First Person Accounts – Saying No to The Lithium Mine at Thacker Pass

The Misunderstood Perspective - We are your conscience, in the flesh.

The proposed site of the Thacker Pass lithium mine in north-central Humboldt County, Nevada on May 4, 2021 - photo: Bob Tregilus , CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Opinion

Lithium Nevada, LLC, a subsidiary of Lithium Americas Corporation has proposed a significantly large lithium mining project less than a one-hour drive north of Winnemucca Nevada. The mine will be located at Thacker Pass, adjacent to the Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone Tribes of the Fort McDermitt Indian Reservation. Approval of the project by the Bureau of Land Management in early 2021 continues to face legal challenges and various forms of onsite protests.

A final ruling from the federal court is expected by early 2022.

What follows are the viewpoints, submitted to the Ally in writing, of two Indigenous Peoples’ protesters of the project.

Gary McKinney

This (week’s Indigenous People’s Day) gathering was to Honor one of three survivors of that September 12, 1865; Ox Sam. Ox Sam was my great great great grandfather, according to Census Rolls from the late 1800’s, those have ‘Ox Sam (Chief)’ documented in Indian history. Our Family statements from back in the day identified Ox Sam as Chief Santomeco in the Idaho Historical Society.

The switch to Green Energy contradicts its own message, Climate Change hangs in the balance; and it’s up to America to stop it, the only way to tip the scale in our favor is to Mine at every opportunity. That’ll solve it. Sacrifice our Good for their Greater Good, the profits are their own, the mess belongs to the Public. Who’s accountable? Who takes the credit for it?

Whether somebody living in a City 100 -1,000 miles away from Thacker Pass, or on the other side of the globe, most will never know of the pollution the mining will leave behind for us with its Plan of Operations(PoS). Can they Unpollute what they contaminate? Can they restore what took billions of years to create? 

The Canadian company endorses the slogan of “Green Energy” and says they are willing to try, and if you didn’t know any better, you’d think it is the solution to global warming, right? Well, that “solution” may not be possible if the compassionate leaders who’re paying attention knew of the environmental devastation & its roughshod sneak tactics performed and exercised on the most vulnerable tribe in Nevada JUST to start the mining.

Back in the day, agents would get Indians under the influence of whiskey just to get their mark on a paper. High probability of irreparable damage that this sort of mining has, major potential. Their “Solution to Pollution is Dilution,” at all costs.

Mining is one thing, but disregarding our rich Culture to mine for the rich means the absolute disrespect of everything we knew of. In our ancestors’ day it was the Railroads and train tracks, today it’s mining for lithium. Starting with the desecration of Sacred Sites.

Tell me what’s wrong with this argument, Do we look like a lost civilization to you? How can you dig up our Grandparents with us watching?? Our People aren’t all the way gone yet & you’re already digging to find out who we are.

WHY NOT ASK US, we’re still among the living. Our Spirits must make us invisible. Do you see the strength our Warrior Spirits represent? Not only are we – federally recognized tribes – forced to watch but We have NO say in the matter.

Perhaps if shovels were taken to Arlington Cemetery; they’d understand. Here is my message to you: we are in your conscience, we ARE your conscience, we preserve Mother Earth and you KNOW it, still you ignore us trying to pull you back from going too far, your paycheck is damaging everyone’s Mother Earth. We all share our lives with Mother Earth and her creations and you are telling the country it can be repaired. That it’s absolutely in everyone’s best interest to use more lithium. “The Great Lie.”

We need more of you to wake up and speak, support those Who Speak, Reach Out, make your thoughts available, Honor Life, Not Lithium.

The 1872 Mining Law needs to be abolished, and every company that was bred from that “take-all-leave-nothing” philosophy be reformed. Why? It was the law back on May 10, 1872, before electricity, before the lightbulb. Fast forward to 2021, 149 years down the mining timeline & that same law dictates the future for lithium batteries, electric vehicles, and hardly anybody catches the irony in it.

The Massacre of Paiutes, Sep 12, 1865, by volunteer soldiers. Jim Sackett and other cowards rode into and left a bloody bullet-ridden village behind, however, 2 baby boys & one man have been recorded and identified as survivors and given the last name title of “Thacker.” The Man that got away was named Ox Sam in the Census Rolls from 1840 on up. That man is my Great-Great-Great Grandfather, Sep-Poo-Nah. He may have went on and led other Indians as a Northern Paiute Chief.

Family Records illustrate Paiute names rather than Christ-Worshiper titles that you run into. As I said before, our cultures are rich with these collective facts. The difference is that we have no choice to be who we are, but we are proud of our cultures, they, on the other hand, choose to do this line of work for a paycheck. It’s their Job; it’s their Job to dig our GrandFamilies’ resting places and put them on display; like it’s a trophy from a lost civilization.

And the funny thing is, we never became successfully “all-the-way” exterminated, despite the Massacres, smallpox, sterilizations, boarding schools, residential schools, Reorganization Acts. Then there are the residential and boarding school grave discoveries, now you begin to resent the justice system a great deal more for misjudging their “good intentions” consistently, and doing absolutely nothing about it consistently. We protect ourselves. We do.

It is up to Indigenous voices to lift up our traditional values and continue the prayer to honor the lives we lost over time. Their descendants will not live in vain. It starts by paying close mind to the world around us. This Lithium mine has a lot of gears to it, we are currently in the Phase of asking for Historical Site Protection to preserve the artifacts dropped or left behind during the heavy migration through the northern Nevada, southeastern Oregon, and southwestern Idaho areas prior to Lewis and Clark’s 1804 exploration of land west of the Missouri River.

We have Chiefs and Warriors buried, scattered along the trails. We did our Dances/Gatherings/Ceremonies in significant locations like Peehee Mu’huh. But yet, this is hardly understood for the Justice System to believe despite the family, and tribal accounts we hold up. But we remain in solidarity throughout. We hold our positions as Indians, as protectors, defenders, and healers. Warriors.

We’re still here in 2021 fighting for the land, that’s what my family has been doing since Western Expansion.

We won’t stop talking about this.

They can’t silence us all, We are your conscience…

Gary McKinney is “Newe/Numa (Shoshone-Paiute), Tagotoka Band(s) (Duck Valley IR),” Atsa Koodakuh Wyh Nuwu/People of Red Mountain, American Indian Movement-NNV CH.


Jeremiah Jones

Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening to those who are reading my concern. For while now I am aware of the proposed mine that wants to take place, for that I say no and give no consent.

I am a Shoshone Paiute person who lives in the Shoshone, Paiute, and Washoe Nation or what you call the state of Nevada. I am on the side of life for mother earth. The danger of mining lithium isn’t rocket science that is not too complicated to understand. But what I do know is it causes destruction to the land we live on.

Our water, air, and animals that live there will be destroyed and will not have water that will be drinkable, the air will have more pollution that won’t be breathable, and the animals we rely on won’t be edible. Why do we need another mine? There is no need for this lithium mine to happen in the first place especially at Thacker Pass.

We the people say no, nature says no, and our higher power says no. You are destroying creation. With your set up fires in the summer destroys, your set up floods destroy, your set up viruses destroys, and whatever else you think of next will destroy us all and eventually yourselves. We live in an age of destruction only you can put a stop to this and go back to your faith for creation.

Peehee Mu’huh all our prayers are taking place now. Home of the sage grouse, the endangered species that is supposed to be protected and their home is endangered of being destroyed. Our mother earth has suffered enough I SAY NO, WE SAY NO! to the lithium mine. Put a stop to this and all may be forgiven.

Jeremiah Jones is a member of the Western Shoshone Nation, also known as the state of Nevada


The opinions expressed above are not necessarily those of the Sierra Nevada Ally. Our newsroom remains entirely independent of our opinion page. Published opinions further public conversation to fulfill our civic responsibility to challenge authority, act independently of corporate or political influence, and invite dissent.