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Tribes, renewable industry work together for a new national monument (opinion)


Submitted by Amos Murphy, Chairman, Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation; Debbie O’Neil, Chairwoman, Duckwater Shoshone Tribe; Alvin Marques, Chairman, Ely Shoshone Tribe; Hunter Armistead, CEO, Pattern Energy

Preserving and commemorating our nation’s history is a fundamental benefit for all Americans. That includes Native American history. And while Tribal nations have many nationally significant histories to share, they have often not been afforded the opportunity.

Three Tribal nations – the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation, Duckwater Shoshone Tribe, and Ely Shoshone Tribe (Tribes) – in eastern Nevada have one such story to tell. The Tribes are working diligently to preserve and commemorate a place called Bahsahwahbee as a National Monument within the National Park System. Located near Great Basin National Park, and adjacent to Pattern Energy’s Spring Valley Wind facility, these federal public lands deserve special recognition by the National Park Service.

Bahsahwahbee has been a sacred place for the Tribes since time immemorial. But during the 19th century, as settlers expanded into indigenous Newe territories, this place was targeted repeatedly in the attempted eradication of Newe people. A traditional place of celebration and ceremony became a place of three massacres and heavy trauma.

Bahsahwahbee deserves the highest standards of preservation, commemoration and storytelling that this nation has to offer, in part because preserving our shared heritage improves the well-being of our society and moral foundation. For Tribal nations, protecting places that hold cultural and spiritual significance is one important step on the path towards healing generational traumas and shaping a better, brighter future. For the country, it provides educational opportunities that leave people more informed and with a greater appreciation of our collective American story. 

Rupert Steele at a place Tribal communities call Bahsahwahbee, which Tribal nations and renewable energy companies want to preserve as a national monument. Photo: Monte Sanford

Until recently, this history of Bahsahwahbee was kept quiet within Tribal nations. Now, the Tribes are seeking to share this history with all of America. In support of the Tribes’ effort to achieve their goal of preserving and commemorating this historically significant site with the National Park System, partners like Pattern Energy and Spring Valley Wind have agreed to donate acreage in their right of way to contribute to this special place.

Pattern Energy and its employees at the Spring Valley Wind facility firmly believe that Bahsahwahbee National Monument qualifies as a place to be commemorated and preserved as a National Monument under the Antiquities Act. Preserving this site respects the principles of tribal sovereignty and self-determination by honoring tribal nations and their citizens’ ability to continue to hold ceremonies and traditional practices in this sacred place, as they have for generations.

Pattern is committed to working with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to relinquish unused right-of-way acreage within the northern portion of Spring Valley Wind’s project footprint, in order to allow those lands to be included in the Bahsahwahbee National Monument proposal.

Pattern Energy takes seriously its commitment to be good neighbors and to be supportive of the local Tribal nations where we operate our renewable energy facilities. Pattern Energy and Spring Valley Wind stand behind Tribes’ efforts to achieve this national monument designation.

Working together in a good way can create a path for a more equitable world. We know that creating this national monument in the way the Tribes are requesting will advance a more profound understanding of America’s story. With all of us working together, this national monument effort better ensures that Bahsahwahbee remains a place of reverence that inspires future generations of partnership and friendship between all of us.

U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen have visited Bahsahwahbee and proclaimed their support for the Tribes’ proposal. This support is crucial in the monument designation process, but time is running out and we ask the Biden Administration to issue a proclamation under the Antiquities Act in short order.

Time is also of the essence given that so many Tribal elders – some of whom are in their 80s – have fought so hard and sacrificed so much to preserve Bahsahwahbee as a national monument. Other elders who, for decades, carried the torch to preserve these lands and its history have passed away in recent years.

For this nationally significant monument to become a reality, it will be necessary for the Senators and the Biden Administration to prioritize it in a busy year. We call on the Senators and the Biden Administration to work together to expeditiously establish the monument. They can act knowing that a diverse coalition, ranging from tribal nations to renewable energy companies, firmly believe that establishing this monument will be a benefit not only for the Tribes but all Americans, and for our future generations.

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