Preparations are underway to hand over to Western Shoshones 3,269 acres of Native sacred sites in Nevada. “We’ll have prayers, dancing, drumming and food,” says Joseph Holley, councilman and former chairman of the Battle Mountain Band of the Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshones, in Nevada. “There will be time for Paul to talk about what’s been happening over the past eight years and how he is helping us protect this place.”
Holley is referring to Paul Huet, the chief executive officer of Klondex Mines, a Canadian firm that in late 2016 purchased an existing gold-mining operation within a Western Shoshone cultural landscape called Tosawihi (pronounced DOS-a-wee). Purchased as part of the mining deal, the portion that Klondex will hand over to the Battle Mountain Band on August 18 is a spiritual hub.
Though 83 percent of Nevada is owned by the federal government, the Klondex purchase and handover of this unusual tract will allow it to remain privately owned by those who value it most. The Battle Mountain Band will hold and administer the lands on behalf of all Shoshones, according to Holley.
The entire Tosawihi landscape encompasses tens of thousands of acres of grass- and sagebrush-covered hills in northern Nevada. Archaeologists have dated artifacts indicating an occupation of the area that is at least 14,000 years old. To put that in another context, it makes Ancient Rome, founded less than 3,000 years ago, a relative stripling.
Tribal history goes back even further. Reggie Sope, a medicine man from the Duckwater Shoshone Tribe, says that his people’s first horse was a multi-toed creature that died out about 10,000 years ago. “First they were little, and we hunted and ate them,” Sope says. “As they evolved into animals the size of a dog, we used them to pull travois [joined poles forming a sled used for transport]. Later, they were big enough to ride, and we were lords of the Plains.”