|Payment for Western
Shoshone Lands &
the 1872 Mining Law
By Carrie Dann, WSDP Director - December 1997
The 1872 Mining Law kills two birds with one stone.
First it is the date used for the valuation of Western
Shoshone lands that were allegedly taken by the United
States; and secondly, it is the date by which the
United States allows multi-national mining companies
to rob the general public of lands and clean water.
In the 1960's the Indian Land Claims Commission
knew that Western Shoshone land title was still not
extinguished. So, the US attorneys tried to find a
date when the US had actually taken Western Shoshone
lands enabling the US to claim title to "public
lands." These are representatives of the same US
government that is supposed to be our
"trustee"; how can our trustee have
attorneys arguing from the other side of the table
against us? This is a conflict of interest.
And then, the attorneys who were appointed to
represent the Western Shoshone were also looking for
an extinguishment date; if we were awarded Claims
money, these lawyers would get a 10% cut from the
For the Indians, the US government found that
Western Shoshone lands were valued at 15 cents per
acre in 1872. At least that is that value accepted by
our trustee, the Department of the Interior, in 1979.
But then they tell us Indians that the value of the
land was $1.05 per acre. But that number is inflated
by the $20 million that was returned to us for the
value of gold, silver and other minerals extracted
before 1872. So the real value of our lands,
according the US system, is only 15 cents per acre.
Now let's look at what the 1872 Mining Law says
about the value of our lands in 1872. Today, mining
companies can buy Western Shoshone lands for
$2.50-$5.00 per acre. These are the same lands that
were valued at 15 cents per acre for the Indians. This
is what the mining companies have paid for the
thousands of acres they have patented. This is a gift
from the US government to these corporations! If these
lands are really "public" lands, the
"public" is getting nothing but lost land
while the mining companies are making millions every
Today your national representatives in the US
Congress fight to keep the 1872 Mining Law intact. Is
it because land title is still unsettled? In
Western Shoshone territory, it is not
"public" lands. Western Shoshone land
title has never been extinguished.
To the Western Shoshone, you got the shaft. Your
alleged trustee, the Department of Interior, says you
got $1.05 an acre. It's bad enough that the mining
companies' value is $2.50-$5.00, but it gets worse
when you compare that to the actual 15 cents per acre
that was actually awarded to us.
I don't understand political leadership. For Indian
tribal leadership: how can they continue to tell you
that Indians should accept the judgement award of 15
cents per acre? For the general non-Indian
public: how can your political leadership continue to
fight to keep the 1872 Mining Law intact and continue
to give the multi-national mining corporations
thousands of acres for $2.50-$5.00?
In my opinion, the US has a conflict of interest and
has committed fraud.
This is just a very rough estimate for those
Western Shoshone who want the judgement award of $26
$26,000,000 Claims Award
-$20,000,000 For Gold, Silver & Other Metals
Extracted Prior to 1872
-$ 2,600,000 For attorneys that allegedly
represented the Western Shoshone
$ 4,000,000 Remaining of the Judgement Award for
Western Shoshone lands
Divided by 24 million acres of Western Shoshone lands
approx.= $0.15/acre for Western Shoshone homelands.
on Western Shoshone Issues