The Fight for Tosawihi.

Photo by Joseph Zummo Tosawihi Complex, a contemporary Native cultural landscape with roots in the deep past.

Photo by Joseph Zummo
Tosawihi Complex, a contemporary Native cultural landscape with roots in the deep past.

As I have mentioned so many times before, Indigenous people all over the world face the constant destruction, or threat of destruction to their homelands, and to sacred places. This is a difficult issue to get across to most Americans, who have no sense which is at all similar to that of Natives, and perspectives are so very different. (For a bit on that, read the excerpt from one of John Trudell’s essays, in the comments here.) Anyroad, there is an in-depth article and photo essay about the fight the Western Shoshone are facing over the spiritual heart of their traditional homeland. As is often seen in such cases, the destruction is well beyond what was necessary, such in the swathes cut for telephone poles, which was much wider and destructive than was close to needed. This contempt is almost always seen in such cases. Non-natives rarely have any care for what natives view as sacred, because all they see is land they can ravage or make money from. They don’t see or understand the sacred, and they know nothing, and seldom care about the history which is there. You all know we have seen that here already in Ndakota, with the contempt from DA and Energy Transfer, then being locked out of the survey of our own sacred sites. All this and more is happening in Nevada right now. Just a very small excerpt here, please go and read the whole article.

[…] The place is ancient, but the fight to protect it is contemporary. Decades of mining have left scars. Like 83 percent of Nevada, Tosawihi sits on federal land administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), an Interior Department agency. The BLM, which issues mining permits, calls Western Shoshone accusations of mining-related destruction the product of a “different worldview.” Tribal members say that if the BLM followed federal law, including historic-preservation and environmental regulations, damage could be avoided.

In June, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to stay construction for a mining-related power line in Tosawihi until a way could be found to save the ancestral healer’s trail, which had been determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The Band appealed the ruling. Despite the issue still being before the courts, employees of Carlin Resources, part of an international consortium that owned an open-pit gold mine in Tosawihi, fired up their yellow bulldozer. They plowed a rough, nearly 12-mile-long road, along with 50-foot-wide gashes for the bases of the utility poles. They gouged a trench into the side of a nearby hill used for vision quests.

They obliterated much of the healer’s trail, along with the natural pharmacy he cultivated alongside it. Tanya Reynolds, an official of the South Fork Band of the Te-Moak Western Shoshone, called the destruction “beyond words, beyond what is possible to fix.”

“They’re after money and will literally move mountains to get it,” said Murray Sope, from the Shoshone-Paiute Tribe. “But these places are also very valuable to us for teaching our children.”

Demolition of irreplaceable ancient artifacts usually merits outrage, or at least notice. The Islamic State, or ISIS, was widely condemned when it released footage of a yellow bulldozer demolishing the Gates of Ninevah, in the remains of an ancient city in Iraq. Major media outlets reported shock worldwide when ISIS smashed museum exhibits and when the Taliban blew up the Buddhas of Bamiyan, in Afghanistan.

In contrast, portions of Tosawihi have simply vanished in a national, and international, blind spot. “We don’t understand their need to destroy,” said Joe Holley, former chairman and now councilman of the Battle Mountain Band of the Te-Moak Western Shoshone. “We are realistic. We know we can’t stop them entirely, but we want them to partner with us. They need to listen when we flag endangered cultural resources. They need to follow their own laws.”

Federal authorities have permitted destruction of Native sites nationwide. In September, more than 1,200 museum directors and scholars condemned the builders of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) for destroying Sioux burial grounds in North Dakota with apparent U.S. Army Corps of Engineers authorization. The Obama administration asked the builders, Energy Transfer Partners, to halt work until it could scrutinize tribal-consultation policies, including how they had been applied in the DAPL process.

That did not necessarily signal a policy change, though. A few weeks later, under a permit issued on behalf of President Obama by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the same company bulldozed ancient Native sites in Texas, turning them into a sea of mud.

In Tosawihi, the BLM-authorized power line stoked fears of more aggressive mining to come, said Reggie Sope, the healer from Shoshone-Paiute Tribe who ran the sweat lodge ceremony.

“Work began yesterday,” confirmed John Seaberg, senior vice president of the gold mine’s new owner, Klondex, which bought the operation on October 4. Depending on the results of exploratory testing, the company may install another ramp (inclined mining tunnel), Seaberg said. He called tribes “key stakeholders” in the process but refused to comment on ongoing lawsuits. They include Carlin’s suit against the Battle Mountain Band, which the Band has asked the courts to dismiss.

The full 3 page article is at ICTMN.


  1. rq says

    They say “different worldview” like it’s a bad thing; like political correctness.
    And yes, to them, it is a terrible thing, because it stands in the way of profit.
    Unfortunately, their own worldview makes them insensitive assholes.

    The scenery is beautiful and fantastic; it is a shame to see it wantonly destroyed for a few utility poles and an ugly road.

  2. says

    Unfortunately, mining still holds sway throughout Nevada, it’s the largest and richest business, outside gambling, of course. Been that way for as long as I can remember. Back in the day, Rick worked a few of the gold mines there (as a conveyor tech, not a miner).

    They are big enough, and wealthy enough to be able to work with the Western Shoshone on these issues, but they don’t want to. Now I’m wondering if this fight in particular had anything to do with the vehicle assault in Reno.

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