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American Indian Movement of Colorado

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Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Update on Newe Sogobia(Western Shoshone)

On Monday, June 21, the United States House of Representatives passed the "Western Shoshone Claims Distribution Act"(H.R.884)The Bill now goes to the Senate, and if approved, goes before the President to be signed into law.

The House Bill was sponsored by Rep, Jim Gibbon, R-Nev. An identical companion Bill was also pushed in the Senate by Sen, Harry Reid, D-Nev. The bill, if it becomes a law, would divide $145 million between the roughly 6000 members of the Western Shoshone Nation. The estimates of individual per capita payments range from $20,000 to $30,000.

The $145 million is the amount that has accrued from the original $27 million that the Indian Claims Commission judged to be fair compensation for 24 million acres of land stolen from the Western Shoshone. The $27 million was the value of the land in 1872.

Many Western Shoshones have fought the passage of the bill because the forced distribution would extinguish the title claims to their stolen land based on the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley.
One has to wonder why Senator Harry Reid is so dead set on forcing a monetary payment on the traditional Western Shoshones, despite opposition to HR 884 from the Western Shoshone National Council, and from many Western Shoshone IRA governments, such as the Te-Moak Tribal Council? What is the relationship between Senator Reid (and Congressman Gibbons) and the mining corporations, and other kinds of corporations that have so much to gain from passage of HR 884?

Reid’s "Dear Colleague" letter is similar to one of those Catholic Mission "begging letters" that solicit money on behalf of "poor little Indian children." However, the senator’s letter says nothing about making certain that the Western Shoshones receive a percentage of some $26 billion dollars in gold taken out of Western Shoshone lands over the past forty years. Nor does his letter explain that the Western Shoshone Claims Distribution bill would pay the Western Shoshone Nation a mere average of 15 cents an acre for lands Reid and Gibbons have slated for huge development projects.

Reid’s letter also doesn’t explain that the United States has no documentation to demonstrate that Western Shoshone lands were ever actually "taken" from the Western Shoshone people by the United States. Nor does Reid’s letter explain how his office helped then Te-Moak Chairman Felix Ike to create "a ballot process," which created the false perception that the majority of Western Shoshones are willing to accept the money being offered by the United States, without dealing with land. Reid’s letter fails to mention that the so-called straw poll ballot process was never authorized by the Te-Moak Tribal Council, and never independently verified and documented by anyone. No one, other than Ike and his most immediate associates, was ever allowed to count the "ballots," or knows where the "ballots" are now.

Reid’s letter also does not say that for over a year now the Bush Administration’s Interior Department has stonewalled Congressman Tom Udall’s very simple request for documentation regarding its June 2004 testimony about the so-called Western Shoshone vote. complete essay


All indications are that, if this Bill passes the Senate, President Bush is ready to sign it into law. We'll be keeping our readers informed of the developments as well as providing a more comprehensive analysis into the struggle for New Sogobia.

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