Cale Christi.

Contrary to an opinion expressed by some proponents of the Thacker Pass lithium mine, a place doesn’t need to be a tourist destination in order to be worth protecting.

Land itself has inherent value, and when people live in relationship with land over millennia, such a place is considered sacred. The people need the land, and the land needs the people. In this case, I’m talking about the Paiute, Shoshone and Bannock people who have lived near Thacker Pass (a place they call Peehee Mu’huh) since time immemorial.

Peehee Mu’huh translates to “rotten moon.” The place now called Thacker Pass was given this name after a band of ancestors were massacred there by the U.S. Calvary in 1865. The hunters were away, and when they returned, they found elders, women and children murdered, unburied, with their intestines spread across the sagebrush. Those who survived the massacre—and the 158 years that followed—now face another existential threat.

There is currently a push to convert the world’s energy to electric sources. Well-meaning people think that this will save the environment. On the contrary, this push gives global capitalists like Lithium Americas the opportunity to re-colonize the planet in search of the necessary minerals to power such a transition. Switching to electric has everything to do with making money.

“Sacrifice zones” are the result. The argument often goes, “In order to protect the environment, we have to switch to electric. We know mining isn’t great, but we need lithium to make batteries work. We’ll find places to mine that no one cares about.” People talk about Thacker Pass as if it is such a place; it is not. The Paiute, Shoshone and Bannock descendants would suffer the consequences of this mine. Their ancestors’ bones would be torn from their resting places, and their drinking water would be depleted and poisoned. We Americans have become so disconnected from ourselves and our relationship with the planet that we no longer recognize our well-being is tied to the land as well.

For decades, we have known the environmental impact of fossil fuels. Our addiction is not to any specific energy source, but to energy itself. We call it power, and we require a constant supply. There is no source of energy available to us without a cost, and if we are unable to produce energy to power our standard of living without destroying the planet, then we might consider that the path we are on can only lead to our own destruction.

What do we really need? What adds value to our lives? In my experience, our needs are not material. Rather, I find that we have a need for family, friends and community, as well as food, water and shelter—all of which can be attained without destruction of land. Humanity needs to pause, remember what is important, and work to restore reciprocal relationships between ourselves, the land and life on this planet.

Cale Christi is a supporter of People of Red Mountain (Atsa Koodakuh wyh Nuwu), a committee of traditional knowledge-keepers and descendants of the Fort McDermitt Paiute, Shoshone and Bannock tribes who are working to oppose the proposed Thacker Pass lithium mine on their ancestral homelands and to protect Peehee Mu’huh (Thacker Pass).

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *