Protection of Sacred and Environmentally Sensitive Landscapes in the McDermitt Caldera

McDermitt Caldera
Protection of Sacred and Environmentally Sensitive Landscapes in the McDermitt Caldera
People of Red Mountain
Nevada & Oregon

People of Red Mountain (Atsa Koodakuh wyh Nuwu) is an Indigenous-led organization representing Paiute, Shoshone, and Bannock people of Nevada, Oregon, and Idaho. The group’s values include protecting Indigenous knowledge and restoring the original stewards to the land. The members continue to protect ancestral homelands, religion, and culture against threats that include harmful, extractive practices and the destruction of sacred landscapes within the McDermitt Caldera and beyond.

The McDermitt Caldera spans a biodiverse landscape across Nevada and Oregon, abundant with cultural significance to Paiute, Shoshone, and Bannock people. These native communities continue to use these important landscapes for contemporary uses, ceremonies, hunting, and gathering traditional foods and medicines. The Caldera was shaped millions of years ago and is full of culturally significant places and home to various species that inhabit the harsh high desert basins and rugged mountain ranges. This includes vast sagebrush habitat for mule deer, pronghorn antelope, greater sage grouse, bighorn sheep, and golden and bald eagles. Local waterways are home to Lahontan cutthroat trout, a threatened species.

In 2021, the community heard about a proposed lithium mine in Thacker Pass, located in the southern part of the Caldera. Unfortunately, details were not available to the community until after the mine was approved, and a final decision by the Courts in July 2023 allowed the mine to continue construction. During this time, descendants of the local tribes came together to form People of Red Mountain to lift community voices and more effectively engage in future land management decisions. The group is working with a coalition that includes Great Basin Resource Watch, Oregon Natural Desert Association, Earthworks, and Wildlands Defense. There are now five additional lithium mine claims in the Caldera; the focus of the coalition has shifted from the southern region to cover the entire Caldera area. Coalition partners will work on outreach and education to make sure community members are aware of the existing claims and impacts. They will also work to build relationships with state and federal leaders and other relevant stakeholder groups. With funding from The Conservation Alliance, People of Red Mountain will work to create and implement a two-year strategic plan with advocacy actions, a communications strategy, and a theory of change.