MAC: Mines and Communities

United States wants international ruling kept secret

Published by MAC on 2004-03-19

The following article highlights a recent ruling in the long struggle of the Western Shoshone people of Newe Segobia in Nevada, USA, against incursions on their lands by mining companies, including Barrick, Newmont, Placer Dome and Rio Tinto. More details of their struggle can be viewed at the Western Shoshone Defense Project's home page.

United States wants international ruling kept secret

Source: Indian Country Today, by Brenda Norrell, Southwest Staff Reporter

March 19, 2004

Phoenix - The United States is attempting to keep secret an international ruling that affects American Indians and property rights. The ruling, in the case of the Western Shoshone, calls for a review of all U.S. law and policy regarding indigenous peoples and in particular the right to property.

On Indigenous Peoples Day, Western Shoshone Carrie Dann said, "The U.S. was found to be in violation of international law - found to be violating our rights to property, to due process and to equality under the law.

"They have been told to remedy this situation and to review all law and policy relating to indigenous peoples in the United States."

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Organization of American States issued its final report in the case of Dann v. U.S. It is the first judicial review of the United States law and policy regarding indigenous peoples within its borders.

Julie Fishel, attorney for the Western Shoshone Defense Project, said the United States does not want American Indians to learn about the ruling.

"They are nervous about this," Fishel said.

The OAS ruling focuses on the Dann’s right to their ancestral land and the violation of their human rights. In her statement on March 11, Dann said the U.S. is violating the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley.

"They tell us our lands are federal lands," Dann said, speaking of the ranch where her family has lived for generations in Crescent Valley.

Western Shoshone have lived on the land, now called Nevada, for more than 4,000 years. However, Western Shoshone land is being seized for open pit cyanide leach gold mining and the Nuclear Waste Repository at Yucca Mountain, a mountain that Shoshone hold sacred.

Dann said, "At the Nevada Test Site, the current administration wants to reopen nuclear testing and are conducting biological and chemical testing and development at the new Federal Counterterrorism Facility."

"As we see it, these activities are done only for the benefit of the multinational corporations, not for the benefit of the people. On our lands alone, companies such as Placer Dome, Newmont, Barrick, Halliburton, Bechtel and Lockheed Martin are poisoning our air and water and ripping apart our Mother Earth."

Hundreds of the family’s livestock have been seized by the Department of Interior under military-style attacks.

"We are placed under constant surveillance by armed federal rangers and helicopter flyovers. We remain on the land of our ancestors.

"The U.S. Congress and the corporations are waving money and other deals under the noses of our people." Dann said it is the responsibility of the people to preserve life for the future generations.

Carrie and her sister Mary have fought the United States all the way to the Supreme Court. After 10 years of legal proceedings, the Organization of American States ruled in favor of the Western Shoshone. The OAS report came on Jan. 9, 2003, 10 years after sisters Mary and Carrie Dann filed a petition for redress. During the proceedings, several other Western Shoshone communities joined the petition in amicus curiae briefings. The Western Shoshone Nation Council, the traditional governing body, filed a supporting brief.

The case states that the U.S. argued to the Indian Claims Commission that Western Shoshone had lost their land due to "gradual encroachment" of whites, settlers and others. The Western Shoshone argued that the U.S. claim was in violation of its own laws and international human rights laws to which the U.S. is bound as a member of the OAS.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights agreed with the Western Shoshone. The final report found the United States in violation of the right to property, right to due process and right to equality under the law.

The final report issued two recommendations to the United States. The first was to remedy the situation of the Western Shoshone, either legislatively or by providing a hearing on the issue of title.

The OAS also recommended that all U.S. law and policy regarding indigenous peoples, in particular the right to property, be reviewed.

Dann said, "We will never give up our resistance. We cannot. It is not for us but for those yet to come."

Seated on the grass at the Nahuacalli, the Indigenous Embassy and community center of Tonatierra, Carrie Dann was asked what she wanted most.

"Liberation," Dann said.

"I’ve been waiting all my life to be liberated from the federal government."

Recalling President Bush’s words, she said, "Bush said, ‘We are not the conquerors, we are the liberators.’

"I’m still waiting for the day when the indigenous will be liberated from the control of the United States government."

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