Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

February 9, 2023

Lithium Americas meets with Fort McDermitt Paiute Shoshone


Tribal Chairman Arlo Crutcher (center) and Lithium Americas Alexi Zawadzki (right)
at Thursday's session with Fort McDermitt Paiute Shoshone.
Watch the video on Facebook:

While some Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone are meeting with Lithium Americas, promising benefits today -- Winnemucca elderly and disabled are living at Motel 6. Grandmothers evicted with their grandchildren said they have been evicted from their homes to make way for lithium mine housing.
By Brenda Norrell
Censored News
Updated Feb. 9, 2023

FORT McDERMITT PAIUTE-SHOSHONE NATION -- Lithium Americas met Thursday with Fort McDermitt Paiute Shoshone, claiming it was consultation. A federal judge ruled in favor of a lithium mine on the Paiute Massacre Site at Thacker Pass on Monday.

When the session began, Lithium Americas was asked by a tribal member what they were doing here.

"From our perspective, we consider it consultation," said Alexi Zawadzki, president of North American Operation for Lithium Americas, which is based in Vancouver, Canada. It is the parent company of Lithium Nevada.

Dorece Sam, Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone, live-streamed the session.

"All I can say is yesterday's meeting was Bullshit. My people don't understand what Lithium Nevada is -- just all broken promises."

"My people don't understand how bad this will be for our future generation. They said the sulfuric acid doesn't smell but it will seep into the ground just as the Cordero mine that contaminated our water with arsenic," Sam said, describing the Cordero Mercury Mine.

"The men that worked at the Cordero -- my three uncles and my eldest son's father  that worked there -- have passed away due to cancer."

"There's also another lithium mine going up on the Oregon side called the Jindalee.  I'm pretty sure they will tie up. The abandoned Cordero mine sits in between Thacker Pass and the proposed Jindalee," Sam told Censored News.

Australia's Jindalee Plans Fort McDermitt Lithium Mine

The Australian-based Jindalee acquired two lithium projects in Nevada in 2018 -- at McDermitt and Clayton North (in south-central Nevada near the California border.) These projects are 100 percent owned by HiTech Minerals Inc., a US-based subsidiary of Jindalee, Jindalee Resources Limited said.

Fort McDermitt Chairman Deterred Tribal Members from Obtaining Agreement with Lithium Americas During Thursday's Session

When the Fort McDermitt meeting began on Thursday, a community member said she was not aware of the agreement signed with Lithium Americas. Tribal Chairman Arlo Crutcher told her to put in a request if she wants to see the agreement.

Fort McDermitt opposed the mine in 2021, but some tribal leaders accepted a benefits package from Lithium Americas in October of 2022 (shown below.) It is an action now opposed by Paiute and Shoshone protecting the sacred Massacre Site. 

Lithium Americas representatives present at the session said they have had an office in Winnemucca for three years.

Lithium Americas was working at Thacker Pass before the federal judge's ruling on Monday. Protect Thacker Pass said, "Lithium Americas is working at Thacker Pass. We have observed them twice over the last three weeks with heavy equipment. They are beginning to destroy the land. The legality of this is questionable. But, they are doing it anyway. And BLM (Bureau of Land Management) is allowing them to do it." Jan. 8, 2023

Winnemucca Paiute Shoshone Elderly and Disabled Evicted 

At the same time, Winnemucca elders and disabled have been evicted from their homes, and police posted to keep them out. They are living in motels, including grandmothers with grandchildren. Many are living at Motel 6.

Elders said they have been forced out by a disputed tribal leader who lives out of state. Grandmothers said they were forced out to make room for housing for lithium miners.

The residents said they had a few days to move out their belongings. Those people who returned, like Kyle Missouri, were arrested by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Humboldt County deputies. He spent six days in jail.

"I got wrestled down and they tased me two or three times," he said. "Winnemucca Indian Colony does not own that house. My grandma owns that house so she is the one who should authorize who can and cannot be there."

Lithium Americas said in October it signed an agreement with Fort McDermitt Paiute Shoshone Tribe, and promised benefits

Photo: Fort MDermitt Chairman Arlo Crutcher and his family met with Lithium Americas in July. From left to right: (First person unidentified) next to him is Rick Crutcher (chairman's brother), also a tribal councilman, Kyle Crutcher (eldest son), Arlo Crutcher (chairman), Cauy Crutcher (youngest son), Sheila Crutcher (wife), and Littlestar Abel (niece). In the center is Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, at the inauguration of Lithium Americas' Lithium Technical Development Center, in Reno on July 20, 2022.

The Community Benefits Agreement of 
Lithium Americas

Lithium Americas, based in Vancouver, Canada, said a Community Benefits Agreement was signed with Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone.

Lithium Americas' statement on Oct. 20, 2022:

Lithium Americas said the CBA is a product of years of engagement, job training and relationship-building between the company and the Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribe."

"The CBA states that Lithium Americas will continue to provide additional training and employment opportunities, and the company will support cultural education and preservation."

"Also, Lithium Americas has agreed to build an 8,000 square foot community center for the tribe that includes a daycare, preschool, playground, cultural facility and communal greenhouse to support reclamation efforts and provide income for the tribe."

"Over the summer, Far Western Anthropological Research Group Inc., with oversight and assistance from tribe members, completed cultural work on approximately 13,000 acres at Thacker Pass. Lithium Americas stated that the work was a key requirement from the National Environmental Policy Act process and found no areas of archeological significance at the Thacker Pass project."


Shelley Harjo, Fort McDermitt Paiute Shoshone, warned of the media spin by Lithium Americas.

Describing it as "desecration and rape," Harjo said, "Lithium Nevada’s attempts to portray my tribal council as representing all Native Americans is tokenism of the worst kind. It is important for non-Natives to understand reservations and tribal councils are purely an invention of the American government."

"Reservations were created to move Native Americans off of the most economically desirable lands as more and more settlers arrived. Tribal councils were created by the American government in an attempt to manufacture legitimacy for the American government’s systematic theft of Native land."

"Prior to the 1860s, there was no such thing as the Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribe or the Fort McDermitt reservation – natives at that time had no borders."

"Our oral history tells of the September 12, 1865, Thacker Pass massacre. It is home to the final resting place of as many as 70 of my ancestors who were massacred by federal soldiers as part of what historians call the Snake War," Harjo said.

Photo by Bert Johnson KUNR
Lewey Sam came from Fort McDermitt Indian to the federal court in Reno to protest
 the lithium mine on land sacred to Paiutes. 

Paiute Shoshone Protested Lithium Mine at Federal Court 

Lewey Sam opposed the lithium mine outside the federal court on Jan. 5, 2023 in Reno. Sam said past mining in the area has left a toxic legacy, KUNR Public Radio reports. 

“I’ve witnessed this,” he said. “We had a mercury mine, and right today, people are dying of cancer.”

Sam is an elder from the Fort McDermitt Indian Reservation, which is located 50 miles east of Thacker Pass. He wants to see the area preserved because Thacker Pass is a sacred site for the Paiute people, whose ancestors have been in the Great Basin for more than 12,000 years. Tribal members still go there to collect food and medicine.

“My elders… that’s where their main camp was,” Sam said. “And twice there have been slaughterings that went on there.”

"In the Paiute language, Thacker Pass is called Peehee Mu’huh, or Rotten Moon. That’s because, in 1865, white cavalrymen massacred dozens of men, women and children – then left their bodies to rot."

Lithium Americas is promoting the mine using photos of 
Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone

President of North American Operations for Lithium Americas Alexi Zawadzki, gave Ft. McDermitt Paiute Shoshone Tribe members, Kyle Crutcher, Cauy Crutcher, Ario Crutcher and Rick Crutcher a tour of the Technical Center at Reno. By Julia Maestrejuan Nevada News Group. August 5, 2022

Julia Maestrejuan/Nevada News Group

Brian Sandoval, president of the University of Nevada, front left, Jonathan Evans, CEO of Lithium Nevada, Gov. Steve Sisolak, Littlestar Abel, member of the Ft. McDermitt Paiute Shoshone Tribe, Maria Anderson, manager of community relations for Lithium Nevada and other members of the Ft. McDermitt Paiute Shoshone Tribe cut the ribbon in celebration of the opening of the new Lithium Technology Center on July 20, 2022, in Reno, Nevada.

Photo from Lithium Americas website

No comments: