Yesterday, I attended a Tribal Leaders Summit at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) with the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony (RSIC). The event was hosted by UNR’s Office of Indigenous Relations, University Center of Economic Development, and the Nevada Indian Commission. The second half of the event was devoted to UNR faculty trying to sell the Tribes on Joe Biden’s designation of UNR as a “TechHub” with support for Nevada’s new lithium economy. Faculty proudly presented about all the jobs lithium mining and electric car battery manufacturing would bring to the region. Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo made an obligatory appearance and filled a full 10 minutes of the 30 minutes he was scheduled to speak for before peeling out to attend to more important matters.

As UNR faculty presented, I found myself getting angrier and angrier. My friend and colleague RSIC Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Michon Eben was too. I was afraid we were the only ones until Te-Moak Chairman Joseph Holley asked Dr. Mridul Guatam, UNR’s Vice President of Research and Innovation, about just how “clean” or “green” lithium mining really was. Dr. Guatam pretended not to know. And, then several of the Western Shoshone representatives proceeded to inform the UNR faculty about how mining has devastated Western Shoshone homelands. One Western Shoshone leader called her homelands a “hellscape.”

Because Dr. Guatam danced around the question about just how “clean” lithium mining is, I was allowed the microphone to explain how the Thacker Pass Lithium Mine, by Lithium Nevada’s own numbers, will produce over 150,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions annually, will burn over 12,000 gallons of diesel on-site daily, and requires sulfuric acid obtained from oil refineries. Noticing that UNR faculty were advocating for lithium mining while standing next to a prayer staff with eagle feathers, I explained that Lithium Nevada has been granted permits to kill golden eagles for the Thacker Pass mine. I also explained how racist it is that UNR faculty were so proud of the jobs created by lithium mining when the First Nations who have lived in the region from time immemorial, and who were ethnically cleansed from the land lithium mines are now destroying, have no right of consent over these mines, even when those mines destroy the most sacred places in the world to Native communities.

I have no idea whether the UNR faculty who presented yesterday actually believe the ideas they were spewing. I suspect they do. I suspect they’ve convinced themselves that more mining, more steel manufacturing, more plastic production, more pollution for electric vehicles is the only way to stop climate change. I suspect that they’ve further convinced themselves that Native peoples are backwards and selfish for not being willing to sacrifice what’s left of their homelands for another mining boom. I suspect that they resent organizations like Protect Thacker Pass that insist that its wrong to sacrifice greater sage grouse, sage brush steppe, Lahontan cutthroat trout, and golden eagles for products like electric vehicles that simply are not necessary for anyone’s survival.

Regardless, even if UNR faculty are just doing their job or presenting what their bosses tell them they must, this is no excuse for participating in ecocide and the destruction of Native culture. In effect, what UNR communicated to the tribes was: The lithium industry is going to mine. You can’t stop them. You have no right to say no. So, you might as well take a few jobs. You might as well take a little money from the corporations destroying your land and culture.

I want to make this personal: If this is you, if this is your job, if you’re making money helping the lithium industry destroy the Great Basin and destroy Native culture, you should quit. Right now.

I don’t know about y’all, but when someone comes to my home to destroy it, I don’t cooperate with them; I fight back. Let’s fight back together.