Life Over Lithium: Protecting the Sacred Site Peehee Mu’huh (Thacker Pass)

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Gary McKinney, Spokesman for The People of Red Mountain and Lead Scout for the American Indian Movement-Northeast Nevada, reveals to EcoJustice Radio the true cost of lithium mining and what we might do to protect the Northern Paiute & Western Shoshone sacred site of Peehee Mu’huh to ensure Indigenous peoples and their legacies are not irreparably harmed by the world’s growing hunger for lithium.

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Gary McKinney, Thacker PassProtecting a Native American Sacred Site from a Lithium Mining with Gary McKinney, Western Shoshone/Northern Paiute

Lithium is essential to all battery technology currently in use and development worldwide. Due to the transition to renewable solar and wind energy and electrification of vehicles and homes to reduce fossil fuel dependency and address climate change, the appetite for lithium is growing exponentially. While touted as part of a clean and green technology, many are rightfully crying “greenwashing” in response to lithium production and fast tracking mine permits. There is a dark underbelly of lithium mining that is impacting Indigenous communities and People of Color: their cultural heritage, lifeways, sacred sites, and the totality of their health.

In this episode, Gary McKinney, Spokesman for The People of Red Mountain and Lead Scout for the American Indian Movement-Northeast Nevada, reveals the true cost of lithium and what we might do to protect the Northern Paiute & Western Shoshone sacred site of Pee’hee Mu’huh to ensure Indigenous peoples and their legacies are not irreparably harmed by the world’s growing hunger for lithium.

The People of the Red Mountain are an Indigenous led grassroots organization, comprised of Paiute and Shoshone peoples, surrounding Indigenous nations, and supporters working to protect Pee’hee Mu’huh (Thacker Pass) from the possible construction of the Thacker Pass Lithium Mine in northwest Nevada. If the mine is built it would be the United States largest source of lithium supply generating 60,000 metric tons of battery-grade lithium carbonate annually.

The People of the Red Mountain are calling for support in demanding the U.S. Department of the Interior to rescind the Thacker Pass Lithium Mine Project Final Environmental Impact Statement, Record of Decision, and Plan of Operations. Lithium Nevada Corp. is a subsidiary of the Canadian corporation Lithium Americas Corp. which proposes to build the open pit lithium mine with a project area of almost 17,933 acres that will use 5,200 acre-feet per year of water (equivalent to an average pumping rate of 3,224 gallons per minute) in one of the driest regions in the nation.

Lithium Nevada Corporation characterizes the mine as a “green” project, despite estimates the mine will produce an estimated 152,703 tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year and will cause irreversible harm to the Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Nation, ancestral massacre sites, the water, air, medicines, culturally important wildlife relations, and everything else the land and waters culturally sustain for the Peoples. The Bureau of Land Management approved the mine on January 15, 2021, without adequately consulting tribal members.

Gary McKinney is a Western Shoshone/Northern Paiute tribal descendant, born and raised in Indian-Treaty-Territory. For over a decade Gary has been involved with Indian Rights and upholding traditional value & culture. Today, he is also a spokesman for the People of Red Mountain, a band of Paiute-Shoshones representing a portion of the Tribal Cultural Landscape threatened by Mining Exploitation.

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Resources/Articles:
https://www.culturalsurvival.org/publications/cultural-survival-quarterly/our-sacred-sites-are-more-important-lithium-mine

PHOTOS: Tribe members launch billboard campaign against Thacker Pass

Podcast Website: http://ecojusticeradio.org/
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Hosted by Carry Kim
Intro by Jessica Aldridge
Engineer and Original Music: Blake Quake Beats
Executive Producer: Jack Eidt
Show Created by Mark and JP Morris
Episode 146
Photo credit: Gary McKinney from Cultural Survival

Updated 23 August 2022

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About Jack Eidt

Novelist, urban theorist and designer, and environmental journalist, Jack Eidt careens down human-nature's all consuming one-way highway to its inevitable conclusion -- Wilder Utopia. He co-founded Wild Heritage Partners, based out of Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at jack (dot) eidt (at) wilderutopia (dot) com. Follow him on Twitter @WilderUtopia and @JackEidt