Sacred Shoshone ‘Cedars’ massacre site in central Nevada at risk |

Sacred Shoshone ‘Cedars’ massacre site in central Nevada at risk

By Delaine Spillsbury | Special to First Nation's Focus
According to the Great Basin Water Network, the sacred trees at Spring Valley are in extreme danger from potential groundwater pumping for the SNWA pipeline project.
Courtesy Great Basin Water Network
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  • This article first appeared in the Great Basin Water Network’s Spring 2015 “Water Gab” newsletter. It has been edited slightly for grammar and updated context. Visit to learn more about the network and its concerns about the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s pipeline project.
  • Years ago, SNWA proposed a 300-mile buried pipeline system to convey 200,000 acre-feet annually of groundwater from Central and Eastern Nevada to Southern Nevada as part of its “long-term water resource planning,” according to the authority. Visit to learn more about the project.
  • According to a July 31 article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, due to various legal proceedings over the years, the future of the project is now in the hands of U.S. District Judge Andrew Gordon, who is expected to issue a ruling “at a later date.” Visit to read that article and learn more.

WHITE PINE COUNTY, Nev. — Nevada’s Great Basin consists of pinion- and juniper-covered mountain ranges that run North/South like wooly worms with long, wide and mostly arid valleys in between.

However, Spring Valley — located in White Pine County in east-central Nevada — is an exception. Traveling East/West on Highway 50, one will notice that the floor of Spring Valley is tree-covered. These trees, Rocky Mountain Junipers, were pushed there by Ice Age conditions.

Their root system is very shallow. Consequently, the trees are in extreme danger from groundwater drawdown from the Southern Nevada Water Authority groundwater pipeline and exportation project.

Newe, Nevada’s Native peoples, were hunters and gatherers and roamed in small familial groups in their search for sustenance. This forest of junipers was centrally located, providing shade during hot summers, and it became the favorite gathering place for the Newe.

Ample water-enabled plant and wildlife proliferated. Many game birds and
animals, rare medicinal plants and pinion forests with their ample
bounty of nuts were near, and fish thrived in the nearby streams and ponds.

The “Cedars” became a Sacred Ceremonial site, friendships were renewed, young people found mates, sacred ceremonies were performed, and food and medicinal stores replenished prior to snowfall.

Unfortunately, when the settlers arrived, the ceremonial gatherings were misinterpreted as war parties, and massacres occurred. The first two massacres are of official U.S. Cavalry record.

A military unit had traveled from Fort Ruby and was not aware of the marshy conditions in Spring Valley. Soon after the attack order, many of the cavalry ponies were mired in Spring Valley mud, and most of the intended victims escaped.

The Newe, now called Shoshone, were not so fortunate at the second military massacre. Many were killed in this second “skirmish.”

Written reports state that men’s penises were cut off and shoved into their mouths and tree branches were shoved into women’s vaginas. Newe believe that because of their violent deaths, the spirits of the victims remain in the Sacred Trees.

A third cavalry massacre was in process but abandoned when attackers became aware that the gathering was not a war party, but Newe gathering pine nuts.

The final massacre of the Newe (Great Basin Shoshone) was by vigilantes, so there is no military record. Two little girls, approximately age 8, hid in a ditch and were not discovered. They were able to walk south to the Swallow Ranch.

One of the girls, Annie Jack, eventually joined the folks at Ibapah, Utah. The other survivor was named Mamie by the Swallows. She lived with the Swallow family until she married a hired hand, Joe Joseph, a Paiute from Shivwits, Utah. The Josephs made Baker, Nevada, their home.

Delaine Spilsbury, granddaughter of Mamie and Joe Joseph, wrote this story and compiled its information based on published and historical reports.


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