Photo by Bucky Harjo, RSIC Public Relations Photographer
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Lithium Nevada Begins “Bulk Sampling” in What Attorney Calls “A Dirty Trick”
Tribes: “BLM and Lithium Nevada Are Destroying Our Cultural Heritage”
OROVADA, NEVADA (September 20, 2022) Lithium Nevada Corporation (LNC), the company behind the embattled Thacker Pass lithium mine project, has begun digging up portions of Thacker Pass for “bulk sampling” despite consultation still being ongoing between the Bureau of Land Management and regional tribes over cultural sites.
Will Falk, attorney for the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony and the Summit Lake Paiute Tribe and co-founder of the opposition group Protect Thacker Pass, says this is a violation of federal law.
“The Federal Government has not even meaningfully started consultation with tribes about the September 12, 1865 massacre site in Thacker Pass, let alone the earlier ‘Peehee Mu’huh’ massacre described in oral history and the entire Thacker Pass Traditional Cultural District,” Falk said. “But that doesn’t even begin to describe how much of a dirty trick this is. BLM is allowing the destruction of a massacre site without consulting, over the objections of multiple tribes and members of the public, using a permit more than a decade old.”
“Thacker Pass is a living traditional cultural place where Paiute and Shoshone people still gather to practice our culture,” says Michon Eben, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony. “The Snake War was the most violent Indian war in the west, and not a single site from this important event for our people is protected. BLM and Lithium Nevada are destroying our cultural heritage with this dig.”
Over the past six weeks, at least four tribes – the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, Summit Lake Paiute Tribe, Winnemucca Indian Colony, and Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe – have all demanded that BLM designate the entirety of Thacker Pass as an historic or traditional cultural district eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. BLM has also received letters from members of the public and experts such as Alexa Roberts, former National Parks Superintendent at the Sand Creek Massacre Site in Colorado. Ms. Roberts informed BLM of “striking similarities” between the Sand Creek and Thacker Pass massacres, and urged the agency to protect the entire landscape as a National Historic District.
The tribes assert that all of Thacker Pass should be considered eligible for listing under the National Register of Historic Places because the site contains a unique record of more than 10,000 years of Native American history, including the Thacker Pass component of the “Whitehorse Obsidian Procurement District,” the presence of tools and arrowheads, millennia-old seasonal camps, two massacre sites, oral histories regarding the importance of the Pass, significant medicinal and food plants, culturally-significant animals such as golden eagles and sage-grouse, and ongoing traditions of hunting, gathering, and religious practice.
The tribes are arguing that additional damage to the Thacker Pass landscape jeopardizes its ability to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Planned Digging
Attorneys for LNC informed mine opponents of the work in a September 9th email, writing that “Lithium Nevada will be performing some bulk sampling under its Kings Valley Lithium Exploration Project Plan of Operations.”
The Kings Valley project was permitted more than a dozen years ago and included only cursory consultation with one tribe. However, BLM has been criticized in Federal Court for failing to consider 2009 statements from Dale Barr, then-chairman of the Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone Tribe, made in response to BLM’s inquiries about sacred sites in Thacker Pass and Kings Valley, that Thacker Pass was historically and culturally significant due to oral histories of the “Peehee Mu’huh” massacre.
Despite Barr’s statements being documented in BLM records brought to light in the lawsuit, BLM’s final Environmental Assessment for the King’s Valley Lithium Project states erroneously that “Fort McDermitt Tribal Chairman Dale Barr stated that the Tribe had no concerns about the Project.”
According to oral histories, the Peehee Mu’huh massacre took place on the west side of Thacker Pass, where Lithium Nevada plans to perform their “bulk sampling.” “On July 18th of this year after one year of litigation, BLM finally acknowledges a massacre took place in this area and they still continue to sanction the destruction of our ancestors final resting place, a human rights violation. In simple terms this is cultural genocide being committed on our tribal homelands,” says Eben.
“The scenario that is currently unfolding is precisely why the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony and Summit Lake Paiute Tribe have specifically requested that any construction work or other physical disturbance in Thacker Pass be suspended until BLM completes the 36 CFR § 800.13(b)(1) post-review discoveries process,” Falk said. “Yet BLM continues to ignore this request.”
Shelley Harjo, a tribal member from the Fort McDermitt Shoshone Paiute Tribe, has called the planned destruction of Thacker Pass “the biggest desecration and rape of a known Native American massacre site in our area.”
Max Wilbert, co-founder of Protect Thacker Pass with Falk, recently reported that online bots were being used to spread online misinformation about protesters. Falk and Wilbert are currently fighting a $49,890.13 fine levied against them by the BLM after they constructed a pit toilet for native elders as part of a year-long protest encampment last year.
Tribes have recently been made aware of allegations that Native American artifacts were stolen from Thacker Pass during BLM-authorized archeological excavations earlier this summer.
For more information please call Bethany Sam, RSIC Public Relations.
About the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony
The Reno-Sparks Indian Colony formed a federally recognized government in 1936 under the Indian Reorganization Act. Located in Reno, Nev., the RSIC consists of 1,206 members from three Great Basin Tribes – the Paiute, Shoshone and Washoe Tribes. The RSIC is a vibrant, diverse organization, which balances traditional teachings and rich culture with contemporary business methods. Our mission is to offer opportunities for tribal members to improve their lives and enhance tribal values by making community programs, services, and projects available.
I’m a staunch environmentalist, but I have to say that the survival of mankind is at stake here. If there were a high-value Lithium deposit under Valley Forge, I think I would allow that to be mined. Saving the human race and the planet is what is at stake and more important than historical sites or so-called sacred sites. Lithium is that important.
What good does it do to protect Thacker Pass if we end-up breathing cancer-causing smoke 9 months of every year? Cannot even work outside? This is what we are looking at across the west in the next 5-10 years. I’ll bet none of you responding here drive EV’s or heat/cool your houses with heat pumps.
Oregon, Washington and Idaho already have the highest air pollution rates in the country for the last two years with PM10 particles literally going off the charts ion 2020. I’m sick of breathing smoke and I want to see everyone driving an EV and charging it from non-fossil-fuel sources. We need all of the Lithium we can get so that prices come down and everyone drives one. Lithium has gone up in price 700% in the last 1.5 years.
More trees are not the solution. We have to stop burning fossil fuels in cars and homes and businesses.
How will mining lithium save mankind? Or the planet?
We agree entirely that we need to stop burning fossil fuels, but replacing one non-renewable polluting material with another won’t help.
Lithium is just one of many materials that must be mined and refined to produce batteries for cars and energy storage. Are you okay with mining what’s left of the living planet so you can continue to drive a car? Humans existed for 350,000+ years without cars. Humans don’t need lithium to survive – we need clean water, good soil, and thriving natural communities for that.
Regarding your comments about “cancer causing smoke” – I assume you’re talking about wildfires. Wildfires are a natural part of ecosystems in the West. The reason we think it’s awful when our days are filled with smoke from wildfires is because until recently, all fires in the West were heavily suppressed. Even now, any fires that threaten human structures are aggressively fought. This has led to a century of unnatural lack of fire in the West, leaving forests filled with wildfire fuel. In addition, logging creates areas in the forests that burn fast and hot, which creates bigger and faster-spreading fires than fires that burn in old growth forests. I recently read a story about how the park service people apologized to Mark Twain when he was touring Yosemite because the air quality was so terrible from wildfires… wildfires have been happening forever, and are a natural part of ecosystem lifecycles.
Replacing gas-powered cars with EVs will not help reduce forest fires. EVs save about 6% in emissions over the lifetime of a car, because of the emissions created from mining the materials, refining them, and manufacturing the car. EVs have 6 times more material inputs than gas-powered cars do, which means they have a heavy emissions burden for those materials and manufacturing.
I recommend you do more reading about the impacts of moving from a fossil-fuels intensive energy system to a materials-intensive energy system, remembering that fossil fuels are required to extract and refine these materials so this shift does not move us away from fossil fuels entirely. Also note that the energy density of fossil fuels is so much greater than any technology that generates electricity from wind, sun, or water, that the materials requirements are exponentially greater to create the amount of technology we’d actually need to replace fossil fuels. I recently watched a very interesting video about how, for some materials, there simply isn’t enough of those materials on Earth to replace fossil fuels with technologies to generate the same energy, not even once, much less do it over and over again, which we’d need to do, since these technologies don’t last that long (e.g. 25 years for wind turbines and solar panels, 10 years for a car battery, etc.) (Video linked below).
Here’s some good resources to look at to get a sense of the issues with attempting to replace fossil fuels with rebuildable technologies made out of non-renewable materials that must be mined from the ground:
Paper on the issues with materials requirements for so-called “clean” energy: https://issues.org/environmental-economic-costs-minerals-solar-wind-batteries-mills/
Paper on why it’s so difficult to try to attempt to replace fossil fuels with materials and so-called “renewable” technologies and batteries: https://www.mdpi.com/1996-1073/14/15/4508/htm
Simon Michaux, on how there simply aren’t enough materials on Earth to “replace” fossil fuels with technology: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0pt3ioQuNc
Max’s book, Bright Green Lies: https://www.brightgreenlies.com/
We agree that fossil fuels cannot continue. Fossil fuels are the only reason human civilization exists as we know it now. Everything we do and everything we use requires fossil fuels (e.g. your toothbrush).
Attempting to replace fossil fuels with technologies made out of materials mined from the ground is not the solution. I recommend you check out our solutions here: http://protectthackerpass.org/solutions. When we stop using fossil fuels, life will look very different. It’s time to plan for that now.
You say you’re a staunch environmentalist. That means you must care about the natural world. Bears don’t “need” lithium; salmon don’t “need” lithium; old growth forests don’t “need” lithium; sage-grouse don’t “need” lithium. What they need is for us to stop destroying their homes with mining and pollution. Right? And if you want to help stop wildfires, then your top priority should be fighting against logging, and protecting old growth forests, because that will do more to stop wildfires than any other actions you could take right now.
We place our loyalty with the natural world – because a healthy, flourishing natural world is what we need for life on planet Earth. If you want to “save mankind”, I would urge you to do the same.
P.s. if you are very concerned about cancer, I would urge you to look at the Environmental Impact Statement for the Thacker Pass Lithium Project and its long list of cancer causing air and ground pollutants that will be output from the mine. The mine has both an air pollution permit and a water pollution permit, meaning it has been “permitted” to pollute with these cancer-causing chemicals. Also note that metals mining is responsible for almost 50% of toxic pollutants released into the environment every year in the United States, which isn’t a country with a lot of mining at the current time. The more we mine here, the more that number will increase.
Well said, Beth.
This is exactly the MO of exploiters. Destroy when least expected so they can claim it is too late to save. They have no feeling of guilt on leaving a scorched earth. Keep fighting!
Here it is 2022 and crimes against Native Americans continue. Shameful. All for lithium which will not save us from climate change and in fact contribute to it as massive CO2 enters the air and critical ground water is imperiled. This is a blatant human rights and ecological crime.