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Western Shoshone: War is not just in Iraq
by Sacred Treaties
Sunday May 30th, 2004 8:33 PM
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights found that with regard to the Western Shoshone, the U.S. is currently in violation of rights to property, due process and equality under the law. In the fall of 2003, a federal lawsuit was filed on behalf of Western Shoshone in the U.S. District Court in Washington. (Western Shoshone, et al. v. U.S. Case No. 03-CV-2009). Western Shoshone land encompasses the world’s third largest production of gold, cited in 1999 as the number one investment opportunity for mineral extraction companies. In the past 40 years, $26 billion dollars in gold has been extracted from Western Shoshone aboriginal lands defined by treaty. Open pit cyanide leach mining for gold is destroying the water and air, said Carrie Dann, Western Shoshone elder. Multinational gold companies Kennecott, Placer Dome, Barrick and Newmont and others, take the water out of the water table at a rate of 30 to 70 thousand gallons of water per minute. One Nevada politician described these lands as the next "Saudi Arabia" of geothermal energy production. If that wasn’t enough abuse, the U.S. has selected the land for nuclear dumping at Yucca Mountain, the proposed site of the nation’s nuclear waste repository and the Nevada Test Site. The Bush administration has referenced possible renewed nuclear weapons testing. It has been a long fight for Western Shoshone elders, and in the eyes of the world, they are winners. McCloud said, "The elders before us stood up for life and their understanding of the treaty and this elder and others still stand for the treaty and life."
Action Alert -

We Need Your Help!!! Western Shoshone Payoff Bill is on the Move Again!

We just got notification that Sen Reid's bill S.618 will be on the House Floor under Suspension on Tuesday June 1st. Current legislation before the United States Congress, entitled the Western Shoshone Distribution Bill (HR 884/S 618), is an attempt to strip away U.S. treaty obligations and Western Shoshone connections to their homeland by a mere one time payment of cents on the acre. Last week we received information that under the guise of bi-partisanship,
Senator Harry Reid and Congressman Jim Gibbons are once again gearing up to force this one time payment on the Western Shoshone people for 24 million acres of land at approximately 15 cents an acre. The bill is HR 884/S 618, entitled the "Western Shoshone Claims Distribution Act". The bill could come up for a vote on the suspension calendar in the full House as early as this week or shortly after the Memorial Day recess on June 2nd. If you want to express your concerns please send or call your local representatives and the key congressional contacts listed below.

The fear of many Western Shoshone people and the majority of Councils is that the forced distribution of these monies by Congress will be used to silence Western Shoshone concerns regarding U.S. violations of the Treaty of Ruby Valley and ongoing violations against Western Shoshone rights to property, due process and equality under the law. This push is being made at the same time that the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste repository is being pushed along and Congressman Gibbons' is sponsoring other legislation, HR 2869 and HR 2772, which would open up Shoshone lands to privatization by multinational mining companies and massive geothermal energy development with no provision for Western Shoshone interests or concerns. Additionally, in the last two weeks, Notices of Intent to Impound livestock have again been received by Western Shoshone grandmothers Mary and Carrie Dann and other Western Shoshone ranchers.

The Western Shoshone Nation needs your help now. What affects one community affects us all. "As Western Shoshone, we have been fighting for many years to simply remain who we are - Western Shoshone. The earth is our mother and land provides us with life, like the water and the air. To take this land from us will be to lead us into a spiritual death. Please help us to stop this unconstitutional, unjust and unwanted payment." - Carrie Dann, Western Shoshone grandmother.

"The elders before us stood up for life and their understanding of the Treaty and this elder and others still stand for the Treaty and life. Our Indian children are over in Iraq supposedly fighting for their country. And yet our Nevada Congressional leaders through the Western Shoshone Distribution Act are trying to take away the Western Shoshone homeland. What are our Shoshone kids going to come back to - What are they fighting for? If the war on terrorism is about protecting this country then why is our own government trying to take away our homelands?" - Mary McCloud, Western Shoshone elder.


A key points sheet and sample letter are attached below for your reference. For additional information, please see http://www.wsdp.org.




WHAT TO DO:

Contact your local Representatives (House number: 202-224-3121) 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
Republican National Committee - 202-863-8500

Congresswoman Shelley Berkley
439 Cannon HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Fax: 202-225-3119

http://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
Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Progressive Caucus Co-Chair
Fax: 202-225-5745 Fax: 202-225-9817

(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.)

If people are concerned, they should be contacting Members to see if there is enough support to take the bill down -- we need 1/3 of those present voting against the bill -- certain members will speak against and vote against but they need to see what there is in the way of support as to whether or not they ask for a recorded vote.

Please let us know where your representative stands - and representatives identified in the action alert below. If the bill passes the House, it goes straight to the President for signature or veto.



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, Western Shoshone v. U.S., 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 large scale 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. (Copy available at http://www.wsdp.org).


* 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.

---------------------------


SAMPLE LETTER


Honorable Congressman ____________,

I write this letter in opposition to the Western Shoshone Distribution Bill sponsored by Congressman Gibbons and Senator Harry Reid of Nevada.

The bill has been reported to the full House as HR884/S618. I ask you, as a member of Congress to stop this bill and to initiate an investigation with the Inspector General's office or other appropriate body to determine what is really going on with this attempt to silence the Western Shoshone Nation.

If passed, HR 884/S 618 could have devastating impacts on the people of Nevada, the Western Shoshone and the United States. The bill is an attempt to pay off the Western Shoshone for part of their ancestral land base - where they still live and pray - approximately 24 million acres of land, most of which the U.S. classifies as "public" lands. In order to force the people off the land, the Department of Interior has conducted several armed roundups of Western Shoshone livestock over the past two years. These actions are being taken despite a recognition of the Western Shoshone land base in the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley - as a member of Congress, how can we ignore a fully ratified Treaty and force an unwanted payment on people? Impacts from passage of this bill include escalating disputes and litigation over native rights under the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley, loss of economic benefits to tribal and local communities and loss of international respect for the United States on its policies regarding indigenous peoples. Who benefits? The beneficiaries of this theft of Western Shoshone lands are the Mining, Energy and Nuclear industries. Western Shoshone land encompasses the world's third largest production of gold, cited by the USGS in 1999 as the number one investment opportunity for mineral extraction companies; the area has also been described by one Nevada politician as the next "Saudi Arabia" of geothermal energy production; and the land at issue includes Yucca Mountain - proposed site of the nation's nuclear waste repository - and the Nevada Test Site - where the Bush administration has referenced possible renewed nuclear weapons testing.

Last year, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights found that with regard to the Western Shoshone, the U.S. is currently in violation of rights to property, due process and equality under the law. In the fall of 2003, a federal lawsuit was filed on behalf of Western Shoshone in the U.S. District Court in D.C. (Western Shoshone, et al. v. U.S. Case No. 03-CV-2009). HR 884/S 618 raises fundamental questions about how the federal government treats indigenous peoples and represents an appalling example of current U.S. policy. The Western Shoshone need to address their hunting and fishing and gathering of food and medicinal plants. Their children need to feel connected to the lands of their ancestors. The Western Shoshone are the caretakers of these lands and the Distribution Bill threatens their existence as Western Shoshone people. They deserve good faith negotiations or a hearing in a fair judicial proceeding, not 15 cents an acre and spiritual genocide.

I can no longer stand for the abuses against native peoples, fundamental human rights and the rights of the future generations. That is not what this country should stand for. We must do the right thing now regarding the people who have afforded all of us the land we now live on and our own right to prosper, at unbelievable cost to their own lives and well being. Hopefully, we have evolved into a nation where we will protect as equally as our own, the rights of the original Indian Nations of this land.

Thank you for your attention to this serious issue and your opposition to HR 884/S 618.


Sincerely,



____________

Western Shoshone: War is not just in Iraq

CRESCENT VALLEY, Nev. - United States Congressmen are mirroring the same deceptive tactics in Western Shoshone territory as in Iraq, said Western Shoshone as legislation was pushed to compensate tribal members for Aboriginal land in an effort to seize it and open it up for mining, energy and nuclear corporations.

While Western Shoshone maintain their Aboriginal land claim secured by the Treaty of Ruby Valley of 1863, their sacred Yucca Mountain is being gutted for nuclear dumping, their horses and cattle seized to make way for geothermal industries and the earth mutilated for gold extraction.

"If the war on terrorism is about protecting this country, then why is our own government trying to take away our homelands?" said Mary McCloud, Western Shoshone elder.

"Our Indian children are over in Iraq supposedly fighting for their country. And yet our Nevada Congressional leaders through the Western Shoshone Distribution Act are trying to take away the Western Shoshone homeland.

"What are our Shoshone kids going to come back to? What are they fighting for?" McCloud said.

Current legislation before the United States Congress, the Western Shoshone Distribution Bill, H.R. 884/S. 618, is described by tribal members as an attempt to strip away U.S. treaty obligations and their connections to their homeland with a one time payment of cents per acre.

"Under the guise of bi-partisanship, Senator Harry Reid and Congressman Jim Gibbons are once again gearing up to force this one time payment on the Western Shoshone people for 24 million acres of land at approximately 15 cents an acre," said Julie Fishel of the Western Shoshone Defense Project.

Reid is Democrat and Gibbons is Republican.

Fishel said the push for passage of the distribution bill is being made at the same time that Gibbons is sponsoring other legislation, H.R. 2869 and H.R. 2772, which would open Shoshone lands to privatization by multinational mining companies and massive geothermal energy development, with no provision for Western Shoshone interests or concerns.

Simultaneously, the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste repository is being pushed forward, regardless of whistleblowers exposing inherent dangers.

Western Shoshone elders are the victims of the schemes to seize the land. During May, Robert Healy Sr., Mary Dann and Carrie Dann received federal notices of intent to impound their livestock.

Carrie Dann said it is domestic terrorism designed to steal the dignity of the people. "Economically we were a self-sustaining people. With these recent actions stealing our livelihood we are now facing economic starvation designed to remove us from our lands. To me, that is terrorism. Domestic terrorism. This behavior is designed to steal our dignity, our honor and to make us feel that we are less than or lower than human - we are treated like animals. We are being dehumanized."

Dann said the distribution bill is an unconstitutional, unjust and unwanted payment. "As Western Shoshone, we have been fighting for many years to simply remain who we are - Western Shoshone. The earth is our mother and land provides us with life, like the water and the air. To take this land from us will be to lead us into a spiritual death.

The distribution bill could come up for a vote in the U.S. House in May or June. The fear of many Western Shoshone people and the majority of Councils is that money is being used by Congress to silence Western Shoshone concerns over U.S. violations of the Treaty of Ruby Valley.

By treaty, Western Shoshone maintain their ancestral land base - where they still live and pray - approximately 24 million acres of land, most of which the U.S. classifies as "public" lands.

Steven Newcomb, Shawnee/Lenape co-founder and co-director of the Indigenous Law Institute, said neither Congressman Gibbons nor Senator Reid wants to address Western Shoshone land rights based on the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley.

"After personally researching the Indian Claims Commission records in the Western Shoshone case, I could not find one shred of historical documentation to support the ‘finding’ that Western Shoshone lands described in the Ruby Valley Treaty were ever ‘taken’ by ‘gradual encroachment,’" Newcomb said.

In order to force the people off the land, the Department of Interior has conducted armed roundups of Western Shoshone livestock for the past two years. Western Shoshone say the beneficiaries of this theft of Aboriginal Shoshone lands are the mining, energy and nuclear industries.

Western Shoshone land encompasses the world’s third largest production of gold, cited in 1999 as the number one investment opportunity for mineral extraction companies. In the past 40 years, $26 billion dollars in gold has been extracted from Western Shoshone aboriginal lands defined by treaty.

Open pit cyanide leach mining for gold is destroying the water and air, said Carrie Dann. Multinational gold companies Kennecott, Placer Dome, Barrick and Newmont and others, take the water out of the water table at a rate of 30 to 70 thousand gallons of water per minute.

One Nevada politician described these lands as the next "Saudi Arabia" of geothermal energy production.

If that wasn’t enough abuse, the U.S. has selected the land for nuclear dumping at Yucca Mountain, the proposed site of the nation’s nuclear waste repository and the Nevada Test Site. The Bush administration has referenced possible renewed nuclear weapons testing.

Although one excuse for the war in Iraq was the violation of human rights, Western Shoshone point out that the United States government abuses its indigenous peoples at home.

Last year, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights found that with regard to the Western Shoshone, the U.S. is currently in violation of rights to property, due process and equality under the law. In the fall of 2003, a federal lawsuit was filed on behalf of Western Shoshone in the U.S. District Court in Washington. (Western Shoshone, et al. v. U.S. Case No. 03-CV-2009).

It has been a long fight for Western Shoshone elders, and in the eyes of the world, they are winners.

McCloud said, "The elders before us stood up for life and their understanding of the treaty and this elder and others still stand for the treaty and life."

This article can be found at "http://www.indiancountry.com/?1085081562"