Attention Supporters: We need your help this week!

We need your help this week to put pressure on Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, asking her to at the very least delay digging at Thacker Pass so consultation can be done properly. Native people of this region have been disregarded and disrespected by the Bureau of Land Management, and now digging threatens sacred sites and massacre sites very soon. This is urgent! 

Please reach out to Secretary Deb Haaland today!

@SecDebHaaland — Lithium Nevada Corp is poised to bulldoze a known massacre site and sacred site of the Paiute Shoshone people. We need your help! Please read this letter; help us take action to #ProtectPeeheeMuhuh! @Interior @BLMnational


And keep calling, and please let your friends and family know, so they can call! We would like to keep calling as long as possible.

Hello, my name is ________ .

(If you’re a tribal member, state: I’m a member of the _______Tribe).

The Bureau of Land Management is about to bulldoze and dig up sacred sites and known massacre sites in Thacker Pass, Nevada. I am calling to request that the Department of the Interior rescind the Thacker Pass Lithium Mine Project Record of Decision and Plan of Operations.

I also request that the Department of the Interior order the Bureau of Land Management to stop any disturbance of cultural sites in Thacker Pass so that meaningful, government-to-government consultation can happen with local tribes.

Finally, I request that Secretary Haaland personally meet with the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, Burns Paiute Tribe, and People of Red Mountain to hear their concerns about the Thacker Pass Lithium Mine Project.

The Lust for Money

Earlier today, Judge Miranda Du rejected requests from the Reno-Sparks Indian Tribe, Burns Paiute Tribe, and Atsa Koodakuh wyh Nuwu/People of Red Mountain to put an emergency halt on planned archeological digging for the Thacker Pass lithium mine.

As I watch Lithium Americas investors online celebrating Judge Miranda Du’s decision to allow the removal of sacred artifacts from Thacker Pass, I feel sick to my stomach.

“Go LAC!!” writes one investor. “Dirt shall move!” writes another. “Argentina online next year. Thacker Pass one less road block. Almost 500 million in bank. Sitting so damn pretty right now.” says a third.

Another writes of how many stocks he owns, punctuating his boast with an emoji showing a human face, eyebrows raised, panting as if in a caricature of lust with dollar signs for eyes and on the extended tongue.
Is this how the world is saved? By lust for money?

Sometime soon, bulldozers and excavators will arrive at Thacker Pass to begin “archeological digging” — a whitewashed term for the legally sanctioned looting of cultural artifacts and sacred sites. And afterwards, unless they are stopped, this whole mountain will be shattered and carted off.

The flesh of Earth, turned into profit.

I am disgusted and angry, but not surprised. This is a pattern of our culture, and history repeats itself.

In the mid-1800’s, colonization spilled over into Nevada territory. Miners, settlers, and soldiers gained footholds along rivers and where springs made life possible. With axes, the pine nut trees were felled, and like the mass-murder of the buffalo on the plains, the indigenous people’s ability to fight was cracked. With bullets, disease, and starvation, Paiute, Goshute, and Shoshone people were pushed out, corralled, and marched to reservations and boarding schools. “Kill the Indian, save the man,” they proclaimed. And now the mountains belonged to the conquerors, and they called it right. They called it manifest destiny.

Today, miners come for the land. They come for the water, 4.6 million gallons of it per day. They come for the sacred sites. The springs. The antelope. The ancestors in the soil. “We have complied with the National Historic Preservation Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and our duty to consult with tribes,” they say. They claim the mountains belong to them, and while manifest destiny is officially out of favor, economic development is not. Besides, this is a green project, right? It is our destiny.
How is this different?

Three hundred and thirty-nine days ago, a few days before I visited Thacker Pass for the first time, I walked into a forest near the Columbia River. Finding a quiet spot in the dappled shade, I lay on my back on the dirt, and closed my eyes. My mind traveled to Thacker Pass.

First, I imagined the silence of this land, where wind and the hum of insects is often the loudest noise. I imagined ants, jackrabbits, antelope, and yes, human beings crisscrossing Thacker Pass on their ancient paths. From harmony, my vision shifted to the threat now facing the land.

“[G]reed comes,” I wrote in February, “wearing the flesh of human beings and armored in corporate law. Greed eyes the mountain and sees not the pronghorn or the burrowing owl or the ants venturing out from their colony, but only what he can take by breaking it all — by violating stone and wind and water, by transgressing of 16 million years of sacred silence. Greed sees that this mountain is full of lithium — the new white oil. Greed is a good storyteller, and he speaks of jobs and opportunities and investments, of stock options and shareholder returns, and electric cars. He speaks of saving the world.”

Now, for the first time since I have arrived here at Thacker Pass, destruction is imminent. The corporate laws that I wrote of back in February are playing their part. Bureaucracy, that indispensable tool in the arsenal of a democratic empire, has spoken. In court, administrative rules allowed the state to argue that “you had a chance to participate in the process, and you missed it.” And what is morally right, what is good for the land, what is wanted by the local indigenous people, ranchers, and farmers, becomes subordinate to what is written in administrative codes and lawbooks.

I wrote, in February, that “Right now, greed gathers his men and his machines, his drillers and borers and furnaces, his explosives and his chemicals and his politicians and his bankers. And he schemes, and he plans, and he wheels and he deals. He waits for his moment to press the plunger down, to close the circuit, to shatter the mountainside.”

That vision is close to becoming real.

And so we move deeper into the sixth mass extinction event, wallets grow fat as nature grows small.

In her recent artwork, the brilliant political cartoonist Stephanie McMillan, whose work I truly admire, asks this question: what do you do when your heart is breaking?

I pondered that question this morning. In Stephanie’s artwork, the human suffering from heartbreak curls into a ball, and answers the question by saying, “Nail it shut and wrap barbed wire around it.” But the bird beside the poor human has another answer: “Or you could let it open.”

The decision from Judge Du didn’t tell us anything new today. We all know that the courts don’t protect our living planet. We all know that the courts don’t protect indigenous peoples and lands. The courts enforce the law, and the law favors the wealthy over the people and the planet. And so Judge Du writes that while she “finds the Tribes’ arguments regarding the spiritual distress that the [looting of native artifacts and sacred sites] will cause persuasive,” she “must nonetheless reluctantly” allow the archeological dig as “the Court must operate within the framework of the applicable laws and regulations.”

Nothing has changed at Thacker Pass. For months now, the headsman’s axe has been raised. Now, it teeters on the brink of descending. We knew this time would come.

The question for us is this: will we wrap our hearts in barbed wire and nail them shut by ignoring injustice, walking away from reality, and lusting for money?

Or will we let our hearts open, and commit to protecting the land?

Are you willing to give a child cancer for a job?

Lithium Nevada and supporters of the proposed Thacker Pass lithium mine project love to claim that the mine will bring jobs to the area. This may be true. But, even if it is true, the mine will also bring more air, water, and soil pollution. The mine will also lead to escalated crime against women, especially indigenous women.

The Final Environmental Impact Statement prepared by the Bureau of Land Management notes that soil and water will be contaminated with sulfates, arsenic, antimony, and uranium, for example. Long term exposure to antimony can result in chronic bronchitis and chronic emphysema. And, this is in an area where wild fire smoke is already wrecking local air quality. Long term exposure to arsenic can lead to skin lesions and skin cancer. Long term exposure to uranium can lead to kidney damage and liver and bone cancer. And, this is in an area where Fort McDermitt tribal members have already been killed by cancer from working at the McDermitt and Cordero Mercury mines.

This kind of pollution affects children, the elderly, and the sick at much higher levels than it affects others. So, the question is: Are you willing to give kids cancer, are you willing to kill the elderly and the sick for a job?

Another thing to consider, here, is the amount of crime, violence, and drug use that accompany new mines. The connection between higher rates of domestic and sexual violence – especially against indigenous women – and the presence of man camps is well-established. So, another question is: Are you willing to be raped for a job? Are you willing to see your daughter, sister, or cousin raped for a job? Are you willing to risk a child in your community sex-trafficked for a job?

One more thing to consider is whether people will actually seek employment at the mine or whether people are even capable of seeking employment at the mine. The mine will require drug tests. I’m sure that includes marijuana. Meanwhile, Fort McDermitt tribal members have pointed out that there are already plenty of jobs in the area, but no one wants to work them. There is a marijuana farm at Fort McDermitt, for example, and one of the reasons the Tribe allowed that farm to come to the reservation was the promise of jobs for tribal members. But, that farm has already had to establish a camp for workers outside of the reservation because not enough tribal members have sought employment at the farm.

The truth is, folks, destructive industries like mining ALWAYS use the jobs arguments to justify destroying the land and polluting vulnerable communities. But, it is precisely because the land is destroyed and communities are polluted that people need jobs. As more land is destroyed, and it becomes more and more difficult for people to support themselves on the land, the easier it is for mines to make people dependent on them. And, at the end of the day, we know many ancestors of Fort McDermitt tribal members were massacred by the federal government – the very same federal government permitting the Thacker Pass mine. These people were massacred BECAUSE THEY STOOD IN THE WAY OF DESTRUCTIVE INDUSTRIES LIKE MINING.

Don’t expose children to cancer for a job. Don’t kill grandmothers for a job. Don’t risk the rape of someone you know for a job. Protect Thacker Pass.

#ProtectPeeheeMuhuh #ProtectThackerPass #NoMoreStolenSisters #MMIW

Art by Sara-Marie Stiksrud.

Protecting Peehee Muh’huh, or Thacker Pass, Means Protecting the Eastern Sierra, too

by Caelen McQuilkin

Published in the Opinion section of The Mammoth Times on August 19, 2021

Drive slightly east and then five hours north out of Lee Vining, and you’ll find yourself in Thacker Pass, a wide-open landscape of sagebrush and sloping hills, achingly beautiful in that special high desert way. Drive slightly east and then five hours north out of Lee Vining, follow the 80 most of the way, turn left once you reach the small town of Orovada, Nevada, and you might fall in love with a place you had never previously heard of.

That’s what happened to me this summer when I saw the first social media posts and advocacy surrounding Peehee mu’huh, or Thacker Pass, and the movement to protect it from the proposed development of a 5,000 acre open-pit lithium mine atop what one of the advocacy groups fighting to protect the area, Atsa koodakuh wyh Nuwu, or People of Red Mountain, knows as “a spiritually powerful place blessed by the presence of our ancestors, other spirits, and golden eagles – who we consider to be directly connected to the Creator,” according to their statement of opposition. This is due to the history of the place: a long time ago, Indigenous people in the area–the ancestors of many of the advocates fighting to protect the place today–were massacred at Thacker Pass. “To build a lithium mine over this massacre site in Peehee mu’huh would be like building a lithium mine over Pearl Harbor or Arlington National Cemetery,” the statement reads. “We would never desecrate these places and we ask that our sacred sites be afforded the same respect.”

Though the movement to protect Thacker Pass is centered around land over 300 miles away from the Eastern Sierra, it provides a model for what environmentalism in the 21st century must look like if we are to address the root causes of environmental destruction. This type of environmentalism centers around anti-racist and anti-capitalist struggles, therefore addressing several root causes of environmental destruction in the modern day: the force of colonization, and the disproportionate power held by large corporations and by the rich. The movement begs us to interrogate ourselves with larger moral questions that Daranda Hinkey, a member of the Fort McDermitt Paiute Shoshone tribe and founder of People of Red Mountain, brought up: “What do we truly care about most?” she asked, referencing the outsized attention that purchasable items supposed to save us from the climate crisis receive, and the “greenwashing” that makes them palatable. “Do we care about the land? Do we care about the animals? Do we care about the water? Do we care about the air?”

Protecting Thacker Pass will help usher in a new era of environmentalism aimed towards racial and class justice, and therefore could in turn protect the Eastern Sierra from the similar environmental threats and racial inequities our region faces.

Historically, our region and the Thacker Pass region were linked through the movement of people. In the modern day, many Indigenous people still act on and appreciate this connection, and movements like Thacker Pass cast light upon its continued relevance. “A long time ago, we used to roam this way all the way down to Pyramid Lake, out to Lee Vining and California. There used to be roads here, a long time ago,” said Ron Guerrero, a member of the Pyramid Lake Paiute tribe and supporter of the movement to protect Thacker Pass. “We weren’t separated by reservations. You know they put us on reservations, but we used to migrate with the animals. All through these lines, all the way to California, this is where we travelled through. At one time, we were all one. Bishop Paiutes, Pyramid Lake Paiutes, Fort McDermitt Paiutes, we were all one.”

The human history of this landscape shows that people have recognized the inherent connections between the land that makes up the high desert of the American West. Many still do recognize this inherent connection, and are acting on it. Myron Dewey, a filmmaker, journalist, and supporter of the movement, explained: “I’m a descendant of Yosemite. I’m currently enrolled in the Walker River Paiute tribe on my dad’s side, and I’m also Tomoke-Shoshone on my dad’s side, and from my mom’s side, I’m from the Bishop Paiute tribe,” he said. “Those Sierra mountains are our homelands. What I would like people to know, is to do the land acknowledgement on the land that you’re on, and know that the Indigenous people, even though they don’t all live in their traditional homelands, they’re still trying to protect them.”

Indeed, environmental threats like that at Thacker Pass are already present in our region. As far as lithium mining goes, a project to begin exploratory drilling for lithium in Panamint Valley was approved in 2019, according to Friends of the Inyo, and while the corporation has most recently decided to prioritize other mining projects, they may be back in the future. In addition, a recent gold mining proposal at Conglomerate Mesa, a large section of high desert landscape located at the doorstep of Death Valley National Park, and on the homelands of the Timbisha-Shoshone and Paiute-Shoshone tribal nations, poses a threat to sacred Indigenous land and critical wildlife habitat. According to Brian Hatchell, Desert Policy Associate at Friends of the Inyo, the Canadian company K2 Gold and their subsidiary Mojave Precious Metals are currently planning to begin the construction of miles of new roads and over a hundred exploratory drill holes at Conglomerate Mesa. This construction will come in anticipation of the actual mine, which will include cyanide heap-leach mine. “Numerous leaders in local tribes have opposed the gold exploration and mining by K2 Gold,” said Hatchell. “Conglomerate Mesa is a kingdom of solitude abundant in flora and fauna wonders that captures the pure essence of desert backcountry exploration. This area is simply too special for gold exploration and the open-pit cyanide heap leach gold mine that would follow.”

At Thacker Pass, the opposition to lithium mining formed in the beginning of 2021, after the corporation Lithium Nevada was able to quickly push through approval for its project, taking advantage of the recent weakening of environmental review process laws under the Trump administration. At its start, the resistance consisted of two people camped at Thacker Pass, but today, it has grown in size and impact.

Two advocacy groups–Protect Thacker Pass and Atsa koodakuh wyh Nuwu, People of Red Mountain–are working in solidarity to resist the mine by spreading awareness and education, taking legal action, building social pressure, and planning to peacefully blockade mine construction. The advocacy groups’ arguments are rooted in their belief that Thacker Pass is valuable and irreplaceable, and the impact of mining it will cause serious and irreversible damage, both to the area and through the precedent it will set for extractive practices in the West as a whole.

One such irreplaceable value of Thacker Pass is the fact that destruction of the landscape, and the wildlife it is home to (including the greater sage grouse, Lahontan cutthroat trout, pronghorn antelope, and golden eagle) will mean destruction of Indigenous culture and traditional knowledge. Hinkey explained what protecting Thacker Pass means to her: “It means I am protecting all the knowledge that all my grandmas and my grandpas, what they carry and what they tell me,” she said. “Everything that I know was not things that I just came up with. It was things that I learned. And so to me, it’s protecting that.”

People of Red Mountain’s statement in opposition to the lithium mine details why preserving cultural knowledge is so important.

“Thacker Pass is essential to the survival of our traditions. Our traditions are tied to the land,” it reads. “When our land is destroyed, our traditions are destroyed.” According to the statement, these traditions specific to Thacker Pass include picking choke cherries from the orchards there, gathering yapa, or wild potatoes, hunting groundhogs and mule deer, and gathering traditional medicines such as ibi, a chalky rock used for ulcers and internal and external bleeding, and toza root, which is considered one of the world’s best anti-viral medicines. Hinkey explained: “In the spring, there are a bunch of First Foods, and wildflowers, and the sagebrush, and a bunch of wildlife… As Native people, we are supposed to be caretakers of the land,” she said. “We’re supposed to be protectors for the people that are vulnerable. And when I say people, I mean the animal people, I mean the plant people. We still see them as that, and so we’re supposed to speak up for the ones that are vulnerable or can’t speak up for themselves.”

These arguments are so weighty they seem hard to effectively ignore, but one way advocates for the mine are promoting their development is through “greenwashing,” or presenting the illusion that they are not only environmentally responsible, but actually helping the environmental cause. Because lithium is necessary for the production of the batteries that run EV cars–technology often regarded as one of the solutions to the climate crisis–some believe that developing lithium mines such as this one will be necessary to slow climate change. “The company wants to blow up a mountain and call it green,” said Max Wilbert, one of the founders of Protect Thacker Pass. “Call it good for the planet to blow up a mountain and poison water and leave behind a wasteland and destroy all this wildlife habitat. That’s not unique here, that’s all over the world, that this sort of thing is happening.”

Many leaders at Thacker Pass mentioned greenwashing and its ties to their philosophy about environmentalism. If we can’t create an environmental movement that is geared towards addressing root causes, rather than symptoms, some said, then companies that can effectively greenwash will simply continue profiting from the same crisis that has already begun to harm the most vulnerable. Thinking about the world in terms of multiple generations to come may help rewire one’s thinking to reject greenwashing and false solutions like this one. Many advocates at Thacker Pass expressed their views through this lens.

“This is our future. It’s not only mine, it’s yours too… I’m old. It’s not for me, it’s for younger generations. It’s for you guys. That’s what my part is–I’m fighting the fight for all of us,” said Ron Guerrero, a member of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, who came to Thacker Pass for the first time in the spring and has since been back over ten times. Hinkey had similar thoughts. “It’s not just us in this present day having a new lithium car, having solar panels or wind turbines. It’s not us now. I think that we’re starting to realize with climate change, we have to really think to the future,” she said. “With the greenwashing, it’s like we’re destroying the land–adding to the mining, adding to the carbon emissions.”

If we want to preserve our planet for future generations, we need to listen to the voices at Thacker Pass–voices that are calling for a reevaluation of humanity’s entire relationship with the environment through a reckoning with the implications of colonization. A rekindling and centering of the Indigenous knowledge about living with and caring for the land, acting with far future generations and therefore permanent solutions in mind, thinking radically about what it will take to truly address the climate crisis and emerge better for it.

Protecting Thacker Pass means protecting the Eastern Sierra–through the inherent links of our regions, and through the symbolism of the movement that will benefit all places worth protecting. As Dewey put it: “Come and support Peehee mm’huh, Thacker Pass, through whatever donations or physical support you can give. Or just come and witness and experience, and see how the Indigenous people are still trying to protect what little is left of traditional harvesting areas, sacred sites, clean water,” he said. “We have an obligation and an opportunity to make a wrong right, and you can be part of that healing.”

If you are interested in updates about the movement, donating, joining the protest camp, or otherwise becoming involved, visit Read the entirety of People of Red Mountain’s statement at Find more information about the movement to protect Conglomerate Mesa at

Peehee Mu’huh speaks

By Daranda Hinkey

For This Is Reno, August 31, 2021

I look over Peehee Mu’huh, a vast land of sagebrush that has been taken care of by the Paiute and Shoshone since time immemorial. The heat is settling in at Peehee Mu’huh Camp, while we continue to build an opposition to protect this land.

Peehee Mu’huh, also known as Thacker Pass, is a culturally significant place for my people, yet it is being threatened by Lithium Nevada, a.k.a. Lithium Americas, because they want to extract the lithium from the ground and sell it. The country believes they need to transition to “green energy,” to save the planet and cut down carbon emissions. They do not realize that in return for electric car batteries, aggressive lithium mining will harm the planet more in the process.

Lithium is a trick. In reality, pushing for lithium is another way for a handful of the rich to sustain their high-maintenance lifestyles.

This lithium mine will be the first of its kind. It will burn sulfuric acid 24 hours a day to leach the lithium from the clay. It will then move through more processing plants that require 4.6 million gallons of water per day. With sulfuric acid burning every day, even the best air filters in the world cannot control the dangerous particles. The mine will affect at least a 150-mile radius.

This mine will strip the area of 1.7 billion gallons of water per year. What plants, medicines, animals, land, and water will be left for the Indigenous peoples of the area when their homelands are stripped due to a catastrophic drought heightened by the mine?

Peehee Mu’huh is a massacre site of a band of our people, making it a sacred burial ground. This place also holds medicines, first foods, stories, teachings, and animal habitats.

Lithium Nevada plans to turn this sacred place into a hazardous dust bowl, impacting multiple generations to come. These burial grounds, animal habitat and medicines should not be dug up for the sake of electric cars and batteries. The Paiute and Shoshone cannot eat lithium; they cannot drink or hunt or weave lithium. Lithium Nevada comes to our Tribe to offer temporary items and monetary objects, but they cannot replace the spirits that have been laid to rest at Peehee Mu’huh, and they have not much to offer for our culture and our values.

Peehee Mu’huh does not want to be sold. She does not want to be stripped from its sagebrush and contaminated with chemicals. She does not want her animals to flee. She does not want the ancestors’ bones to be unearthed.

My people before me and the people far after me have spoken; they say to keep the lithium in the ground. They wish for our people to not forget our Indigenous ways in a world that continues to attempt to dismantle our identities. My ancestors wish for our modern warriors to protect our Sacred.

Daranda Hinkey is a Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone tribal member. She is a part of the People of Red Mountain who oppose the Thacker Pass Lithium Mine in order to keep their cultural resources and Sacred sites protected.

Published in This is Reno, August 31, 2021. Photo by Bob Conrad for This is Reno