February 13, 2022


Third Native Tribe Sues BLM and Lithium Nevada Corporation

Winnemucca Indian Colony Files to Join Lawsuit Against Thacker Pass Mine

OROVADA, NV — The Winnemucca Indian Colony filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuits against Lithium Americas Corporation’s planned Thacker Pass lithium mine on Friday, February 11th, stating that “to build that Thacker Pass lithium mine on lands held sacred to Colony members would be like raping the earth and their culture.”

They are the third Native American Tribe to seek to join litigation against the proposed mine, along with the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony and Burns Paiute Tribe. The tribes argue that Thacker Pass is a sacred and culturally significant site, and that the federal government failed to consult with tribes as required by law.

The intervention is particularly noteworthy, as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has claimed that it consulted with the Winnemucca Indian Colony (WIC) prior to approving the Thacker Pass mine. Winnemucca Indian Colony alleges this is false, writing in their filing that: “Under BLM’s own definition of consultation, BLM never engaged in, or even initiated, consultation with the Colony, whose ancestors traveled through, hunted and gathered in, camped in, and were massacred in Thacker Pass before issuing the Thacker Pass Record of Decision.”

“The BLM claims that it consulted with the Winnemucca Indian Colony about the Thacker Pass Project, but the Winnemucca Indian Colony’s intervention in this case directly contradicts BLM,” says Will Falk, attorney for the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony and co-founder of Protect Thacker Pass. “It’s simple: the federal government failed in its legally binding duty to consult with tribes before approving this project, then lied about it.”

Falk and other attorneys have argued that the BLM lied about adequately reviewing its own records prior to issuing the Thacker Pass permit, leading them to overlook evidence of a September 12, 1865 massacre of 31-70 Paiutes in the project area, and then lied about the massacre site lying outside of the project area (it is indeed located inside the project area).

Judge Miranda Du previously refused to consider arguments that BLM’s consultation with the Winnemucca Indian Colony was inadequate, since the Colony had not joined the lawsuit.

Proof of BLM lies regarding consultation with tribes may also throw doubt on the Nevada State Historic Preservation Office’s approval of BLM’s planned archeological dig, which is contingent upon proper government-to-government consultation.

Opposition to the planned Thacker Pass lithium mine has intensified since January 15, 2021, when the Trump administration permitted the project after a truncated public input process and mine opponents with Protect Thacker Pass established a protest camp on the site.

“The Biden administration and Secretary Deb Haaland keep paying lip service to tribal rights and respect for Native Americans,” says Falk. “Well, now 3 federally recognized tribes are saying that BLM Winnemucca did not respect tribal rights. It’s time that BLM halts this project so the Tribes can be heard.”