Prayer horse ride honors past, spurs activism and raises environmental awareness – The Nevada Independent

After 10 days in the saddle, Josh Dini, Gary McKinney and Rusty Brady rode horses along the southern rim of the McDermitt Caldera in northern Humboldt County to Sentinel Rock, where more than three dozen supporters greeted them on Tuesday afternoon.
At the summit, the trio raised prayer staffs to the sky and the collected crowd of more than 30 people celebrated the end of the group’s third annual prayer horse ride — a journey that began more than 200 miles away on the Walker River Indian Reservation in Schurz.
The prayer ride started in 2022 and honors Dini’s older brother Myron Dewey, a Paiute Shoshone filmmaker, photojournalist, activist and founder of the Indigenous media company Digital Smoke Signals, who died in a car crash in 2021. Dewey’s coverage of the Standing Rock movement against the North Dakota Access Pipeline rallied supporters to defend Indigenous territorial and cultural rights. Dini says the ride and horses — an interest he shared with his brother — keep him connected to his work as a water protector and land defender.
The prayer ride also aims to raise awareness of the effect mining has on Nevada’s Native communities.
This year’s prayer ride traveled through Yerington, Fallon, Wadsworth, Nixon, Lovelock, Winnemucca and Orovada. Along the way, the riders, walkers and runners prayed, sang and shared their story — focusing on younger tribal members — through conversations, educational demonstrations involving the horses, sweat lodge ceremonies, potluck meals and a film screening.
“We’re going to give this power back to our people who have been on reservations — this is their outlet,” McKinney said. “We’re bringing the culture back into those young adult years and showing them here’s another way [to live].”
From the summit of Sentinel Rock, Dini, a member of the Walker River Paiute Tribe; McKinney, a member of the Duck Valley Shoshone Paiute Tribes of Idaho and Nevada; and Brady, a Yomba Shoshone Tribe member, looked down on heavy machinery and early signs of the Thacker Pass lithium mine’s earthworks, where an open pit mine deeper than the length of a football field is planned.
Lithium Americas, a Canadian company, began construction on the site about 60 miles from Winnemucca in March 2023 after a series of failed legal challenges from conservationists, Indigenous communities and a local rancher.
Thacker Pass is the site of two Indigenous massacres. In 1865, according to a written record of the Snake War, Nevada cavalry volunteers murdered as many as 31 Paiutes at the location. The second massacre, according to Indigenous oral tradition, was an intertribal conflict that gave the area its Paiute name, Peehee Mu’huh, meaning “Rotten Moon.”
In July, the mine cleared another legal impediment when a panel of three 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges rejected a half-dozen arguments from opponents seeking to overturn federal land managers’ project approval.
In November, District Court Judge Miranda Du dismissed another lawsuit by tribal groups against the federal government’s permitting.
This is the first prayer ride since those rulings.
On March 14, the U.S. Department of Energy finalized plans to conditionally lend Lithium Americas up to $2.26 billion to build a lithium carbonate processing plant at Thacker Pass. The loan is the largest federal investment in a lithium mine to date.
The project has pitted environmentalists and Native Americans against the federal government’s efforts to accelerate a renewable energy transition
“Thacker Pass is a treasure trove of lithium — key to strengthening U.S. energy security and electrifying America,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a message posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, on March 15, adding that the loan will “help level the global playing field and supercharge clean energy manufacturing nationwide.”
In addition to the federal government, General Motors is investing $650 million in the Thacker Pass Project.
“I know we don’t have the money to fight against big corporations,” Dini said. “But we still have to honor our ancestors who died here. We have to remember our prayers so we don’t forget about where we come from. And so we continue to pray.”
Despite efforts to prevent the mine, the Thacker Pass Project is proceeding. McKinney, nonetheless, remains committed to protecting the land.
“There are many, many sites like this in our territories in our ancestral lands,” he said. “This was a bad project that wants to duplicate itself so it’s necessary for us to spread that awareness to the people in a way that is good, prayerful.”
“We are not protesters,” he stressed. “We are protectors.”


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