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 award.

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 year.

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 million dollars.:
$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.

 Background on Western Shoshone Issues