|December 28, 2022
As Court Ruling Nears, Thacker Pass Sacred Sites Already Being Damaged
Tribal Chairman: “It’s Our Responsibility to Protect Sacred Sites”
RENO, NV — The Thacker Pass Lithium Mine in northern Nevada is headed back to Federal Court on January 5th as the lawsuits against the project near completion, but project opponents are raising the alarm that Lithium Nevada Corporation has already begun work on the proposed mine.
Lithium Nevada’s workers at Thacker Pass have begun digging test pits, bore holes, dumping gravel, building fencing, & installing security cameras where Native Americans often conduct ceremonies. Lithium Nevada also conducted “bulk sampling” earlier this year, & may be planning to dig dozens of new test pits across Thacker Pass. They’re claiming this work is legal under previous permits issued over a decade ago. But Tribes & mine opponents, including the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony & Summit Lake Paiute Tribe, disagree.
They point to language in the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Thacker Pass Lithium Mine that says “authorization of [the mine] will terminate the [earlier permits].” The Federal permit for Thacker Pass was approved on January 15th, 2021.
Will Falk, attorney for the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, explains: “Lithium Nevada told the government & the American public that it would terminate the older permits upon BLM's approval of the Thacker Pass Project. Now they are going back on their word, it appears they are lying to get a headstart on building the Thacker Pass mine, & the BLM is allowing them to get away with it.”
Thacker Pass, known as Peehee Mu’huh in Paiute, is a sacred site to regional tribes whose ancestors lived in the area for thous&s of years, & were massacred there on at least two occasions.
Michon Eben, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer at Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, says the site is incredibly important to Native American history. “Peehee Mu’huh is a sacred place where our ancestors lived & died. We still go there to pray, gather food & medicine, hunt, & teach our youth about the history of our people.” Eben & the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony are currently hosting an exhibit on the impacts of mining on Native people of Nevada.
Tribal members have stated in court filings that, because of the history of battles & massacres on the site, Thacker Pass is as significant to their culture as a site like Pearl Harbor is to American history. Arlan Melendez, Chairman of the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, underst&s the importance of battle & massacre sites as both a Native American & as a U.S. Marine Corps veteran.
“As tribal leaders, it’s our responsibility to protect & honor our sacred places,” says Melendez. “Throughout US history, tribes have always been set up to lose in the US legal system against BLM. This Lithium Mine st&s in the way of our roots & it’s violating the religious freedoms of our elders, our people.”
Falk, the Tribal attorney, says that Lithium Nevada’s construction activities at Thacker Pass are also violating tribal consultation rights.
“The Reno-Sparks Indian Colony & Summit Lake Paiute Tribe are still engaged in consultation with the BLM about the September 12, 1865 massacre site, a site that will be completely destroyed by Lithium Nevada’s mine if this project is built,” Falk says. “It’s hard to believe a government agency is consulting in good faith when they are already allowing the site to be harmed.”
Shelley Harjo, a tribal member from the Fort McDermitt Shoshone Paiute Tribe & an employee of the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, has called the planned destruction of Thacker Pass “the biggest desecration & rape of a known Native American massacre site in our area.”
The upcoming January 5th hearing in Reno’s Federal Courthouse will be the final oral argument in the ongoing lawsuits against the Thacker Pass mine. Mine opponents are planning a march & rally outside. Plaintiffs, including the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, Burns Paiute Tribe, four environmental organizations, & local rancher Edward Bartell, have alleged numerous violations of the law, & Judge Mir&a Du is expected to issue her opinion in the case within days or weeks of the January 5th hearing.
“No matter what happens in court on January 5th, Thacker Pass is being destroyed right now & that threat will be ongoing,” says Max Wilbert, co-founder of Protect Thacker Pass. “We have to stop that.”
Lithium Nevada claims that its lithium mine will be essential to producing batteries for combating global warming, & the Biden administration has previously indicated some support for Thacker Pass. Opponents of the project have called this “greenwashing,” arguing that the project would harm important wildlife habitat & create significant pollution. They say that electric cars are still harmful to the planet.
#ProtectThackerPass #ProtectPeeheeMuhuh #lithium #climate #greenwashing #BrightGreenLies
EarthSayer Max Wilbert
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