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Western Shoshone Nation sovereignty under attack

by Western Shoshone Defense Project Friday, Aug. 10, 2001 at 3:33 AM
wsdp@igc.org 775-468-0230

Comprehensive history of fight for land rights that is coming to a crisis right now involving the Western Shoshone, the Federal Government via BLM and BIA, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the organization of American States. Urgent action requested.

The Western Shoshone Nation Requests Your Immediate Assistance!!

Dear Friends and Supporters,

The United States is preparing to confiscate Western Shoshone livestock grazing upon ancestral lands as recognized in the Treaty of Peace and Friendship signed in Ruby Valley, 1863. On Wednesday August 1st, 2001, Bureau of Land Management officials at both the Nevada State office and the Elko Field office confirmed their intentions to conduct roundups of Shoshone livestock in the Crescent Valley and South Fork areas. Both the Dann family of Crescent Valley and the Traditional Cattlemen of the South Fork Reservation and Odgers Ranch have refused to pay the U.S. government for the use of ancestral lands which have never been ceded or sold to the U.S. This planned theft of Shoshone livestock comes just as a Western Shoshone delegation sits in Geneva, Switzerland asserting their rights before the United Nations.

Western Shoshone Document US Human Rights Violations to International Bodies

The United States is currently under the scrutiny of several international human rights bodies for its treatment of the Western Shoshone Nation. Mary and Carrie Dann (the "Danns") have filed a human rights complaint before the Inter-American Commission (the "Commission") on Human Rights of the Organization of American States. The Danns' complaint is based on the United States' failure to meet its obligations in respect to Western Shoshone rights. The complaint challenges the United States to reform discriminatory legal doctrines that have denied basic constitutional and human rights to indigenous peoples for generations.

In spite of the United States' requests that the Commission declare the complaint case inadmissible, the Commission ruled in September of 1999 that the petition was admissible. In this ruling, the Commission went on to state that the Danns' claims raised a prima facie case of human rights violations by the United States' government. The Commission issued precautionary measures against the United States on two separate occasions, each time requesting that the government halt further action against the Danns pending the Commission's investigation of their claims. The United States has never formally responded to the precautionary measures. The Ely Shoshone Tribe, the Yomba Shoshone Tribe, the Duckwater Shoshone Tribe, and the Western Shoshone National Council have intervened in these proceedings in support of the Danns complaint.

In 1999 both the Yomba Shoshone Tribe and the Ely Shoshone Tribe submitted a request for urgent action to the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination ("CERD") asserting that the rights of the Western Shoshone people have been and are at this moment being violated by the United States in a discriminatory fashion, on the basis of their status as indigenous people. The request asks the Committee to direct the United States to halt actions that threaten irreparable harm to the Western Shoshone people and to enter into negotiations with Western Shoshone leaders to resolve Western Shoshone land claims. The Duckwater Shoshone Tribe and the Western Shoshone National Council have joined in this request as part of the Western Shoshone Nation.

Current Legislation Attempts to Ratify Theft of Shoshone Lands and Rights

The U.S. insists that all Shoshone rights to their homelands have been extinguished as a result of proceedings before the Indian Claims Commission. These proceedings resulted in the 1979 award of million for over 24 million acres of ancestral land. The claims commission proceedings denied the Western Shoshone people due process of law and refused to acknowledge Western Shoshone property rights in a clearly discriminatory process. The award, accepted on behalf of the Western Shoshone by the Secretary of Interior, has never been accepted by the Western Shoshone people who still use and occupy their ancestral lands.

Like the Sioux Nation (Lakota, Dakota, Nakota Peoples) of South Dakota, the Western Shoshone are one of the few indigenous nations within the United States that have resisted the theft of their lands through the Indian Claims Commission process. The claims money sits in a trust account where it has grown to over 0 million. Several attempts to distribute the money have been defeated in Congress, yet Nevada Senators Harry Reid (Democrat) and John Ensign (Republican) have currently introduced a bill(S. 958) that would result in the liquidation of the trust account by a one time individual cash payment to living Western Shoshone. Individual payment would result in a check of perhaps ,000. As a result of the payment, Western Shoshone citizens are legally precluded from exercising any rights connected to the lands which they have been compensated for. Both Ensign and Reid have strong support from the mining industry which has a vested interest in exploiting Western Shoshone land. The majority of gold produced in the U.S. is removed from Western Shoshone land. The nuclear industry also hopes to create a national high level nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain within Western Shoshone territory. Other vested interests in Shoshone homelands include the U.S. military which uses large portions of Treaty territory for bombing ranges, weapons development and training.

The legislation was developed without the consent or input of either the traditional Western Shoshone government represented by the Western Shoshone National Council or the Federally recognized Tribal Councils representing many of the Western Shoshone communities. Instead, a faction of Western Shoshone known as the Western Shoshone Claims Steering Committee developed the legislation in secret with the assistance of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Senator Reid's office. While Reid claims that this legislation is necessary to lift Western Shoshone people out of poverty, it does nothing to change the conditions which have led to this supposed poverty, mainly a lack of sovereignty and denial of access to traditional lands and resources. As such, the legislation perpetuates dependence on Federal assistance through the BIA and other agencies and ensures that the Western Shoshone will not attain any degree of self sufficiency or self government.

The timing of this increased pressure on Shoshone citizens combined with the pending claims legislation indicates growing momentum on the part of the U.S. to finalize the theft of Shoshone lands and extinguishment of Western Shoshone rights. Now is the time for people of conscience to hold the U.S. accountable for these actions and demand it deal with the Western Shoshone in a just and honorable fashion!

Please follow link for more info, action items


first step:

Please call the following U.S. officials immediately and ask them to immediately cease and desist from their efforts to punish Western Shoshone citizens by fines and confiscation for the act of grazing on ancestral lands.

Elko BLM Field Office Manager Helen Hankins (775)-753-0200

Nevada State BLM Director Robert Abbey (775)-861-6400

Secretary of Interior Gale Norton (202)-208-3100

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Second Step: U.N. Human Rights Commission SJA Friday, Aug. 10, 2001 at 12:01 PM
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