The Western Shoshone Distribution Bill - S 618/H.R. 884
The Truth: Fiction v. Facts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Facts:

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

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

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

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

    Facts:
  • The Western Shoshone have never received a hearing on the issue of title.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Facts:
  • The land and its resources are worth billions of dollars to mining and energy companies.

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

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

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

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

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

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