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Who and What We Are 


The Western Shoshone Defense Project was established in 1991 by the Western Shoshone National Council to provide support to Mary and Carrie Dann, Western Shoshone grandmothers faced with the confiscation of their livestock which they graze on Western Shoshone homelands. While we started as volunteers, in the last decade with the support of many individuals and foundations, we have grown into an organization with paid staff that asserts Shoshone rights against violations to Newe Sobobia.

Since the 1950s, the U.S has tested hundreds of nuclear weapons on Western Shoshone homelands and disposed of thousands of metric tons of radioactive waste in unlined trenches at the Nevada Test Site. Currently Congress has passed legislation to dump all of the nuclear industry's high-level nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain.

Modern heap leach gold mining is gauging the heart of Western Shoshone homelands. Newe Sogobia ranks third in gold production behind South Africa and Australia.Nevada's contribution is 76%, 2/3 of which is dug from Newe Sogobia. Gold mining is having a devastating affect upon Western Shoshone homelands, water, and cultural areas. Because the rights of Newe continue to be ignored, the Newe have no voice in these land use decisions.

As an indigenous grassroots organization, we are taking the lead to educate and organize for the protection of Newe Sogobia and Newe rights. We are guided by Western Shoshone traditional and tribal leaders, a seven member advisory board and the Western Shoshone National Council, the traditional Western Shoshone government.

The Western Shoshone Defense Project's mission is to affirm Newe (Western Shoshone) jurisdiction over Newe Sogobia (Western Shoshone homelands) by protecting, preserving, and restoring Newe rights and lands for present and future generations based on cultural and spiritual traditions. The W.S.D.P. was established in 1991 by the Western Shoshone National Council to provide support to Mary and Carrie Dann, Western Shoshone grandmothers who were facing the confiscation of the livestock which they graze on Western Shoshone lands.

Since 1993, the WSDP has expanded its scope to address concerns across Newe Sogobia.  Our current goals are: 
  1. To actively support the Western Shoshone assertion of sovereignty through outreach and education about continued threats to the Western Shoshone Nation, and 
  2. To reinforce traditional Newe beliefs through the promotion of environmentally sustainable land use in Newe Sogobia.

Our Program has four main points: 

  • We seek to prevent BLM harassment of traditional Western Shoshone cattlegrazers who continue to maintain their livelihood on Western Shoshone lands.
  • The Mining Action Program works to expose and counter the gold mining industry's destruction of cultural sites and to protect the integrity of lands and waters, through public education, documentation, and action.
  • The Outreach and Education Program works within Western Shoshone communities and the general public to share information about cultural, spiritual, environmental, and human rights concerns in Newe Sogobia.  It is a multi-faceted program which includes - an annual Spring Gathering; creation and distribution of information, including a semi-annual newsletter;  active support of Western Shoshone based organizing around the nuclear and military development of Newe Sogobia;  co-ordination of speaking engagements;  involvement in public meetings;  and presentations to various Western Shoshone groups. 
  • We promote legal efforts to advance Western Shoshone land rights and sovereignty.

 The WSDP is based in Crescent Valley - a small town in North-Central Nevada.  Our Native and non-Native staff has a broad background in the environmental and social justice movements.  The WSDP is guided by the traditional Western Shoshone government and by an Advisory Board comprised of representatives from six Western Shoshone communities.  We also receive considerable assistance from our network of supporters:  3,800 individuals and organizations, local, national, and international.  The common bond within this network is the knowledge that the Western Shoshone and many other indigenous peoples have been wrongly denied their sovereignty and lands, and that we all have a responsibility to help create a just solution to this situation.

The continued effectiveness of the Defense Project depends on your support and participation!