Upper Snake River Tribes Foundation Newsletter

Read about projects USRT staff members have been working on, engagement opportunities, recent news about our member tribes, upcoming events, and resources.

USRT Employee Highlight

Completed Projects and Programs

Story Map Link

Looking Forward

Tribe Highlight

The Shoshone-Paiute Tribe of the Duck Valley Reservation

The Shoshone-Paiute Tribe of the Duck Valley Reservation resides on the border of Idaho and Nevada in Owyhee County and is home to around 1,700 Shoshone-Paiute members. The tribes once occupied the tri-state area of Idaho, Nevada, and Oregon, but due to European colonization, the Paiute and Shoshone people were forced to unify and move to the Duck Valley Reservation in order to survive.

The Shoshone-Paiute tribe is now governed by the Business Council which is composed of a Chairman, Vice-Chairman, and five elected Council Members of whom serve a three-year term. Farming and Ranching remain a mainstay for the tribes which is reflected in their 12,000 acres of subjugated land.

Learn More About The History of the Shoshone-Paiute People

Learn More!

Check out the 2022 Tribal ArcGIS StoryMaps Challenge!

The 2022 Tribal ArcGIS StoryMaps Challenge, hosted by Esri, encourages US tribal nations, members, and college students to tell place-based stories about tribal heritage and sustainability.

Cleve Davis of the Fort Hall Reservation won third place in People’s Choice for his StoryMap “So Long as Game May Be Found Thereon…”

Check out the Winning StoryMaps!

Exciting Opportunities and Events

Honoring Our Rivers: A Students Anthology

Deadline for Submission: April 28, 2023

ATTENTION K-12 TEACHERS: Do your students draw, write poetry, essays, or

stories? Do they love rivers, animals, and the environment? Are you looking for ways to bring the arts and sciences together and meet Common Core and NGS standards?

Honoring Our Rivers is a program that showcases student writing and artwork

focused on rivers and watersheds.

Begun over 20 years ago by Willamette Partnership, it is being revived by

CLEARING Magazine. This year, Oregon and SW Washington students are invited to submit their creative work to be included in the 2023 Honoring Our Rivers Anthology.

More Information and Submission Guidelines

Applications are Open for the National Native American Environmental Awareness Summer Youth Practicum

Deadline: May 5, 2023

The Native American Fish and Wildlife Society (NAFWS) is accepting applications for the National Native American Environmental Awareness Summer Youth Practicum (SYP), designed to provide Native American students (incoming 10th – 12th grade) an opportunity to gain hands-on and in-lecture experience in the interdisciplinary components of natural resource management and Indigenous knowledge. This free, week-long practicum will take place from July 15 – July 22, 2023 at Colorado State University Mountain Campus, Colorado. Questions and requests for additional information can be directed to Ashley Mueller, Education Coordinator, at or call 303-466-1725 ext. 4.

Learn about the Practicum and Application Process

Idaho 4-H State Teen Association Convention (STAC)

STAC Mission

The Idaho 4-H State Teen Association Convention (STAC) program mission — The Idaho 4-H State Teen Association Convention is an opportunity for youth to experience college life, explore career opportunities and prepare for a lifetime of success with other Idaho teens.

The 2023 State Teen Association Convention will be held on June 26-29, 2023

Both 4-H and non 4-H youth are provided the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of activities, including:

  • Educational workshops

  • Community and campus tours

  • Service learning projects

  • State Teen Association elections

  • On-campus living

  • Discovering more about 4-H and 4-H opportunities

  • Networking with peers from across the state

Registration opens in April

Learn More About STAC

NW Tribal Clean Energy Summit

On June 12-14, 2023 at the Tulalip Resort and Casino, the 2023 Northwest Tribal Clean Energy Summit will convene Tribes to learn, share information, and advance Tribal clean energy initiatives in the Pacific Northwest. The Summit will engage Tribal leaders, citizens, staff, youth and collaborators in conversation about navigating the cultural, economic, and social challenges of implementing clean energy projects. Our goals include:

  • Ensure that Tribes have the information, support, capacity and resources necessary to plan for and implement Tribal Energy Projects.

  • Increase Tribal awareness of opportunities and challenges faced by other Tribes in developing energy projects and when partnering with outside partners for planning, policy development and project implementation.

  • Improving project success by appropriately engaging and consulting with Tribes.

  • Assess Tribal needs interests, and priorities related to Energy sovereignty, while providing listening opportunities for intertribal collaboration to move those priorities forward.

Learn More and Register

Call for Regional Steering Committees for Global Indigenous Youth Summit on Climate Change

AUGUST 9, 2023

The United Nations Institute for Training and Research is seeking Indigenous Youth Leaders for the Global Indigenous Youth Summit on Climate Change (GIYSCC) Regional Steering Committees (RSCs). Members will actively participate in convening and developing the agenda for the GIYSCC – a 24 hour summit convened by, for and among Indigenous youths across the world. Topics covered by the summit will include Climate Change Impact Perceptions / Knowledge by Indigenous Youth; Indigenous Climate Change Adaptation / Resilience Strategies; Climate Change Communication; Current Realities on Climate Change; and Future Perspectives on Climate Change.


Cancer Deaths Spur Worries about Decades-Old School

The Shoshone-Paiute Tribes of the Duck Valley Indian Reservation are hoping to move their high school as it becomes clear that there is a correlation between tribal members attending the same school building and getting cancer.

Read Article by Jessica Hill

Colombia River Treaty Renewal Won’t Just Go with the Flow: Salmon, Environment, First Nation Interests on the Table

Canadian and US negotiators addressing far more complex issues than in the first agreement, created nearly six decades ago, that covers a drainage area the size of France.

Read Article by Gordon Hoekstra

On the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation, A New School Aims to Preserve Culture, Language, Sense of Community

The Ute Mountain Tribe opened a charter school in Towaoc, CO with the goal of keeping the Ute language, culture, and community strong.

Read Article by Mark Stevens

How Native American Tribes Will Shape the Future of Water in the West

Tribal nations hold the rights to significant portions of the Colorado River. In the increasing droughts, some are showing the way to sustainability.

Read Article by Rachel Monroe

Instead of Planting Trees, Give Forests back to People

Forest flourish under community control, and NASA has the satellite imagery to show it.

Read Article by Justine Calma

Reno-Sparks Indian Colony Statement on Court Decision on Nevada Lithium Mine

RENO, NV — On Monday, Judge Miranda Du issued her decision in the consolidated Thacker Pass court cases including Case No. 3:21-cv-00080-MMD-CLB, the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony and Burns Paiute Tribe lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management.

Judge Du ruled against the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony and all the other plaintiffs except on one, limited argument. She found that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) did not determine whether or not Lithium Nevada possesses valid mineral rights for 1,300 of the 18,000 acres that the mine would cover. The judge is allowing the rest of the mine to proceed while BLM determines whether Lithium Nevada possesses those rights.

“We have expected this decision for some time,” said Arlan Melendez, Chairman of the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony. “This does not mean consultation was done correctly and it does not mean this fight is over. We will be continuing to advocate for this sacred site.”

The Reno-Sparks Indian Colony attorney Will Falk said in a statement, “Law is a limited tactic – especially in public lands mining cases where the law presumes corporations have a right to mine. If we’re going to truly protect Thacker Pass, we’re going to have to do more than file lawsuits and litigate in court. We cannot rely on the government or a judge to protect Thacker Pass. We’ll have to do it ourselves.”

Falk is the co-founder of Protect Thacker Pass, which led a protest camp on the site for much of 2021.

Thacker Pass, known as Peehee Mu’huh in Paiute, is a sacred site to regional tribes whose ancestors lived in the area for thousands of years, and were massacred there on at least two occasions. It’s also critical habitat for wildlife including pronghorn, Greater sage-grouse, golden eagles, mule deer, and an endangered snail species, the King’s River Pyrg.

Lithium Nevada claims that its lithium mine will be essential to producing batteries for combating global warming, and the Biden administration has previously indicated some support for Thacker Pass. Opponents of the project have called this “greenwashing,” arguing that the project would harm important wildlife habitat and create significant pollution. They say that electric cars are still harmful to the planet.


  • January 15, 2021 — Due to “fast-tracked” permitting under the Trump Administration, the Bureau of Land Management releases a Record of Decision approving the Thacker Pass mine less than a year after beginning the Environmental Impact Statement process. On the same day, Max Wilbert and Will Falk established the Protect Thacker Pass camp.

  • February 11, 2021 — Local rancher Edward Bartell files a lawsuit (Case No. 3:21-cv-00080-MMD-CLB) in U.S. District Court alleging the proposed mine violates the Endangered Species Act by harming Lahontan Cutthroat Trout, and would cause irreparable harm to springs, wet meadows, and water tables.

  • February 26, 2021 — Four environmental organizations (Basin and Range Watch, Great Basin Resource Watch, Wildlands Defense, and Western Watersheds Project) file another lawsuit (Case No. 3:21-cv-00103-MMD-CLB) in U.S. District Court, alleging that BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act, Federal Land Policy Management Act, and other laws in permitting the Thacker Pass mine.

  • June 24, 2021 — The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), the oldest and largest national organization of American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments, calls on the Department of the Interior to rescind the permits for the Thacker Pass project.

  • Spring and Summer 2021 — Rallies, protests, and prayer runs take place in Orovada, Winnemucca, Reno, Carson City, and at Thacker Pass. More than 100 mine opponents gather at Thacker Pass to commemorate the 156-year anniversary of a September 12, 1865 massacre of at least 31 Northern Paiute men, women, and children committed by the 1st Nevada Cavalry. Thousands of people visit the site.

  • July 19, 2021 — The Reno-Sparks Indian Colony and Atsa koodakuh wyh Nuwu (People of Red Mountain) files a successful motion to intervene in Federal District Court (Case No. 3:21-cv-00080-MMD-CLB) alleging that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) violated the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) in permitting the planned lithium mine.

  • August 2, 2021 — Burns Paiute Tribe files a motion to intervene on the side of tribal plaintiffs (Case No. 3:21-cv-00080-MMD-CLB).

  • September 15, 2021 — Bureau of Land Management accuses Will Falk and Max Wilbert of trespass for providing bathrooms to native elders at Thacker Pass, fining them $49,890.13.

  • October 8, 2021 — Eighteen native elders from three regional tribes request a BLM permit for their ceremonial camp. The BLM does not respond.

  • November 29, 2021 — The Reno-Sparks Indian Colony files an amended complaint in federal court alleging major previously unknown violations of the law. In January, Judge Miranda Du rejects the amended complaint because she wants to make a final decision on the case within a few months (note that the case has now continued for another calendar year).

  • February 11th, 2022 — Winnemucca Indian Colony files a motion to intervene in the lawsuit on the side of plaintiffs, claiming that BLM’s contention that they consulted with the Tribe is completely false. Judge Du rejects this motion shortly afterwards with the same reasoning used above.

  • April 4th, 2022 — Reno-Sparks Indian Colony files a Motion for Discovery Sanctions alleging that the BLM has been disobeying court orders and making “reckless, false statements” in a deliberate attempt to abuse the justice system and limit judicial oversight. Judge Du agrees with RSIC, but rejects the motion on a technicality.

  • August 2022 — BLM “discovers” five new historic sites at Thacker Pass and for the first time acknowledges the September 12, 1865 massacre took place, but continues to reject tribal expertise.

  • September 2022 — Lithium Nevada Corporation begins digging up portions of Thacker Pass for “bulk sampling” despite consultation still being ongoing between the Bureau of Land Management and regional tribes over cultural sites.

  • October 2022 — Dozens of mining activists from four continents visit Thacker Pass as part of the Western Mining Action Network biennial conference.

  • January 31, 2023 — General Motors Corporation (GMC) announces a $650m equity investment in Lithium Americas Corporation (LAC) for exclusive access to battery raw materials in Phase 1 of the mine project. GMC will use lithium carbonate from Thacker Pass Lithium Mine Project in Ultium battery cells.

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