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Wednesday, June 23, 2004

An open letter to the U.S president from the Western Shoshone Nation

Today, Hugh Stevens, Chairman of the Te-Moak Tribe of the Western Shoshone Nation, issued an Open letter to George W. Bush, the U.S congress and the American people. In it he raised several points and addresses some of the lies being peddled by supporters of the "Western Shoshone Claims Distribution Bill"(H.R 884/S.618)

Here are some of the points that Stevens raises.

1. Congress is being told that the Western Shoshones want distribution of funds from the 1979 Indian Claims Commission(ICC), when in fact, 7 Western Shoshone Tribal Governments are opposed to a payout because it will extinguish their title and ownership to land the Western Shoshone never ceded to the U.S.

2. In order for the 1979 ICC to have made a final judgement, 2 actions were required. First, the ICC had to determine the amount of the monetary judgement and, second, a final report had to be filed with Congress that defined the basis for the monetary judgement in the case. The Final Report for the Western Shoshone was never filed, thus one of the 2 requirements was never fulfilled. The Western Shoshone case was one of 20 claims that were never completed, due to a lack of a final report, before the ICC was abolished in 1979. As the ICC no longer exists, no final report can be filed.

3. The Secretary of Interior, not the Western Shoshone, accepted the 1979 payment on behalf of the Western Shoshone.

4. The ICC also claimed that the Western Shoshone lost their lands to "Gradual Encroachment" when that was not the case. According to U.S Law, Free Consent is the only way the Western Shoshone could have ceded their land and this is something they have never done. "Gradual Encroachment" is not a legally permissible way for the Western Shoshone to have lost their land. No documentation or even a date has ever been offered that would pinpoint when the Western Shoshone Homeland was "taken."

Stevens Concludes,"We are prepared to enter into good faith negotiations, and we sincerely believe that a fair and just resolution of this matter can be achieved.

We appeal to the President of the United States to issue an Executive Order to the U. S. Department of Interior to direct the Secretary of Interior to enter into good faith negotiations, on a nation-to-nation basis, with the Western Shoshone Nation in an attempt to a reach fair and just resolution of the land dispute related to the 1863 Ruby Valley Treaty between the Western Shoshone Nation and the U.S. Government.

And we appeal to the U.S. Senate, please do not approve H.R.884/S.618 without at least giving the Western Shoshone Nation a hearing on the bill so that our voices may be heard."
full letter

The Western Shoshone Lands are one of the richest gold producing regions in the world. An estimated 25 billion in gold has already been extracted from Western Shoshone land. In addition, Mt Tenabo is estimated to contain 7-8 billion dollars in potential gold revenue. This is the Mountain that House Representative and Bill sponsor, Jim Gibbons is attempting to privatize to the Placer Dorm corporation. Gibbons was the 2nd leading Congressional recepient of mining contributions in the 2004 cycle.

What we are seeing, by supporters of the Bill, is greed, thievery and exploitation disguised as altruism. The payout of 145 million is a pittance when compared against the billions of dollars to be made by mining, energy and nuclear companies that will benefit from extinguishing the claims of the Western Shoshone.

Based on the language of the Indian Claims Commission Act of 1946, if the "award" money is paid out, the U.S can then claim that they paid the Western Shoshone, fairly, for their homeland. According to Section 32(a) of the Indian Claims Commission Act, once a monetary "award" is distributed no further claims against the U.S. are permissible pursuant to U.S. law.(Newcomb)

This is, undoubtedly, the goal of the congressmen and corporations. It's been said that if they were so concerned about the "impoverished Western Shoshone," then they could remedy those conditions by simply recognizing Western Shoshone title to the land, thereby giving them greater economic opportunities than the $20,000-$30,000 they will receive from the distribution bill.

Please contact the following and urge them to oppose this legislative land swindle.

Democratic National Committee - 202-863-8000 (Why

Republican National Committee - 202-863-8500

Contact your Senator

Colorado Senators
Wayne Allard (202) 224-5941
Ben Campbell (202) 224-5852


At 9:02 PM, Anonymous Loius Hooper said...

Most Western Shoshone's or Tribal members of the Western Shoshone Tribes don't know about the importance of stopping the Distribution Act and need to hear more about the issue directly through their Tribes. Not nearly enough members of these Tribes knows enough about the unjustice intentions that the U.S. politicians are trying to accomplish. Every Western Shoshone should know whats going on but they just don't, unless we do something about it. Then maybe something might start happing and we must not accept the money that is being pushed on our Western Shoshone Tribes. We need to expose the issue more to the media and let the people of America know what the government is trying to do.


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