Local politics, the county, and the world, as viewed by Tammy Maygra

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Darker side of electric cars in spotlight | The National

Lithium Mining


An Australian company, mining lithium in the US, cares nothing for Native Peoples Scared Lands.   They care nothing for their own Native people why would they care about ours?


Cholla Canyon Ranch, includes approximately 360 acres about halfway between Phoenix and Las Vegas, flanked to the west by the lush riparian corridor of Big Sandy River. The valley is part of an ancient salt route connecting tribes from as far north as central Utah to communities in Baja California and along the Pacific Coast, documented in the songs and oral traditions of many Indigenous nations. The Hualapai Indian tribe harvest native plant materials along the river corridor for everything from cradle boards to drums.


Then comes mining companies, the mining company USA Lithium Ltd., which has since been acquired by Hawkstone Mining Ltd. hadn’t told the Hualapai Tribe it was searching for lithium on nearby Bureau of Land Management lands. The company eventually bulldozed a network of roads, drilling nearly 50 test wells more than 300 feet deep in the sacred landscape.


This summer, Hawkstone plans to triple its exploratory drilling, almost encircling Canyon Ranch and the springs it protects. In the next few years, Hawkstone hopes to break ground on an open-pit mine and dig an underground slurry to pipe the ore about 50 miles to a plant in Kingman, Arizona, where it will use sulfuric acid to extract the lithium. Lithium, which is listed as a critical mineral, is crucial for reaching the Biden administration’s goal of replacing gas-guzzling vehicles with electric vehicles, and Big Sandy Valley is relatively close to the Tesla factory in Nevada. Altogether, Hawkstone has mining rights on more than 5,000 acres of public land in Arizona for this project. Yet tribes whose sacred sites are at risk have almost no say in its decisions.


Public lands from Bears Ears to Oak Flat contain countless areas of cultural and religious importance. But when tribes have gone to court to protect these sites — and their own religious freedom — they’ve consistently lost. Courts have narrowly interpreted what counts as a religious burden for tribes, largely to preserve the federal government’s ability to use public lands as it sees fit.

The trouble for native people started in American courts over 180 years ago. The roots of this policy are centuries deep. In the landmark 1823 case Johnson v. M’Intosh, the Supreme Court ruled that Indigenous people could not sell land to private owners in the United States, because they did not own it. Instead, Christian colonizers were the rightful owners, based on the Spanish colonial “Doctrine of Discovery,” a racist and anti-Indigenous policy holding that non-Christian, non-European societies were inferior, and that Christian European nations had a superior right to all land.


The Supreme Court actually stole the native people’s land, and the Christians treated the Indians like dirt, the Christians feel superior to native people all in the name of the “Lord” how horrible and vile.  And their beliefs of many Christians continue on today not only for native people but all people who do not follow in their crazy ideas.


Christians justified the claiming of the land was that the colonizers would teach the Indigenous people Christianity. If they rejected Christianity, then they essentially forfeited their rights to the land and resources. Just a back door way to steal the native peoples land in a sneaky way. By the late 1800s, the United States had banned Indigenous religious practices, forcing tribes to socially and politically assimilate, and to adopt Christianity through agricultural, lifestyle and religious practices.


Modern courts have continued to weaken protections for Indigenous religious freedom on public lands. In the precedent-setting 1988 case Lyng v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Protective Association, the Supreme Court ruled that the Forest Service could widen a logging road in Northern California’s Six Rivers National Forest, even though it would destroy a region that was essential to the religious beliefs of tribes including the Yurok, Carok and Tolowa. The Supreme Court reasoned that although the location might be utterly wrecked, that destruction did not violate the Constitution, because it would not force tribal members to violate their religious beliefs or punish them for practicing their religions.


Even assuming that the Government's actions here will virtually destroy the Indians’ ability to practice their religion, the Constitution simply does not provide a principle that could justify upholding respondents’ legal claims,” Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote in the majority opinion.

The US Government continues to say; The court ruled, in part, to avoid granting tribes broad control over their ancestral lands through the exercise of their religious freedom. “Whatever rights the Indians may have to the use of the area, those rights do not divest the Government of its rights to use what is, after all, its land,” the ruling said. When in fact these lands belonged to the Native people and had for centuries. The US government refuses to acknowledge the fact that they stole the Native people’s lands.


Understandably the government’s view, the Native people were a conquered people and were supposed to become part of the quote citizenry. But in reality, the US government has screwed the Native People from the start, oppression, lying, treating the Native People horrible, killing them, treating them like dogs, and breaking every agreement they ever made with the native People.


Though Congress partially protected that sacred region by adding it to the Siskiyou Wilderness Area, the Lyng ruling still reverberates across Indian Country today they have created a double standard in how Indigenous sacred sites are treated.


Where the government protects other religious freedoms, tribes such as the Hualapai, which depend  on the federal government to access sacred sites,  is completely different from  that of Jewish prisoners who adhere to a kosher diet, or Sikh members of the military whose faith forbids them to cut their hair. In all of these circumstances, religious freedoms are controlled by the government. But, tribal members don’t get the same religious protections.


As things stand, state and federal agencies may permit irreversible damage with little input from affected Indigenous communities. Indeed, communication between the BLM and Hualapai Tribe about Hawkstone’s Big Sandy River Valley lithium impacts has been almost nonexistent. Although the BLM invited the Hualapai Tribe to consult with the agency in June 2020 about Hawkstone’s exploration plans, the agency later rebuffed the tribe’s request to be a coordinating agency on the project. It also rejected the suggestion that a tribal elder walk through the area and educate the agency about the cultural resources and history that mining might imperil.


The BLM said that it found only four cultural resource sites in the proposed drilling area. Of those, it said it would attempt to avoid one, which was eligible for protection under the National Historic Preservation Act. Meanwhile, in its publicly available environmental assessment, the agency stated that effects to Native American religious concerns or traditional values were “to be determined,” and that it was consulting with the Hualapai Tribe, among others.


For its part, in March Hawkstone said that All indigenous title is cleared and there are no other known historical or environmentally sensitive areas.” Hawkstone’s report ignores the fact that even when tribes lack legal title to their traditional lands, those spaces still hold religious and cultural importance.


When asked for comment, Doug Pitts, a U.S. advisor at Hawkstone Mining said given the early stage of the project, we do not feel a discussion on the project is worthwhile at this time. In other words the  mining company gives nothing about native people, they of course are putting money and profit over what is right.


Even without a clear legal path forward, the Hualapai Tribe has not given up on protecting its religious practices from lithium exploration. Nor is it alone: In April, the Inter-Tribal Association of Arizona, representing 21 nations including the Hualapai, passed a resolution objecting to the lithium mining, calling the BLM’s environmental analysis grossly insufficient. Recently, the BLM agreed to extend the comment period until June 10.


We have seen how the US government acts and treats native People over corporate interests, during the Standing Rock protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline which in part concerned the destruction of burials, the authorities’ response was violent, and tribal nations, for a long while, were the only ones who seemed to care. And in the end, the pipeline was built. After 180 years the US government still treats native people the same.


While many folks believe electric cars are part of the answer to climate change, I am not on board with this new technology. The harm that Lithium mining causes to the land, water, the harm to water from the chemicals that are used in the process of lithium for batteries is horrible, and a danger to the ground water.


So do we trade off one contaminate for another? Recent advancements in the combustion engine makes the gas fired engines cleaner. Energy saved has increased. Right now, both are comparable, what is different in the process and its contaminates. We trade one for the other, I hope that electric cars will evolve in the way they use batteries and dispose of batteries, and the way the batteries components are manufactured including the mining and its by- products.


Hopefully technology will evolve faster and we can address all these issues and we can live in a cleaner world, and a world where we don’t need to rape the planet of all its natural resources and then pollute the planet in return.











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