Western Shoshone Distr. Bill, act now!

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Apr 21, 2004
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Seems like the battle to claim Indian land continues... Please act now or its too late!

Text of the Letter You Sent (June 21, 2004)

Subject: Please vote NO on the W. Shoshone Distr. Bill (HR 884)

'I write this letter in opposition to the Western Shoshone Distribution Bill (HR 884).

If passed, this bill could have a devastating impact on the Western Shoshone people. It is an attempt to forcibly buy from the Western Shoshone approximately 24 million acres of land -- including their ancestral land base on which they still live and pray.

Why is this happening? It''s no coincidence that the mining, energy and nuclear industries have long coveted this land. Nevada is the world''s third largest gold-producing area. In 1999, the Department of the Interior listed it as the number one investment opportunity for mineral extraction companies.

Last year the Organization of American States, of which the US is a member, ruled that the US is in violation of the Western Shoshone''s rights to property, due process and equality under the law.

The Western Shoshone are the caretakers of these lands and the Distribution Bill threatens their existence as a people. They deserve good faith negotiations or a hearing in a fair judicial proceeding to resolve their land dispute, not a forced buyout of their land.

Please vote NO on the Western Shoshone Distribution Bill (HR 884). Thank you for your time, and your attention to this serious issue.

Keep Native Culture strong in their beloved land they called home for thousands of years! Let share their ancestral home with our beloved friends, the Native Americans. It is their home and their rights to do which they wish to do to their land! It was their home before, it will be their home forever. You wouldn''t like it if someone came to your door and told you to move out so they can use your home (and if you have land) for mining and other industrial activities...you would be upset! Please vote "NO!" Thank you!

Background on the Issue

The Western Shoshone Distribution Bill - H.R. 884

HR 884 is an attempt to finalize the Western Shoshone lands dispute. Corporate mining, energy, and nuclear interests stand to benefit greatly from this transfer of land.

This bill distributes money awarded for an alleged extinguishment of title to 24 million acres of land, the vast majority of which is currently classified as public lands. The issue of title to the land and accounting for resource extraction is the subject matter of current litigation, Western Shoshone v. U.S., 03-CV-2009, U.S. District Court, D.C.

This bill would open the way to large scale privatization of lands held sacred by the Western Shoshone and currently used and occupied by the native people for grazing, gathering medicinal and food plants, hunting and fishing, and ceremonial purposes. The stage is already being set for largescale privatization of the lands. For example: HR 2869 would work to give away Western Shoshone lands to major mining interests; HR 2772 would encourage large scale expansion of geothermal energy production with no provision for Western Shoshone cultural beliefs or compensation for use of the hot water.

The land produces 2/3 the gold in the US, making it the third largest gold-producing area in the world, behind South Africa and Australia. Due to the enormous wealth of minerals, a 1999 report by the USGS (a division of the Department of the Interior) cited the area as the number one investment opportunity for extraction companies.

Energy companies are lining up for access to the vast geothermal resources.

In a November 2003 letter sent to Secretary of Interior Gale Norton, Congressman Grijalva (AZ) raised serious concerns about the real intent of the bill and the involvement of the federal government and mining, energy and nuclear industries in presenting a misleading picture of the issues to the public and to members of Congress. A copy is available at http://www.wsdp.org)

Western Shoshone people oppose HR 884.

A majority of the tribal councils and all of the traditional Western Shoshone oppose the distribution of money until the resolution of the land issues.

In 1980, at the formal Hearing of Record, the claims money was rejected because the U.S. could not demonstrate how it had legally acquired title to the land. Since that time, there has never been any vote of the Western Shoshone on the bill authorized by any Western Shoshone government. Despite a request by Congressman Tom Udall (NM), Interior has failed to provide any documentation of its statements that a "majority" of people are in favor of the bill.

The Western Shoshone have never received a hearing on the issue of title. The only issue decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in U.S. v. Dann was whether or not "payment" had been made when the money was accepted by the Department of Interior on behalf of the Western Shoshone. The Supreme Court said "yes", Interior serves as a "trustee" to the Indians and Interior's acceptance equals acceptance by the Western Shoshone, thereby triggering a statutory bar to litigation on the issue.

Last year, after 10 years of briefings and hearings, an international judicial body (the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights) found that the process used by the U.S. violates Western Shoshone rights to property, to due process, and to equality under the law.

Amnesty International has issued a formal report on the situation and has called upon the United States to adhere to the international ruling of the Inter-American Commission.

The Western Shoshone Nation's demands are reasonable.

From the beginning, the Western Shoshone have asked for good faith negotiations with the United States. Their request is simple: to sit across the table and talk on an equal level.
My kin once sat and negotiated with the whiteman, and then they walked from Georgia to Oklahoma

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