Federal judge allows excavation work on Native massacre site

The decision could shape the way electric vehicles are powered.


Daranda Hinkey is a member of the Fort McDermitt Paiute Shoshone tribe and organizer of the People of Red Mountain, a group against the lithium mine at Thacker Pass.
Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Want to catch up on big developments quickly? See more stories here.

The Biden administration’s push for electric vehicles has spurred a rush for the element lithium, which is needed for EV batteries. The Bureau of Land Management approved exploratory drilling operations in Arizona's Big Sandy River Valley, despite the Hualapai Tribe’s opposition, after refusing to let the tribe participate in the planning process, despite the mine’s likely impacts on sacred sites and burial grounds. The Hualapai are seeking legal recourse as drilling companies continue to ignore their objections (“Mining for lithium, at a cost to Indigenous religions,” HCN, 6/9/21).

In a similar dispute, two Native American groups joined a lawsuit against Lithium Americas Corp. The Reno Sparks Indian Colony and Atsa koodakuh wyh Nuwu (People of Red Mountain), members and descendants of the Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribes, want to halt mining at Pee hee mu’huh, or Thacker Pass, a massacre site in northern Nevada. U.S. District Court Chief Judge Miranda Du ruled Friday to allow excavation work to move forward for mining in Northern Nevada, siding with Lithium Americas Corp. “Primarily because the Tribes have not shown they are likely to prevail on their claim that BLM’s decision not to consult them on the Project was unreasonable or made in bad faith, have not presented sufficiently specific evidence of irreparable harm that will likely occur if the HPTP proceeds, and as further explained below, the Court will deny the Motion,” Du wrote in her opinionAs other Indigenous communities like the Hualapai Tribe continue their battles with energy behemoths over resource extraction, Du’s ruling could set a dangerous new precedent.

Brian Oaster (they/them) is an editorial intern at High Country News and a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. They are an award-winning investigative journalist living in the Pacific Northwest. Email them at [email protected] or submit a letter to the editorSee our letters to the editor policy.

Max Ufberg contributed reporting to this story.

Note: This story was corrected to note that excavation work was allowed to move forward, not mining itself.

High Country News Classifieds