American Indian Activist Mary Dann
Walks with the Clouds
Sunday April 24, 2005 12:46 AM
By TOM GARDNER
Associated Press Writer
RENO, Nev. (AP) - Activist Mary Dann, who with her sister helped represent the Shoshone Nation in its effort to reclaim millions of acres they claimed as their ancestral land, has died in an accident on her rural central Nevada ranch.
Dann apparently had an accident on an all-terrain vehicle while she was repairing fence on the Crescent Valley ranch Friday night, according to Julie Fishel of the Western Shoshone Defense Project.
Fishel said Dann was in her early 80s but had never disclosed her exact age.
Patricia Paul said her aunt ``died as she would have wanted - with her boots on and hay in her pocket.''
For more than a quarter century, Dann and her sister Carrie were at the forefront of efforts to reclaim a vast tract of land spreading across four states. They claimed it was their aboriginal land, which was seized by the United States under the Treaty of Ruby Valley, enacted two years before the end of the Civil War.
``We're the ones that know which is right and which is wrong,'' Mary Dann said in a 2003 interview with The Associated Press.
Some tribal members, however, considered the Dann sisters adversaries because their cause and its publicity foiled years of attempts to distribute federal money to members under a land-claim award. She and her sister opposed distribution of the money and refused to pay to graze livestock on a federal allotment near their ranch.
Though ``traditional'' tribal members such as the Danns rejected the notion of a claim, another Shoshone band did file for settlement. In the late 1970s, the Indian Claims Commission awarded the Shoshones $26 million, deciding the tribe had lost the land by the ``gradual encroachment'' of white settlers.
However, the money went untouched because a majority of Shoshones could never agree to accept it. With interest, the amount of the payment has grown to more than $140 million, said Raymond Yowell, chief of the Western Shoshone Nation.
While the claims panel was one front in the battle, a pasture near the Danns' ranch became another.
In 1974, the Bureau of Land Management filed suit against the Danns, claiming they were trespassing by allowing their cattle to graze on federal land and refusing to pay grazing fees. The case went through the courts to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in 1985 that the tribe had lost title to the land when the $26 million was deposited as payment - even though the money was never collected.
Mary Dann, who grew up with her sister on the 800-acre ranch once run by their father, usually sat quietly alongside more vocal Carrie in scores of public appearances and court hearings.
``Mary was quite a strong person. We're trying to absorb the suddenness of it happening,'' Yowell said on Saturday.
Carrie Dann said her sister would not want her death to interrupt the continuing court challenges over their land.
``This was Mary's life work,'' she said. ``All these years we've been fighting and the courts still haven't done anything. As far as we're concerned we will live up to our spiritual beliefs and nothing will change that. Mary believed that and lived by it and so do I.''
"The Battle Continues...even stronger."
This page is dedicated to the Dann Sisters and the entire plight of the Western Shoshone Nation at large.
It is a page of honor for two elderly Shoshone women who, for decades, have stood in the wide open spaces of their homeland with the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley in one hand and the U.S. Constitution in the other.
They, like all the Shoshone people, have never once violated the 1863 Treaty with the United States and have honored the words it contains to this day. They have been lied to, stolen from, harrassed during all hours of the day & night, been met by armed and determined BLM government jackbooters (...one of my favorite words these days...), arrested, jailed, sent to prison and have watched as their lives are slowly chipped away and destroyed by government agents, their representatives, hired hands, mining corporations, their attorneys and the courts.
These two sisters are very strong...they'd have to be to stand primarily alone against corporations, the BLM and the U.S. Government. Many people, Native Americans alike, would have walked away, quit and given up by now. The Danns will never do that. If more Native Americans would stand with the same strength these two women do then they would have the strength to unify all of the Indian Nations at the same time. Native American Indian children have two of the very best roll-models to look up to in these women. They are proud, honorable and true representatives of a great people - The Shoshone and all Native American Indians.
Through the stories, articles and comments contained herein, you, the reader will discover how corporate monsters with political ties and politicians with corporate ties share the same bed; how government agencies like the BLM has shown a total disregard for the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights, Due Process of Law, Violation of the Supreme Law of the Land - A signed Treaty between two Nations, swearing false statements, filing false documents and showing a total contemptuous demeanor towards the international courts. Comparitively not much different than Saddam Hussein. With that, let me pose this question: "What would you consider an act of terrorism?"
Voices around the world are beginning to be heard about this issue. It has reached unparalleled concerns about the activities of this agency known as the BLM. Who are they? Who gives them their orders? How do they manage to operate with a total disregard for local, state and federal laws? How do they manage to even exit? None of these people within this agency are elected by anyone in this nation. They are appointed or hired from within. They operate with our tax dollars. OUR TAX DOLLARS!! All of us are paying them to mistreat us! Not anymore.
Study the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights. Read and understand the 1863 Ruby Valley Treaty. The Dann Sisters have. Once you do then maybe you will really and truly understand why these two women stand and fight. It is their right...and yours too.
Look into your hearts...then you will know.
Editorial from Indian Country
Congress Should Consider Injustice Inherent
In Western Shoshone Case
Copyright 2003 Indian Country
Reprinted with Permission
Posted: January 16, 2003 - 10:27am EST
The Dann sisters of Nevada - Mary and Carrie - are something akin to modern mythological figures. A pair of hardy Western Shoshone ranchers who have attempted over the decades to assert their right to a land-related lifestyle, based on their treaty rights as Native people, they are heroic.
Indian people of today should recognize contemporary heroes of our nations. We have a few - more than most people realize, in fact - but we tend to gloss over their worth. Yet, example is everything. Example is what raises a worthy generation. When heroic stances by principled people of obvious integrity arise, we should always recognize, support and celebrate them.
The Dann sisters, who in their seventies and eighties still ride and herd cattle and horses, are a heroic example. The Dann sisters have sustained their Shoshone lifeways with a determination that should be recognized by all self-reliant Indian families and nations. In the face of federal harassment, confiscation and wanton resale of their hard-raised cattle, in the face of millions of dollars in fines, in the face of armed intrusions, they have epitomized American Indian principle and courage - hardiness, resiliency, honesty. To some, they may seem simply a couple of elder siblings trying to hold on to a ranch in the outer prairies; but they represent much more than that. They are saying (and have fought this to the U.S. Supreme Court): we have a right, as tribal people, to hold sway over our ancestral lands.
Indian ranchers take note: these are heroes worth emulating, worth putting forth to the American public as ambassadors of an Indian self-determined future on traditional lands. To the new Western Shoshone generation take note; someday you may want to graze your food-providing animals on that same prairie or find other ways to utilize your ancient and valuable birthright. The Dann sisters are saying: it belongs to you.
The shame inherent in the United States’ effort to usurp Western Shoshone title to Nevada lands appears deeper than previously reported. Writing for Indian Country Today, columnist Steve Newcomb recently detailed his revealing, unsuccessful, search for a crucial piece of finality, asserted by the U.S. Supreme Court and required by law. According to Newcomb’s finding, the Indian Claims Commission (ICC) reporting requirement, or certification that a case was concluded, was never filed in the Western Shoshone case, among others.
Noting that "finality" in cases brought before the Indian Claims Commission required "that the report of the Commission must be ‘filed with Congress’," and that, "such report shall have the effect of a final judgment of the Court of Claims," the columnist went in search of it. Again, he found only that the required report was in fact never filed.
What this means is uncertain. But the face of it indicates that proper procedure in what became rationale for a negative Supreme Court ruling was neither accurate nor conclusive. A procedural piece is missing. Like a great magic trick, the purported dispossession and disappearance of Western Shoshone lands may well have been a massive government illusion in which even contemporary lawmakers have been led to believe. Like the supposed "encroachment" upon their tribal lands that ostensibly justifies the negation of Western Shoshone title, the record does not add up in the termination of Shoshone title. Writes Newcomb: "The proposed distribution to the Western Shoshone of roughly 140 million dollars in judgment funds in Docket 326-K, is premised on the assumption that the ICC had reached finality." But it didn’t.
Expectedly, the Justice Department and other federal departments will weigh in with analysis and rationales for rounding out the missing piece of the record. This will likely carry the land grab forward, but it will be just another layer in the travesty of injustice that characterizes this case.
Perhaps the Dann sisters’ and Western Shoshones’ claim is in its final throes. Certainly, two elderly women, and their ranching tribesmen, tough as they may be, can not long withstand the mighty iron fist of the Bureau of Land Management backed up by a U.S. Supreme Court decision (1985), no matter how false and incomplete the record. But then again, perhaps the Dann sisters are being particularly favored from above. Their long-standing and sympathy-provoking case against the U.S. government has seemed on its death-knell for years, yet always something keeps happening to help it walk. That something is truth with honor.
Before Newcomb’s discovery that the crucial report was missing, the congressional bill that would authorize final payment and title transfer for the land hit quicksand, at least in the last Congress. All expect the bill to effect these payments will be reintroduced by Nevada Senator Harry Reid and Congressman James Gibbons in the upcoming session of Congress, but it has missed at least one beat.
The bill would distribute some $140 million to tribal members. Held in trust by the Interior Department since 1979, the Indian Claims Commission award in the amount of $27 million accumulated interest over the years. However, the tribe refused to take the money for fear that it would void their land claims. As reported by Valerie Taliman in ICT: "The $27 million was the 1872 value of the land that has since proven rich in mineral resources. The territory includes the Carlin Trend, a gold-mining region that has produced more than $20 billion in revenue since the early 1960s. The Western Shoshone have not received any of this revenue."
Says Geoffrey Bryan, tribal administrator for the Yomba Shoshone, one of the bands of Western Shoshone: "Currently, cattle ranching is the tribe’s only economic venture on our land base of 4,600 acres. Because of Bureau of Land Management restrictions, only three families can graze their cattle on so-called federal land that is ancestral Shoshone land. That has hindered our people’s livelihood."
Then, at the Organization of American States, as pro-U.S. an international body as there ever was, the case goes to the Danns and their Western Shoshone claim. Its Inter-American Commission on Human Rights found that the U.S. violated international human rights laws by denying Carrie and Mary Dann, as well as other tribal members, "their rights to equality before the law, to be free of discrimination, to a fair trial and to property."
In letters to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee and Ambassador Roger Noriega of the Organization of American States, Amnesty International Executive Director William Schulz expressed concern that the human rights of the Western Shoshone were being violated. Schulz raised concerns about the repeated raids by BLM agents on herds owned by the elderly sisters. The BLM maintains that the cattle are over-grazing on federally owned ranges, while the Danns and other Shoshone ranchers refuse to pay grazing fees for the use of lands they maintain were never ceded to the U.S. government.
Might does not make right. But in this case the mighty have worked hard to convince Americans of a legal foundation built on an illusion.
We know there is more. We urge all men and women of honor and principle, particularly in Congress, to consider the justice of their actions in the Western Shoshone case. Someone once said that great countries, like great leaders, honor their agreements.
On a media note:
The New York Times not long ago picked up the Dann’s story ("Range War in Nevada Pits U.S. Against 2 Shoshone Sisters," October 31, 2002). Feature writer Charlie LeDuff, a Native journalist, pieced together a solid portrait of the Danns and their situation. We quibble with it only this much: the tendency to assume the U.S. government’s assertion of reality over the Native viewpoint. It made us ponder the differences, advantages and disadvantages of the American Indian press, in tribal and national mainstream contexts, when presenting American Indian histories.
Groups endorse plan
to end public lands grazing
By JEFFRY MULLINS
Elko Daily Free Press
March 01, 2002
ELKO - More than 75 organizations, including some that receive federal funding, have endorsed a plan to end livestock grazing on federal lands in the West.
The plan was unveiled last fall by National Public Lands Grazing Campaign and would involve purchasing grazing permits from ranchers, then permanently retiring the permits.
Special legislation would be needed in order for the group to accomplish its goal. Meanwhile, letters have been mailed to the approximately 25,000 grazing permittees to introduce them to the buyout proposal and ask for their support.
"Some ranchers have already voluntarily relinquished their grazing permits to the government in exchange for compensation from third parties, and we believe many more would sell their permit interest to the government and retire the associated allotments from grazing," NPLGC reports on its Web site, www.publiclandsranching.org.
Mark Salvo, attorney for the group, also works for American Lands Alliance, a Washington, D.C.-based group that has threatened to petition for listing of the sage grouse as a federally protected species.
At a RangeNet conference last fall, Salvo told the audience grazing takes place on 270 million acres of federal land, which is "a significant land area." But he said the number of ranchers using the land is "insignificant" and contributes less than a tenth of one percent to employment in the West.
American Lands is one of the endorsers, along with Western Watersheds Project (Idaho), Alliance for the Wild Rockies (Montana), Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics (Oregon), Humane Society of the United States (Washington, D.C.), Wild Utah Project (Utah), The Wildlands Project (Vermont) and 70 other groups.
An article by Salvo and Andy Kerr of The Larch Company says, "Domestic livestock grazing (mostly beef cattle) have done more damage to North America than the bulldozer and chainsaw combined. Not only have livestock been degrading the landscape longer than developers, miners, and loggers, they have grazed nearly everywhere. Yet, the conservation movement has paid scant attention to this issue, even on federal public lands where livestock mow through 257 million acres annually."
Buying out the grazing permits would be cheaper for taxpayers than allowing grazing to continue, they say.
Others on the group's steering committee are Katie Fite of the Committee for Idaho's High Desert, John Horning of Forest Guardians, Bill Marlett of Oregon Natural Desert Association, Jon Marvel of Western Watersheds Project, Randi Spivak of American Lands Alliance and Martin Taylor of the Center for Biological Diversity.
Some of the groups endorsing the plan have received federal funding. These include California Trout, based in San Francisco; Land and Water Fund of the Rockies; and World Wildlife Fund.
NPLGC is preparing to publish a book titled "Welfare Ranching: The Subsidized Destruction of the American West," due out this summer.
Bureau of Land Management
Patrick Shea, Director
Fax 202 - 208-5242
Dear Mr. Shea,
There is an escalating conflict in Nevada between the BLM and Western Shoshone ranchers, who refuse to pay grazing fees for the use of so-called "public land", which the Western Shoshone Nation rightfully considers theirs.
The US has recognized the territory of the Western Shoshone by signing the Treaty of Ruby Valley of 1863. According to the Indian Claims Commission the Western Shoshone allegedly lost this territory due to encroachment by white settlers - an absurd argument considering how much longer the Western Shoshone have "encroached" these lands. Nevertheless subsequent court decisions followed this dubious justification of illegal land theft, but the Treaty of Ruby Valley has never been litigated and is still in full force and effect.
The court proceedings regarding Western Shoshone landrights were dominated by outrageous biases of truth, history and existing US laws. Since decades the Western Shoshone Nation is struggling to find a peaceful and just solution, but all their efforts were met with ignorance on all political levels. Their only means of making the public - and hopefully responsible politicians - aware of their situation and their struggle is resistance to unjust measures like the BLM's insistance on grazing fees.
Right now the BLM in Nevada intends to confiscate lifestock in several Western Shoshone communities. This would be the economic ruin of land based Native Americans. Since the BLM must be aware, that their reservations are extremely small and the quality of grazing land is insufficient to sustain them, this gives the impression of an anti-indian "punishment" - especially if one compares how much gold is exploited from Western Shoshone territory by corporations which are not asked to pay fair prices for the damage they cause.
I urge you to put a halt to the impoundment of lifestock of Western Shoshone ranchers and to take measures, that an acceptable solution is negotiated according to the government-to-government relations that US presidents, including President Clinton, have confirmed over and over. The issue of grazing fees is so closely related to the unsolved landrights case, which is still pending before the OAS (Organisation of American States), that consultations on a government-to-government basis are overdue.
A Nevada Citizens Voice from
The Western Shoshone Nation
‘Rescue’ or ‘Theft?’
BLM's intended swoop divides horse world
Posted: January 16, 2003 - 10:02am EST
by: Jim Adams
Indian Country Today
The Dann sisters feeding a horse in their coral.
(Photo courtesy of the Western Shoshone Defense Project.)
CRESCENT VALLEY, Newe Sogobia - Bureau of Land Management plans to confiscate Western Shoshone horse herds include the largest, and most controversial, "horse rescue" ever attempted by private groups.
Federal and Nevada state officials have called on a national network of "horse rescue" groups to process the nearly 1,000 horses they are planning to seize from ranchers Carrie and Mary Dann, possibly as early as Jan. 18. The Dann sisters, traditional Western Shoshone elders in their late 70s and early 80s, have refused to pay federal grazing fees for nearly three decades for the use of land they maintain still belongs to the Western Shoshone people.
In response supporters of the Dann sisters are starting their own round up of the Crescent Valley horses to move them "to an undisclosed preserve for safekeeping," the Western Shoshone National Council announced at press time. Hundreds of the horses will be donated to other Indian nations for horse management and gentling programs, said the announcement. The National Council said the BLM and Nevada Department of Agriculture had been informed of the move and were not expected to interfere. BLM Elko District supervisor Helen Hankins informed the Danns that her agency would not attempt to seize the horses at least through the end of the week of Jan. 20, the release said.
The federal government's choice of lead rescue group Habitat for Horses maintains that its role is "to take care of the horses, not interfere with the dispute over land." But a growing number of disenchanted members of the rescue coalition now say that the BLM "gather" is so ill conceived that it will place a large number of the horses in jeopardy.
JoLynn Worley, spokeswoman for the Reno, Nev. BLM office, said the round up was planned in coordination with the State of Nevada Brand Inspector, but she declined to give a definite date. "We plan to do this round up before the end of February," she said, "before the foaling season starts."
Worley refused to confirm that the round up was planned for the weekend of Jan. 18, citing safety concerns. She said that if a large number of outsiders were present during the rush of half-wild animals, someone could get hurt.
Dan DuBray, a spokesman for the Department of Interior in Washington, D.C., said that he was not familiar with the pending BLM action. He indicated that the operation would not be affected by the discovery, reported in the Jan. 15 Indian Country Today, that a serious procedural flaw might destroy the government’s assertion that it had taken title to Western Shoshone land. Repeating the prevalent government opinion, DuBray said the Western Shoshone case "was adjudicated already before the Supreme Court."
In the meantime, vigorous debate is going on over the details of the BLM’s planned "gather" of the Danns’ horses.
"This is the most ludicrous, ridiculous thing I have ever heard of," said Becky Lloyd of Rainbow Farm in southwest Missouri. Lloyd, at first part of the national rescue network, told ICT that something about the effort didn’t add up. As she looked into it further, learning for the first time about the Dann sisters’ case, she became vehemently opposed to the rescue effort and began an e-mail and telephone campaign against it.
"This is a monumental undertaking," she said about the "rescue" plan. "It’s never been done before on this scale."
Lloyd said the horse round up came at the worst time of year for the health and safety of the horses. In its haste to confiscate the Danns’ herd, she said, the BLM will be driving pregnant mares over icy mountain terrain, harassing them with a helicopter. Once gathered, the horses will have to be fed at a time when feed prices are their highest. Most or all of the pregnant mares will be foaling in the spring and will be in danger of miscarrying.
"Even the BLM doesn’t round up mustangs at this time of year," she said.
(Worley said, however, that the BLM had conducted mustang round ups in December and January. She denied that the horses faced undue risk. "The contractor we have is very good at his job," she said.)
Lloyd said the problems would continue even after the traumatized horses were parceled out to the "rescue" groups. She said that, according to the rules of the operation, the volunteers from as far away as New York, West Virginia and Missouri would be required to take stallions, yearlings and mares with foal in equal numbers. In some cases, this unruly mix of half-wild animals would face a ride of up to 20 hours in the same horse trailer.
"This is something that would happen with puppy mills," Lloyd said. "You would see this with dogs, not horses."
The coordinator of the effort, Jerry Finch of Habitat for Horses in Hitchcock, Texas, was not available for comment. But in a press release, he said that the Nevada Department of Agriculture had "solicited his help in placing these horses." The state, he said, required all applications and adoption fees by Jan. 17.
"While the state of Nevada, the federal agency, and the tribe fight out jurisdiction, almost 1,000 horses are in jeopardy of being sold at auction. These animals with little or no training, no pedigree or registration would be sold at market prices - meaning more than likely they will be sold as meat.
"The coalition of horse rescues and organizations is coming together to help save as many of the Nevada horses as possible, given the short time frame."
Finch said that because of the unprecedented size of the rescue, he had asked Jennifer Williams of Lone Star Equine Rescue in College Station, Texas, to help coordinate.
Although the adoption effort skirts the point that many of the horses actually belong to the Dann sisters, some of the e-mail traffic has begun to raise the issue. In one posting, reprinted by the Western Shoshone Defense Project, rescuer Jo Belasco asked, "How can people simply turn a blind eye to the Dann sisters and to what is going on?
"So why are we rushing all of this? Why are we simply sitting back and allowing the BLM to run things this way. Why are we allowing this to happen in what may be very dangerous conditions to the horses?"
The BLM’s Worley responded, as she has innumerable times before, "The trespassing situation has been going on with the Danns for about 30 years."
She said that the BLM expressed concern last summer about "the excessive number of horses in Crescent Valley" and had negotiated with the Danns to reduce their herd. Julie Ann Fishel of the Western Shoshone Defense Council said that the Danns were willing to reduce the herd, but that another BLM roundup of their cattle on a different part of the range in September had forced them to fill up their holding pens with the cattle they had gathered in advance of the federal agents.
Worley said that in the early 1990s the Danns were running 2,000 horses in the Crescent Valley and had gathered and sold about 1,700. By comparison, she said, "when the Danns held a valid grazing permit, it was for 170 cattle and 10 horses.
"Eight hundred to 1,000 horses is an impact," she said.
Worley said that the broader issue of rightful ownership of the land had already been adjudicated, repeating the common assumption of the federal government. The federal courts told us we have a job to do.
"The BLM didn’t take the land away from the Western Shoshone. We can’t give the land back to them. All we can do is to manage public land."
Worley's comment about rightful ownership of the land having been adjudicated is without merit in view of the fact that not one Shoshone was present during these supposed precedings and had no idea that they were even held.
Stating also that they are repeating the "COMMON ASSUMPTION" of the federal government? That's absolutely rediculous. Law is not based on common assumption, treaties are not written on common assumption and no court in the land will award any authority to any agency or its agents on common assumption.
To continue, Worley also stated that the federal courts told (keyword here: "TOLD") us we have a job to do. What job? The courts 'told' them? What kind of law is that? The bottom line here is where is the documentation of any of these comments and claims? And finally, stating that the BLM did not take the land away from the Western Shoshone is no more than a big lie. What have they been doing all of these years then? Politely asking? They can't give the land back? These statements are conflicting. And thus, they say all they can do is manage public land. How did it become public land if they didn't steal it from the Shoshone in the first place? If in fact, as they claim, it is public land, then why are they selling it to corporations, the mining industry and developments such as the Yucca Mountain Project? Who does the BLM really work for?
BLM Manager explains cattle impoundment
By JEFFRY MULLINS, Staff Writer
Elko Daily Free Press
June 6, 2002
(Please Note: The "STOP HERE" inserts are from the Editor.)
ELKO - U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials were preparing to seize cattle from the Dann sisters in Crescent Valley prior to last month's impoundment of Te-Moak Livestock Association cows south of Elko.
"We were not planning to do this impoundment at this time of the year," Elko Field Manager Helen Hankins told Elko County commissioners Wednesday afternoon.
The federal agency shifted its attention away from the Danns after two members of the Te-Moak association turned their cows out onto an occupied allotment south of Spring Creek, she said.
Raymond Yowell and Wilfred Brady of the association both visited with Hankins after receiving trespass notices, she said.
"I advised Mr. Yowell that the BLM would prefer to come to a resolution with the Te-Moak Livestock Association, and I asked him individually to do that," she said. "His response to me was, 'You know my position.'"
Hankins said she and other BLM officials triple-checked to be sure they followed proper procedures in the seizure.
"We did not do it lightly. I wanted to make darn sure that if we did an impoundment that we did it right," she said.
"Contrary to what's circulating around town, we did not set up corrals at midnight," she said. The cows were taken off public land beginning around 5 a.m., and the owners were notified around 7 a.m.
Members of the association owe more than $2 million in unpaid grazing fees and damages, Hankins said. The cattle taken from Yowell and Alvin Tybo could have been claimed by the owners for about $400,000, but were sold Friday at auction for about $27,000.
Hankins also provided some details about the history of the grazing dispute.
"They always maintained the position that these were Shoshone lands," she said of the renegade cattlemen.
"It is true that the land in northern Nevada, some 24 million acres in Nevada and into California, are ancestral Shoshone lands," she said. However, an Indian Claims Commission was set up in the 1940s to investigate possible wrongs against the natives and to award monetary compensation for those wrongs. In the Shoshones' case, the commission awarded $26 million in damages. The Indians voted overwhelmingly this week to take the money, which has blossomed in a U.S. Treasury account to about $105 million.
Yes. It is true that the lands of Newe Sogobia are ancestral Shoshone lands. This is the first truthful thing that has come out of Hankins mouth. There is no however because the Indian Claims Commission did not modify, alter or extinguish the 1863 Treaty. They did acknowledge the wrongs done to the Shoshone and awarded, at that time, $26 million in damages...not the sale of the Shoshone Nation or its lands.
A Supreme Court decision in 1985 (United States v. the Dann Sisters) ruled aboriginal tribal title to the Shoshone lands was extinguished upon payment of the claims to the Treasury, Hankins said.
They can't arbitrarily change one issue to cover another. This was an issue between the Danns' and the United States and not with the Shoshone Nation. The fact that they agreed to the damages that were done to the Shoshone People and made payment - to an account in the Treasury - it was not for the purchase of the lands from the Shoshone Nation or the extinguishment of the Ruby Valley Treaty. Then, because the Shoshone did not take this money because the way the language had been written, if the Shoshone did take this money they would be giving up all claims to their lands and the extinguishment of their Treaty, the U.S.G. appointed a representative for the Shoshone People, to which they had no say in the matter, and this individual accepted the money on their behalf. They can't do that. It doesn't matter even if they did. It's illegal and therefore invalid. Here is the problem with the whole issue.
"Once the money was deposited, then the U.S. government considered that the Shoshone had been paid for their lands," she said.
The U.S. Government had 'considered' that the Shoshone had been paid for their land?" Did they make it a part of the treaty? Was this ratified by the President or Congress? What part of the U.S. Government are they talking about?
Some Indians believed that when private lands were added to the South Fork Reservation in the 1940s, they included grazing rights.
"Generally speaking, when somebody sells private land - in Elko or anyplace else - they can only sell what they own," Hankins said. "Those private land ranchers did not own grazing rights on public land that they could sell, and they could not sell something to the U.S. government that they did not have."
Hankins stated: "They can only sell what they own,". Who did they buy these lands from? "Sell something to the U.S. Government they did not have." Who had it then? Who was selling what to whom?
Hankins continued, "It is our belief, based on the research we've done, that the Shoshone do not have grazing rights on public land except under the Taylor Grazing Act, which is the way the current permitee is using the public lands adjacent to the reservation."
Hankins stated: "It is our BELIEF,". The Taylor Grazing Act did not include the rights of the Shoshone People protected by the 1863 Treaty. In fact, it did not even consider the Treaty.
The legal interpretation applies to the Dann sisters as well. Hankins said Mary and Carrie Dann currently have about 2,000 head of livestock on public land.
"Their previous permit supported approximately 200 livestock," she said.
County Commissioner John Ellison, a member of the BLM's Resource Advisory Council, said he participated in a recent tour of the land around the Dann sisters' ranch.
"It was in bad shape," he said.
Mr. John Ellison told this reporter, personally, that he did not participate in this tour. He stated that he wanted to check it out for himself - alone.
Ellison asked if a Nevada Cattlemen's Association request that the federal agencies be "fair and equitable" had anything to do with the Te-Moak roundup.
"It's one of the reasons," Hankins said, explaining the BLM took a lot of criticism last summer after seizing cows from two western Nevada ranchers.
"Some of the criticism was, you've got folks up in northern Nevada ... where you have let people trespass for five years, 10 years, 20 years and you haven't done a darn thing about it."
Those in the livestock industry have said they expect people to pay their grazing fees, she added.
The conflict with Shoshone ranchers was "a tough situation," said Commissioner Mike Nannini.
"I think you've been as fair as you can possibly be," he told Hankins. "You were probably a lot more lenient than most folks would have been."
Commission Chairman Brad Roberts said if the Te-Moak had removed their cattle, there wouldn't have been an impoundment. They could have taken the issue to court themselves instead of risking losing their livelihood, he added.
"They have taken the BLM to court several times," said Hankins. "... They have taken that avenue, and to date they have not prevailed against the BLM."
What? "Prevailed against the BLM!?" Are they nuts? Who appointed the BLM to be the Calvary? I hope none of them have 'Yellow Hair'.
In response to a question from Commissioner Nolan Lloyd, Hankins said there are about 700 ranchers in Nevada with grazing permits on BLM land. There are only four or five who do not pay, she said.
"A majority of the people who use the public lands for grazing are paying their fees; they are taking care of the land," Hankins said.
If these individuals are paying the BLM then they are paying the wrong group. Their fees should be paid to and at the nearest Finance Office of the Shoshone Tribe.
She said she hoped the issue could be resolved with the Dann sisters.
"I don't like doing impoundments," she told commissioners.
Well, maybe Hankins doesn't like doing impoundments but they have no problem with stealing another persons private property, violating Search & Seizure Laws, violating the Due Process of Law, violating the Treaty between two Soverign Nations, violating the 4th Amendment, along with several others, violating Nevada Law and Nevada States Rights, trespassing on Native Lands, filing false documents and giving under oath false statements...yeah, they don't like doing impoundments.
The BLM has recently stolen more cattle from the Shoshone, namely the Danns'.
In August of 2002, The United States finally, and officially, recognized the 1863 Ruby Valley Treaty with the Western Shoshone and the Nation of Newe Segobia. This being the fact, the current actions by the BLM are a direct violation, again, of this treaty. In short, it is criminal and an act of war. These cattle should be returned immediately along with all other previously confiscated livestock and property. Those responsible should be arrested, fined and held accountable for their actions as would any other criminal with one exceptional addition, a charge of inducing a war with a foriegn nation. The BLM should be made and/or forced to immediately discontinue any activity in the State of Nevada and/or that of Newe Segobia.
And yet, even this finding by the United States is ignored by the BLM.
This announcment was printed on the front page of the Elko Daily Free Press. It is not available online and one will have to visit their offices and request a hard-copy of the issue.
UPDATE: October 8, 2002
The BLM sold by bid & auction 232 cows, including bulls, belonging to the Dann Sisters for $59,262 under protest from the Danns, their attorneys, supporters and The Organization of American States' Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
The amount the BLM obtained, even though illegally, is so minute when compared to the $3 million in grazing fees and penalties they claim the Dann Sisters owe that one is now left to ponder what is going to happen next. Isn't this the second time the BLM has done this to the Danns? How many other Native Americans have they done this to, not only in Nevada, but through all of the Native American Treaty Lands? This is pure harrassment and nothing short. Again, it is highly illegal.
Being the case that the BLM illegally confiscated property in violation of the 4th Amendment and Siezure Laws, among others, and selling this stolen property, we should be able to conclude that, even though all of this is - what they have done - illegal, the BLM accepted the monies of this sale as compensation for their claims against the Danns, thus, bringing this matter to a close. This action by the BLM has been going on for decades, running up the price of the supposed violations. This also, in itself, is illegal. Does this mean that the Western Shoshone can hold the government accountable for the monies owed to them by attaching penalties, and interest on those penalties, as well as bargain or negotiate for the current market prices for land within Newe Sogobia by the square foot? Maybe. The Shoshone Nation has never had any problem being able to produce proof of ownership of their lands. The DOI and the BLM have - and still do. Where's the proof?
If the government has been trying to negotiate for years a settlement with the Danns then why have they been so unsuccessful? The only part of the government I have heard about doing anything with the Danns or the entire Shoshone Nation is the BLM. This is not an elected agency of our government nor do they have any authority to alter by any means any part of a treaty with another nation. These are acts of war.
BLM officials "said" the courts have ruled the land is owned by the federal government, not the Western Shoshone. What courts? We all know that the federal government cannot own land. Read the United States Constitution. Are they saying that more than one court has had their hands on this situation? Even these so-called courts have no jurisdiction over the 1863 Ruby Valley Treaty. The International Courts and the Federal Courts have asked the DOI and the BLM to show proof of ownership and they have not done so to this date. They just make statements. These statements are not the Law of the Land. The Treaty is. Accordingly, the President of the United States and the full Congress are the only ones who can negotiate any changes in this, or any other treaty signed between two nations. This authority cannot be sub-departmentalized. Therefore, the DOI and the BLM are in violation of the Constitution of the United States and as such should either be arrested or at least be forced to discontinue all activites in and on these treaty lands, in this soverign nation.
One would have to ask, "Why now. Why is the course of action the BLM chose to take more critical today than 30 years ago, and in some cases longer? Could it be that the Indian Trust Money is not really there and the DOI is using their agency of the BLM to harrass the Native Americans with these trumped up claims of grazing violations in order to build a case against them claiming 'possession by encroachment' and levying fines that would give them some right to confiscate these properties and sell them for the money to, in turn, put these monies into the missing Trust Fund account and then redisburse the Indians money back to them. Sounds like American Corporate Politics to me. This is not the actions of a government Of The People, By The People, For The People.
We cannot let the issues of open chemical pits from the mining establishment or that of the Yucca Mountain Project slip through the cracks unrecognized in this matter either. Arguments can be brought to the front that these things are being done with the utmost safety involved when in fact they should not exist in the first place.
The BLM claimed that they owned this land and sold it to the Department of Energy for the use as the worlds largest nuclear waste dump. In addition to this particular problem, it is not only Shoshone lands, and they don't want this stuff on their lands anymore than any other sane and rational person, but, according to the state polls, well over 80% of the State of Nevada's population do not want this dump in this state either. There is more going on here than meets the eye.
Boone Tidwell, one of the buyers of the Danns' livestock, purchased three of their bulls and returned them to the Danns' without charge.
It has been stated also that when the BLM wants to confiscate livestock, it signs itself as the owner on brand inspections without due process. Back to the 4th Amendment.
Let's clear up this matter of the term 'encroachment' used by the DOI and the BLM.
THE DICTIONARY - "ENCROACHMENT"
To enter or intrude by gradual steps or by stealth into the possessions or rights of another; to advance beyond the usual, proper or presecribed limits; to trespass; to seize illegally; illegal possession of anothers property.
That should help to explain what the Dann Sisters have been saying all along. They are absolutely correct when questioning whether or not 'encroachment is a part of the American Judicial Process and the Constitution. It is not. Let's not forget the Treaty between two Nations.
If encroachment is what the DOI & the BLM claim as their right then they are very wrong. If our country, our nation, our government where to use this tactic with everyone we have signed treaties with then our wars with Germany, Japan, Korea and elsewhere, would be reactivated. One of the primary responsibilities of a treaty is to live up to it. The Shoshone People have never violated this treaty.
The Constitution is the source of all federal law. All federal laws must be based in the Constitution, for it is from that source only that they may derive their authority. Article I, Section 8 grants to Congress the authority to make laws regarding specific subjects. Our government is one of enumerated powers, and it can exercise only the powers granted to it. The Constitution specifically limits the powers of the federal government. The powers not specifically delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States or to the People.
The United States Constitution, even though limiting in its construct, is the supreme law of the land. Although other laws may deal with matters not specifically considered in the Constitution, no law, be it state or federal, can conflict with the Constitution.
One who desires to be a part of the federal government must affirm their personal commitment to this contract between the people and the government. That is why federal law enforcement officers and agents take a solemn oath to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America..." They must know Constitutional Law not only to protect the rights of one citizen from infringement by another, but especially to ensure that acting as an arm of the federal government, the constraints and limitations imposed by the Constitution are not violated.
ATTAINDER & EX POST FACTO LAWS
The Constitution forbids the passing of bills of attainder or ex post facto laws.
A bill of attainder is a legislative act by which an individual or class of individuals is declared to be guilty of a crime and/or punished without trial or other judicial proceedings.
A law is Ex Post Facto if applied retroactively to:
1) Make conduct criminal that was lawful at the time it was performed;
2) Change the classification of a crime, such as from a misdemeanor to a felony;
3) Increase the maximum punishment authorized; or
4) Alter a procedural or evidentiary rule to the defendant's disadvantage.
DUE PROCESS OF LAW
No person may be denied life, liberty or property with due process of law. This is a body of rules and procedures incorporated into our judicial system and designed to ensure fundamental fairness and to protect private rights. It directly impacts several important law enforcement practices.
The SIXTH AMENDMENT
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against them; to have compulsory process for obtaining Witnesses in their favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for their defense.
One other thing in this matter is the BLM used contracted Utah cowboys to round up and confiscate the Danns' cattle violating Nevada's Right to Work Law. It doesn't matter who the BLM is, or what agency they claim to represent, they cannot come into the territory of any State and openly violate that States' Laws to conduct their business, legal or otherwise.
We believe it is way past time that the Citizens of Nevada take a strong stand against the DOI and especially the BLM. The Governor of Nevada, the Nevada Legislature, and all of its Legal State District Representatives come to arms and move to block and sustain any and all activities of the BLM within the borders of the State of Nevada and the Western Shoshone Nation of Newe Sogobia until the matter of the 1863 Ruby Valley Treaty is concluded by Congress and/or the President of the United States to live up to their sworn word.
The day is near when the Indian Law Enforcement Agencies, such as BIA and 638 Tribal Police Departments will exercise their full authority and will protect this Treaty, these Lands, the Shoshone People and their Properties by arresting any member or agent of the DOI or BLM for criminal trespass and theft.
BLM seizes cattle of Western Shoshone ranchers in Nevada
By MARTIN GRIFFITH
September 22, 2002
RENO, Nev. (AP) - As more than 30 armed federal agents stood by Sunday, Bureau of Land Management officials seized about 200 head of cattle they say two Western Shoshone sisters were grazing illegally on public land in northeast Nevada.
Mary and Carrie Dann, who have been at odds with federal authorities for decades over grazing and land ownership, sharply criticized the operation in Pine Valley southwest of Carlin.
They maintain the Western Shoshone still own much of Nevada under the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley and that the BLM has no jurisdiction over their ranching operation.
"It's domestic terrorism," Carrie Dann said. "Our homelands are threatened by the mightiest and most powerful nation in the world. To do this and take away our livelihood is morally and ethically wrong. We are trying to make a living off Western Shoshone land."
But BLM spokeswoman Jo Simpson said the courts have ruled the land in question is owned by the public, not the tribe.
"The courts have extinguished the treaty and directed BLM to manage those lands as public lands," she said. "Certainly, an impoundment is something we don't want to do. But the Danns' continued trespass has resulted in severe overgrazing and degradation of the land."
Simpson warned that the BLM would seize about 800 to 900 horses in the same area in the future if the Danns fail to remove them.
Wranglers on horseback, aided by a helicopter, began the operation shortly before 9 a.m., as BLM Nevada state Director Bob Abbey and BLM Elko district Director Helen Hankins looked on.
A group of eight Dann supporters was escorted from the site without incident before the roundup began for safety reasons, Simpson said.
Dann supporters and the BLM later clashed over whether the federal agency had the authority to restrict access on a dirt road leading to the site.
Simpson insisted the BLM never closed the road but merely managed access to the site for safety reasons.
Eureka County Sheriff Ken Jones disagreed, saying a federal vehicle blocked the road. He maintained it was a county road that must remain open to the public.
"As it stands now, we have an agreement that people will be allowed to traverse the county road because all citizens have a right to use that road," Jones said.
"But deputies are warning people they'll be subject to arrest and prosecution if they interfere with the operations," the sheriff said.
No other major problems were reported.
More than 40 Dann supporters gathered at the sisters' ranch in nearby Crescent Valley to consider a protest over the seizure.
Among those present was Raymond Yowell, the target of the last federal cattle confiscation in Nevada. In May, the BLM seized 157 head of cattle it says Yowell and the Te-Moak Band of Western Shoshone were grazing illegally on public land in Elko County.
"We're not going to sit by and just let this happen," said Christopher Sewall, program director of the Western Shoshone Defense Project. "However, they (Dann sisters) do believe in non-violence and non-violent protest.
"I'm ashamed of my government. It's a sad day in American history. The Shoshone have a legally binding treaty with the federal government that's being ignored," Sewall added.
BLM officials ended the operation for the day late in the afternoon and were unsure how much longer it would take to complete. They said up to 300 more Dann cows might be scattered over a wide area.
BLM officials stress that 99 percent of ranchers comply with terms of federal grazing permits, and they only are cracking down on flagrant violators.
"I think they fully understand what the rules are and choose not to follow them," Simpson said. "BLM has a responsibility to maintain a healthy and productive rangeland."
The Danns received a notice last month from the BLM that their grazing privileges were being canceled, and an appeal period expired Sept. 16, said Julie Fishel of the Western Shoshone Defense Project.
The Danns maintain the treaty between the Western Shoshone and United States simply granted the U.S. limited access - not ownership - to 23.6 million acres. The Western Shoshone tribes live mainly in Nevada, California, Idaho and Utah.
Earlier this year, a preliminary report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights accused the U.S. government of violating international human rights laws in its treatment of the Danns.
Even though the report made no determination of their legal land rights, it said the U.S. should provide the Danns an effective remedy to ensure respect for their claims to property rights on ancestral lands.
NV Cattle Rustling: An Eyewitness Report
By The Nevada Livestock Association
Published Sept. 23, 2002 at 17:42 Sierra Times
Cresent Valley, NV - The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) attacked the Dann Sisters from Crescent Valley, Nevada early Sunday morning September 22, 2002 in the Pine Valley area of Eureka County. They impounded an unknown amount of cattle (BLM estimates of 200 head), with the help of Greg Cook of Vernal, Utah, and his hired rustlers as well as from 50 to 100 BLM and federal personnel.
Helicopters and surveillance airplanes roamed the skies. The BLM deployed and established a lock down of a great portion of Eureka county with armed quasi-militarized BLM enforcement officers as well as other federal agents. All access by roads, including the road from Carlin, Nevada and county access roads were blocked by BLM with assistance, on state highways, from the Nevada Highway Patrol.
BLM set up the evening before the attack in Pine Valley. A large base camp with helipad, command post trailers, up to 100 personnel, the majority of which were armed. Various types of weaponry, camouflage, military paraphernalia, night vision scopes, flack vests, as well a some special operations type personnel. Manned four-wheel drive pickups and special camo-green ATV’s were deployed through out the area.
Members of the Western Shoshone Nation and their supporters had been forewarned by an anonymous caller of the attack and were in the mountains to peacefully protect the cattle and document developments, none were armed. In the early morning darkness they were surrounded by BLM rangers with sidearms. They were instructed to immediately vacate the area. When they questioned why, "We were told the BLM was conducting an unidentified operation and that we needed to leave, immediately. We told them we were here to document the actions of the BLM and that we were not blocking the road and not threatening them in any way. We were not armed," said Christopher Sowall of the Western Shoshone Defense Project. They told us we will give you one more warning then we will arrest you. They had night vision scopes. They escorted us out with rangers in front and back who prevented us from stopping, telling us to keep moving until we reached the perimeter they had established," said Sowall. Others in area met a similar fate.
The Nevada Live Stock Association (NVLSA) Chairman David Holmgren, his family and other members supporting the Dann Sisters of Crescent Valley, helped remove some cattle to safety. "All of the cattle were in excellent condition with big calves and lots of milk," said Holmgren. The BLM statement that 'it's just weeds and dirt out there' as reported in the Reno Gazette, is totally false. I want all real ranchers to know that. We friendly cowboys used a leased helicopter ourselves this morning (Sept. 23, 2002) to site more cattle and we are bringing them in before the BLM rustlers get them. We also monitored the BLM," said Holmgren.
Other ranchers in the area were also upset with the gather as their cattle were gathered with the Danns.
"The Nevada Brand Department was in full force, as were Boss Abbey (Nevada BLM State Director) who led the operation and his BLM press correspondent JoLynn Worley, both sporting big cowboy hats," said David Holmgren. Holmgren noted that the Nevada Live Stock Association is the only cattlemen’s association who is supporting ranchers in Nevada who are having their cattle impounded and sold without a court order or due process of law, as well as a phony brand inspection certificate where ownership can be transferred without the real owner’s signature.
Eureka County Sheriff Ken Jones was informed of the situation by Holmgren and that Holmgren and others were being confronted by armed rangers and that the Danns’ and county roads were closed. A Eureka County sergeant was dispatched to the area. A party including Holmgren, were then allowed to proceed. BLM insisted on an armed escort in pickups and ATV’s to the impoundment area. They would be arrested if they left the county road or stepped foot off of it. The last of the cattle were being loaded on Cook leased or owned semi trucks when they arrived at the corrals. Other ranchers who rode up to the corral were stopped and not allowed to get in the corral, "they were kept at a distance," They told us to move on but Carrie (Dann) refused, then Boss Abbey (BLM) said that they had control of the public lands and we weren’t to step off of the road," said Holmgren.
"Remember this is just the beginning, eventually anyone could have their cattle impounded and sold for breaking a BLM rule or regulation," said Holmgren.
The cattle were to be taken to the BLM Palomino Valley Wild Horse and Burro facility as live stock auctions will not accept them.
Holmgren and his family as well as others from the Nevada Live Stock Association and the Shoshone are still out gathering cattle today. More NVLSA dispatches from the battle front will be forth coming.
© 2002 SierraTimes.com (unless otherwise noted)
Last Stand for Western Shoshone
Courtesy of Indian Country Today
Posted September 30, 2002
At Shoshone, they called it cattle theft. That's last week's description, after a massive, gun-toting raid by federal authorities to confiscate Indian cattle. This week's Senate version of the same issue is more clearly land theft. Just days after the raid by Bureau of Land Management agents intended to destroy the economic life of Western Shoshone horse and cattle ranchers, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs approved the distribution of money-for-land-title payments to Western Shoshone tribal members. The distribution plan, now slated to become law, effectively destroys the Shoshone claim to their aboriginal lands under the Treaty of Ruby Valley.
In an effort to continue a process that has otherwise been thoroughly discredited by any and all accurate historical accountings, the U.S. government has moved mightily to conclude, in the 21st Century, a massive land swindle that has been some 140 years in the making. The federal government has a growing number of people deeply troubled by its actions in this case. And they should be troubled. Among the affected, a large minority of the tribe, including the Dann sisters, a pair of grandmother-ranchers who have tenaciously upheld the assertion that their people never gave up title to their aboriginal lands. The U.S. asserts it that it seized the land by encroachment starting as early as the 1860s.
Under the bill introduced by Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., those who are at least one-quarter Shoshone from around 6,600 tribal members living mainly in Nevada, California, Idaho and Utah would share the bulk of a $138 million fund. The bill now moves to the full Senate. Reid, who sits on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, is expecting Senate passage this year.
This massive land swindle has the appearance of legality, but it still stinks. In particular, there is no just cause for what Interior Secretary Gale Norton's Bureau of Land Management agents and enforcers are doing to the Dann sisters, Carrie and Mary, and other Western Shoshone ranchers. Its an outright shame that legitimate Indian farmers, Western Shoshone grandmothers in this case, have to undergo SWAT-type raids from the federal government, for living and working on their ancestral lands. With guns at the ready, under cover of darkness and with roads blocked, the 40-agent federal attack came, and over two hundred head of prime, locally-adapted cattle were confiscated, hauled away to be auctioned in penalty for fines.
The issue is of long-standing. Shoshone ranchers and many other ranchers have traditionally used the vast Nevada rangeland to feed their beef cattle. In the case of the Shoshones, traditional elders rely on the Treaty of Ruby Valley, which they claim did not relinquish title to their homelands. While the government claims the Shoshone lost title because of "gradual encroachment," even today, as Carrie Dann points out, "If they took it by gradual encroachment, where are all those people who encroached?" Of her Nevada homeland she says, "The only people living out here are Indians."
As reported by Indian Country Today Southwest Bureau Chief, Valerie Taliman in this edition, the Danns and other Shoshone ranchers pasture their cattle on the contested ranges, for which they are fined exorbitantly by the Bureau of Land Management, with the intent of breaking them financially. The raids are mounted to enforce the heavy penalties. The Dann sisters and Western Shoshone traditionalists maintain that their tribe never legally ceded their rangelands. For this perspective, which has much legal precedent and a supportive international ruling, they are treated like criminals. The federal raids are clearly aimed at causing demoralization and economic damage to the more politically astute traditional families.
Coming just days before the U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee "marked up" Reid's bill to finally extinguish Western Shoshone territory, the raid stoked the sense in Indian country that federal agencies are once again playing in-your-face hardball, rather than searching for some other type of compromise over very deeply disputed Indian country lands.
As Taliman reports, a recent report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States, of which the U.S. is a member, found that the United States is violating the human and civil rights of Western Shoshone people. The report accused the U.S. of using illegitimate means to claim ownership and control of Western Shoshone land and resources. The OAS Commission recommended a remedy that will respect the Western Shoshone's rights to the land. This interesting development is a good reminder that federal Indian policy can be scrutinized by international bodies ‹ even though it remains to be seen whether the United States will respect the OAS report.
Nevertheless, the long-standing issue comes to a head as Interior ponders the privatization of huge sectors of rangeland. Extinguishment of Shoshone land ownership has been very high on the agenda and lawyers representing Western Shoshone opponents of the payout point out that Reid's bill is part of a drive to open the land to lucrative private gold mining. In a statement, they said it provided 15 cents an acre for land encompassing the Carlin gold trend, "with a mined value of $20 billion dollars and rising."
The white ranchers, too, are feeling the pinch of the BLM. The intensity of persecution against the Dann sisters at this moment has all the earmarks of an early sweep of the field. Consider that Nevada Senator Harry Reid has two bills in Congress. Senate bill 958 would pay off the Shoshones 15 cents an acre to "settle" their claim to the land. The other, S. 719, opens the land for privatization, selling the land to the highest bidders. Expectedly these will be for multi-national gold mining companies and other powerful interests. Indian Country Today will closely follow these developments.
The Nevada Live Stock Association, feeling the threat to their own lifestyles, also came out in defense of the Indian ranchers. Chairman David Holmgren and his wife, who were on the scene of the raid, called it, "unlawful siezures" and "cattle rustling" by the BLM. Holmgren stated on behalf of the state-wide association: "Grand larceny of the Dann cattle is being committed and the right to due process of law is a joke right now. We plan to stand against this threat to our liberty with the Western Shoshone people."
This is an eyewitness description of the attack provided by the Nevada Live Stock Association: "The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) attacked the Dann Sisters from Crescent Valley, Nevada early Sunday morning September 22, 2002 in the Pine Valley area of Eureka County. They impounded an unknown amount of cattle (BLM estimates of 200 head), with the help of Greg Cook of Vernal, Utah, and his hired rustlers as well as from 50 to 100 BLM and federal personnel.
"Helicopters and surveillance airplanes roamed the skies. The BLM deployed and established a lock down of a great portion of Eureka County with armed quasi-militarized BLM enforcement officers as well as other federal agents. All access by roads, including the road from Carlin, Nevada and county access roads were blocked by BLM with assistance, on state highways, from the Nevada Highway Patrol.
"BLM set up the evening before the attack in Pine Valley. A large base camp with helipad, command post trailers, up to 100 personnel, the majority of which were armed. Various types of weaponry, camouflage, military paraphernalia, night vision scopes, flack vests, as well a some special operations type personnel. Manned four-wheel drive pickups and special camo-green ATV’s were deployed through out the area." No, this wasn't Afghanistan. This was Western Shoshone Territory, within Nevada.
The national media needs to take a good look at this crisis. It is a classic case of land-dispossession and business corruption under the guise of old mining laws and one of the most egregious sleight-of-hand Supreme Court decisions in history. Callous and heavy-handed federal bureaucratic injustice now adds the weight of post 9-11 law enforcement against regular ranching people. It is urgent that the Interior Secretary forcefully review this dangerous policy of conducting para-military raids of enforced cattle rustling against productive and peaceful Indian families who are only trying to reclaim their proper land rights and to sustain a way of life.
To be fair, a majority of Western Shoshones did vote to accept the money-for-land-rights offer, but clearly out of economic desperation and necessity, a position to which they were pushed and cajoled by the U.S. even after a century of staunch assertion of continued possession of their lands. History will properly judge this powerful country for this unjust deed. The truth of the Shoshone claim is self-evident, even if their power has been curtailed by historical forces. Again, in 2002, and as always with Indian property, the land dispossession is being made legal, but it still stinks.
"The Latest News On The Dann Sisters"
BLM is at it again...
BLM conducts aerial survey of Shoshone sisters` cattle
By Sandra Chereb
1/6/2003 11:33 pm
The Bureau of Land Management conducted an aerial survey Monday over the Nevada ranching operation of two Western Shoshone sisters in an ongoing dispute over grazing and tribal treaty rights.
The survey could lead to another BLM roundup of livestock owned by Mary and Carrie Dann, who have been at odds with the federal agency for decades over use of the land they claim belongs to the Western Shoshone tribe under a 140-year-old treaty.
The federal government says otherwise and argues the horses and cattle are causing damage by overgrazing the land to which other ranchers are entitled.
Neither the Danns nor members of the Western Shoshone Defense Project could be reached for immediate comment.
The agency would not confirm the survey was being done in advance of a government roundup at the Danns’ Crescent Valley ranch in rural Eureka County. But the aerial reconnaissance follows increased enforcement in recent months against what the BLM considers illegal trespassing on public lands in Nevada.
“We’ve been headed down this road since the last gather,” said JoLynn Worley, a BLM spokeswoman in Reno.
Since July 2001, the bureau has confiscated and auctioned hundreds of cattle belonging to three non-Indian ranchers in Nevada and one member of the Te-Moak band of the Western Shoshone on similar trespassing charges.
In September, the BLM confiscated 227 cattle owned by the Danns and sold them at auction, though one sympathetic buyer who purchased four bulls later returned them to the sisters.
The week before Christmas, the BLM served the Danns with official notice to remove remaining animals from the range within five days or risk government impoundment of an estimated 250 cattle and 1,000 horses.
The government says the Danns owe nearly $3 million in fees and fines for allowing their livestock to trespass on public lands for the past 30 years.
But the Danns maintain the Ruby Valley Treaty of 1863 gives them title to the land, including the right to graze livestock without intervention by the U.S. government.
Worley said Monday’s aerial count would provide an estimate on how many animals are on the land, but who owns the animals wouldn’t be determined until they are rounded up.
“We really hope that the Danns will go ahead and gather whatever horses they consider to be theirs,” Worley said. “Then we’ll go in and gather all the excess animals. We’ll be looking to see if there’s any cattle out there, too.”
The Danns have maintained that not all the animals belong to them and have asked the bureau for proof they are damaging the range.
In a Nov. 29 letter to BLM field manager Helen Hankins, Deborah Schaaf, a lawyer for the Danns, said the sisters were planning to round up and sell horses but that the September cattle seizure hampered those efforts.
“The Danns were forced to bring their remaining livestock in early, filling holding areas which would otherwise have been used to contain the horses,” Schaaf wrote. “The Danns are understandably concerned that if those cattle are turned back out, and the horses brought in, the cattle will be forcibly seized and auctioned in a repeat of your earlier action.”
The letter added that the Danns “would like nothing more than to see a fair resolution of these issues and to move toward a cooperative relationship with the BLM.”
(Photo) Elko Daily Free Press
Feb. 5, 2003
Jay Smith of the Yomba Tribe poses on his horse at the Dann Ranch in Cresent valley after helping the Dann's round up their horses during the weekend. With him is Jackie Holmgren of the Nevada Live Stock Association and Nevada Committee for Full Statehood, who also volunteered on the roundup.
BLM seizes more Shoshone cattle
Elko Daily Free Press
By ADELLA HARDING
ELKO -- U.S. Bureau of Land Management on Sunday rounded up 227 head of cattle in Pine Valley belonging to Western Shoshone activists Carrie and Mary Dann.
"We were all done on Sunday," BLM spokesman Mike Brown of the Elko field office said today.
He said 227 cattle seized for back payment of grazing fees were all that BLM was taking in the second roundup of Dann livestock in 10 years.
The Danns maintain they have the right under the Ruby Valley Treaty of 1863 to graze the land, but the BLM maintains courts have ruled that the Indians lost the land years ago.
"The BLM is rustling cattle," Carrie Dann said today.
The cattle were taken to BLM's holding facility at Palomino Valley, and they will be put up for sale, Brown said.
"The Danns will be served today with notice of the sale, and they will have a final opportunity to reclaim them, if they pay the fees," he said. He didn't have the fee total, however, and Carrie Dann said she would not pay.
BLM maintains that roughly 500 head of cattle and 800 horses were illegally grazing on the land, although the contractor for BLM only gathered 227 cows. The focus was on the cattle, Brown said.
"Five other ranches graze on the same allotment, and the other folks are paying their fees. It's grossly unfair to them," he said of the steady refusal of the Danns to pay grazing fees.
"From our perspective, this is not something done lightly. It is absolutely the last resort," Brown said.
He also reported 17 protesters were at the mouth of Cottonwood Canyon as the contractor rounded up, but they were peaceful and there were no arrests. The roundup site was about 60 miles southwest of Elko.
There were 38 or 39 armed BLM law enforcement agents at the scene to maintain site security, Brown said.
The Associated Press reported there was a dispute over a dirt road to the round-up site, with the Danns saying BLM didn't have the right to close it, and BLM saying it didn't close the road but was managing access to the roundup site.
Eureka County Sheriff Ken Jones told AP a federal vehicle was blocking the road, and he said it was a public road and had to remain open.
Also, eight protesters were escorted away from the impoundment area, and BLM spokesman Jo Simpson told AP that was for safety reasons.
Julie Fishel of the Western Shoshone Defense Project said today that there are 40-50 supporters helping the Danns today, including cowboys rounding up cattle and horses, and the Danns were under the impression the cattle seizure was still under way.
Brown said the Danns already had removed several hundred cows and horses from the allotment over the past few days. Word was out late last week that BLM was planning a roundup.
"The BLM has tried to work with the Danns and local interests in every possible fashion over a number of years to resolve their unauthorized use of public lands," Helen Hankins, manager of the Elko office, said in a statement.
"Removing the Danns' unauthorized livestock is the last resort in nearly 30 years of trying to resolve this issue. We must take action to turn around the severe degradation of the public range lands that is occurring as a result of this unauthorized use," she said.
Hankins said the restoration work on the allotment will "take years and likely millions of dollars."
State BLM Director Bob Abbey said the actions of the Danns and a few others aren't reflective of the average livestock operator in the state. BLM has issued almost 700 livestock grazing permits and 99 percent of them comply with the law.
"They pay their fees, and they're good stewards of the public lands," Abbey said.
Fishel said today, however, that she is "extremely ashamed of what my government is doing" in rounding up the Dann cattle. She said the federal government seems to be "thumbing its nose" at international findings that show the United States is violating the rights of the Dann sisters.
Both Abbey and Hankins were at the site of the roundup, Brown said, and AP reported that Raymond Yowell, who had about 150 cattle seized in May by BLM, also was at the site.
Dann sisters still claim right to land
By JEFFRY MULLINS
CRESCENT VALLEY -- A battle that has lasted nearly 30 years came to a head Sunday as the U.S. Bureau of Land Management confiscated about half of the cattle belonging to two Western Shoshone women.
To Mary and Carrie Dann, it was the culmination of a war that began with the arrival of the white man.
"Today is the first time that we are going to be conquered by the United States," Carrie Dann said Saturday. "And the way they are going to conquer us is conquering our livelihood."
What white people call Nevada, the Danns call "Newe Segobia." They said the BLM hasn't produced any documentation showing how it took the land from the Shoshone people. Instead, the agency is relying on a U.S. Supreme Court decision, which the sisters claim did not address the issue of title.
"We said, if you show us those documents, we'll step out of your way and let you gather our animals," said Mary Dann, the eldest sister who is now in her 70s.
Saturday morning, a day after being tipped off about the impending roundup and the day before it began, the Dann sisters were busy cooking breakfast for three ranch hands who came up from the Yomba reservation to help them. They would spend the day collecting more than 200 of their 450-500 head before BLM contractors arrived.
The Dann Ranch lies at the base of the Cortez Mountains in Eureka County on private land purchased by their father, Dewey Dann. After his death the sisters refused to transfer his grazing permits into their name, prompting the BLM to send them a trespassing notice.
Their small abode -- some would call it a "shack" -- sits under towering shade trees. Horses prance in nearby corrals, which are rustic but sturdy.
In the early morning light, a raven carcass lies along the wooden path near their front door like an omen of approaching doom. By the time the roundup was over the sisters had lost about a quarter of a million dollars worth of livestock.
The sisters say their ranching business is not profitable. Inside the house a circle of linoleum is all that remains on the worn floor of the living room. A generator putts away outside, sending power to lamps that dim and brighten erratically.
A color television appears to be the only modern amenity. This morning, brother Clifford Dann sits in front of it watching cartoons. Now in his mid-60s, and having lost much of his vision and hearing, he won't be confronting federal agents this weekend as he did a decade ago during a BLM impoundment. He was arrested after pouring gasoline on himself and threatening to set himself on fire.
In the kitchen the sisters are frying potatoes and onions. Cousin Barbara Ridley pours cups of "cowboy coffee" from a monstrous kettle.
Once breakfast is ready, Carrie Dann sits at the kitchen table and tells her story, occasionally swatting emphatically at a fly.
"I always tell people I was free until 1973, before the BLM came. Me and Mary, we had our own individual livestock."
Nature provided water for the animals and for the plants they would feed on.
"So here we have this white society that says, 'I own this water.' 'The state owns this water.' Nobody owns that water in my point of view. Nobody owns that land," Carrie Dann said. "We refuse to pay grazing fees. I do not have a grazing permit from the Bureau of Land Management."
The Danns believe their ancestors never gave up rights to the land and water that sustained them.
"In 1863 the American government drafted a treaty of peace and friendship with the Shoshone people," Carrie Dann said. "It's a recognition by the United States, there is a people they recognize as a nation."
"When all of this happened, our people they thought it was in order for us to be safe from the militia, you know, because we were being killed left and right," she said.
At that time, Indians didn't negotiate a land deal because they didn't think in terms of the land as property to be bought and sold.
Carrie Dann said Indians were given autonomy in the 1930s under tribal legislation, but it was structured to give the United States "almost dictatorial control" over them.
She called the Indian Claims Commission legislation of the 1940s "the most racist law that was ever created by Congress. It took the rights of indigenous people away. The traditional people were never represented by those attorneys."
She questions the validity of the United States' claim to Shoshone land, pointing out that court documents have cited several different dates in history when it was supposedly taken. In the 1960s, courts started using the term "gradual encroachment" to justify the transfer of ownership.
In their lawsuit with the BLM, which went all the way to the Supreme Court, the Dann sisters said they learned there was a "bar clause" in the Indian Claims legislation.
"Once you accept this money this will bar your rights forever," Carrie Dann interpreted the law as saying. "I didn't want the future children's rights to be barred forever."
"The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said, 'these people haven't paid you the money, the land is still your land." But when it got to the Supreme Court, it was no longer a title issue, she said, and the court ruled the land had been taken by "gradual encroachment."
"If I knew it was going to be like this I would have never screwed around with the American court system," Carrie Dann said.
She questioned whether "gradual encroachment" is a valid component of American law.
"Is it in the Constitution? Is it an amendment to the Constitution? Is it an act of Congress? Gradual encroachment is not a law of the United States as far as I know."
"I certainly don't want people saying 'I gradually encroached on you, and took your rights away. Either I am a human being or I am not a human being," she said insistently.
Congress is attempting to legitimize the theft of Shoshone land, Carrie Dann said.
"It is wrong! And that is what is happening in Congress today by Senator Harry Reid -- he is trying to make this wrong right."
All Americans are equally to blame, she said.
"I think you people out there ought to write to Harry Reid and tell him 'we cannot do this to the people. That is totally wrong.' And each and every one of you is responsible as a citizen of the United States of America to recognize a wrong that has been committed against your brothers and sisters who have different color of skin."
"It is up to you white people, who is the majority, to tell your senators and your congresspeople whatever is going on with the indigenous people, 'do right by them.' 'Do not steal from them in our name.' That's what they are doing. Not in 1872 -- today, this very minute.
"You people, you are as guilty as the United States of America as long as you don't do nothing about it. That's your duty.
"If American people are going to live in freedom, you've got to protect that. Not only for yourselves, but for us as well.
"American people's going to wake up some day when it is totally late, when they are completely controlled by some organization or department of government."
Carrie Dann took their arguments to the Organization of American States and to an organization against racial discrimination at the United Nations in Geneva.
"Out of the 18 member states, 15 questioned the United States about its Indian policy," she said.
The BLM claims the sisters' livestock are overgrazing the land, a charge that was confirmed by citizens in the federal agency's own Resource Advisory Council. The BLM accuses the sisters of 'irreparable damage."
"The damage I do is not like the damage across the way at that mine," Carrie Dann said, gesturing toward the nearby Cortez Gold Mine. "Now to me that's irreparable damage. Not only is it irreparable to the Earth, but it's irreparable to the waters. Two sacred things."
Mary Dann said this year the crickets and grasshoppers overgrazed their hay fields, nearly consuming the entire first crop. But the BLM didn't come out to round them up -- they didn't even spray for them.
"We say 'leave us alone, let us take care of our land. But they're not going to leave us alone, because they have to make it a little bit better than what it is," Carrie Dann said.
"We've lived under constant fear of being rounded up, almost 30 years," she said, calling it "mind terrorism."
She said when the federal government offered the Shoshone a claims settlement, it came out to 15 cents an acre. But money is not what the sisters are after.
"I want us to be free," Carrie Dann said. "All we ask from the United States is the opportunity to sit across the table and talk."
Just who would do the talking is uncertain, however.
"I don't want to sit across the table from the Department of Interior," she said, because Interior claims to be the Indians' trustee.
The Western Shoshone National Council should represent the Shoshone people, she said. But many Shoshone don't recognize the council or its chief, Raymond Yowell. In May, the BLM rounded up Yowell's entire herd of more than 100 cows and calves after he refused to pay grazing fees and the BLM transfered his permit to another party.
The cattle roundup in Eureka County threatened to drive the two sisters out of business. But they are proud to call themselves rebels -- albeit aging rebels -- who are willing to stand up for their principles.
Their dispute with the federal government is what makes them visible. In a way, it has become a part of their identity.
"We will continue to live here," Carrie Dann said.
"It's not too late. To make a wrong right, it's never too late. The government can certainly recognize that we are here, that the land was never actually taken by the government."
In response to the article by Manual Couchum, (EDFP) Lost Warrior from the Past, and the situation the Dann sisters of Crescent Valley (and every American in Nevada) find themselves in. You speak the truth. This land was not taken from you in war. You were never conquered in the typical sense of the word. The “powers that be” stole this land by lying. They lied and placated, and double-talked. They stole your children and forced them to learn English and go to white schools and become Christians on the pretext of making them equal. They had no intention of making them equal, they were just afraid of them being different. They promised you beef if you’d stay on the reservation, then they stole it and sold it so you would starve. They did everything short of gassing you. And yet many of you remain proud and independent, you are an admirable people.
But you should know you are not alone, many white people are treated as Indians.
There are many ranchers in Nevada who are fighting for their homes and their livelihood. Unlike the Western Shoshone Indians, we white people who were born and raised in the west take freedom for granted. But times are changing, sometimes so subtly we don’t even see it happening. Nevadans have become different.
And those of you who think you are not affected by the battle being waged between the Native Americans and ranchers and the federal government, beware! Politicians thumb their nose at the constitution and amend as many laws as they want. Sound familiar? They make it up as they go.
So what if the majority of people in Nevada don’t want a nuclear dump, they’re getting one anyway. So what if they signed a promise saying the Western Shoshone Indian Tribe could own the grazing rights forever? We can change that law.
Oh and by the way, justice is for the rich, if you can’t afford a fancy lawyer they’ll take you for everything you’ve got. It’s all about the money. These things are true all the way from the federal government down to the local good ole boys.
What is this thing called encroachment? Is this the governments new age version of Manifest Destiny? Who voted for that? What ever happened to “protect and serve”? What ever happened to “innocent until proven guilty”? What ever happened to “if you cannot afford and attorney one will be appointed to you without charge”?
Why are we sending billions of dollars to foreign countries for food and medicine, when people in this country are starving and dieing because they can’t afford a doctor.
Whatever happened to the federal government not being allowed to own land?
Why is the good ole U.S. of A. two billion dollars in debt? (A lot more than that). If we did that we’d be in prison for fraud. And still every year or two they give themselves a raise, these creative financiers. It’s almost like we’re returning to the times of having a king with the local dukes and earls running the county.
I pay taxes and I vote. I love my home, my town, my state and my country. But I worry more all the time and sometimes I’m downright fearful.
My native Nevada blood alternates between being ice water from fear, and boiling from anger.
I, like the Western Shoshone people, feel helpless against the tide of power. We are of no worth or consequence to them except for what little money or land they can steal from us. And who will stop them?
Don’t listen to me. Check it out for your selves, here are some names you should know, aside from the Dann sisters, there is Cliff Gardner of Ruby Valley, the Falinnis’ of Nye County, Wayne Hage of Monitor Valley. The list goes on and on. People whose right to the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness, has been taken away.
I could be next, you could be next. Think about it very seriously.
Please read this article very closely and pay special attention to the language contained herein.
Reply of the United States
to Questions from the U.N. Committee
on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
Q: What is the official view of the United States with respect to the legal status of treaties with Indian tribes? Does the United States regard such treaties as international treaties to which the United States is a party?
A: The United States Supreme Court has held that "the power to make treaties with the Indian Tribes is, as we have seen, coextensive with that to make treaties with foreign nations." United States v. 43 Gallons of Whiskey, 93 U.S. 188 (1876). That said, while Indian treaties often recognize the sovereignty of Indian tribes, Indian treaties differ from foreign treaties. Under U.S. law, Indian tribes are "domestic dependent nations." There is a special trust relationship between these nations and the United States. There are likewise special canons of construction, recognized and utilized by the United States Supreme Court, that require that Indian treaties be construed in favor of the Indians. These rules are based upon a unique trust relationship between the United States and Indian tribes. They do not apply to international treaties.
Q: What is the position of the United States with respect to Congress's power to unilaterally amend or rescind treaties with Indian tribes?
A: Indian treaties can be abrogated unilaterally by Congress, if Congress clearly expresses an intent to do so. The United States Supreme Court has adopted several special canons of construction for Indian treaties which, taken together, create a strong presumption that treaty rights have not been abrogated or modified by subsequent congressional enactments. These rules, variously stated, establish that Congress must show a "clear and plain" intention to abrogate Indian treaty rights before any Congressional action will be determined to have abrogated such rights.
Q: Why hasn't the United States incorporated the provisions of the Convention directly into U.S. domestic law? (also Mr. Fall)
A: Nothing in the Convention requires States Parties to incorporate the provisions of the Convention directly into their domestic law. It is a basic principle of international law and practice that it is up to party States to determine how best to implement their obligations under international agreements.
In the United States, we have chosen to implement our international treaty obligations by passing implementing legislation when necessary. As we have indicated in our report, at the time of ratification it was determined that U.S. law was in compliance with our obligations under the Convention. Accordingly, no implementing legislation was necessary.
The real question, of course, is not whether the Convention should or should not be directly incorporated into U.S. law, but whether the obligations accepted by the United States in adhering to the Convention are, in fact, guaranteed to people within the United States. The U.S. September 2000 report drafted by the previous Administration makes clear that current U.S. laws and policies comply with the obligations of the United States under the Convention, and this Administration has had no occasion to question that conclusion.
Q: What efforts is the Administration making with regard to addressing the relative lack of racial and ethnic minority participation in positions of public authority, including, among other things, the judiciary? (also Mr. Rodriguez and Mr. de Gouttes)
A: President Bush is committed to an inclusive Administration, one that includes people of high caliber, excellent credentials, and good character from all walks of life. For example, he has appointed the first African-American Secretary of State - Colin Powell, who many of you will recall also served with great distinction as America's first African-American Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff - the highest military position in the United States. The President also has appointed Condoleeza Rice, an African-American, to serve as National Security Advisor; Ms. Rice is the first woman to hold that key post. Another African-American, Roderick Paige, serves as Secretary of Education, which in many meaningful respects is ground zero for many of the President's initiatives for reforming education, and improving dramatically educational opportunities for racial and ethnic minorities, and disadvantaged people all across America. The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Mel Martinez, is Hispanic, as is Alberto Gonzales, who serves as Counsel to the President. In a very real sense, Counselor Gonzales is the President's lawyer. And for the first time in American history, a President's cabinet includes two Asian-Americans, Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao and Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta.
The President also has filled many other senior positions in the White House and throughout the government people of high caliber and diverse backgrounds. For example, in the Department of Justice - where I am honored and privileged to serve - Larry Thompson, another African-American, serves as the Deputy Attorney General of the United States. In that capacity, Mr. Thompson is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the 128,000-person Department of Justice. By analogy, if Attorney General Ashcroft can be seen as the Chairman of the Board, Mr. Thompson is the Chief Operating Officer of the Department. In addition, Viet Dinh, who along with other members of his family immigrated to America from Viet Nam, serves as Assistant Attorney General for Policy, and Charles James, an African-American, oversees - among other matters of tremendous importance - the government's case against Microsoft as Assistant Attorney General and Chief of the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice. And finally, as you know all too well, I head the Civil Rights Division of the Department, a division which has a distinguished history and played a prominent, if not preeminent role in advancing the cause of the civil rights in America.
In addition, the President and those that have been selected to assist him, are determined to ensure that people from all racial and ethnic backgrounds are fairly represented in the federal judiciary as well. Indeed, many of President Bush's very first nominations for vacancies on the federal bench are people of color. They include Roger Gregory, an African-American lawyer whom the President nominated - and the U.S. Senate promptly confirmed - for a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which sits in Richmond, Virginia. Similarly, the President also nominated Miguel Estrada to serve on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Like Assistant Attorney General Dinh, Mr. Estrada immigrated to America, in his case, from Honduras. They are two examples of the breadth of talented people from varied backgrounds whom the President has chosen to serve as members of our federal judiciary.
Similarly, we see today increased representation from racial and ethnic minority groups. On the federal level, there are over fifty members of the United States Congress who are members of the Congressional Black Caucus or Congressional Hispanic Caucus. On the state level, there are now ten times as many African-American legislators as there were in 1970. On the municipal level, as of 1996 there were 290 African-American mayors in the southern region of our country; in 1968, there were only 3. Between 1967 and 1993, African Americans won mayoral elections in 87 cities with populations of 50,000 or more. Two-thirds of those were elected in cities in which blacks were a minority of the eligible voters.
*See Note At Bottom Of Article
Q: What is the United States position on its 1863 treaty with the Shoshone tribe? Is the United States discriminating in the protection of property rights with respect to the tribe, including seizing the tribe's lands and allowing the land to be used for dumping radioactive material? (also by Mr. Tang and Mr. Thornberry)
As is the case with the Shoshone, many Native American tribal land claims are based on aboriginal title that creates enforceable property rights in tribes against third parties or states. The doctrine of aboriginal title is a judicially created doctrine rooted in colonial concepts of property ownership that arose from conflicting claims between the European colonists and Native Americans over land which was lightly populated due to the migratory nature of some tribal lifestyles. The claims were first addressed in the U.S. Supreme Court decision Johnson v. McIntosh, 21 U.S. (8 Wheat.) 543, 574 (1823), which held that as a result of European discovery, the Native Americans had a right to occupancy and possession, but that tribal rights to complete sovereignty were necessarily diminished by the principle that discovery gave exclusive title to those who made it. As a result, the tribes' ability to sell or convey the property was subject to the approval of the sovereign.
Subsequent cases reaffirmed that the tribes retained enforceable property rights against third parties or states. See United States ex rel. Hualpai Indians v. Santa Fe Pacific Railroad, 314 U.S. 339 (1941). Aboriginal title also can carry with it enforceable hunting, fishing and other usufructary rights confirmed by recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions. While not protected under law by the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Congress has taken measures to compensate tribes directly for the taking of aboriginal rights. Congress, in 1946, established the Indian Claims Commission (ICC), specifically to resolve Indian claims against the federal government that rested on a variety of bases, including claims based on aboriginal title that might not otherwise be compensated at law.
Given the detailed nature of the question and legal complexities of the issue, this question will require further research and examination. In order to properly address the a question specific to one of over 560 tribes, the U.S. will need to consult with the Regional Offices of the Department of Interior with responsibilities to the Shoshone tribe.
Q: How does the United States respond to allegations that the denial of the claims of Alaskan Natives to their ancestral lands is racial discrimination?
A: The United States recognized claims by Alaska Natives to lands in the State of Alaska in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971. This Act was adopted by the United States Congress in response to the United States Supreme Court's decision in Tee-Hit-Ton Indians v. United States, 348 U.S. 272 (1955), which held that Alaska Natives' aboriginal title was not compensable under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Act compensates Alaska's 80,000 native inhabitants by providing for the payment of nearly $1 billion and for the selection, development, and alienation of 45 million acres of land by Alaska Natives. Alaska Natives are also entitled to apply for individual, fee ownership of up to 160 acres of land which they had been using and occupying.
Q: What measures are contemplated to ensure non-discriminatory access to justice in the United States? Is the U.S. doing everything possible to ensure the provision of fair trials for all of its citizens?
A: The United States Constitution strictly forbids racial discrimination in the administration of justice. Existing federal law provides several procedural and substantive protections to assure that criminal and civil trials are not tainted by racial discrimination. Juries and grand juries are selected in a manner to avoid prejudice influencing the verdict. Carter v. Jury Comm'n of Greene Cty, 396 U.S. 320 (1970). Courts are required by the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution to ensure that the pool of potential jurors represents a fair cross-section of the relevant community, including racial minorities, Glasser v. United States, 315 U.S. 60 (1942), and the United States Supreme Court has held that a State's purposeful or deliberate denial of the opportunity to participate (on account of race) as jurors in the administration of justice violates the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution, Swain v. Alabama, 380 U.S. 202 (1965). The United States Supreme Court held in Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986), and its progeny (e.g., Edmonson v. Leesville Concrete Co., 500 U.S. 614 (1991), and Georgia v. McCollum, 505 U.S. 42 (1992)) that prosecutors, defense attorneys, and also counsel in civil proceedings are prohibited from using race in selecting jurors. Prosecutors and other litigants simply are not permitted to appeal to racial prejudice, or otherwise rely improperly on race in making arguments before the judge or jury. Inflammatory racial remarks could result in a mistrial.
Any defendant can seek appellate review of a conviction or sentence on the ground that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction. Moreover, if a criminal defendant believes that he or she was subjected to a trial in either state or federal court that was in violation of one of his constitutional rights, he may challenge his conviction or sentence afresh by filing a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in federal court. If a federal court determines that the defendant was indeed subjected to unconstitutional racial discrimination in the course of his trial, regardless of where or in what court the trial was held, the conviction or sentence may be vacated.
The Supreme Court's decision in Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963) and its progeny established the right of criminal defendants to be represented by counsel at all critical stages of the criminal proceedings. A defendant may hire any attorney he or she desires. If a defendant cannot afford an attorney, the government will provide counsel without cost to the defendant. In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court also held in Ake v. Oklahoma, 470 U.S. 68 (1985), that the Constitution requires the government to provide payment for other professionals, such as psychiatrists or other experts, when necessary to prepare an adequate defense. To comply with this obligation, pursuant to the Criminal Justice Act, a system of Federal Public Defenders Offices has been established to provide quality representation to indigent defendants. The Constitution also requires, as determined in Griffin v. Illinois, 351 U.S. 12 (1956), and Douglas v. California, 372 U.S. 353 (1963), that state and federal courts in criminal cases provide trial transcripts free of charge and waive filing fees for criminal defendants who cannot afford such fees. The Constitution requires that all counsel meet a minimum threshold of competency to be considered constitutionally effective, and a defendant may challenge his conviction on the ground that his counsel did not meet that threshold. Any defendant can seek appellate review, and then seek a writ of habeas corpus, on the ground that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction or that he was provided ineffective counsel.
In civil cases, federal courts are authorized to appoint counsel for indigent plaintiffs. The federal government has also created the Legal Services Corporation to provide legal assistance to indigent individuals. The United States has appropriate more than $3.3 billion on these services in the last decade alone. Federally-funded legal services offices closed more than one million cases last year involving issues ranging from domestic violence, wrongful evictions, access to health care, child custody disputes, termination of benefits, and consumer fraud. Almost half of the clients served were African-, Hispanic-, Asian-, or Native Americans.
In addition, many law firms across the United States, as well as the federal government, provide pro bono legal services wherein lawyers take on cases without charge to the clients they represent. In this way, many cases that benefit poor persons are well-litigated by highly competent counsel. In addition, advocacy groups across the country, many of which receive federal financial assistance, work to ensure that particular issues particularly affecting minority persons are litigated or brought to the attention of those who can litigate meritorious issues on behalf of people in mind.
Q: Please provide a breakdown of the racial and ethnic population of the U.S., including indigenous populations.
A: According to the 2000 United States Census, just over 12 percent of the United States population are African-American, just under 12 percent are Hispanic and about 4 percent are Asian-American. The American Indian population, on and off tribal lands, enrolled and not, is 2.6 million. There are 4.1 million multi-race United States citizens who identified themselves as Native American, among other races.
According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs at the United States Department of Interior, there are currently 1.6 million enrolled tribal members. A Native American tribe has power to grant, deny, revoke and qualify tribal enrollment.
Q: What is the U.S. position on the "last in time" rule, whereby acts of Congress overrule previously ratified treaties?
A: Under U.S. law, treaties and acts of Congress stand on equal footing. Just as a treaty can be overriden by a subsequent Congressional enactment, a Congressional enactment can be overriden by treaty. Under our laws, however, our federal courts generally try to construe subsequent treaties or acts of Congress not to overrule prior laws.
There is not one position mentioned here that is held by any Native American.
What is Indian Sovereignty? Who Dreamed It Up?
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEVADA
NO.: CV-S-97-327-HDM (RLH)
WESTERN SHOSHONE NATIONAL COUNCIL
by its Chief, Raymond D. Yowell, and
CHIEF RAYMOND D. YOWELL as Representative of
the Class of Shoshone Persons
Nevada: Confrontation Averted;
Dann Sisters begin Moving Horses
Published 01. 18. 03 at 13:07
Two Western Shoshone sisters locked in a battle with the government over land and tribal rights were rounding up their horses Thursday before state and federal agencies could impound the animals.
“We hope to get about 200-300 out today,” spokeswoman Julie Fishel said. “It’s very complex, but the sooner we move them the less traumatic it is for the horses. They don’t like being on trucks.”
She said sisters Mary and Carrie Dann would keep about 100 horses and pregnant mares at their ranch in Crescent Valley. She said the rest would be relocated to an undisclosed “safe haven” outside Nevada.
The government contends the Danns are overgrazing the sparse forage around their remote spread in central northern Nevada and have failed to obtain grazing permits.
The Danns have been at odds with the government for decades. They and other members of the Western Shoshone Nation say that much of Nevada belongs to the Indians under the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley.
The government says the land issue was settled by the courts years ago and that the Danns’ livestock are trespassing on land to which other ranchers are entitled.
“Our objective is to improve the condition of the land out there and any action they are taking to remove the excessive animals from the range will be helpful toward that goal,” said Jo Simpson, spokeswoman for the Bureau of Land Management.
In September, the BLM confiscated 227 cattle from the land surrounding the Dann ranch and sold them at auction. Late last month, the agency notified the Danns to remove any remaining cattle and horses or the livestock would be impounded.
An aerial survey by the BLM earlier this month counted about 800 horses and 80 cattle, Simpson said.
On Wednesday, the Western Shoshone National Council announced the creation of the Western Shoshone International Goodwill Horse Program to promote economic development opportunities through horse management and gentling programs, starting with the Danns’ horses.
“It’s a source of economic development,” Fishel said. “But right now, our focus is getting the horses moved to safety.”
She said the horses were getting health checks before their brands were being inspected by state officials.
Since many of the horses aren’t branded, she said the Dann sisters would have to identify which animals belong to them.
State Brand Inspector Jim Connally said in Elko that without passing the Agriculture Department’s scrutiny, moving the horses out of state would be a misdemeanor.
Fishel, an attorney for the Western Shoshone Defense Project, said the Danns still held out hope for a favorable outcome in their dispute so the horses could be returned to what they believe is tribal land. The preserve where the horses are being taken is not Indian-owned.
“Most Indian people don’t have enough land to run horses like this,” she said.
© 2003 SierraTimes.com (unless otherwise noted)
OAS Commission Again Sides With Shoshone Indians
Posted Jan. 18, 2003
By Martin Edwin Andersen
The Organization of American States (OAS) human-rights commission yesterday reaffirmed an earlier decision in favor of land-rights claims by Utah's Western Shoshone Indian tribe, rejecting an 11th-hour attempt by the federal government to derail the Native Americans' legal arguments. It marked the first time that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) found that treatment of Native Americans by the U.S. government violated international human-rights law.
The IACHR did not require that any lands claimed by the Western Shoshone be returned to them, but it did call on the United States to establish a fair legal process to determine the merits of the land claims. "This is a very reasonable result that respects the fundamental human rights of the Indians but does not place any undue burden on the United States," said Steve Tullberg, Washington director of the Indian Law Resource Center, one of the groups representing the Western Shoshone.
At issue was a 30-year-old dispute between two elderly Western Shoshone sisters, Carrie and Mary Dann, over the right to graze their livestock on traditional Indian lands. In September, 40 heavily armed federal agents backed by a helicopter seized 227 of the Danns' cattle and sold them at a public auction. On Dec. 17, two government agents served the Danns with a notice of claiming their unauthorized use of "federal lands" and ordered them to remove their livestock -- some 250 cattle and 1,000 horses -- from the premises.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) claimed that the Danns' livestock overgrazed the range, located about 60 miles southeast of Elko, Nev. The BLM also alleged that the Danns owed grazing fees of almost $3 million -- representing three decades of accumulated arrears. However, the Danns countered that they have a right to pasture their animals on the federal land under the terms of the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley. The Western Shoshone have refused to pay fees for grazing their animals on land they consider part of their birthright. Some 26 million acres in Nevada alone are under dispute, rangeland the Indians say they never legally turned over to the federal government.
In making its provisional ruling in October, the IACHR found that the United States used illegitimate means to gain control of the American Indians' ancestral lands. The federal government, it said, violated the equal-protection, fair-trial and right-to-private-property clauses of the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man. The rights body demanded that the U.S. government return the Danns' confiscated cattle and halt further actions against the sisters pending review of the case.
Officials at the State Department reportedly are "very upset" with the OAS ruling, and Indian rights activists say they fear such hostility signals the federal government's continued intention to defy the IACHR.
Martin Edwin Andersen is a reporter for Insight.
Danns begin rounding up horses for relocation
By ADELLA HARDING - Staff Writer
Elko Daily Free Press
ELKO -- Cowboys are rounding up horses in Crescent Valley today for Western Shoshone sisters Carrie and Mary Dann, who are donating them to the Western Shoshone National Council for an Indian horse program.
Julie Fishel of the Western Shoshone Defense Project, which is helping the Danns, said the cowboys brought in about 100 horses Thursday, and they joined roughly 100 horses rounded up earlier.
The Danns are hoping to gather an estimated 800 horses on public land before the U.S. Bureau of Land Management conducts a threatened roundup in the ongoing land dispute with the Danns.
"A fresh batch of Shoshone cowboys is coming from Duck Valley later today," Fishel said, adding that ranchers also are offering help to gather the horses before BLM does so.
If BLM gathers the horses, most of them would become the responsibility of the Nevada Department of Agriculture because they aren't branded and aren't wild. There is still a nationwide Internet rescue mission under way to save the horses.
Horse rescue groups are organizing to buy horses from the state for $50 a head and place them in homes around the country so the state doesn't sell them to packing houses.
BLM said earlier that it would be gathering roughly 800 horses off a grazing allotment in Crescent and Pine valleys unless the Danns gather them before that time. They say the Danns put the horses out to graze on public land without a grazing permit, and the range is overgrazed.
"We're pleased that they are gathering horses," BLM spokesman Mike Brown said today from the Elko office.
Fishel said earlier in the week that the Western Shoshone Defense Project had notified BLM and the state about its plan to move the horses to an undisclosed location out of state for the Western Shoshone International Goodwill Horse Program.
The idea is that the program will promote economic development opportunities for Indians through horse management and gentling programs, and the Danns are donating horses to start the project.
The Danns plan to keep 100 horses at their ranch, and the rest of those they round up will go to the sanctuary.
Fishel said the safe-haven land is private and not an Indian reservation.
The threatened BLM round up of the horses follows on the heels of BLM's gathering of more than 200 Dann cattle last September.
The Danns have been locking horns with the federal government for many years now, claiming they have a right to graze livestock on the public land without a permit because it is still Western Shoshone land.
They said the Ruby Valley Treaty of 1863 never gave away land but was a friendship treaty, however, the courts have ruled that the Indians have lost the land.
Fishel, who is a lawyer working for the Western Shoshone Defense Project, also said the Inter American Commission on Human Rights earlier this week released its final decision on the Western Shoshone lands issue that finds the U.S. violated Western Shoshone rights.
The final version also offers recommendations for a land settlement and for Congress to hold hearings on questioned Indian Claims Commission rulings like the Western Shoshone ruling, she said.
Repreinted from the Shundahai Network
United States Prepares to Steal
Indian Nation's Livestock
While Western Shoshone Delegation
Appeals to United Nations for Assistance
A delegation of Western Shoshone citizens arrived in Geneva, Switzerland yesterday afternoon to solicit the intervention of several United Nations human rights bodies in support of Western Shoshone land and Treaty rights. Meanwhile, Western Shoshone herdsmen (and woman) in Crescent Valley and South Fork brace for a BLM attempt to confiscate their livestock. Elko District BLM Manager Helen Hankins confirmed BLM intent to move against the Western Shoshone livestock, but would not reveal when this would happen.
Western Shoshone elder, Mary Dann responded to the most recent BLM "order to remove", received last week, with a letter to the Elko BLM requesting the documentation of how the United States acquired the title to Western Shoshone lands and to explain why the BLM continues to harass her for exercising her rights. "…Also, you can help me in understanding the harassment, which causes me great mental pain and stress. I am not young anymore and this harassment is now into its 28th year." The BLM has received an appeal from the WSDP of their decision to impound, yet has stated that this is not an appealable decision.
The delegation includes Western Shoshone grandmother and traditionalist Carrie Dann, Western Shoshone National Council representative (and Yomba Shoshone Tribal Councilman) Johnny Bobb, and Yomba Shoshone Tribal Council member Maurice-Frank Churchill. They will be testifying before the United Nations Subcommission on the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights as well as educating members of the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination(CERD). The Shoshone delegation is asking that the Committee recommend to the US to enjoin immediately all impoundment and trespass notices against Western Shoshone people, refrain from prosecuting Western Shoshone hunters, take measures to ensure mining development and other activities do not impede Western Shoshone physical and cultural survival, and to proceed forthwith in binding negotiations to resolve Western Shoshone land and resource issues with Western Shoshone leaders. Helena, Montana based non-profit Native American law firm, the Indian Law Resource Center and the Crescent Valley based Western Shoshone advocacy organization, the Western Shoshone Defense Project is assisting the delegation on this trip.
Both the Yomba Shoshone Tribe, and the Ely Shoshone Tribe have filed complaints before the CERD charging the United States government with discriminatory treatment by failing to uphold indigenous property rights as well as discriminatory treatment of Western Shoshone culture and the failure to respect the right of self-determination. Recently, the Duckwater Shoshone Tribe and the Western Shoshone National Council have added their support to the international complaints. These complaints follow on the back of similar arguments put forth by the Western Shoshone Dann family before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. In October 1999, the Commission, part of the Organization of American States, deemed admissible the complaints brought forth by the Danns, indicating that the facts currently presented a prima fascia case of human rights violations. The Commission has made several requests to the U.S. State Department to suspend trespass actions against the Danns and other Western Shoshone. However, recent posting of trespass notices and orders to remove indicate that the U.S. is ignoring these requests.
For over 100 years since the signing of a Treaty of Peace and Friendship with the United States in 1863, the Western Shoshone Nation has asserted their continuing rights to use and occupy their ancestral lands. As part of the agreements within the Treaty, the Western Shoshone agreed to adapt their traditional lifestyles and become "agriculturists and herdsmen." However the U.S has refused to recognize the right to graze animals on ancestral land, ignoring the Treaty, and arguing all rights to Western Shoshone ancestral lands have been extinguished.
Cattle Seizure from BLM considered illegal
On Friday, May 17th, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) sized 157 head of cattle that belonged to the Raymond Yowell, Chief of the Western Shoshone National Council, and the Te-Moak Band of Western Shoshone. According to the federal government the cattle were illegally grazing on public land. The BLM proposed to sell the cattle the next week. Glade Hall, an attorney filed, a lawsuit late Thursday seeking a temporary restraining order on Yowell’s behalf. He argued the land had not been cleared of Native American title or the right of perpetual occupancy. He also accused the BLM of unreasonable search and seizure. Federal Judge Mckibben denied the last-minute request to block the BLM from auctioning the confiscated cattle. The cattle, valued at $100,000, were auctioned off for $27,444. U.S. District Judge Howard Mckibben has ordered the money be held until the dispute can be looked at more thoroughly.
The Shoshone and others maintain that the land was never transferred to the U.S. and remains theirs. Lois Whitney of the Western Shoshone Defense Project said, “The roundup of the cattle is the equivalent of state-sponsored terrorism against the Shoshone people.” The Defense Project also stated that the dispute stems back to the 1863, Treaty of Peace and Friendship also known as the Ruby Valley Treaty. Under this treaty the “Western Shoshone agreed to accommodate newcomers on to their land, in part by agreeing to become agriculturalists and herdsmen.” The treaty was to establish a reservation for that purpose. However, this did not happen and the tiny reservation created in the 1900s “did not include land for this purpose.” Whitney also contends that the treaty “simply granted the U.S. limited access to the land and it was not ceded.”
The problem lies, according to Whitney, that the “U.S. cannot provide the documentation of how it has acquired title to the Western Shoshone homelands it now declares that the Shoshone have no right to.” Christopher Sewall, also of the Western Shoshone Defense Project, says the in the “Treaty of Friendship the U.S. government made a commitment to establish land for the Shoshone to become farmers and herdsmen.” The Shoshone were to allow free passage and settlement through the area. The Shoshone did their part “although there is still little settlement by non-natives,” says Sewall.
The tribe had paid the BLM grazing fees from 1940 to 1984. In 1984 Raymond Yowell, as a representative of the Te-Moak Livestock Association informed the BLM that they no longer would be paying grazing fees. Yowell claimed the land was traditional cattle ranching land and they were not in trespass. In 1999, the BLM canceled the historic grazing preference of the Association in the Shoshone Crane Spring Allotments. In 2000, the Western Shoshone presented documents to support the claim that the disputed lands adjacent to their reservation were not public lands, but are and will always belong to the Western Shoshone. Later that year the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a requested preliminary injunction against the BLM’s impoundment actions. In 2001 the BLM reported that they had received complaints from non-native ranchers “because the Indians are able to do things that other ranchers cannot.” The BLM says the tribe owes $2.5 million in grazing permit fees. Mckibben, according to the Las Vegas Sun, has said, “There is no question …that with respect to actual Indian lands, the cattle were grazing beyond areas of Indian lands and were on public lands.”
On Monday, June 3rd, the tribe will vote on weather to accept $100 million for the sale of the disputed land. Shoshone members say they would rather have the land, 26 million acres. Whitney said the sale of the land will “forever take away our rights as Shoshone people to use our land spiritually, economically and socially.” The payments would amount to an estimated $20,000 to each of the 6 to 10 thousands members who could show they are at least ¼ Shoshone.
Nevada Senator Harry Ried introduced the referendum vote along with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) says Sewall. “Since when does a senator or the BIA tell a tribe when they should have a vote? The tribal governments never gave their permission or endorsement for this vote,” Sewell said. Sewall and others have wondered what is the BIA’s involvement in this action. The Defense Project has filed under the Freedom of Information Act to try to find out the reasoning. Deborah Schaff has said that this is “a manipulation appeal backed by the U.S. Congress and the BIA. It is being made directly to the Western Shoshone individuals in violation of the government to government relationship.”
Sewall also stated “someone, not the tribes, have paid for ads in the local paper announcing the referendum vote.” All of this says Sewall “has been done behind closed doors, without consulting the tribes.” The referendum involves money that has been sitting untouched in an Interior Department trust fund for more than 30 years. However, there is still confusion as to whether the referendum is for past damages and not for title or rights to the land.
Reid had introduced similar legislation in the Senate- the Western Shoshone Claims Distribution Act- that would offer payments for the disputed land. Earlier this year 20 Shoshone representatives traveled to Washington D.C. to discuss the bill. However, the day before they arrived Reid had canceled the meetings but made no attempt to contact the Shoshone, according to Sewall. Sewall also said that while the Shoshone were there “not a single senator would meet with them.” He also said that while Senator Reid added the protection of treaty rights in the bill “he would not say what those treaty rights were.”
There are groups, Sewall said, “that want to see the land privatized. Reid has promoted mining interest in the past. The mining industry wants to acquire private land so they do not have to follow federal guidelines. Reid’s major major backers are the mining companies.” During the end of the nineteenth century some Shoshone land was sold to the railroads. This land has since become privatized “leaving a checkerboard reminisces of the Shoshone land base. “Some Shoshone land is now completely surrounded by private lands, said Sewall.” This does not lend itself to ranching needs.
The Western Shoshone are made up of about 12 different bands each with their own government. The Te-Moak band has partnered with state rights groups to protest the sale of the animals. Jackie Homgren is a member of the Nevada committee for Full Statehood, which doesn’t recognize federal ownership of public lands. Both groups contend that that the land belongs to the Western Shoshone and not the U.S. government.
Range War in Nevada Pits U.S.
Against 2 Shoshone Sisters
New York Times
By CHARLIE LeDUFF
October 31, 2002
CRESCENT VALLEY, Nev. — The Dann sisters are rough, elderly, hidebound ranchers who live without electricity, hot water or furnace. Though Carrie Dann is nearly 70 and her sister Mary is nearly 80, they still break their own horses and mend their own fences. This is how their Shoshone Indian ancestors lived, and the bones of those ancestors are among the Danns' closest neighbors.
Their wish is to be left alone, and to graze their cattle freely on land they claim as their birthright.
The federal government's wish is for the Danns to stop fattening their livestock at taxpayers' expense.
This battle has gone on for 30 years, and the Danns have not given up yet, even though the government has seized hundreds of their cattle, sold the animals at auction, charged the sisters nearly $50,000 in fees and fined them $3 million for willful trespass.
"Trespass? Who the hell gave them the land anyway?" Mary Dann asked as she mended a fence on a windswept desert morning. "When I trespass, it's when I wander into Paiute territory."
Her sister Carrie said: "I was indigenous and in one single evening they made me indigent. If you think the Indian wars are over, then think again."
The dispute is rooted in the refusal by the sisters and some other Shoshone ranchers to pay grazing fees on traditional Western Shoshone land — nearly 26 million acres in Nevada, roughly two-thirds of the state.
The government considers it public land, and to drive the point home, 40 agents from the Bureau of Land Management descended on the Danns' ranch in September, heavily armed and fortified with helicopters, and confiscated 232 cattle, which were later sold.
The sisters and their supporters argue that their tribe never legally ceded these range lands. Though the federal government controls 85 percent of Nevada, they contend that it has no legitimate title to the land — or the gold, water, oil and geothermal energy beneath it.
The whole convoluted conflict is wending its way through the United States Senate, where a bill recently made its way out of committee that would allot a one-time payment of $20,000 to each of the 5,000 enrolled members of the Western Shoshone tribe. The $100 million in the bill, sponsored by Senator Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, would be one of the largest Indian land settlements in history.
Tessa Hafen, a spokeswoman for Senator Reid, said the bill was a response to a request for help.
"The tribe came to the senator and asked them to help them out," Ms. Hafen said. "Tribal members overwhelmingly supported it. They want their payments."
The price is set at 15 cents an acre, using a formula based on land prices in 1872. The now-defunct Indian Claims Commission ruled in 1962 that the Shoshones had lost possession by gradual encroachment by settlers.
"Encroach what?" Carrie Dann wanted to know. "There isn't anybody living out here. Look around."
Indeed. The vista of Crescent Valley includes a few sun-whipped shacks and aluminum trailers. Broken beer bottles litter the county road, but one would be hard pressed to call this land settled.
Depending on who is asked, the Danns are either modern-day Geronimos, common rabble-rousers or scofflaws.
Once before, in 1992, federal agents came and confiscated Dann family livestock. A six-day standoff ensued, ending with their brother Clifford dousing himself in gasoline and threatening to light it. Clifford went to prison and went deaf, and 250 horses went to auction.
Now half the family herd is gone and a $3 million note hangs over their heads, multiplying problems in an already bad year for the sisters. They are perhaps five feet tall, with worn knees, thick hands and good humor. Mary is quiet and Carrie can leap into language so caustic it could wear the enamel off teeth.
There has been no moisture to speak of this year. Grasshoppers swarming down from the mountains ate what greenery there was. Then the government took the cattle.
"They want us to give up and go away to the city," Carrie said over a lunch of Spam sandwiches in her ramshackle house tucked in the shade of cottonwood trees. "I'd die in the city."
Today, the value of this land ranges from $250 an acre to $1,000. In the valley here, two mines operating on government leases are extracting gold worth billions of dollars.
"Fifteen cents an acre?" shouted Carrie Dann, getting heated. "Dumb Indians. They shouldn't take the deal for $20 million an acre."
For nearly 40 years, the Shoshones refused to accept the money when the government first offered a payment. The Danns, representing their people, took their case to the Supreme Court, which ruled in the early 1980's that the payments did constitute a settlement.
"You refuse it and they stick it in your back pocket," is how Carrie Dann put it.
Times change, and many Shoshones are tired of the dispute. They want the money. Most live in the cities, work 9-to-5 jobs or have no jobs at all. A payday would go a long way.
"I asked one of the ancients what she was going to do with the money and she told me she was going to buy a mattress," said Nancy Stewart, a retired teacher who wants to take the money. "But she may never see the money because of the Danns. They're hardliners who want two-thirds of the state back. That's never going to happen."
Others agree with the sisters.
"I know my people, and that money would be spent in no time," said Lois Whitney, a Shoshone who lives in Elko, an hour's drive from here. "The people are just living for today. Thinking about a new truck and beer. It's greed."
The bill gained momentum after Felix Ike, chairman of the Te-Moak Tribe, which includes the Shoshone people in areas around the Nevadan towns of Wells, South Fork, Elko and Battle Mountain, conducted what he calls a binding vote in June.
In the end, the people voted to take the money: 1,647 in favor, 156 against. But then Mr. Ike's tribal council did not recognize the vote.
Still, the process rolls toward an end.
"Once the money is paid, it is very clear in my mind that the cloud over their claim is clear," said Chief Raymond Yowell of the Western Shoshone National Traditional Council — who had 88 head of cattle confiscated in May — referring to the government. "They can then say to the world that they bought it."
A recent report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States found that the federal government was using illegitimate means to claim ownership and control of the Western Shoshone lands.
Moreover, an independent auditor hired by the Bureau of Land Management to evaluate its land exchange policies stated in a report this month that the agency had colluded with private developers to trade away government land at below-market prices.
Many of those trades occurred in Nevada, and the auditor suggested a 90-day moratorium on such land transfers.
JoLynn Worely, a spokeswoman for the bureau, said the confiscation was an effort to apply the laws equally — laws, Ms. Worely said, that the Dann sisters think they are above.
"They grazed their own land to dust and then they want to graze public land for free," Ms. Worely said. "Times are bad for everyone, and the white ranchers want to know why they pay and the Indians graze their animals for free."
The Danns were grazing 1,500 cattle and horses on drought-stricken land that should only support 200 animals, Ms. Worely said.
Carrie Dann admitted her land was overgrazed, but said she was not environmentally reckless.
"The rains will come again and the grass will grow back," she said. "But when the Shoshone people are gone from this land, we are dead."
Dann's Horses Need Help
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
8 AM CST, January 10, 2003
Press Release Contact:
Denise McVea, Indian Law Resource Center,
Re: 980 Horses In Nevada In Need Of Help
Elko, Nevada. Mary and Carrie Dann, traditional Western Shoshone Indians and legitimate owners of the more than 800 horses grazing on disputed land in Nevada, have decided to work directly with horse rescue organizations wishing to help adopt out the horses. Although the Danns say they would prefer to let the horses continue to roam the range their homelands, the current situation with the government will not allow that to happen.
The women have been in a land dispute with the federal government for more than 30 years. The Bureau of Land Management has harassed the women for years with confiscations and auctions of livestock, even though the United States has been found to be violating international human rights laws in its treatment of the Danns and other Western Shoshone.
In truth, the manner in which the US claimed control of Western Shoshone land fails every international human rights test. In fact, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on Monday publicly issued its final report on the case, which found substantial human rights abuses by the United States government. (For more information, please contact the Indian Law Resource Center at 406-449-2006 or visit their website at www.indianlaw.org - Indian Law
But while the State Department, the U.S. agency in charge of human rights, has ignored the human rights aspects of the Dann case, the U.S, Bureau of Land Management has routinely denied the Danns the use of their ancestral land. But the BLM has increasingly come under public criticism for its tactics against the Danns, which have included nighttime and helicopter raids. Just before the public “adoption” offering, the BLM conducted an helicopter survey on disputed lands.
(See: http://www.rgj.com/news/stories/html/2003/01/06/31362.php )
“ The horse rescue people are being used,” said Carrie Dann, 70. “They are being led to believe these horses have no owners.”
The Danns are now in the process of rounding up the horses so that they can offer them for adoption directly to horse rescue groups. Carrie Dann pointed out that one reason that the horses have not been sold is because her family has resisted selling to slaughter houses. “We have had offers from those kinds of buyers,” she has said, “but they are not the kinds of buyers we want.”
In fact, the government has said that many of the horses involved in the “adoption” roundup will be sold to slaughter houses. The Danns are committed to making sure that does not happen.
So they are offering to give the horses up for adoption to reliable horse rescue groups. The Danns say they would be able to break even if prospective owners would consider paying $100 a head, but will accept $75 a head for horses on low ground. For horses living higher up in the mountains, the Danns are asking $150 a head. But, they cautioned, some horses may not be able to be moved safely because of snow and ice in some higher elevations and because some of the mothers are carrying foals.
The Danns and members of the Western Shoshone Defense Project have worked to bring several hundred horses into holding facilities for easy adoption by animal rescue groups and their members. The Danns are gratified by the interest in their horses, and look forward to meeting you in Crescent Valley.
For more information please call the Western Shoshone Defense Project, (775)468-0230 .
After reading through the articles presented on this page it's amazing how so many can plainly see the violations against the Dann Sisters and the Western Shoshone Nation, but, it is just as amazing that the United States Government, the BLM and the DOI, along with their courts cannot.
Perhaps, it is not a matter of whether or not they can see these violations, but more so, that since they are the ones creating them, they have managed to place themselves above the law and ignore anything that puts them in a position of accountability.
Therefore, what can be done to stop this total violation of the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Law of the Land and the 1863 Ruby Valley Treaty? It is a plain and simple fact that if they can continue on this course then there will be nothing to stop them from perpetuating such crimes against others in this country, native and non-native alike.
Side-stepping the law and subverting the Constitution is not only criminal it is treason against this nation at large.
Point of Fact, the United States Government, or the Federal Government, cannot possess any land in this country as it is the property of the People and not the government - according to the Articles of the Constitution. They have created agencies such as the Department of the Interior with its sub-agency of the BLM to act as stewards over the 'so-called' public lands who, in-turn, confiscate lands that are protected by Constitutional Law and Treaty and then sell them to private parties and/or corporations.
Let us not forget the historical truths and facts in regards to whose lands these really are. As the government openly admits that these lands were "taken" or were "lost" by way of gradual encroachment. Think about those two words of 'taken' and 'lost'. What do they mean to you?
With the current controversy over emigration and illegal aliens in the United States don't you find it rather ironic that the shoe is now on the other foot?
The stuggle of the Dann Sisters is something that should be taken to heart by each and every Native American as to the right course of action to preserve the rights protected by any and all treaties signed between Native Americans and the United States. They truly are heroes and should be respected and honored on every level for being strong, persistant, upstanding and walking well in the footsteps of the Grand-Elders.
These two modern warriors are good examples of the hard work and dedication it takes to care for the land and the animals...a dedication that few possess in this day and age. There is much that can be learned from them as it is a sure thing they would much rather choose to live their lives in peace and harmony with those things they love instead of fighting with the United States, the DOI and the BLM.
Even though Mary walks with the Clouds her energy and her spirit for life still lives with us.
Western Shoshone Land Rights
in the United States
Denying indigenous peoples the right to control their own lives is not just a thing of the past, it continues to occur wherever indigenous peoples are found. The ongoing political contest between the Western Shoshone of the North American Great Basin region and the U.S. government is just one powerful example of how once sovereign societies lose their autonomy to powerful nations.
In 1863 the U.S. government signed the Treaty of Ruby Valley with the Western Shoshone who occupied a 43,000 square-mile territory that included a large part of southern California, 86% of Nevada, and parts of Idaho and Utah. This treaty was unusual in the history of relationships between the United States and American Indian societies because it ceded no land to the United States, which was still involved in a civil war and was concerned with ensuring the continued flow of gold from California. The Shoshone did agree to end warfare against the United States and to allow the construction of roads, railways, and telegraph lines through mining settlements within their territory. Over the next 125 years, the U.S. government obtained billions of dollars worth of resources from Western Shoshone lands under this arrangement.
During the 1920s conflicts over land use increased between the Shoshone and non-Indian settlers. In 1934 the U.S. government installed a tribal council form of government among the Shoshone, a system that was fundamentally different from their traditional way of governing. In 1946 Congress created the Indian Claims Commission, which would be authorized to adjudicate Native American land claims against the United States. The legislation authorized lawyers who represented Indians in such cases to be paid 10 percent of any awards the commission made to Indians. In the same year, the Bureau of Indian Affairs persuaded one group of Shoshone, the Temoak Bank, to file a claim for compensation for the loss of Shoshone lands. The Temoak understood the purpose of this claim to be the recovery of their control over their traditional lands.
The law firm appointed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to represent the Shoshone was the same one that had drafted the legislation creating the claims commission. Other Western Shoshone bands protested that their land had never been ceded to the United States, and that to accept compensation would amount to selling their lands. In 1951 the law firm petitioned the claims commission to recognize that its actions in behalf of the Temoak Shoshone actually represented the interests of the entire Western Shoshone people. A group of Temoak Shoshone were selected by the law firm as the "exclusive representatives" of the Western Shoshone. Those who disagreed with its plans were dismissed from the group. Despite objections by the majority of the Shoshone involved, the petition was granted by the commission. The Temoak and other Shoshone soon learned that the law firm was not attempting to secure a ruling that would recognize their ownership of their traditional land; instead it was seeking a monetary award.
In 1962, the Indian Claims Commission noted that it had been "unable to discover any formal extinguishment" of Western Shoshone lands in Nevada. However, on February 11, 1966, the law firm that ostensibly represented the Shoshone's interests against U.S encroachment on Shoshone lands stipulated that the Shoshone had ceded 24 million acres of land to the United States (including 16 million acres that were occupied by no one but Shoshone Indians), and arbitrarily fixed the date of that stipulated loss as July 1, 1872, the middle day of the year, but otherwise a date of no known historical significance.
The law firm requested that these lost lands be paid for and that land values in mid-1872 be used to compute the amount of the compensation. In 1972 the Indian Claims Commission concluded that the lands of the Western Shoshone had been "taken" in the nineteenth century by "gradual encroachment of whites, settlers and others."
Since the Temoak were now convinced that their lawyers were serving the interests of the U.S. government, instead of Indian interests, the Temoak fired the law firm as their agents. However, the Bureau of Indian Affairs refused to recognize the right of the Temoak to do so and continued to renew the firm's contract "in the Indians' behalf." In effect, the lawyers were now being employed by the government to act as representatives of the Indians against their clients' own wishes and to pursue a course of argument favored by the government.
The Western Shoshone hired their own lawyer and appealed the Commission's ruling in the U.S. Court of Claims. The Court refused to rule on the issue of who held title to the traditional Shoshone lands, but awarded the Shoshone $26,154,600 for the loss of 24 million acres, land that by 1979 values would have been worth more than $40 billion. The law firm that had been contracted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs was paid $2.5 million "for services rendered."
To pay the Shoshone for the lands they had now lost, (by encroachment) the U.S. Department of Interior transferred $26,145,189.89 (the amount of the award less $9,410.11 as an offset against goods it claimed the government had delivered to the Shoshone in the 1870s) into a trust account held by the U.S. Treasury Department in behalf of the Shoshone. Accumulating interest since 1979, this money now amounts to about 140 million dollars. The Western Shoshone have refused to accept receipt of this money since that date. Their purpose had never been to sell their territory, but to gain recognition of their ownership of it. As of today, the Western Shoshone have unsuccessfully continued their efforts to reassert their sovereignty over their traditional lands.
Here is the link to Constitutional and Federal Laws that pertain to the strength and continued validity of the "Ruby Valley Treaty" and all other Native American Rights.
Laws of The Land