Skip to main content
This is a story about how an unlikely partnership between a mining company and a Native American tribe is helping a people stay connected with their culture and create new opportunities for their community.

Western Shoshone

In the high desert around Elko, Nevada, the echoes of the wild west have been largely replaced by the growling of trucks, cavernous mines, and the dinging and flashing of casinos.

Much of the mining activity, including Barrick’s, takes place on or around the heritage lands of the indigenous people of the Western Shoshone.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of a unique community partnership between the Shoshone and Barrick. In that time there have been ups and downs as with any partnership. It isn’t perfect marital bliss all of the time, but the respect and trust, the give and take, seems to be working for both sides. Barrick is building a sustainable business and the Western Shoshone are building a strong foundation for their communities. Mining is the connection.


Western Shoshone

“Barrick asked, ‘What can we do to enhance your communities?’ ”
Felix Ike Elko Band Elder

“We have seen the expansion of the mining industry and we wanted to be part of it. We said, ‘Give us some responsible mining practices, but we would also like to have a discussion regarding those things we value like education and job opportunities.’ Once Barrick became involved, they opened lines of communication with the rest of the nearby Western Shoshone communities. Barrick asked, ‘What can we do to enhance your communities?’ ”

This open dialogue led to a collaborative agreement signed by seven of the eight Western Shoshone tribal communities.

Western Shoshone
Bridge Builder.

“The tribes told us they wanted opportunity.”
Brian Mason Manager, Native American Affairs at Barrick

Brian Mason, Manager of Native American Affairs at Barrick, hails from the Sho-Pai Tribe in Duck Valley, one of the Western Shoshone communities. He has been a bridge between Barrick and the Western Shoshone since the mid-2000s when he enthusiastically joined the company after observing some of its environmental reclamation work.

“I come from a large Western Shoshone family and have relatives in most of our communities. I’m also a combat veteran which is highly respected in the Native American community so it gave me street cred. That and I have gone through the same social and economic challenges that tribal members have,” Brian recalls. “The tribes told us they wanted opportunity. They want more employment training and educational choices for their kids. I knew we could help with that at Barrick. But it takes engagement, inclusion, and a lot of collaboration.”

By working together, an education and employment ecosystem has developed. And it’s working.

“We’re fundamentally transforming this community through education. They’re becoming the most educated tribe in North America with Barrick’s help. The bottom line is you have to be employable and you have to be employed.”
Brian Mason
School’s out for summer
Transforming communities with a paid youth workforce

Step 1.

When school’s out in the high desert you need to make your own fun. Sometimes it’s good wholesome ‘Brady Bunch’ fun; other times it’s the ‘Dazed and Confused’ variety of the not-so-alright sort. To help keep kids on the right path, Barrick funds a variety of community programs under the banner of the Summer Youth Program.

“They get to stay and work in their communities with their families.”
Rebecca Darling Director of Corporate Social Responsibility for the USA at Barrick

“The youth in this program go out and do things around the community that need to get done. Every summer they get the opportunity to get a little bit of pocket change and develop a work ethic. And they get to stay and work in their communities with their families.”

Last summer, Teagan was part of a youth group that helped plant a growing fruit and vegetable garden.

Teagan Age 15

Last summer, Teagan was part of a youth group that helped plant a growing fruit and vegetable garden.

“This summer I landscaped and cut grass. It’s kept me out of trouble and away from bad influences. When I go to college I want to study sports medicine. I want to shoot past the stars and do something like start a business.”

Western Shoshone

The summer youth employment program began in 2009 with only two communities participating. When a new collaborative agreement was signed in 2013, all seven communities participated in the program.

Barrick has been providing over $500,000 per year in supporting youth employment across the region.

“If it wasn’t for Barrick, we wouldn’t have these jobs. We all know how important it is to have this work experience.”
Lindsey Age 17

Lindsey helps out at the administration offices for the Elko Indian colony. She’s been attending the Summer Youth Program since her freshman year of high school and is keenly aware of how the program can help overcome some of the challenges her community faces.

“In Indian country addiction is a huge issue and it affects all us kids. You can see it. If you don’t have family support and no one’s ever told you what you can be, you have to learn it yourself. Here we meet people who believe in us, who help us plan our goals, and help us understand what we can achieve in the future.”

Lindsey is setting the bar high.

“I think it would be amazing to get into the Berkeley School of Law. It’s extremely hard to get in, but I’m going to work hard for it.”

In case you were wondering, the kids are, indeed, alright.

and Rebuild
A four-week western Shoshone language and culture program.

Step 2.

It’s 8AM on a bright and sunny summer’s day, nary a cloud in sight on the campus of Elko’s Great Basin College. Gathered in the campus’ outdoor amphitheater to get ready for class is a group of Western Shoshone youth with their teacher, Sam Broncho. He is the Deputy Director of the Shoshone Cultural and Language Initiative, which counts as a credit towards a high school diploma or college degree.

“We noticed that the language was just dying off.”
Sam Broncho Deputy Director, Shoshone Cultural and Language Initiative

“When I was little the language was present but it was never totally immersive. Early on we noticed that the language was just dying off,” Sam recalls. “We took any opportunity to learn the language in any kind of classroom setting. When Norm Cavanaugh, an elder was teaching the class here at the college, my auntie brought me here. That was the beginning of my learning Shoshone formally.”


For the community, the work to revive their language and culture was critical.
Over five weeks each summer at Great Basin College youth from three states participate in this unique program that reconnects them with their language and culture.

Sam Broncho

Sam teaches his class almost entirely in Western Shoshone. One needn’t look further than the smiles and laughter from the students to feel the warmth, comradery, and acceptance that this environment provides.

Western Shoshone

What are you doing
What is your name
What does Shoshone sound like?

Click above to hear common phrases in Shoshone or click below to listen to students Breeyanna, 17, and Nick, 18, introduce themselves in Shoshone.

Western Shoshone

But what’s a language without the cultural traditions that come with it? Led by local elders, students learn how to play traditional Shoshone hand games, which combine song, chance, intuition, and the ability to keep a good poker face.

It is an important cultural tradition and there are hand game festivals every weekend in the summer. There’s even an annual world hand-game tournament in Las Vegas.

Students are also exposed to traditional Shoshone skills like ceramics, beading, and basket-weaving.

Ever so slowly, these skills are being reintroduced and passed on to the next generation.

Western Shoshone

Since 2009 students have been reconnecting with their language and cultural Shoshone heritage through Barrick-funded programming.

A recipe for academic success.

Step 3.

For many Western Shoshone students, post-secondary education has historically been a pipe dream due to a lack of funds and the prospect of taking on soul-crushing levels of debt. This burden is being eased through the Western Shoshone Scholarship Foundation.

The Foundation administers the Western Shoshone Scholarship Fund, which provides support for students’ post-secondary education. It is funded by Barrick.

“When I left for college, I felt like I was a financial burden on my family.”
Shelby Williams Student, Haskell Indian Nations University

For Shelby Williams, a senior at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas, the scholarship, internships, the Summer Youth program, and the Shoshone Cultural and Language Initiative have provided her with the building blocks to persevere through tough times and work hard to, not only prioritize her education, but also make it a success.

“When I was in high school we lost my father to cancer so when I left for college, I felt like I was a financial burden on my family. I had to quit. Then I came across the Barrick scholarship. That meant I was able to choose where I wanted to go to school and do it on my own with financial assistance. I didn’t have to worry anymore about whether my mom was sending me her last dollar.”

Western Shoshone

In 2008, an investment of $179,000 funded 226 students. As of 2018, our total investment has grown to $3.7 million, which has supported 1,627 students.

Real world experience.

Step 4.

Equally as valuable as the scholarship fund, Barrick provides hands-on work experience through internships. This summer, 20 interns worked in their communities at day cares, health clinics, and their tribal council.

Some interns like Shelby—who has interned with Barrick numerous times, and most recently interned at Barrick’s Cortez mine—successfully transition into Barrick’s workforce.

Shelby interned in the mine’s environmental department this past summer where she helped monitor air and water quality around the property. It was ultimately this experience that led her to determine her career path.

“Before accepting Barrick’s employment offer pending my graduation in 2019, I came home every summer knowing I would have an internship and that Barrick would place me somewhere working in my field. Working here proved to me I wanted to pursue a career in environmental science so this kind of support has meant a lot.”

Western Shoshone

“My days are full of independent research for the metallurgists that they can use for future work.”
Joseph Thomas Barrick Intern

Joseph Thomas comes from the Elko Indian Colony and is in his final year at the University of Nevada, Reno. He was a metallurgy intern at Cortez this summer.

“Last year I was at Barrick’s Goldstrike mine, and I was thrown in the deep end. This year at Cortez, it’s different projects, same expectations. As an intern, I have quite a bit of responsibility and my days are full of independent research for the metallurgists that they can use for future work.”

Joseph in lab

Joseph’s long-term plans involve working at Barrick and being an active member of his community.

“I grew up knowing quite a bit about mining. My dad works at Cortez as a haul truck driver and used to be a mill operator. My goal is to work for Barrick for a few years, pursue my master’s degree, come back and eventually work my way up the ladder with Barrick then take on a role as a bridge builder like Brian Mason. Having this education and working in the engineering field, I can help clear up misconceptions about mining in my community.”

Shelby working

But it’s not just the local Western Shoshone communities that harbor skepticism or misconceptions; it can also be other indigenous communities who do not see the value that partnering with mining can bring, as Shelby has experienced.

“When I’m at school or in Native communities, they’re like, ‘You work for a mine?’ and they don’t really understand what we’ve had to go through to get to this collaborative relationship. That’s hard for me but being able to share my positive experience I can educate people outside of our tribal communities; that’s nice to do.”

 Joseph in an operating area

It can be a tricky thing to act as bridges linking two partners together, but Shelby and Joseph are thriving building their knowledge and expertise through their studies and internships. They’re living proof that partnerships between mining and indigenous communities can work.

School’s out
Graduates return to their communities as leaders

Step 5.

Western Shoshone graduates are often looked to for leadership in their communities when they return.

Rachael Thacker is now an Environmental Technician at Cortez. She completed the Shoshone/Goshute Youth Language Apprenticeship Program and post-secondary education with help from the Western Shoshone Scholarship Foundation. She credits the language program that she attended alongside Sam Broncho, who was her resident assistant at college, for inspiring her to take a cultural leadership role within her community.

Rachael Thacker
“We have to work as leaders because we’re that bridge between the youth and our elders.”
Rachael Thacker Environmental Technician, Cortez

“It can be hard mentally because you’re working so hard to save your language and your culture with elders who are so frustrated about the past and youth who are so disconnected from our history. We have to work as leaders because we’re that bridge between the youth and our elders.

Monday through Thursday, I’m in this mining world but come Thursday, I head back to the reservation where my family lives. They don’t have a lot of resources or job opportunities like I do here, but I try to take my experience back home. I tell people about what Barrick does, things that they don’t see at home. Our youth who are educated and get out and do things are now coming back to our communities looking to help.”

The good news is Western Shoshone graduates don’t have to go it alone. Barrick plans to partner with Western Shoshone professionals to develop a Western Shoshone Alumni Association so graduates have a network to draw on for support and professional development.

Western Shoshone

From early youth to adulthood, Barrick continuously looks for ways to listen to the community and improve program delivery.
Rebecca Darling Director of Corporate Social Responsibility for the USA at Barrick

“Barrick’s relationship with the Western Shoshone community has not always been a strong one, and I think one of the things I value about this company is that we endeavor to learn from our mistakes,” Rebecca says. “One of the things that Barrick has learned is that while the Western Shoshone communities don’t live on the land we currently operate on, they have long and strong ties to those lands. As much as we have to give back economically, we have much to learn from them.”

Naturally, these ideas will need to be tested, support for them earned, and there will be growing pains, yes. But that is all part of the continuous ebb and flow of the partnership with the Western Shoshone. And it is the last part – that the partnership continues – that will be crucial to ensuring that hallmark of all good partnerships: advancing mutual prosperity.