tailed horned lizard, which is also a part of Quechan creation mythology.

Quechan tribal singer Preston J. Arrow-weed related the creation myth to the Imperial Valley Press as far back as 2002, when the tribe was already petitioning the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to stop an environmental study they were planning on sand dunes that were once a part of the Quechan land. In the myth, Ku-mat, the creator of the world, kept his power in his heart. Coyote wanted this power, but a group of animals (a wren, squirrel and lizard) protected Ku-mat by cremating his body to perserve what was sacred. "Lizard lit the four corners of Ku-mat's funeral pyre", Mr. Arrow-weed told the paper.

As the Los Angeles Times reported, this massive desert solar farm had wrapped up its approval process in October when the Quechans filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management in attempt to block the project. The claim is that department officials ignored tribal concerns and rushed through, or outright skipped, important permitting steps.

They also claim the 709-megawatt solar farm could damage cultural and biological resources that are very significant. The solar farm would contain more than 28,000 SunCatcher solar dishes, which would encroach upon the lizard's natural habitat. Tessera, the company behind the project, has stated that they will buy 6,600 acres of lizard habitat to offset the Imperial Valley project.

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The 3,500 member tribe had their motion to put the project on hold granted by a federal judge in San Diego.