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Action Alert - Western Shoshone: War not just in Iraq

by front lines Monday, Jun. 21, 2004 at 3:51 PM

Crescent Valley, NV - The United States Congressmen are mirroring the same deceptive tactics in Western Shoshone territory in Nevada as in Iraq, said Western Shoshone as legislation was pushed to compensate tribal members for Aboriginal land in an effort to seize it and open it up for mining, energy and nuclear corporations. While Western Shoshone maintain their Aboriginal land claim secured by the Treaty of Ruby Valley of 1863, their sacred Yucca Mountain is being gutted for nuclear dumping, their horses and cattle seized to make way for geothermal industries and the earth mutilated for gold extraction. "If the war on terrorism is about protecting this country, then why is our own government trying to take away our homelands?" said Mary McCloud, Western Shoshone elder.


UPDATE – Western Shoshone “Distribution” Bill

What are you going to do to help stop the Largest Indian Land Theft in Modern History?

Despite an outpouring of support for the Western Shoshone and a national outcry for a good faith resolution of the land and treaty issues, Congress, their corporate cronies and the White House are at it again… The highly controversial Western Shoshone Distribution Bill (S 618/HR 884) is on the House Suspension calendar AGAIN for Monday, June 21, 2004, voting begins at 6:30 p.m. Only representatives present and voting count. What’s changed since June 1 when the Western Shoshone tribal councils and traditional people supported by thousands across the country cried out in opposition to the legislation? NOTHING – except White House staffer Jennifer Farley has reportedly called the bill “red hot” and that President Bush will not use his veto power to stop it, Senator Reid has sent a personal communication to House Democrats begging for their support to pass the bill, and local press announcements show the gearing up of “public” land sales across the State of Nevada. So why expend such huge quantities of political capital to pass this bill? That’s the question we should all be asking.

Where does your representative stand on the issue? Will they be present on the floor and will they vote and make a statement on the record?

Below is a recent press release for your reference and a Fact v. Fiction sheet.

If you want to express comments/concerns, Contact your local Representatives (House number: 202-224-3121), or submit an action alert from Oxfam America at:


Speaker of the House: J. Dennis Hastert - 202-225-0600

Majority Leader: Tom DeLay - 202-225-4000

Democratic National Committee - 202-863-8000 (Why isn’t this a national campaign issue?)

Republican National Committee - 202-863-8500 (Why isn’t this a national campaign issue?)

Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich

Progressive Caucus Chair

1730 Longworth HOB

Washington, DC 20515

Congresswoman Barbara Lee

Progressive Caucus Co-Chair

1724 Longworth HOB

Washington, D.C. 20515

Fax: 202-225-5745 Fax: 202-225-9817

(The Progressive Caucus could take a stand against the bill.)

Congressman Elijah E. Cummings

Black Caucus Chair

1632 Longworth HOB

Washington, DC 20515

Fax: 202-225-3178

(The Black Caucus could take a stand against the bill.)

Congressman John Lewis

Black Caucus

34 Cannon HOB

Washington, D.C. 20515

Fax: 202-225-0351

(The Black Caucus could take a stand against the bill.)

And anyone else you may think could be persuasive in this issue.

Thank you for your continued support – what affects the native/indigenous peoples affects us all.

Western Shoshone Defense Project, P.O. Box 211308, Crescent Valley, NV 89821

775-468-0230, ""

Press Release – For Immediate Release

Western Shoshone Payment Bill Could Be Voted On In House Today – Tens of Millions of Acres of “Public” Lands in the West Potentially Affected

Crescent Valley, NV. - The Western Shoshone Distribution Bill (S 618/HR 884), a legislative measure designed to distribute monies for alleged extinguishment of Western Shoshone land title, has been placed on the House Suspension calendar in its Senate version. Voting on suspension calendar items begins at 6:30 pm. If passed and signed by the President, the bill will represent the largest Indian land theft in modern history. The Senate version is sponsored by Senator Harry Reid from Nevada. The land base affected is tens of millions of acres of land throughout Nevada, Idaho, Utah and California, approximately 90% of which is classified as “public” lands. The Western Shoshone Nation has maintained its assertion that its title to the land is intact according to the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley and filed a lawsuit against the United States last fall, Western Shoshone v. U.S., Case No. 03-CV-2009, U.S. District Court, D.C. Despite the filing of the lawsuit, formal Western Shoshone tribal council resolutions opposing the bill, and ongoing protests by Western Shoshone people, Senator Reid continues to move the bill forward – now inserting his version of the bill into the House.

Concerns regarding the impacts of this alleged payment – to Native and non-Native alike – abound.

Briefly, follow the money:

· GOLD: Western Shoshone lands are the 3rd largest gold producing area in the world, behind only South Africa and Australia – One mountain alone, Mt. Tenabo, which Congressman Gibbons has slated for a privatization scheme (HR 2869) to Placer Dome (5th largest gold company in the world) has estimated revenues of -8 billion. In mining contributions received in the 2004 cycle, Congressman Gibbons comes in 2nd in the House with Reid as the 4th highest recipient in the Senate. Other multinationals mining in the area include Barrick, Kennecott, Newmont and Marigold.

· WATER: Western Shoshone lands have been cited as sitting atop a subterranean sea with vast quantities of drinking quality fossil waters. Example: Dewatering processes by several of the gold mines pump drinking water quality water 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at levels from 20 to 70 thousand gallons/minute. Vidler Water, a subsidiary of PECO Holding Corp., is in Nevada and initiating discussions with County and State officials regarding water privatization efforts.

· ENERGY: Western Shoshone hot springs are cited to be the next “Saudi Arabia” of geothermal energy production by Senator Harry Reid. Congressman Gibbons’ bill, HR 2772, would open up the area to massive geothermal production with preliminary subsidies for the energy industry and the option to convert energy leases into mineral claims through the “back door”.

· NUCLEAR WASTE: Western Shoshone lands contain Yucca Mountain, cited home for the nation’s nuclear waste repository. The construction contract for the waste repository was awarded to Bechtel Corporation at .2 billion.

· NUCLEAR WEAPONS/MILITARY: Western Shoshone lands are home to the Nevada Test Site and the Federal Counterterrorism facility, both managed through Bechtel, Wackenhut and Lockheed Martin. The management contracts amount to billions of dollars on a several year renewal basis. The Bush administration has talked of reopening nuclear testing at the site.

And the Western Shoshone?

· The Western Shoshone people (“Newe”) have lived on this land for thousands of years – their creation stories stem from the mountains where their ancestors lay buried. The waters, the plants, the other living beings and the earth itself all hold special meaning to the Newe. The Distribution bill would pay approximately 15 cents an acre for land that was never agreed for sale, with no hearing and no public purpose.

For more information please call WSDP – 775-468-0230,



Fiction: A majority of the Western Shoshone people are in favor of the bill.


· A majority of the tribal councils and all of the traditional Western Shoshone oppose the distribution of money until resolution of the land issues.

· There have been no government to government consultations on the bill.

· In 1980, at the formal Hearing of Record, the Western Shoshone rejected the claims money because the U.S. could not demonstrate how it had legally acquired title to the land from the Western Shoshone. Since that time, there has never been any vote of the Western Shoshone on the bill. There has been no demonstration in any form that the straw poll ballot referenced by Congressman Gibbons and Senator Reid was ever authorized or certified by any Western Shoshone government. No independent monitoring ever occurred and to this day no independent or government body has seen the alleged ballots or been allowed to review the process.

· Despite specific requests by Congressmen Tom Udall (NM) and Raul Grijalva (AZ), the Department of Interior has failed to provide any documentation of their statements that a “majority” of Western Shoshone are in favor of the bill.

· The tribal chairman, Felix Ike, who testified before the Senate and House committees in favor of the distribution has been formally removed from any tribal leadership position. An investigation is underway with regard to his actions while in office, in particular, his dealings with Congressional offices and the Department of Interior.

Fiction: The intent of this bill is simply to distribute money awarded to the Western Shoshone for damages.


· This bill will distribute money awarded for alleged extinguishment of title to 24 million acres of land, the vast majority of which is currently classified as “public” lands.

· This bill will open the way to large scale privatization of lands held sacred by the Western Shoshone and currently used and occupied by the native people for grazing, gathering medicinal and food plants, hunting and fishing, and ceremonial purposes.

· In a November 2003 letter sent to Secretary of Gale Norton, Congressman Grijalva (AZ) raises serious concerns about the real intent of the bill and the involvement of the federal government and mining, energy and nuclear industries in presenting a misleading picture of the issues to the public and to members of Congress. (Copy available at

Fiction: Western Shoshone land title has been fully litigated in the U.S. courts.


· The Western Shoshone have never received a hearing on the issue of title.

· The Treaty of Ruby Valley, which recognizes the boundaries of 60 million acres of Western Shoshone land has never been litigated.

· The only issue decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in U.S. v. Dann was whether or not “payment” had been made when the money was accepted by the Department of Interior on behalf of the Western Shoshone. The Supreme Court said “yes”, Interior serves as a “trustee” to the Indians and Interior’s acceptance equals acceptance by the Western Shoshone, thereby triggering a statutory bar to litigation on the issue.

· Last year, after 10 years of briefings and hearings, an international judicial body (the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights) found that the process used by the U.S. violates Western Shoshone rights to property, to due process, and to equality under the law. Amnesty International has issued a formal report on the situation and has called upon the United States to adhere to the international ruling by engaging in good faith negotiations with the Western Shoshone.

· In September 2003, a new lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court in D.C. (Western Shoshone v. U.S., Case No. 03-CV-2009 (Judge Lamberth)). The lawsuit asserts the unconstitutional nature of the federal process and asserts Western Shoshone title to the 60 million acre land base. Preliminary filings are underway.

Fiction: The land dispute can be resolved after the distribution is made.


· Instead of a fair resolution, Nevada Congressmen Reid and Gibbons have already set the stage for corporate giveaways and large scale privatization of the lands. For example: H.R. 2869 would work to give away Western Shoshone lands to major mining interest such as Placer Dome; HR 2772 would encourage large scale expansion of geothermal energy production with no provision for Western Shoshone cultural beliefs or compensation for use of the hot water; Senator Reid’s office has drafted the Northern Nevada Public Lands Management Act which creates a process for large scale privatization of the same lands at issue in the distribution award.

· Department of Interior continues acts of armed surveillance and threats of impoundment against Western Shoshone. (In the past Congressional session, hundreds of cattle and horses were forcibly seized by the Department under military-type tactics.)

Fiction: The lands are not highly valuable and there is no hidden agenda by U.S. lawmakers and corporations to “clear” title.


· The land and its resources are worth billions of dollars to mining and energy companies.

· The land produces 2/3 the gold production in the U.S., making it the third largest gold producing area in the world, behind South Africa and Australia. Due to the enormous wealth of minerals, a 1999 USGS report sited the area as the number one investment opportunity for extraction companies.

· Energy companies are lining up for access to the vast geothermal resources with Senator Reid calling the area the next “Saudi Arabia” of geothermal energy production. Much of the energy production is presumed for use to subsidize existing and expanded mining operations.

Fiction: The Western Shoshone are being unreasonable and cannot agree amongst themselves as to a fair resolution of the issue.


· From the beginning, the Western Shoshone have asked for good faith negotiations with the United States. Their request is simple: to sit across the table and talk on an equal level.

· Complex negotiations occur in the corporate world everyday and if the U.S. were to commit the appropriate political will, a process could be decided upon that would satisfy all concerned.

· The cost to the taxpayer would be less than continuing the dispute and may in fact save monies which would otherwise be spent in ongoing enforcement actions against Western Shoshone and monies wasted or not realized in private sweet heart deals with private corporations and land developers.

Western Shoshone Defense Project

P.O. Box 211308

Crescent Valley, NV 89821

(775) 468-0230

Fax: (775) 468-0237




CRESCENT VALLEY, Nev. - United States Congressmen are mirroring the same deceptive tactics in Western Shoshone territory as in Iraq, said Western Shoshone as legislation was pushed to compensate tribal members for Aboriginal land in an effort to seize it and open it up for mining, energy and nuclear corporations.

While Western Shoshone maintain their Aboriginal land claim secured by the Treaty of Ruby Valley of 1863, their sacred Yucca Mountain is being gutted for nuclear dumping, their horses and cattle seized to make way for geothermal industries and the earth mutilated for gold extraction.

"If the war on terrorism is about protecting this country, then why is our own government trying to take away our homelands?" said Mary McCloud, Western Shoshone elder.

......... Simultaneously, the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste repository is being pushed forward, regardless of whistleblowers exposing inherent dangers.”


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