MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Western Shoshone file lawsuit against mining companies

Published by MAC on 2006-01-10


Western Shoshone file lawsuit against mining companies

by WSDP

10th January 2006

Western Shoshone file lawsuit against large corporations claiming railroad checkerboard across Nevada and Utah

Reno, Nevada. The Western Shoshone National Council and the seven individual Western Shoshone National Council members filed suit today in federal district court in Reno, Nevada, against eight large corporations, seeking to void the transfer by the United States from 1862 to 1869 of millions of acres of land to the Union Pacific Railroad Company, and to recover profits from the sale, exchange, lease, development, and other use of those lands.

Named defendants include gold mining giants Barrick Gold and Newmont. The United States was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, although the Western Shoshone National Council continues to pursue litigation against the federal government to stop development of the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump, to recognize Shoshone title and environmental oversight to millions of acres of alleged "public land," and to recover billions of dollars due for royalties from profits for gold production and other uses of Western Shoshone ancestral lands.

Raymond Yowell, Chief of the Western Shoshone Nation since 1987, issued the following statement about the lawsuit:

"When the United States government created by law the Union Pacific Railroad Company in 1862, President Lincoln and Congress specifically told the railroad in that law that the Indians held title to vast tracts of land across which the railroad was to be built. Then, without negotiating with the Western Shoshone Nation, the United States government immediately started conveying millions of acres of Western Shoshone land in the present States of Nevada and Utah to the railroad. Both the United States government and the Union Pacific Railroad Company knew at the time that those conveyances were made, that the land conveyed was Shoshone land.

"These major corporations are now alleged to legally own property stolen in the 1860's from the Western Shoshone Nation. They have desecrated Mother Earth by their destructive open pit gold mining and other activities. These major corporations are co-conspirators with the United States government, which was found in 2003 by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to be violating Western Shoshone human rights. The time has come for the United States government and these major corporations to stop their human rights abuses of the Western Shoshone."

The attorney for the Western Shoshone Nation in this and other pending cases, Robert Hager, issued the following statement about the lawsuit:

"The Western Shoshone never ceded their ancestral lands to the United States, and the United States never passed any law to extinguish Western Shoshone title to 60 Million acres of what is now parts of Nevada, Idaho, Utah, and California. Whether they were distracted by the Civil War or thought they could get away with a land grab of Western Shoshone Territory, the fact is that United States officials started giving millions of acres of Western Shoshone lands to the Union Pacific Railroad.

The United States government has taken the official position in numerous lawsuits that the government "took" lands from the Western Shoshone in 1872, which proves that even the government admits that the lands conveyed to the Union Pacific Railroad in the 1860's were owned by the Western Shoshone Nation at the time. Union Pacific Railroad officials also knew at the time the land was stolen. The time has come for the present "owners" of those lands to deal with that fact, too.

The finding in 2003 by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States that the United States government has committed multiple violations of Western Shoshone human rights is shameful to our country. The United Nations is on track at present to make a similar finding next month in Geneva. We hope that the combination of success in international human rights forums and aggressive pursuit of meritorious litigation will result in a global resolution of issues arising from the violations of Western Shoshone human rights since the white man first appeared in Western Shoshone country."

A full copy of the legal complaint is available at www.wsdp.org.

Western Shoshone Defence Project
P.O. Box 211308
Crescent Valley, NV 89821
(775) 468-0230
Fax: (775) 468-0237
www.wsdp.org

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