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Las Vegas DSA stands opposed to Lithium Nevada’s project at Thacker Pass (Peehee mu’huh)

May 17, 2021 | Press Release
Las Vegas Democratic Socialists of America

Las Vegas Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) stands opposed to Lithium Nevada’s project to exploit the sacred land of the Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribe at Thacker Pass (Peehee mu’huh). We recognize the project will destroy the ecosystem and health of the earth with debilitating consequences for both the local environment and the lives of Paiute and Shoshone people. This is unconscionable and unacceptable — for environmental, feminist, and socialist reasons.

First, Thacker Pass’s destruction would lead to the poisoning of groundwater for up to 300 years by extracting the land for lithium. Marketing officials and corporate profiteers have capitalized on this form of land colonization as an adaptation to environmental concerns that rightfully condemn the empires of oil and gas built on incalculable harm to marginalized communities. Lithium enables the mass production of electric vehicles by providing a supply chain for the batteries needed to power Tesla cars.  Lithium batteries expand the capacity of auto companies to feed environmentally-conscious consumers’ demand for electric cars. Wall Street stuffed $3.5 billion into the pockets of its lithium vanguard to that end. Rather than finding new ways to generate revenue without exacerbating the destruction of ecosystems, the billionaire class has rebranded environmental degradation as environmental preservation. Thacker Pass is more than just a growth area, more than just a profit opportunity — it is a home for land, water, wildlife, hunting and gathering, and a history of harmony predating settler-colonialism. Peehee mu’huh is the refuge of ibi, a chalky rock utilized for treating ulcers, as well as toza root – an incredible anti-viral medicine. These, combined with the sagebrush used for brewing tea for respiratory illness, are pivotal in the lives of Indigenous disabled people. Lithium Nevada threatens the people of the Tribe’s access to these important items. In the words of the Nevada Statewide Native American Caucus, “greenwashing extractive industries does nothing but excuse anti-Indigenous harm.”

Lithium mining’s harm in Thacker Pass would also be deeply gendered. The epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, trans and two-spirit people (MMIWG2S) is a rampant crisis across Indian Country — one that has been identified as an ongoing genocide. Indigenous women are murdered at ten times the rates of other ethnicities and more than four out of five Indigenous women experience violence. More than half experience sexual violence. More often than not, this violence against Native women is perpetrated by non-Native people who take advantage of their power on stolen land. The lack of prioritization by settler governments — from the United States government to the Nevada state government — makes the actual scale of the epidemic impossible to calculate in lieu of adequate statistics, but we do know extractive industry expansion directly enables more violence against Indigenous people on their land and in their homes. As protectors wrote, “[ the destruction of Thacker Pass ] will lead to an increase in hard drugs, violence, rape, sexual assault, and human trafficking.” Lithium mining’s expansion will exponentially worsen this crisis of violence disproportionately impacting Indigenous women, trans, and two-spirit people.

Finally, we recognize lithium mining has the potential to replicate the exact same systems of colonialism that undergird white supremacist power relations on stolen land across the Western Hemisphere. Mining has always been the shock troop of colonization across the Americas. Eduardo Galeano, in his seminal Open Veins of Latin America, describes how the “installation of a mining economy had direr consequences than the fire and sword of war” (43). In the past, the mines not only displaced Indigenous people; they also contributed to the wholesale destruction of Indigenous civilizations. Argentinian historian and sociologist Sergio Bagú wrote how “hundreds of Indian sculptors, architects, engineers, and astronomers were sent into the mines along with the mass of slaves for the killing task of getting out the ore.” This brutality is one of the documented historical impacts of colonial greed for the riches of the earth on Indigenous people’s lives and livelihoods in the Americas.

The ruling classes’ desire to reap Indigenous resources has not changed. The incentive to extract by any means necessary is identical in 2021 as it was 500 years ago. As the New York Times wrote, “analysts estimate that lithium demand is going to increase tenfold before the end of this decade as Tesla, Volkswagen, General Motors and other automakers introduce dozens of electric models.” Thacker Pass was greenlit by the Trump Administration, but the Biden-Harris Administration, seeking to make the United States a leader in combating climate change, also has a vested interest in lithium extraction. Becoming a leader of lithium production would make the United States a global leader in raw materials to cut greenhouse gases by enabling green capitalism. But green capitalism is the road to green colonialism. The green capitalist perspective views stolen land and Indigenous people as necessary sacrifices for green industries and renewable energy resources. As a result of the Indigenous uprisings and socialist movements that curbed their monstrous activities across the Western Hemisphere, mining executives may not engage in the same blatant colonialist tactics of previous generations, but their actions will still profit off of the blood of people of color and minoritized communities. Demand for lithium, left unchecked, will contribute to a gold rush across the world that is detrimental to collective liberation, decolonization, and Indigenous sovereignty. Lithium mines will open in California, Oregon, Tennessee, Arkansas, North Carolina; lithium mines will then become the political capital of far-right forces in Bolivia, home to Salar de Uyuni, which holds half to two-thirds of all lithium in the earth. A country led by Movimiento al Socialismo, a mass party of Indigenous and socialist interests across society, will be identified by Wall Street as the linchpin of the future of capitalism — setting the scene for an unprecedented force for intervention by imperialists in Bolivia.

Lithium mining, at face value, seems like an acceptable alternative to traditional extraction. There can be nothing further from the truth. Lithium extraction at Peehee mu’huh would lead to horrifying consequences for the land and its people, the Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribe. Extraction will destroy the groundwater and Native medicinal ingredients vital for disabled people, as well as lead to even worse violence against Indigenous women, girls, trans and two-spirit people. It will fuel a capitalist scramble across the world, which will lead to new forms of colonialism. Lithium Americas, their pockets lined with Wall Street gold, hover over Paiute and Shoshone land like vultures of death. We must take a stand. We must fight under the leadership of the Indigenous protectors whose lives and livelihoods are directly threatened by extractivism.

We call on all comrades to support Indigenous land and water protectors. If you can, go to Thacker Pass. If you cannot put your body on the line at Peehee mu’huh, contribute to the People of Red Mountain to help pay for travel expenses, legal costs, and media outreach. If you cannot contribute funds, then share the People of Red Mountain’s petition widely in your own social circles. We must take a stand now at Thacker Pass for the sake of justice, both in the present and in the future, to halt the lithium rush in its tracks.