Medicine Lake Highlands

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Photo: Daniel Mayer

Location: California, USA (near Mount Shasta)

Official Listing: a Traditional Cultural District, 1999

Who Considers it Sacred? Native Americans (Ahjumawi/ Pit River, Modoc, Shasta, and other tribes)

Significance: This site is a healing, prayer and vision quest center for the Native Americans. The site has been used traditionally by different Native American tribes for 10,000 years, and is famous among them as a healing center.

The Threat: Industrial development

Preservation Status: Leases on 134,000 acres of Medicine Lake Highlands were auctioned off in 1988 with almost no public disclosure. The energy companies Calpine of San Jose and CalEnergy of Omaha plan to build two geothermal power plants here, with huge impacts on both the natural environment and the Native American culture. In 1999, Carol Shull, the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places, declared the entire Medicine Lake eligible as a Traditional Cultural District.

In 2004, local Native Americans and environmentalist had filed their second lawsuit against the Calpine Corporation to stop them from building the Telephone Flat and Fourmile Hill industrial geothermal plants at Medicine Lake Highlands. The Bureau of Land Management’s decision to allow such drilling was seen as being particularly negligent at best, as it was done without consulting the local Native American tribes at all and with apparent disregard for the environmental consequences to the area.

In late 2008/early 2009, the Telephone Flat expanded case is being prepared by Stanford University in an effort to reverse a Bush Administration ruling in favor of the project. The Fourmile case is currently waiting to be heard by the U.S. Federal District Court. The Stanford University Environmental Law Clinic has received a ruling that the leases were illegally obtained. The Bureau of Land Management and Calpine take the position that only the lease renewals were illegal not the underlying leases themselves.

For More Information: Medicine Lake Highlands; Site Saver Newsletter, Volume X, Number 3, Spring/Summer 2000; Sacred Sites Newsletter Volume XX, Numbers 1 & 2, Fall 2008/Winter 2009

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