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2009 UPDATE

No distribution of monies has occurred as of August 24th, 2009.  Please see recent filing with the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in “Legal Struggles” for more information.

Threat of Western Shoshone
Distribution Bill Looms Large


 

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Western Shoshone appeal for United Nations intervention

© Indian Country Today August 19, 2005. All Rights Reserved

GENEVA - In an urgent appeal to halt the assault on ancestral lands, the Western Shoshone Nation filed an urgent action request before the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in August.

The request challenges the U.S. government's assertion of federal ownership of nearly 90 percent of Western Shoshone lands.

Joe Kennedy, Western Shoshone, was among those urging immediate action to halt the United States and gold and energy corporations.

''Our traditional laws tell us we were placed here as caretakers of the land,'' Kennedy said. ''As part of the Western Shoshone Nation, we will not stand idly by and allow the U.S. federal government to cement its hold on our ancestral land base.''

The Western Shoshone land base covers approximately 60 million acres, stretching across what is now referred to as the states of Nevada, Idaho, Utah and California. The lands include the proposed Yucca Mountain high-level nuclear waste facility and lands targeted for expanded gold extraction.

''Western Shoshone rights to the land - which they continue to use, care for and occupy today - are recognized by a ratified treaty with the United States,'' said the Western Shoshone delegation in Geneva, Aug. 8 - 19.

In its 2005 CERD written request, the Western Shoshone seek a halt to all further U.S. actions against Western Shoshone and the expansion of any extractive or other activities permitted by the United States.

Western Shoshone said the United States has conducted numerous military-style seizures of Western Shoshone livestock, has transferred alleged Western Shoshone trespass fines to the Internal Revenue Service and private collection agencies, and has reinvigorated federal efforts to open a nationwide nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain.

''In 2003, the U.S. Congress passed legislation allowing for distribution of a highly controversial Indian Claims Commission award for [the] alleged extinguishment of Western Shoshone land.

''Since that legislation was passed, efforts to privatize Western Shoshone lands for transfer to multinational extractive industries and energy developers have been intensified,'' the delegation said.

Western Shoshone asserted that these actions, justified by racially discriminatory legal doctrines enshrined in the domestic law of the United States, demonstrate a serious, massive and persistent pattern of racial discrimination against the Western Shoshone Nation and its people in accordance with CERD urgent action and early warning procedures.

The U.N. committee established the early warning/urgent action procedures in 1993 in order to act quickly in preventing the further escalation of human rights abuses.

Western Shoshone have also raised concerns before the U.N. Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.

''The role of non-state actors, or multinational corporations, in the ongoing human rights violations against indigenous peoples is also being addressed by the delegation in response to the influential posture of the gold companies and the energy industry under the current administration,'' Western Shoshone said.

Previously, CERD expressed concern about the ongoing struggle of the Western Shoshone people and the continued violation of indigenous human rights in the United States.

In 2001, the committee questioned the United States' continued application of the ''doctrine of discovery,'' a racially based legal fiction that was used to justify the genocide of Indian peoples and the taking of their lands due to their ''inferior'' status as non-Christians.

The committee also questioned the U.S. delegation about why domestic law allowed the U.S. government to unilaterally abrogate Indian treaties, to which the United States never provided an answer.

Western Shoshone said the situation has become even graver.

CERD is slated to meet with U.S. government representatives in August to hear the government's response.

Please visit the Indian Country Today website for more articles related to this topic.

 

 

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Bush signs Western Shoshone legislation
Tribal leaders views bill as massive land fraud

 

Posted: July 09, 2004
by: Jerry Reynolds / Washington D.C. correspondent / Indian Country Today
http://www.indiancountry.com/?1089383970

WASHINGTON - One of the largest ongoing seizures of Indian land in modern times will move forward following President George W. Bush’s signing of the Western Shoshone Distribution Bill on July 7.

Under provisions of the bill, Western Shoshone claims to 24 million acres of land in Nevada, Utah, California and Idaho, based on the Ruby Valley Treaty of 1863, are officially subsumed through payment by the U.S. government. The bill will forcibly distribute approximately $145 million in funds awarded the tribe by the Indian Land Claims Commission. Most of it will go to 6,000 or so eligible tribal members, with a separate revenue stream set aside for educational purposes.

The commission acted on findings that following the Ruby Valley Treaty, which permitted non-Indian miners access to the tribal lands, a "gradual encroachment" took place that supposedly nullified the treaty. According to the government the "gradual encroachment" theory obviated any need for official cession of land by sovereign Western Shoshone governments, a sticking point to this day with foes of the funds distribution.

The commission based its original $27 million award (enacted by its successor organization, U.S. Court of Federal Claims) on land valuation in effect in 1872 - 15 cents an acre, with no interest on the loss over time.

Because acceptance of the award would create the perception that any claims to their land have been relinquished, the majority of Western Shoshone governments have steadfastly refused the money. Despite the July 7 signing, several Western Shoshone tribes and tribal members said they will continue to rely on the Ruby Valley Treaty to press their land claims.

This has never been easy for them. Another sticking point in the process of seizure has been a court ruling that the tribe could not litigate the award once its trustee, the Interior Department, accepted receipt of it.

Although tribal sovereignty is not vested in individuals but in tribes, Congress has relied on individual votes, cast in rather stage-managed proceedings, to determine that a "majority" of Western Shoshone tribal members favor distribution of funds and the resulting extinction of their land claims. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and his Republican ally in the House of Representatives, fellow Nevadan James Gibbons, persuaded their colleagues to pass the embattled bill mainly on the strength of vote tallies in proceedings that had no official sanctioning process across all the Western Shoshone tribes, but concentrated on Nevada tribes.

The Ruby Valley Treaty lands are rich in resources, including gold, water and geothermal energy. Multinational mining companies are standing by to operate within the Ruby Valley lands through "privatization" bills brought forward by Gibbons. Gibbons and Reid are among Congress’ leading recipients of mining company contributions.

In addition, President Bush has designated Yucca Mountain, a site within the Ruby Valley lands, as the nation’s nuclear waste repository.

In a statement of dissenting views attached to the distribution bill, signed by six members of the House, the claim continues to be made that no proof has been provided of Bush administration claims that a "vast majority" of Western Shoshone favor distribution of funds.

In any case, sovereignty is vested in tribal government, not individuals. According to the bill’s more vocal Western Shoshone opponents, the one former Western Shoshone tribal governmental leader who had testified in behalf of distribution did so over the opposition of a majority of his council, which passed a resolution refuting his testimony. A "Western Shoshone Claims Steering Committee," heavily relied on by Reid and Gibbons in producing a show of tribal support for distribution, has all the appearance of a shadow government, having been declared null and void by a resolution of the recognized government - all this again now part of recent historical record.

Western Shoshone governing bodies have passed at least eight resolutions against distribution: the Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone in 2004, Battle Mountain Indian Colony in 2002, South Fork Band Indian Reservation in 2003, Wells Band Council Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone in 2002, Yomba Shoshone Tribe in 2003, Winnemucca Indian Colony in 2003, and Elko Band Council, which passed two in 2004.

The distribution will take place in defiance of at least these eight resolutions among the Western Shoshone. The National Congress of American Indians, the Organization of American States, and the United Nations have also weighed in against the distribution.

Western Shoshone resistance will clearly continue. "It’s not over," said Mary Gibson, a tribal member. "We still exist and we still have our rights to our land. It makes me sad and angry that myths continue to cloud the truth in this country. This struggle isn’t a Shoshone versus Shoshone battle, the underlying issue here is the U.S. responsibility and accountability for a treaty with the Western Shoshone Nation. As long as the people in the U.S. allow this to happen it will continue to happen."

Raymond Yowell, of the Western Shoshone National Council, described himself as "utterly disappointed. It’s unbelievable that the U.S. body that makes the laws has acted in this manner. The fight is not over. A fraud is a fraud - individuals cannot sell out a nation and the bill, although a threat politically, does nothing to change our inherent rights or our treaty rights. Congress and the President were informed of all the facts that touch upon this issue. We will use the Treaty of Ruby Valley to stop Yucca Mountain and to protect our lands. Our title is still intact.

"The self-described, private group who pushed for this money are not members of any federally recognized council and have no authority to speak on behalf of our tribe or the Western Shoshone Nation. The Nevada legislators and the Bush administration have been well-advised of this fact. The way this legislation was handled makes an absolute sham of the stated government-to-government relationship and responsibility of the U.S. government."

Hugh Stevens, chairman of the Te-Moak Tribe of the Western Shoshone Nation, added, "Senator Reid has made numerous public commitments regarding resolving land issues for our communities. We will be looking for him to stand by that commitment in an expeditious fashion."

However, a press officer in Reid’s office, Tessa Hafen, said the senator struck no "deal" in the distribution bill that would permit tribes to retain or regain parcels of land for themselves within the Ruby Valley Treaty regions. Proposals to that effect have come from Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., in the House. Hafen said the senator has always hoped to work realistically with Western Shoshone tribes on their land claims. "It’s always been part of his long-term strategy," she added, then noted that "strategy" is perhaps too strong a word for it.

He has always hoped to work with Western Shoshone tribes on land issues, she concluded. "The problem is no one has ever come to him."

 

©2004 Indian Country Today

 

 

Native News Online a Service of Barefoot Connection List info at: http://nativenewsonline.org/natnews.htm
From: Senior Staff staff@nativenewsonline.org
Reprinted under the Fair Use http://nativenewsonline.org/fairuse.htm

 

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from Carrie Dann

FYI. Recent Article on Western Shoshone Distribution. Interesting that the money is now being directly linked to the land and not damages .  .  A little late.

Thursday, July 08, 2004
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal

WESTERN SHOSHONE: Law frees funds for Indian lands

Some vow to reject share of 1979 settlement for $145 million

By SAMANTHA YOUNG
STEPHENS WASHINGTON BUREAU

WASHINGTON -- President Bush on Wednesday enacted a law clearing the way for Western Shoshone Indians to receive thousands of dollars apiece in compensation for tribal land taken away since the 1800s.

Some Western Shoshone immediately vowed not to accept any money, saying the government swindled the tribe out of 60 million acres across four states that no compensation can heal.

"I'm not going to sell my dignity, my spirituality, my culture. No way," said Carrie Dann, a rancher from Crescent Valley.

She is a leader among self-described "traditional" tribal members who opposed a financial settlement.

A bill Bush signed into law unlocks $145 million in settlement funds that have been accumulating interest in a federal trust fund since 1979.

Individual payments would depend on how many Indians qualify for the settlement, with estimates ranging from $15,000 to $30,000 per person.

Most Western Shoshone are expected to accept the payments, according to some tribal leaders.

"This is what our people want, what they have been striving for a long time," said Ely Shoshone chairwoman Diana Buchner. "It's going to be closure for a lot of people."

Nedra Darling, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, could not say how long it will take tribal members to collect their checks following a lengthy process to form official tribal rolls and determine eligibility.

"It's not going to happen overnight," Darling said. "It's going to take a while."

Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., and Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., sponsored the settlement bill. They issued statements saying its enactment brings to an end years of delay in distributing settlement funds.

But opponents contend Western Shoshone were shortchanged billions of dollars, both in land prices and mineral rights.

Congress allocated $26.1 million to the Western Shoshone in 1979 at the direction of the Indian Claims Commission, which had concluded the tribes should be compensated for land and resources lost because of "gradual encroachment." The tribes were given an 1872 price for their land and minerals, about 15 cents an acre.

Dann said tribal factions will continue to pursue title to more than 60 million acres of traditional Western Shoshone land in Nevada, California, Utah and Idaho. A lawsuit is ongoing in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

Western Shoshone National Council chief Raymond Yowell and Yomba Shoshone chairman Jerril Johns said they also will refuse to take settlement funds.

Yowell said the new law is illegitimate because Congress relied on a straw poll of Western Shoshone that has yet to be certified by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

"What this bill does is give them an out," Yowell said of the U.S. government. "Now they can say that they paid the Shoshone for their land. I can not be a part of it."

New Mexico attorney Tom Leubben, who represents the Yomba tribe, questioned whether Congress had superseded its authority in dividing Western Shoshone funds among individual Indians.

"I think there's a legal issue which is whether Congress has the constitutional right to individualize Western Shoshone assets without Western Shoshone tribal concurrence and liquidate the Shoshone land base and distribute its assets," Leubben said.

Yomba chairman Johns could not say whether his tribe would pursue legal recourse.

"That's up to the council," he said.

Reid spokeswoman Tessa Hafen said the fund would be divided among Western Shoshone who qualify and choose to accept the payment.

Now that Bush has signed the bill, 10 days after the Senate approved the measure, Interior Secretary Gale Norton is charged with establishing a roll of eligible Western Shoshone.

Individual Indians who are at least one quarter Western Shoshone, a U.S. citizen and living as of Wednesday are eligible for a part of the $145 million pot. Any Indians who have received another tribal settlement would not qualify.

Darling said as many as 10,000 Western Shoshone could qualify for the settlement.

By law, the agency will consult with Western Shoshone in developing regulations governing the distribution. The regulations also will be submitted for public comment, she said.

Reid and Gibbons have maintained the settlement will not prevent tribes from pursuing separate land claims, a point some Western Shoshone have disputed.

Reid said in a statement he is working with tribes in Nevada to "support housing, agricultural, and economic development initiatives."

 

Find this article at:
http://www.reviewjournal.com/lvrj_home/2004/Jul-08-Thu-2004/news/24267284.html

 

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Dated Wed, 07 Jul 2004

Bush Signs Western Shoshone Bill

from Carrie Dann

President signed the Western Shoshone Distribution Bill this morning. Western Shoshone position remains unchanged Payment does not legitimize fraud.

Western Shoshone Defense Project, 775-468-0230, www.wsdp.org
Press Release For Immediate Release

Iraq George Bush, President of the United States, Congress Passes Bill to Force Payment on Western Shoshone Land Struggle -- A Sad Day for the Rule of Law in the United States, but the Fight s not Over Say the Western Shoshone.

July 7, 2004. Crescent Valley, NV. In spite of heavy opposition from the Western Shoshone Nation, this morning, the Western Shoshone Distribution Bill was signed into law by George W. Bush, President of the United States. The bill would authorize an alleged payoff of approximately 15 cents an acres for tens of millions of acres of disputed lands in Nevada, Idaho, Utah and California. A majority of tribal councils, representing approximately 80% of the population, the Western Shoshone National Council and all the traditional people strongly oppose the bill, they are supported by the National Congress of American Indians and Amnesty International. This formal opposition was apparently ignored however and an undocumented, unverified straw poll was used instead by the Bush Administration and Nevada legislators to justify the legislation.

White House staffer Jennifer Farley, Deputy Associate Director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, informed one Shoshone Tribal Chairman that the bill was red hot . The significance of the issue to the White House is apparent: Copies of Assistant Secretary of Interior Stephen J. Griles calendars reflect meetings with Interior Department legal staff, including Bush s Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals nominee, William Myers, regarding Western Shoshone Trespass (Dann Sisters) just six months before the Department of Interior started military-style seizures of livestock owned by Western Shoshone traditionalists, including grandmothers Mary and Carrie Dann.

The land base at issue is the third largest gold producing area in the world and cited by a 1999 Interior report as the number one investment opportunity for extraction companies. It is also the site where the nation s nuclear waste repository would be located, Yucca Mountain, and the home to the Nevada Test Site and Federal Counterterrorism Facility where the Bush Administration has talked of reopening nuclear testing. Both Bush and his political advisor Karl Rove, have made personal visits to Nevada in the last thirty days.

I am utterly disappointed. It s unbelievable that the U.S. body that makes the laws has acted in this manner. The fight is not over. A fraud is a fraud - Individuals cannot sell out a nation and the bill, although a threat politically, does nothing to change our inherent rights or our Treaty rights. Congress and the President were informed of all the facts that touch upon this issue. We will use the Treaty of Ruby Valley to stop Yucca Mountain and to protect our lands. Our title is still intact. Stated Raymond Yowell, Western Shoshone National Council.

The self-described, private group who pushed for this money are not members of any federally-recognized council and have no authority to speak on behalf of our Tribe or the Western Shoshone Nation. The Nevada legislators and the Bush Administration have been well-advised of this fact. The way this legislation was handled makes an absolute sham of the stated government to government relationship and responsibility of the U.S. government. Stated Hugh Stevens, Chairman of the Te-Moak Tribe of the Western Shoshone Nation. Senator Reid has made numerous public commitments regarding resolving land issues for our communities. We will be looking for him to stand by that commitment in an expeditious fashion. We demand that our land issues be resolved in good faith in the same hot line fashion as the distribution. He added.

Mary Gibson, Western Shoshone states: It s not over, we still exist and we still have our rights to our land. It makes me sad and angry that myths continue to cloud the Truth in this country. This struggle isn t a Shoshone v. Shoshone battle, the underlying issue here is the U.S. responsibility and accountability for a Treaty with the Western Shoshone Nation. As long as the people in the U.S. allow this to happen it will continue to happen.

For additional info, contact the Western Shoshone Defense Project at 775-468-0230.

 

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June 22, 2004
Send by shundahai@shundahai.org

UPDATE - Action Alert June 22, 2004

Western Shoshone “Distribution” Bill

House passes Bill in expedited vote despite NCAI Resolution and Western Shoshone Opposition

In a behind the scenes, completely un-democratic and purely political maneuver, the Western Shoshone Distribution Bill (S 618/HR 884) was passed by a voice vote several hours before the scheduled vote on Monday, June 21, 2004. Because of the death of the Senate bill on June 1, the next step will be for the vote to move back through the Senate and then on to the President.

The bill was passed based on an illegitimate “vote” claiming to represent Western Shoshone people, despite the fact that the Western Shoshone National Council, a majority of the democratically-elected Tribal Councils representing over 70% of the population, and all of the traditional Western Shoshone strongly oppose the bill. In addition, the National Congress of American Indians, the largest umbrella organization of Native American Tribes in the U.S. passed a resolution on Monday opposing the bill as a threat to Native American sovereignty and equal protection of the laws.

Do we live in a country of lawless ness and corporate corruption or do we still believe in a Congress and elected officials who reflect fairness and legality of process? This bill, the Western Shoshone Distribution Bill, may well be the test case of our time.

For further information, please see www.wsdp.org or call 775-468-0230.

WHAT TO DO to express your concerns:
Democratic National Committee - 202-863-8000 (Why isn’t this a national campaign issue?)
Republican National Committee - 202-863-8500 (Why isn’t this a national campaign issue?)

Contact your Senator – Or Senators who claim to uphold Human Rights and Rule of Law
Contact the White House and anyone else you may think could be persuasive in this issue.

The Western Shoshone Distribution Bill - S 618/H.R. 884

Fiction v. Facts

Following are samples of some of the statements, letters and list serve communications being sent by Western Shoshone and supporters.

 

Statement by Western Shoshone:

Western Shoshone Land– “Silence is Golden if You Could Mine Your Own Business, As It Is Stated in Nevada”.

Statement by Larson R. Bill (Western Shoshone), June 1, 2004.

I always thought Nevada was the Silver State, all of a sudden it’s gold. The Western Shoshone Distribution Bill, S 618/HR 884 sure looks like hush money to me and other Western Shoshone. Why the push to pay us off? How much is it worth to a couple of senior congressmen and their corporate constituents to buy us off? How much is it worth to buy off or hush up constitutionally protected rights? Your guess is as good as ours – A few things we do know – and they all relate to money, lots of money – except when it comes to the Western Shoshone:

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

GOLD: Western Shoshone lands are the 3rd largest gold producing area in the world, behind only South Africa and Australia – One mountain alone, Mt. Tenabo, which Congressman Gibbons has slated for a privatization scheme (HR 2869) to Placer Dome (5th largest gold company in the world) has estimated revenues of $7-8 billion. In mining contributions received in the 2004 cycle, Congressman Gibbons comes in 2nd in the House with Reid as the 4th highest recipient in the Senate. Other multinationals mining in our area include Barrick, Kennecott, Newmont and Marigold.

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

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

NUCLEAR WASTE: Western Shoshone lands contain Yucca Mountain, cited home for the nation’s nuclear waste repository. The construction contract for the waste repository was awarded to Bechtel Corporation at $1.2 billion.

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

A fair deal? We don’t think so – and neither should you. Mother Earth is not expendable, except only in the mind of a diseased man. Stop the Western Shoshone Distribution Bill (S 618/HR 884) and stop abuse of our lands, resources and beliefs. We’ve been in this struggle for a long time now and it’s about time the U.S. gets back to reality and deals with this issue in a good way rather than continuing all this terrorism against the vanishing race of the original people of this Nation.

List Serve Communication:

Those of you with eyes to see and ears to hear,

I am forwarding an action alert …. asking for people to contact their representatives and oppose the Western Shoshone Distribution Bill to be voted on by the House of Representatives this Tuesday (June 1). Please read the action alert to learn the specifics.

Based on my understanding, this appears to me to be yet another case where the US government is unilaterally ending a treaty agreement with an Indian Nation without tribal consent. In a conversation with someone about this the other day they cynically asked:

"Yeah, but what do you expect? When has the US government ever honored treaties with the Indians?"

My reply to his question:

They've never honored the treaties. And I expect more from my government. I, for one, honor treaties and I will raise the one empowered voice I have to appeal to those who represent me in government to do the same. Those who opposed slavery expected more, those who professed that separate was not equal expected more--because those practices were based on racial discrimination. So is the US practice of not honoring treaties made with Indian nations. We must expect more from our government than that.

Thanks to those of you who have already responded to this issue. I urge the rest of you to do what you can. Even if it is just learning about the issue yourself and sharing this information with others.

 

Indigenous Rights Watch

"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."" ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

"When individuals assume responsibility for ensuring each other’s human rights the foundation for unity will be firmly established.” ~Bahai International Community

 

Letter from Supporter to their Congressperson:

Oppose the Western Shoshone Distribution Bill, S. 618/HR 884.

Reid, Gibbons, Gale Norton and our "National Interests" have taken a page from the influential Koch boys of Wichita, who were caught stealing oil from impoverished tribes in Oklahoma. "We want our fair share, and that's ALL of it!"

It's 300 year old tradition in government: you sign treaties with the folks who rightly occupy the territory. Then you do whatever you please! And laugh all the way to the bank.

The Native American Rights Fund has taken Gale Norton to court THREE times and WON each time, yet the Interior Department continues to act illegally...no different from what they're doing with Western Shoshone. This is not government. This is tyranny masked as politics. So is passage of HR884, HR 2869, HR2772.

Find the actual documentation for the Interior Dept. testimony about Western Shoshone disputes, requested by Tom Udall in 2003. Is he a "dissident" too? Has the truth become a radical act? Stop the subversion of due process. It would be a refreshing change!

 

 

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June 2, 2004
Release: For Immediate Release

 

Update on Western Shoshone Distribution Bill:

Bill Removed From Congressional Voting Calendar as People Across the Nation Support Western Shoshone Land Rights - Vigilant Watch Kept for Reintroduction

Crescent Valley, NV June 2, 2004. In what may be only a day's reprieve, the Western Shoshone Distribution Bill (S 618/HR 884) was taken off the Congressional voting calendar late yesterday afternoon (June 1, 2004). Opponents of the bill, which include both Western Shoshone and thousands of supporters across the nation, are keeping a vigilant eye however as Congressman Gibbons' office threatens rescheduling of the bill as early as today, June 2, 2004. Reports from legislative staffers reveal that Senator Reid spent the memorial day holiday "lobbying" House Democrats to support his bill despite heavy opposition from the Western Shoshone. Members of Congress received thousands of letters, emails, phone calls and faxes reflecting a national outcry for a good faith resolution of this decades long land dispute.

Opposition to a forced payout of the Western Shoshone and support for governmental accountability is coming from Tribes and Individuals across Indian Country, native and human rights organizations (including Amnesty International, Oxfam America and the Petra Foundation) and thousands of individual American citizens. At stake are tens of millions of acres of Western Shoshone land, recognized by the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley. Competing with Western Shoshone interests are billions of dollars in gold, energy production and nuclear waste and weapons industries. Who will prevail in this modern day "manifest corporate destiny"? The next several weeks may tell all.

"The Public is speaking, secretive actions and legislation based on misrepresentations to members of Congress will not be tolerated. The same thing happened in the buildup to the war in Iraq. There are clear signs to members of Congress that there is something wrong with this bill. It's the same pattern - who's leading the charge and who is going to take responsibility? Who gets hurt and for what purpose? This government must learn from history - if history repeats itself, it is because the government didn't learn the first tme." Larson Bill, Western Shoshone.

"I, for one, honor treaties and I will raise the one empowered voice I have to appeal to those who represent me in government to do the same. Those who opposed slavery expected more, those who professed that separate was not equal expected more--because those practices were based on racial discrimination. So is the US practice of not honoring treaties made with Indian nations. We must expect more from our government than that." Keli Lovejoy, Indigenous Rights Watch.

For more information: Contact Western Shoshone Defense Project at 775-468-0230, www.wsdp.org or http://www.westernshoshone.com/

 

Again, WHAT TO DO:
Go to http://www.peaceforallnations.com/wsdpNOW.htm
  1. Contact your local media and the media you listen to - they should be covering this! Especially shows like Democracy Now! With Amy Goodman, NPR, etc.

  2. Send the alert and the press release to your lists of friends and supporters - this should be a national movement to stop abuses against the native peoples of the United States. Get your organization(s) involved in this issue!

  3. Contact your local Representatives (House number: 202-224-3121), www.house.gov and the following:

Speaker of the House: J. Dennis Hastert - 202-225-0600
Majority Leader: Tom DeLay - 202-225-4000
Democratic National Committee - 202-863-8000 (Why isn't this a national campaign issue?)
Republican National Committee - 202-863-8500 (Why isn't this a national campaign issue?)

Congresswoman Shelley Berkley
439 Cannon HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Fax: 202-225-3119
www.house.gov/berkley
(Nevada Congressional Representative who has not yet supported or opposed the bill - but does oppose Yucca Mountain. Her opposition to the bill would add tremendous weight.)

Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich
Progressive Caucus Chair
1730 Longworth HOB
Washington, D.C. 20515
Fax: 202-225-5745
www.house.gov/kucinich/info/contact.htm

Congresswoman Barbara Lee
Progressive Caucus Co-Chair
1724 Longworth HOB
Washington, D.C. 20515
Fax: 202-225-9817
barbara.lee@us.house.gov

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

Congressman Elijah E. Cummings
Black Caucus Chair
1632 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Fax: 202-225-3178
(The Black Caucus could take a stand against the bill.)

Congressman John Lewis
Black Caucus
34 Cannon HOB
Washington, D.C. 20515
Fax: 202-225-0351
(The Black Caucus could take a stand against the bill.)

Hispanic Caucus and Native American Caucus - Contact info available at http://www.peaceforallnations.com/wsdpNOW.htm or www.house.gov.

And anyone else you may think could be persuasive in this issue.
Thank you for your continued support - what affects the native/indigenous peoples affects us all.

 


The Western Shoshone Distribution Bill - H.R. 884/S 618
Key Points

* HR 884/S 618 is an attempt to legitimize the theft of Western Shoshone lands and to initiate massive corporate giveaways of the land and its resources.

  • This bill distributes money awarded for an alleged extinguishment of title to 24 million acres of land, the vast majority of which is currently classified as "public" lands. The issue of title to the land and accounting for resource extraction is the subject matter of current litigation, I, 03-CV-2009, U.S. District Court, D.C.

  • This bill would open the way to large scale privatization of lands held sacred by the Western Shoshone and currently used and occupied by the native people for grazing, gathering medicinal and food plants, hunting and fishing, and ceremonial purposes. The stage is already being set for corporate giveaways and largescale privatization of the lands. For example: H.R. 2869 would work to give away Western Shoshone lands to major mining interests such as Placer Dome; HR 2772 would encourage large scale expansion of geothermal energy production with no provision for Western Shoshone cultural beliefs or compensation for use of the hot water; Senator Reid's office has drafted the Northern Nevada Public Lands Management Act which creates a process for large scale privatization of the same lands.

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

  • Energy companies are lining up for access to the vast geothermal resources with Senator Reid calling the area the next "Saudi Arabia" of geothermal energy production.

  • In a November 2003 letter sent to Secretary of Interior Gale Norton, Congressman Grijalva (AZ) raised serious concerns about the real intent of the bill and the involvement of the federal government and mining, energy and nuclear industries in presenting a misleading picture of the issues to the public and to members of Congress.
    ( The letter in .pdf format. - download the free . pdf Reader ).

* Western Shoshone people oppose HR 884/S 618.

  • A majority of the tribal councils and all of the traditional Western Shoshone oppose the distribution of money until the resolution of the land issues.
  • In 1980, at the formal Hearing of Record, the claims money was rejected because the U.S. could not demonstrate how it had legally acquired title to the land. Since that time, there has never been any vote of the Western Shoshone on the bill. The straw poll ballot referenced by Congressman Gibbons and Senator Reid was never authorized or certified by any Western Shoshone government. Despite a request by Congressman Tom Udall (NM), Interior has failed to provide any documentation of its statements that a "majority" of people are in favor of the bill.

* HR 884/S 618 underscores fundamental human rights violations against the Western Shoshone.

  • The Western Shoshone have never received a hearing on the issue of title. The only issue decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in U.S. v. Dann was whether or not "payment" had been made when the money was accepted by the Department of Interior on behalf of the Western Shoshone. The Supreme Court said "yes", Interior serves as a "trustee" to the Indians and Interior's acceptance equals acceptance by the Western Shoshone, thereby triggering a statutory bar to litigation on the issue.
  • Last year, after 10 years of briefings and hearings, an international judicial body (the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights) found that the process used by the U.S. violates Western Shoshone rights to property, to due process, and to equality under the law.
  • Amnesty International has issued a formal report on the situation and has called upon the United States to adhere to the international ruling of the Inter-American Commission.
  • The Department of Interior continues acts of armed surveillance and threats of impoundment against Western Shoshone. (In the past Congressional session, hundreds of cattle and horses were forcibly seized by the Department under military-type tactics.)

* What the Western Shoshone Nation is asking for is reasonable.

  • From the beginning, the Western Shoshone have asked for good faith negotiations with the United States. Their request is simple: to sit across the table and talk on an equal level.
  • Complex negotiations occur in the corporate world everyday and if the U.S. were to commit the appropriate political will, a process could be decided upon that would satisfy all concerned.
  • The cost to the taxpayer would be less than continuing the dispute and may in fact save monies which would otherwise be spent in ongoing enforcement actions against Western Shoshone and monies wasted or not realized in private sweet heart deals with corporations and land developers.

 

 

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link to: http://www.peaceforallnations.com/westshoshone.htm