Down and Dirty: 11 Photos Show Destruction Accelerating at Sacred Site

Members of the Battle Mountain Band of Te-Moak Western Shoshone visited the Tosawihi Quarries recently to view and pray over the remains of a trail.
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Members of the Battle Mountain Band of Te-Moak Western Shoshone visited the Tosawihi Quarries on June 22 to view and pray over the remains of a doctoring trail that leads into and through the sacred site. The trail, which has been declared eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, is a critical feature of a northern Nevada cultural landscape that the Western Shoshone and other Plains tribes have used for at least 10,000 years.

However, construction of a mining-related power line along the doctoring trail is in the process of obliterating it. Starting about two weeks prior to the June 22 visit, a road has been bulldozed over the spiritual pathway, and a long trench has been gouged across the face of a nearby hillside.

Courtesy Te-Moak Band of Western Shoshone

Battle Mountain Band members pray over destruction to a doctoring trail, a critically important feature of the Tosawihi Quarries. The Quarries are a sacred site that has been used continually by the Western Shoshone and other tribes for at least 10,000 years. The trail and other features of the Quarries have been declared eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, a listing of the nation’s significant sites.

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Battle Mountain Band council member and former chairman Joe Holley said when tribal members saw what was happening, they were horrified and speechless. “It is so much damage,” Holley said, adding that the extent of the destruction seemed gratuitous. “It feels like they are doing more than necessary to build a power line. Just ripping up the land.”

Courtesy Te-Moak Band of Western Shoshone

According to council member and former chairman Joe Holley, tribal members were “without words at the horrid destruction,” he said. Holley said the injuries to the site and its features seemed excessive, even wanton.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which administers the land the Tosawihi Quarries and the trail its on, allowed this phase of construction to proceed, despite ongoing litigation over the project. The Band’s attorney, Rollie Wilson, of Fredericks, Peebles & Morgan, has told ICTMN that if a full panel of Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals judges does not step in quickly, as the Band has requested, an exceptional place that is central to Shoshone culture will be entirely destroyed.

The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), an independent federal agency charged with overseeing the nation’s historical resources, would not comment on the threat. Spokesperson Matt Spangler referred ICTMN to ACHP’s website, which describes the importance of tribal expertise in assessing protection of tribal places, among other topics.

Courtesy Te-Moak Band of Western Shoshone

This is a close-up of what was an ancient doctoring trail leading into and through the Tosawihi Quarries, a cultural landscape and sacred site in northern Nevada. The BLM has refused to comment on the construction and its effects on the site, citing ongoing litigation. The Band points to that litigation as a reason the construction should never have gotten underway in the first place.

The website also says the ACHP’s job is “to encourage federal agencies to consider preservation in planning federal projects.” As a result, its recommendations are just that. Indeed, Spangler has also told ICTMN that on the Tosawihi project the ACHP is deferring to the BLM, as the lead federal agency on the project. At press time, the BLM had not responded to requests for a comment.

“What drives them to constantly deface and destroy?” Holley asked. “That’s so hard for us to understand.”

Courtesy Te-Moak Band of Western Shoshone

Band: Battle Mountain Band members in the Tosawihi Quarries, a 10,000-year-old sacred site.

Courtesy Te-Moak Band of Western Shoshone

This photograph shows construction on a road and power line to facilitate gold mining in the Quarries. The work, permitted by the BLM, is obliterating an ancient doctoring trail that the BLM determined is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

Courtesy Te-Moak Band of Western Shoshone

Additional BLM-permitted construction for the power line.

Courtesy Te-Moak Band of Western Shoshone

Construction equipment at work in the Tosawihi Quarries.

Courtesy Te-Moak Band of Western Shoshone

Construction in the Tosawihi Quarries.

Courtesy Te-Moak Band of Western Shoshone

Additional damage near the doctoring trail. The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, an independent federal agency that oversees the nation’s historic resources by “encouraging” other agencies to comply, has told ICTMN that in this matter it is deferring to the BLM. The BLM has refused to comment.

Courtesy Te-Moak Band of Western Shoshone

From a hilltop vantage point, Battle Mountain Band members view the damage that BLM-permitted construction has caused to the Tosawihi Quarries. The Western Shoshone and other tribes have used the ancient sacred site for at least 10,000 years.