MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Western Shoshone to Question Placer Dome Mining at Annual Shareholder Meeting

Published by MAC on 2005-04-25


Western Shoshone to Question Placer Dome Mining at Annual Shareholder Meeting

Press Release - Western Shoshone Defense Project

April 25, 2005

Crescent Valley, NV (Newe Sogobia) - A delegation of Western Shoshone will address the CEO and Board of Placer Dome, Inc. during Wednesday’s Annual General Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia.

During the Meeting, Placer Dome – the world’s fifth largest gold company and majority owner of the controversial Cortez Gold Mine in Crescent Valley, Nevada will respond to strong requests by the Western Shoshone. Placer Dome has been pushing hard for expansion of mining in a very important area to the Western Shoshone for cultural and spiritual reasons. The area – which includes Mt. Tenabo and Horse Canyon - is home to local Western Shoshone creation stories and contains burial sites, ceremonial areas and food and medicinal plants. Western Shoshone have protested mining exploration in the area since it was initially proposed. The area is also where, in 2002-2003, the U.S. government conducted armed seizures of horses and cattle belonging to Western Shoshone Grandmothers Mary and Carrie Dann. Just months after the last seizure, the gold company announced the “discovery” of significant gold deposits. The Western Shoshone will address the shareholders meeting and a post-meeting with Corporate Executives to ask Placer Dome to stop the drill rigs and other heavy equipment until they have received free, prior and informed consent from Western Shoshone. The delegates are also asking Placer Dome to change the way they have been doing business by respecting Western Shoshone human rights, including compensation issues. Even with its existing mine, in the time since Placer Dome started operating in Western Shoshone territory, the Shoshone have received no benefits and have had to stand by and watch the destruction of the land, water and air.

Western Shoshone leaders, Hugh Stevens and Darla Lozaro will address the Shareholder Meeting. The Western Shoshone delegation will also be meeting with Placer Dome Corporate leadership following the Meeting to address these concerns in more depth.

Carrie Dann, Western Shoshone grandmother who was scheduled to attend the pre-meeting with Corporate Executives but due to the death of her sister, Mary will be unable to travel this week, stated from her home in Crescent Valley: “U.S. law tells us we don’t have a right to say no to mining activities – that violates our human rights – culturally and spiritually. If Placer Dome allows its company to merely go by those discriminatory laws, then they are a party to those violations as well. Not only has Placer Dome ignored our protests to stop exploration and mining at Horse Canyon and Mt. Tenabo, but they have affirmatively sought to take the area even out of minimal environmental and cultural protection by privatizing the land through Congressman Gibbons’ legislation – House Bill 2869. They are even claiming to have leased our hot springs which we still use for cleansing and healing. This behavior by the Company is wrong. They need to listen to what we are saying and respect our rights to our Western Shoshone cultural and spiritual ways. There are things out there that should not be disturbed by mining.”

Hugh Stevens, Western Shoshone leader and Te-Moak Tribal Chairman: “We will respectfully address the Shareholders and Executives of Placer Dome. The concerns of our people are long and deep. Our Treaty with the United States – the Treaty of Ruby Valley - recognizes our land boundaries and yet the government and the companies have been ignoring our traditional people and our formal resolutions. Our land has provided Placer Dome with extraordinary wealth without consultation and without our consent. Placer Dome has engaged in numerous bad faith acts against our people in the last several years. We hope the Company will listen to our concerns, take meaningful steps to right the wrongs, and respect our rights.”

For more information:

Julie Ann Fishel,

Western Shoshone Defense Project 775-468-0230 or 775-397-1371


American Indian activist Mary Dann dies in ranch accident

By Tom Gardner, The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune

27th April 2005

RENO, Nev. - Activist Mary Dann, who with her sister helped represent the Shoshone Nation in its effort to reclaim millions of acres they claimed as their ancestral land, has died in an accident on her rural central Nevada ranch.

Dann apparently had an accident on an all-terrain vehicle while she was repairing fence on the Crescent Valley ranch Friday night, according to Julie Fishel of the Western Shoshone Defense Project.

Fishel said Dann was in her early 80s but had never disclosed her exact age.

Patricia Paul said her aunt ''died as she would have wanted - with her boots on and hay in her pocket.''

For more than a quarter century, Dann and her sister Carrie were at the forefront of efforts to reclaim a vast tract of land spreading across four states. They claimed it was their aboriginal land, which was seized by the United States under the Treaty of Ruby Valley, enacted two years before the end of the Civil War.

''We're the ones that know which is right and which is wrong,'' Mary Dann said in a 2003 interview with The Associated Press.

Some tribal members, however, considered the Dann sisters adversaries because their cause and its publicity foiled years of attempts to distribute federal money to members under a land-claim award. She and her sister opposed distribution of the money and refused to pay to graze livestock on a federal allotment near their ranch.

Though ''traditional'' tribal members such as the Danns rejected the notion of a claim, another Shoshone band did file for settlement. In the late 1970s, the Indian Claims Commission awarded the Shoshones $26 million, deciding the tribe had lost the land by the ''gradual encroachment'' of white settlers.

However, the money went untouched because a majority of Shoshones could never agree to accept it. With interest, the amount of the payment has grown to more than $140 million, said Raymond Yowell, chief of the Western Shoshone Nation.

While the claims panel was one front in the battle, a pasture near the Danns' ranch became another.

In 1974, the Bureau of Land Management filed suit against the Danns, claiming they were trespassing by allowing their cattle to graze on federal land and refusing to pay grazing fees. The case went through the courts to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in 1985 that the tribe had lost title to the land when the $26 million was deposited as payment - even though the money was never collected.

Mary Dann, who grew up with her sister on the 800-acre ranch once run by their father, usually sat quietly alongside more vocal Carrie in scores of public appearances and court hearings.

''Mary was quite a strong person. We're trying to absorb the suddenness of it happening,'' Yowell said on Saturday.

Carrie Dann said her sister would not want her death to interrupt the continuing court challenges.

''This was Mary's life work,'' she said. ''All these years we've been fighting and the courts still haven't done anything. As far as we're concerned we will live up to our spiritual beliefs and nothing will change that. Mary believed that and lived by it and so do I.''

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