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
Dennis Daw: Fish and Wildlife Program Director
Dennis grew up in Idaho fishing, hunting, and learning to love everything the outdoors has to offer. This passion became his career. Dennis has a B.S. in Biology with an emphasis in Ecology and an M.S. in Biology, both from Boise State University. He spent six years working for Idaho Fish and Game as a Fisheries Technician working on a variety of research projects throughout the state of Idaho. He was the Fisheries Biologist for the Shoshone Paiute Tribes of Duck Valley for three years before transitioning to a job with National Marine Fisheries Service writing biological opinions as a contract employee. In April of 2021, Dennis started as the Fish and Wildlife Program Director for the Upper Snake River Tribes Foundation. Dennis lives in Meridian with his wife and two sons.
Completed Projects and Programs
Tribal Youth Spring Break Field Trips
Under the Environmental Program, USRT has put on two of its first ever Tribal Youth Spring Break Field Trips! We hosted these trips in an effort to connect indigenous youth with nature and climate education opportunities in their ancestral homeland. These trips included activities such as a Climate 101 lesson with USRT, archery and jewelry making with 4H, Snow School with Bogus Basin, an interactive activity on renewable energy with Idaho Power, and a lab demonstration and campus tour with Boise State University.
Salmon Story Map
Dennis Daw created an interactive story map that depicts the loss of salmon due to the construction of various dams.
USRT is currently exploring the idea of hosting two Tribal Youth Summer Camps. These camps would aim to connect the indigenous youth from our member tribes to nature and their ancestral homeland while also educating them on climate change and environmental science.
USRT will be participating in this year’s Idaho Gives! Idaho Gives is a program of the Idaho Nonprofit Center that is designed to bring the state together and raise money and awareness of Idaho nonprofits. By participating in Idaho Gives, USRT hopes to uplift our mission to the public and raise money to fund our various goals and programs. Donations are collected May 1-4.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call 303-466-1725 ext. 4.
Idaho 4-H State Teen Association Convention (STAC)
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Upper Snake River Tribes Foundation does not have the authority to conduct government-to-government consultation on behalf of our four member tribes. Upper Snake River Tribes Foundation policy goals are met through coordination, information gathering and dissemination, facilitation of technical and policy meetings, and drafting of technical and policy statements for tribal approval.