Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

May 24, 2023

Paiute Protector Served with Restraining Order Defending Massacre Site at Thacker Pass

On Friday May 19th, in the early morning, Humboldt County Sheriff's Department delivered a Temporary Restraining Order to Dorece Sam Antonio, Paiute land defender and direct descendant of Ox Sam, one of the sole survivors of the massacre at Peehee Mu'huh where the lithium mine we are resisting is being built. The order forced Dorece to leave the Ox Sam ceremonial encampment and sacred fire under threat of arrest.
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By Brenda Norrell
Censored News
May 20, 2023

PEEHEE MU'HUH (Thacker Pass) Nevada -- Fort McDermitt Paiute Shoshone Dorece Sam was served with a temporary restraining order by the Humboldt County Sheriffs Department on Friday, as she protected the Paiute Massacre Site from a foreign mining company, Lithium Americas, now ripping into the land.

Paiute and Shoshone are protecting the massacre site, and put up a second tipi this week, which is now the second week of defending the land, water, and sacred place. President Biden and the Interior Department are continuing to green-light the desecration by the lithium mine construction, calling lithium mining "green energy," and violating federal laws which protect Native American burial places, endangered species and groundwater.

Dorece Sam said, "So much has happened our numbers are small. The elders did a call out. As I got up every morning, offering prayers to protect our ancestors' unmarked burial grounds at Thacker Pass, also known as Peehee Muhu, the birds were singing their beautiful morning songs."

"Yesterday at 10:27 am I was served a temporary restraining order by the Humboldt County Sheriff's office," Sam told Censored News.

"This is not right. It is unlawful to keep me from gaining access to our sacred sites,  Sentinel Rock, Nipple Rock, is used by my people."

Dorece Sam is an enrolled member of the Fort McDermitt Paiute Shoshone Nation. She is an Ox Sam descendant, one of the only survivors of the massacre. She is president of the Native American Indian Church of the State of Nevada.

Sam said, "To this day we are in danger of losing our way, of losing who we are as human beings."

"We have a choice to watch evil win, or to stand in our truth, to stand for our children our elders. How long do we have to live, how much are we willing to give."

Ox Sam Camp said in a statement today, May 20th, 2023
Native Americans in Nevada Are Praying Over Their Ancestors Graves. A Court Has Ordered Them to Leave or Be Arrested.
OROVADA, Nevada — For nearly two and a half years, local Native American tribes and leaders have been trying to stop the Thacker Pass lithium project, an open-pit mine that will destroy a sacred site. But despite lawsuits, rallies, regulatory hearings, and community organizing, Lithium Nevada Corporation has now begun construction of the mine at the place Paiutes call “Peehee Mu’huh,” or rotten moon.
But the construction has not gone unopposed.
On May 11th, Native Americans from the Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone and other regional tribes set up a tipi at Thacker Pass and began prayers directly in the path of the construction of Lithium Nevada’s water pipeline. Groups of Native Americans and allies have blocked mine traffic from accessing portions of the construction site for over a week now.
Among those on the site is Dorece Sam, a member of the Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone Tribe and President of the Native American Indian Church, State of Nevada. On Friday, Humboldt County Sheriffs served Sam with paperwork threatening her with arrest if she doesn’t leave the site.
“I’m being threatened with arrest for protecting the graves of my ancestors,” says Sam. “My great-great Grandfather Ox Sam was one of the survivors of the 1865 Thacker Pass massacre that took place here. His family was killed right here as they ran away from the U.S. Army. They were never buried. They’re still here. And now these bulldozers are tearing up this place.”
The prayer camp that was erected on May 11th has been named Ox Sam Newe Momokonee Nokotun (“Indigenous Women’s Camp”) in honor of Ox Sam and his descendants. Visitors from Native American tribes and other land protectors have circulated in and out of the site for the past week.
Another spiritual leader on the front lines has been Dean Barlese, a spiritual leader from the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe. Despite being confined to a wheelchair, Barlese led prayers at the site on April 25th (which led to Lithium Nevada shutting down construction for a day) and returned on May 11th.
“I’m asking people to come to Peehee Mu’huh,” Barlese said. “We need more prayerful people. I’m here because I have connections to these places. My great-great-great grandfathers fought and shed blood in these lands. We’re defending the sacred. Water is sacred. Without water, there is no life. And one day, you’ll find out you can’t eat money.”
The 1865 Thacker Pass massacre is well documented in historical sources, books, newspapers, and oral histories. Despite the evidence but unsurprisingly, the Federal Government has not protected Thacker Pass or even slowed construction of the mine to allow for consultation to take place with Tribes. In late February, the Federal Government recognized tribal arguments that Thacker Pass is a “Traditional Cultural District.” But that didn’t stop construction from commencing.
Three other supporters have also been threatened with arrest over the past week — Protect Thacker Pass co-founder Max Wilbert, Community Rights U.S. founding director Paul Cienfuegos, and documentarian and videographer Chuck Banner. All three men are white and aren’t leaders of the Ox Sam Camp, but were present on-site following direction from Native elders. This targeting of non-Natives has led observers to speculate that Lithium Nevada Corporation is seeking to avoid discussing Native American concerns at all costs.
“This is not a protest, it’s a prayer,” said Barlese. “But they’re still scared of me. They’re scared of all of us elders, because they know we’re right and they’re wrong.”
On Thursday, a second tipi went up a few miles from the first, and more supporters arrived at the Ox Sam Camp. With full-scale construction scheduled to begin in June, the conflict between so-called “green mining” and land and water protectors may be just getting started.
Thacker Pass is located in northern Nevada near the Oregon border, where Lithium Nevada Corporation is in the first phase of building a $2 billion open-pit lithium mine which would the largest of its kind in North America. The lithium is mainly destined for General Motors Corporation’s electric car batteries, which the corporation laughably claims is “green.” Mine opponents call this greenwashing and have stated that “it’s not green to blow up a mountain.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has granted Lithium Nevada corporation and all other business corporations a whole variety of constitutional "rights" that were never meant for business entities. Without these special so-called corporate "rights," the mine owners would never have been allowed to construct this mine.
Three Native American tribes filed a new lawsuit against the Federal Government over Lithium Nevada Corporation’s planned Thacker Pass lithium mine on February 16, 2023, the latest legal move in the two-and-a-half-year struggle over mining, greenwashing, and sacred land in northern Nevada.
The Tribes notified the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on May 19th that they mean to appeal their Motion seeking a Preliminary Injunction which was rejected by a lower court in early March. Four environmental groups which lost their case in January have also appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and are expected to be heard in June.
Additional Resources for Media
Photographs and video files can be found online using the hashtags #OxSamCamp #ProtectPeeheeMuhuh and #ProtectThackerPass

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