Protect Our Water Protectors

Dean Barlese, elder and spiritual leader from the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, prays at Thacker Pass (known as “Peehee Mu’huh” in the Paiute language) on April 25th, 2023 during a non-violent action halting construction of an open-pit lithium mine. Photo by the author.

Please join us for a special live streaming event to raise awareness and funds for Thacker Pass protectors on Wednesday, May 29th at 5pm Pacific Time (8pm Eastern Time). You can watch the event on YouTubeFacebookInstagram, or Twitter/X.

Talk is cheap — but direct action isn’t! That’s why a group of water protectors (including me) need your help).

In May 2023, Lithium Nevada Corporation filed a lawsuit against Protect Thacker Pass and seven individuals following a month of non-violent protests on the site of the Thacker Pass lithium mine in northern Nevada.

Thacker Pass is known as “Peehee Mu’huh” in Paiute, and is a sacred site to regional Native American tribes. It’s also biodiverse habitat for threatened and endangered wildlife. The lawsuit is similar to what is called a “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation,” or SLAPP suit, aimed at shutting down free speech and protest.

The lawsuit aims to ban us from the area and force us to pay monetary damages which could total millions of dollars.

Please join us for a live event to celebrate our opposition to the Thacker Pass lithium mine and raise funds for our legal defense. This event will include an update on the mine, Native perspectives on the sacredness of Peehee Mu’huh, a legal discussion about the first-ever biodiversity necessity defense in the United States, and more. This event is free, and everyone is welcome regardless of their ability to donate!

Our speakers may include the defendants in the case (Bhie-Cie Zahn-Nahtzu – Te-Moak Shoshone and Washoe; Dean Barlese – Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe; Max Wilbert and Will Falk – co-founders of Protect Thacker Pass; Bethany Sam – Standing Rock Sioux and Kutzadika’a Paiute Tribes; Paul Cienfuegos – Founding Director of Community Rights US) as well as an attorney assisting in legal defense (Terry Lodge).

The best way you can help us fight this lawsuit is to donate to our legal defense. Please give what you can! As part of the fundraiser we are also offering the opportunity to bid on books, art, drums, and other items offered by the defendants.

The event will take place on Wednesday, May 29th at 5pm Pacific Time (8pm Eastern Time). You can watch the event on YouTubeFacebookInstagram, or Twitter/X. Mark your calendar and we hope to see you there!

Press Release: Thacker Pass Protectors File First-Ever “Biodiversity Necessity Defense” in Nevada CourtPress Release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thacker Pass Protectors File First-Ever “Biodiversity Necessity Defense” in Nevada Court

Also pursuing “Climate Necessity Defense” and making allegations that mining company has violated their rights. Attorney: “They’re not criminals; they’re heroes.”

WINNEMUCCA, NV — In a first for the American legal system, the lawyers for six people sued by Lithium Nevada Corporation for protesting the Thacker Pass mine are arguing a ‘biodiversity necessity defense.’

The necessity defense is a legal argument used to justify breaking the law when a greater harm is being prevented; for example, breaking a car window to save an infant locked inside on a stifling hot day, or breaking down a door to help someone screaming inside a locked home. In these cases, trespassing is justified to save a life.

This week’s filing states that “Defendants possessed an actual belief that their acts of protest were necessary to prevent the present, continuing harms and evils of ecocide and irreversible climate change.”

“We’re in the midst of the 6th mass extinction of life on Earth, and it’s being caused by human activities like mining,” said attorney Terry Lodge, who is representing the protesters. “Our lives are made possible by biodiversity and ecosystems. Protecting our children from pollution and biodiversity collapse isn’t criminal, it’s heroic.”

Currently Earth is experiencing one of the most rapid and widespread extinction events in the planet’s 4-billion-year history.

Biologists report that habitat destruction, like the bulldozing of nearly 6,000 acres of biodiverse sagebrush steppe for the Thacker Pass mine, is the main cause of this “6th Mass Extinction.”

Permitting documents for the Thacker Pass mine show the project will harm or kill pronghorn antelope, golden eagles, mule deer, migratory birds, burrowing owls, bobcats, roughly a dozen bat species, various rare plants, and hundreds of other species.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently being sued by environmental groups in an attempt to secure protection for a rare snail species who lives in Thacker Pass and who are threatened with extinction.

“Our ancestors fought and died for the land at Peehee Mu’huh,” says Dean Barlese, an elder and spiritual leader from the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe who is one of the defendants in the case. “We’ve acted for the coming generations to protect Mother Earth.”

In their court filing earlier this week, Lodge and the other attorneys working on the case made several additional legal arguments, including invoking the doctrine ‘unclean hands,’ asserting that Lithium Nevada Corporation has “engaged in serious misconduct including violating the Defendants’ human rights, Defendants’ civil rights, misleading the public about the impacts of lithium mining and how lithium mining contributes to climate change and biodiversity collapse, and conducting the inherently dangerous and ecologically-destructive practice of surface mining at the Thacker Pass mine”.

They’re also arguing the “climate necessity defense,” reasoning that by attempting to stop a major mine that will produce significant greenhouse gas emissions, the protesters were acting to reduce emissions and stop a bigger harm: climate change.

According to permitting documents, the Thacker Pass lithium mine is expected to produce more than 150,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year, roughly equivalent to the emissions of a small city and amounting to 2.3 tons of carbon for every ton of lithium that will be produced.

This legal strategy has been used by many fossil fuel protesters around the world for roughly a decade (and has been successful in a few cases), but this is the first time the same argument has been applied to a ‘green technology’ minerals mining project.

“Lithium Nevada, a mining corporation benefiting from the violence used to conquer Native peoples, is trying to bully peaceful protestors opposing the destruction of that massacre site,” said Will Falk, an attorney and one of the defendants in the case.

“People need to understand that lithium mining companies—like coal or gold mining companies—use racist and violent tactics to intimidate opposition.”

“The Indian wars are continuing in 2023, right here,” Barlese says. “America and the corporations who control it should have finished off the ethnic genocide, because we’re still here. My great-great-grandfather fought for this land in the Snake War and we will continue to defend the sacred. Lithium Nevada is a greedy corporation telling green lies.”

Bethany Sam:
“Our people couldn’t return to Thacker Pass for fear of being killed in 1865, and now in 2023 we can’t return or we’ll be arrested. Meanwhile, bulldozers are digging our ancestors graves up. This is what Indigenous peoples continue to endure. That’s why I stood in prayer with our elders leading the way.”

Bhie-Cie Zahn-Nahtzu:
“Lithium Nevada is a greedy corporation on the wrong side of history when it comes to environmental racism and desecration of sacred sites. It’s ironic to me that I’m the trespasser because I want to see my ancestral land preserved.”

“It is truly outrageous that we live in a society where our Supreme Court has granted constitutional rights to resource extraction corporations, making their destructive activities fully legal and virtually immune from oversight by We the People. Even their right to sue us is a corporate personhood right,” said defendant Paul Cienfuegos, founding director of Community Rights US.

“Lithium mining for electric vehicles and batteries isn’t green, it’s greenwashing,” says Max Wilbert, co-founder of Protect Thacker Pass and author of the book Bright Green Lies: How the Environmental Movement Lost Its Way and What We Can Do About It. “It’s not green, it’s greed. Global warming is a serious problem and we cannot continue burning fossil fuels, but destroying mountains for lithium is just as bad as destroying mountains for coal. You can’t blow up a mountain and call it green.”

Earlier this month, the judge presiding over the case dismissed an “unjust enrichment” charge filed against the protesters, but allowed five other charges to move forward. The case is expected to continue for months.

About the Case

The lawsuit against the protestors was filed in May 2023 following a month of non-violent protests on the site of the Thacker Pass lithium mine in northern Nevada. Thacker Pass is known as Peehee Mu’huh in Paiute, and is a sacred site to regional Native American tribes. It’s also habitat for threatened and endangered wildlife.

Analysts say the lawsuit is similar to what is called a “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation,” or SLAPP suit, aimed at shutting down Constitutionally-protected free speech and protest. It aims to ban the water protectors from the area and force them to pay monetary damages.

On September 12th, 1865, federal soldiers murdered at least 31 Paiute men, women, and children in Thacker Pass during “The Snake War.”

This massacre and other culturally important factors have made the Thacker Pass mine extremely controversial in the Native American community. Dozens of tribes have spoken out against the project, and four — the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, Summit Lake Paiute Tribe, Burns Paiute Tribe, and Winnemucca Indian Colony — battled in court to stop the Thacker Pass mine. The National Congress of American Indians has also passed several resolutions opposing the project.

But despite ongoing criticism, lawsuits, and lobbying from tribes as well as environmental groups, ranchers, the Nevada State Historic Preservation Society, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, both Lithium Nevada Corporation and the Bureau of Land Management have refused to stop construction or change any aspect of the Thacker Pass mine.

In February 2023, the Bureau of Land Management recognized Thacker Pass as eligible for the National Register of Historic Places as a “Traditional Cultural District,” or a landscape that’s very important to tribes. But the very day before, they issued Lithium Nevada’s final bond, allowing the Canadian multinational to begin full-scale mining operations.

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New report outlines how mining harms communities and the planet

Today, Protect Thacker Pass is announcing the release of a new comprehensive report, “How Mining Hurts Communities.”

The report focuses on the growth of mining and especially rapidly growing demand for lithium, cobalt, nickel, copper, and other metals for use in “green technologies.” According to the report, at least 384 new mines for minerals such as graphite, lithium, nickel, and cobalt will need to be built in the next decade to meet projected 2035 demand for batteries.

“Mining may impact your community sooner than you think,” says lead author Elisabeth Robson. “We are on the brink of the biggest expansion of mining in history.”

The report includes information about:

  • Projected mining industry growth
  • How mining harms ecosystems
  • Eight mining and extraction case studies from around the world
  • The scale of mining globally
  • The relationship between indigenous communities and the mining industry
  • Links between extractive industries, violence against women, and other crimes
  • Analysis of mining law
  • The relationship between fossil fuel industries and mining

Mining has a long history in the western U.S., and especially in Nevada, known as the “Silver State” for the first major discovery of silver ore in the United States in 1859. Silver and gold were mined to enrich prospectors; copper, lead, and iron to supply the military; and of course oil and gas to fuel the modern economy.

Today, we are seeing a new “green rush” for so-called “critical minerals” to supply industry, including uranium for nuclear power; lithium, copper, nickel, and more for electric vehicle and grid storage batteries, iron and nickel for steel to make wind turbines; silver, cadmium, lead and more to make solar panels; and copper, iron, and nickel to make high voltage grid lines.

“Most people do not understand the impact that mines and the mining industry have on communities, in part because mining usually takes place in rural areas and has the most impact on poor and rural communities,” says Protect Thacker Pass co-founder Max Wilbert, who assisted with the report. “These harms include destruction of land culturally and historically important to communities; violence, especially to women and girls; and pollution that impacts both human and non-human communities who depend on the land, clean water, and clean air.”

Robson says the goal of this report is to educate and empower people to fight the mining industry, and to challenge the idea of “green growth.”

“We’ve put together this report to inform people concerned about mining’s impacts in their communities, around the state of Nevada, and throughout the country and the world,” she said. “We show how mining companies stifle dissent, how the law sides unjustly with corporations, how mining pollutes the land, air, and water, and how mining destroys the ecosystems we all depend on for life.”

You can download the report for:
1) Reading on a computer screen
2) Printing (we recommend printing double sided and stapling along the edge)

Contact us for more information here: https://www.protectthackerpass.org/contact-us/

For ideas for a future without mining and extraction, you can read our Solutions here: https://www.protectthackerpass.org/solutions/

To donate to Protect Thacker Pass and help us educate communities, or contribute to our legal defense fund, click here: https://www.protectthackerpass.org/donations-and-funding/

About Protect Thacker Pass

Protect Thacker Pass is a grassroots community organization that was originally established to oppose the Thacker Pass lithium mine in northern Nevada. It’s mission has since expanded to include opposing the Jindalee lithium mine proposed just north of Thacker Pass and to include advocating for nature over mining more broadly.

Press Release: Judge Tosses One Claim Against Thacker Pass Protectors

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Judge Tosses One Claim Against Thacker Pass Protectors

Rejects “Unjust Enrichment” Claim, But Five Other Claims Proceed in Ongoing Lawsuit Over Spring 2023 Protests

WINNEMUCCA, NV — A judge has dismissed an “unjust enrichment” charge filed against seven people sued for protesting the Thacker Pass lithium mine in Nevada, but allowed five other charges to move forward.

District Judge Michael R. Montero rejected Lithium Nevada Corporation’s claims that protesters had engaged in unjust enrichment by writing online messages encouraging supporters to donate, ruling that these messages are “protected speech under the First Amendment.”

“This is a very significant win for my clients and a rebuke to Lithium Nevada,” says Terry Lodge, an attorney representing six of the protesters. “But,” Lodge says, “we’ve still got a long way to go in this case.”

“It isn’t illegal or wrong to fundraise for community organizing and for our legal defense,” says Max Wilbert, one of the defendants.

While one portion of Montero’s ruling was favorable to the protesters, other portions were not. Judge Montero issued a prelimary ruling in Lithium Nevada’s favor on five other claims. But, Lodge says that at this stage, the judge was not determining whether Lithium Nevada’s claims are true or not. He was simply reviewing Lithium Nevada’s allegations, taking them as true, and determining whether those allegations were violations of Nevada law.

These five other claims will now move into the next stage in the ongoing suit. During the “discovery” stage, both Lithium Nevada and the defendants will have an opportunity to gather evidence.

Native Land Claims “Frivolous”

In another part of his ruling, Judge Montero called arguments that a Paiute protester has a right to access the September 12, 1865 Thacker Pass massacre site within Lithium Nevada’s mine site to pray for massacred Paiute ancestors “frivolous”. The ruling states that recognizing traditional native land claims “would unequivocally undermine each and every property owner’s rights” and concludes that “[t]his is a Pandora’s box the Court is unwilling to open.”

The defendants are seeking monetary donations to their legal defense fund. You can donate via credit or debit card, PayPal (please include a note that your donation is for Thacker Pass legal defense), or by check.

Arlo Crutcher Removed at Fort McDermitt

In other news, Fort McDermitt Tribal Chairman Arlo Crutcher has been voted off the tribal council after attacking and choking a tribal youth in mid-January.

Crutcher was the key figure behind the Fort McDermitt Tribe’s cooperation with Lithium Nevada Corporation.

The January attack took place as the youth — a mine opponent — attempted to film Crutcher and other tribal leaders meeting with Lithium Americas employees Tim Crowley (VP of Government and External Affairs) and Maria Anderson (Community Relations Director).

Mine opponents blame this violence on Lithium Nevada’s “divide and conquer” techniques.

About the Case

The suit was filed in May 2023 following a month of non-violent protests on the site of the Thacker Pass lithium mine in northern Nevada. Thacker Pass is known as Peehee Mu’huh in Paiute, and is a sacred site to regional Native American tribes. It’s also habitat for threatened and endangered wildlife.

Analysts say the lawsuit is similar to what is called a “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation,” or SLAPP suit, aimed at shutting down Constitutionally-protected free speech and protest. It aims to ban the water protectors from the area and force them to pay monetary damages.

“Our ancestors fought and died for the land at Peehee Mu’huh,” says Dean Barlese, an elder and spiritual leader from the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe who is one of the defendants in the case. “We’ve acted for the coming generations to protect Mother Earth.”
On September 12th, 1865, federal soldiers murdered at least 31 Paiute men, women, and children in Thacker Pass during “The Snake War.”

This massacre and other culturally important factors have made the Thacker Pass mine extremely controversial in the Native American community. Dozens of tribes have spoken out against the project, and four — the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, Summit Lake Paiute Tribe, Burns Paiute Tribe, and Winnemucca Indian Colony — battled in court to stop the Thacker Pass mine. The National Congress of American Indians has also passed several resolutions opposing the project.

But despite ongoing criticism, lawsuits, and lobbying from tribes as well as environmental groups, ranchers, the Nevada State Historic Preservation Society, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, both Lithium Nevada Corporation and the Bureau of Land Management have refused to stop construction or change any aspect of the Thacker Pass mine.

In February 2023, the Bureau of Land Management recognized Thacker Pass as eligible for the National Register of Historic Places as a “Traditional Cultural District,” or a landscape that’s very important to tribes. But the very day before, they issued Lithium Nevada’s final bond, allowing the Canadian multinational to begin full-scale mining operations.

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Thacker Pass, Super Bowl Commercials, and Why Taylor Swift Doesn’t Scare Me

For the past three years, I’ve been involved in a campaign to stop the Lithium Nevada Corporation from destroying a beautiful mountain pass in northern Nevada – known as Thacker Pass in English, or Peehee mu’huh in the local Numic (Paiute) language – to extract lithium from the land for electric car batteries. Thacker Pass is some of the best remaining greater sage grouse habitat left on Earth. Thacker Pass is home to pronghorn antelope, coyotes, sage brush, meadowlarks, rattlesnakes, pygmy rabbits, kangaroo rats, golden eagles, a rare snail known as the King’s River Pyrg that is threatened with extinction by the Thacker Pass Lithium Mine, amongst many other creatures. Thacker Pass was also the site of two massacres of Paiute people including the September 12, 1865 massacre where federal soldiers massacred at least 31 men, women, and children in the Snake War which was fought over…wait for it…mining encroachments on Native land.

We lost the campaign. Mine construction proceeds full speed ahead and hundreds, if not thousands, of acres of Thacker Pass are being carved up right now by Lithium Nevada. Though we lost the campaign and the mine is being constructed, four Native folks and three settler allies (myself included) were sued by Lithium Nevada for “trespassing” on public land to protest the mine. We might end up owing Lithium Nevada – a corporation profiting from the destruction of threatened species’ habitat and the final resting places of massacred Paiutes – hundreds of thousands of dollars for our peaceful protest. The case against us is still in its early stages so we’ll probably be fighting that lawsuit for months, at least. All while the violation of Thacker Pass and all the creatures who live there only gets worse.

Tonight, I will watch the Super Bowl – and the inevitable deluge of electric vehicle commercials that corporations will spend hundreds of millions of dollars to ensure are witnessed by millions if not billions of people worldwide. (Yes, I know the Super Bowl is not the biggest sporting event on Earth. Still, it is widely viewed in North America, Europe, and parts of Africa.) The electric vehicle commercials are infuriating, of course. But, truth be told, most commercials infuriate me because virtually every one of them are wickedly designed to manipulate both the conscious and unconscious parts of our mind to consume evermore stuff. And, what does consuming evermore stuff – whether it’s consuming evermore Coca-Cola, Coors Light, that new dog food brand that you refrigerate, or electric vehicles – do?

It destroys more of what’s left of the natural world. And, at a time when human population has overshot the Earth’s carrying capacity, literally anything you consume destroys the natural world in an unsustainable manner.

But, what will really infuriate me while watching the Super Bowl will be the echo of all the people who criticized those of us working to stop the Thacker Pass mine for owning automobiles (and using them to get to Thacker Pass to confront mining there), for owning computers (and using them to educate the world about what mining does), for owning cell phones (and using them to organize resistance to the mine.) I will be infuriated because these people seem to truly believe that the destruction of the planet can be stopped if the precious few of us who both 1. actually care about the destruction of the planet and 2. are willing to do more than just tell everyone how much we care about the destruction of the planet just give up our cars, computers, and phones. Meanwhile, the corporations who profit from destroying the natural world will gain access to the consciousness of billions of people with their commercials encouraging everyone that if they just spend a smooth $60,000 or $70,000 on a sleek new electric vehicle they can stop the destruction of the planet and appear very virtuous while they’re at it.

Unfortunately, manufacturing electric vehicles includes the same fossil-fuel intensive processes that manufacturing anything (including traditional vehicles) does. When you buy your groovy new Tesla, you need to see the destruction of places like Thacker Pass, the deaths of child laborers in mines in the Congo, the murder of golden eagles reflected in that polished gleam your car salesman is so good at achieving.

But you also need to understand that just like simply buying an electric vehicle isn’t going to save the planet, simply refraining from buying an electric vehicle isn’t going to save the planet, either. Why? Because the global economy is based on the destruction of the natural world. This is true whether we’re talking about destroying the natural world for electric vehicles, whether we’re talking about destroying the natural world for agriculture, or whether we’re talking about destroying the natural world with the pollution nearly 9 billion humans make just from eating, pooping, and sheltering themselves. (Yes, people in the so-called First World use many more resources than others, but per capita consumption by all humans is increasing).

Because nearly every human life today is only possible through the destruction of the natural world, we’re simply not going to convince enough people to ever make the sacrifices necessary to keep the world from ecological collapse. This is especially true when those most responsible for destroying the natural world can put their propaganda in every American living room through things like television commercials more or less constantly. And, please, if you think that a few of us “leading by example” or “being the change” by giving up tools like computers will ever be as persuasive as Super Bowl commercials, then please keep in mind that virtually every traditional culture that thrived with stone age technologies has been massacred, forcibly assimilated, or otherwise destroyed upon contact with the dominant industrial culture. Those 31 Paiutes murdered in Thacker Pass by federal soldiers for standing in the way of mines are just one of countless examples of that.

Am I saying “give up?” Hell, no. I’m saying that we have to think much bigger than personal responsibility, lifestyle changes, or consumption choices. We can’t pat ourselves on our backs for arguing with people who disagree with us online, for buying a “green” product, for writing passionate essays.

Which brings me to Taylor Swift. I played college football. And for the first 22 years of my life, playing the game of football was my favorite thing to do on Earth. So, yes, I have been watching the NFL this year and have followed the Travis Kelce – Taylor Swift story. I’ve watched as some conservatives – believing that God has mandated that they try to put in her place an uppity, successful woman who points out some forms of misogyny – lose their minds about Taylor Swift. I’ve watched as some environmentalists – believing Mother Earth has mandated that they put an individual woman who boards planes which burn fossil fuels – lose their minds about Taylor Swift. I’ve watched as some feminists – believing the Goddess has ordered them to protect a single billionaire because she’s a successful woman that some men have criticized – lose their minds about Taylor Swift. (Full Disclosure: I do not know Taylor Swift, but I have a partner who cheers my activism on like Taylor Swift cheers Travis Kelce on. And that means something to me.)

But, here’s the thing: I see far fewer of anyone losing their minds about the current mass extinction event we’re living through, far fewer of anyone losing their minds about the fact that we’ve lost over 70% of vertebrate species on Earth since 1970, far fewer of anyone losing their minds about the fact that we can’t convince anyone to do hardly anything to actually stop any of this.

We’re not going to convince most people to make the sacrifices necessary to make sure there’s a livable planet to watch the Super Bowl on, to complain about Taylor Swift on, to complain about those who complain about Taylor Swift on, to – you know – live on. The good news is we don’t need to convince most people. We just need to deprive most people of the tools they need to continue to destroy the Earth, our only home. Worried about misogyny and porn culture? You don’t have to convince internet servers to stop serving pornography if you smash them. Worried about climate change? You don’t have to convince oil refineries to stop refining if you break them. Worried about how mass media affects us? You don’t have to convince televisions to stop brainwashing people if you pull enough power lines down.

I know that’s scary to think about. I know it would be scary to do. But, isn’t the collapse of life on Earth scarier? Scarier, at least, than team mascots, football games, or Taylor Swift?

Let’s fight back together

Yesterday, I attended a Tribal Leaders Summit at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) with the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony (RSIC). The event was hosted by UNR’s Office of Indigenous Relations, University Center of Economic Development, and the Nevada Indian Commission. The second half of the event was devoted to UNR faculty trying to sell the Tribes on Joe Biden’s designation of UNR as a “TechHub” with support for Nevada’s new lithium economy. Faculty proudly presented about all the jobs lithium mining and electric car battery manufacturing would bring to the region. Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo made an obligatory appearance and filled a full 10 minutes of the 30 minutes he was scheduled to speak for before peeling out to attend to more important matters.

As UNR faculty presented, I found myself getting angrier and angrier. My friend and colleague RSIC Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Michon Eben was too. I was afraid we were the only ones until Te-Moak Chairman Joseph Holley asked Dr. Mridul Guatam, UNR’s Vice President of Research and Innovation, about just how “clean” or “green” lithium mining really was. Dr. Guatam pretended not to know. And, then several of the Western Shoshone representatives proceeded to inform the UNR faculty about how mining has devastated Western Shoshone homelands. One Western Shoshone leader called her homelands a “hellscape.”

Because Dr. Guatam danced around the question about just how “clean” lithium mining is, I was allowed the microphone to explain how the Thacker Pass Lithium Mine, by Lithium Nevada’s own numbers, will produce over 150,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions annually, will burn over 12,000 gallons of diesel on-site daily, and requires sulfuric acid obtained from oil refineries. Noticing that UNR faculty were advocating for lithium mining while standing next to a prayer staff with eagle feathers, I explained that Lithium Nevada has been granted permits to kill golden eagles for the Thacker Pass mine. I also explained how racist it is that UNR faculty were so proud of the jobs created by lithium mining when the First Nations who have lived in the region from time immemorial, and who were ethnically cleansed from the land lithium mines are now destroying, have no right of consent over these mines, even when those mines destroy the most sacred places in the world to Native communities.

I have no idea whether the UNR faculty who presented yesterday actually believe the ideas they were spewing. I suspect they do. I suspect they’ve convinced themselves that more mining, more steel manufacturing, more plastic production, more pollution for electric vehicles is the only way to stop climate change. I suspect that they’ve further convinced themselves that Native peoples are backwards and selfish for not being willing to sacrifice what’s left of their homelands for another mining boom. I suspect that they resent organizations like Protect Thacker Pass that insist that its wrong to sacrifice greater sage grouse, sage brush steppe, Lahontan cutthroat trout, and golden eagles for products like electric vehicles that simply are not necessary for anyone’s survival.

Regardless, even if UNR faculty are just doing their job or presenting what their bosses tell them they must, this is no excuse for participating in ecocide and the destruction of Native culture. In effect, what UNR communicated to the tribes was: The lithium industry is going to mine. You can’t stop them. You have no right to say no. So, you might as well take a few jobs. You might as well take a little money from the corporations destroying your land and culture.

I want to make this personal: If this is you, if this is your job, if you’re making money helping the lithium industry destroy the Great Basin and destroy Native culture, you should quit. Right now.

I don’t know about y’all, but when someone comes to my home to destroy it, I don’t cooperate with them; I fight back. Let’s fight back together.