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Rise Gold CEO calls county ‘naive’ in dealings with Nisenan

Nisenan spokeswoman endures RiseGold CEO’s criticism blast to the the past

The CEO of Rise Gold Corp. inadvertently sent an email to a county employee calling the county “naive” in its dealings with the Nisenan.

Ben Mossman’s comment was in response to an April 4 letter by attorney Frank Lawrence, who makes the argument that the consultant who wrote the draft environmental impact report for the Idaho-Maryland Mine failed to consult with the Nisenan.

The tribe is on the state’s Native American Heritage Commission’s Tribal Consultation List, making it entitled to “meaningful consultation,” Lawrence states.

“The revised DEIR must propose meaningful mitigation for the badges and incidents of the genocide, the theft of Tribal ancestral lands, the theft and destruction of Tribal natural and cultural resources, and the destruction of the Tribe’s traditional way of life,” Lawrence states.

Mossman’s reply wasn’t intended for Lawrence, said Jarryd Gonzales, spokesperson for Rise Gold, in an email.

“The county is so naive in trying to assist this group to gain status,” Mossman stated, referring to the Nisenan in an email reply to county planner Matt Kelley and Lawrence. “Welcome to Canada.”

“Rise Gold CEO was forwarded Mr. Frank Lawrence’s April 4 comment letter by a team member. In error, Mr. Mossman sent a short reply that was not intended for Lawrence,” Gonzales said.

“The comment letter accuses the Idaho-Maryland Mine Project of ‘perpetuating genocide’ and other crimes. The letter proposes an unlawful and never-ending approval process which the author purports to be supported by Nevada County Resolution No. 20-533. Lawrence seeks a result that would gain project opponents veto power over land-use issues rather than approval by elected representatives.

“While Mr. Mossman apologizes for the communications error, he disagrees with the comments and accusations in Mr. Lawrence’s letter,” Gonzales said.


Shelly Covert, tribe spokeswoman, said she’s dedicated the past 15 years to connecting her family with resources they are entitled to through the nation’s efforts at reparations for native, sovereign communities.

The Nisenan were the first tribe California settlers encountered west of the Washoe and were marginally integrated into the newly Westernized landscape. American-written treaties claiming the land were the coastal indigenous populations’ first introduction to the concept of land ownership, Covert said.


Nisenan had relocated and condensed into the area of Cement Hill by the time treaties were on the table — the 1850s. Even then, the tribe was not given the 75 acres promised to its chief, Charley Cully, under the General Allotment Act of 1887 until President Woodrow Wilson’s executive order in 1913.

Covert said unlike other designations meant for transplanted, or “homeless,” indigenous peoples, the Nevada City Rancheria was created for the people already there. Their home remained until 1958 amid the “era of termination.” According to Covert, 44 rancherias in the state of California were terminated, and their land rights rescinded.

The Nisenan’s fight for federal recognition is ultimately about educating the public, Covert said, so Mossman’s accusation of Nevada County’s naivete is particularly hypocritical given Mossman’s country of origin, Canada.

“What this gold company needs is a naive county so they can sell their science in neat-looking fliers,” Covert said. “What he’s encountering is a really diverse, strange little community here that is absolutely not naive. This is a place where people take ownership.”


Covert said the key word that strikes a chord in the heart of every American is “job.”

Covert has plenty of concerns about the Idaho-Maryland Mine, but believes there are other opportunities the county can create that capitalize on the region’s history without its continued erasure or exploitation.

“There are so many options — that aren’t casinos — that could bring healthy jobs to the environment, but that ‘job’ word, it’s not just Nevada County — people are scared and worried,” Cover said.

Covert said one possible solution that she’s investigating is the creation of a national heritage area, which would require an act of Congress and the state parks system’s involvement.

“Lots of local experts can come to gather and be stakeholders,“ Covert said, adding that the tribe is just one aspect of Nevada County’s identity as a cultural, historical and geographic hot spot.

Covert said a heritage area could create 200 jobs in the next five years that have nothing to do with mining.

“And guess who gets the money?” Covert said. “It stays local. Guess where it’s not going? Canada.”

Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer with The Union. She can be reached at roneil@theunion.com

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