The Western Shoshone Distribution Bill - S 618/H.R.
The Truth: Fiction v. Facts
Fiction: A majority of the Western Shoshone people
are in favor of the bill.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
Fiction: The land dispute can be resolved after the
distribution is made.
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
Fiction: he lands are not highly valuable and there
is no hidden agenda by U.S. lawmakers and corporations to "clear"
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
Fiction: The Western Shoshone are being unreasonable
and cannot agree amongst themselves as to a fair resolution
of the issue.
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.