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