Illustration: Travis London, Deep Green Arts
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
OROVADA, NV — Opponents of the proposed Thacker Pass lithium mine in northern Nevada will gather on Sunday, September 12th, to commemorate a massacre of at least 31 Northern Paiute people on that day in 1865 with prayers and songs.
Sunday’s gathering will begin at 10:30am at “Sentinel Rock,” a culturally significant rock outcrop on the east side of Thacker Pass, and conclude at the protest camps further west in the pass. Protesters have been on-site since January.
“Our remembrance event is a special event to honor our ancestors and this sacred place we call Peehee Mu’huh [the Paiute name for Thacker Pass],” said Daranda Hinkey, a tribal member from People of Red Mountain, one of the groups opposing the Thacker Pass mine. “One hundred and fifty-six years after this massacre, we gather to honor our ancestors in a good way. We feel it’s our responsibility to protect these burial grounds and sacred places.”
The 1865 massacre, part of what historian Gregory Michno describes as “a summer-long hunt for renegade Indians,” began when soldiers departed their camp near Willow Creek, less than a mile east of Sentinel Rock. On September 12th, 1865 at one am, the 1st Nevada Cavalry moved to surround a nearby camp of northern Paiute people west of Willow Creek in Thacker Pass, but were discovered. The Cavalry moved in with guns blazing, and the camp was all but wiped out. In his book “The Deadliest Indian War in the West,” Michno writes that the massacre “lasted three hours and stretched out for several miles.” Many Paiutes were also believed to be wounded. One cavalryman was wounded, but none killed. There were three survivors: two infants who were taken by a soldier, and one young man who fled on horseback.
Opponents of the Thacker Pass mine believe that the massacre took place within the boundaries of the planned Lithium Nevada project, and historical documents corroborate this. The Bureau of Land Management and Lithium Nevada Corporation have consistently denied that any massacres took place in Thacker Pass, evidencing the inadequacy of their consultation with tribes, the inadequacy of their historical research about the site, and their intent to bulldoze forward despite this.
The massacre took place in the context of “The Snake War,” a guerilla war which officially lasted from 1864 to 1868, but came after over a decade of tension and rising violence. Throughout the 1850’s and 60’s, settlers from the eastern United States poured west, crossing lands of the Northern Paiute, Shoshone, and Bannock tribes, appropriating springs and water sources, and overhunting game. Settlers felt entitled to the land, while natives viewed settlers’ actions as disrespect, trespass, and directly injurious to their survival. Violence was inevitable, and by 1864 the Snake War, which would officially claim 1,762 casualties, was underway.
The ideological force underlying The Snake War was “Manifest Destiny,” the Catholic church doctrine under which the United States seized land from native people. This bred a pervasive racism, as evidenced by the Owyhee Avalanche newspaper stating after the 1865 massacre that the death toll amounted to “thirty-one permanently friendly Indians.”
Attendees of the September 12th commemoration are invited to wear the color teal or turquoise in honor of the fallen.