portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article

human & civil rights

Western Shoshone Action! Please Act now!

Decision on Senate Hearing Undermines Decades of U.S Indian Policy and Represents Return to the Paternalistic and Genocidal Past
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Reschedules Hearing on Western Shoshone Claims Distribution Act for August 2nd, 2002.
Western Shoshone Action! Please Act now!

For more information contact the Western Shoshone Defense Project at 775-468-0230, fax 775-468-0237 email  wsdp@igc.org

Decision on Senate Hearing Undermines Decades of U.S Indian Policy and Represents Return to the Paternalistic and Genocidal Past
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Reschedules Hearing on Western Shoshone Claims Distribution Act for August 2nd, 2002.

With less than 12 business days notice, Western Shoshone communities have learned that Senator Reid and the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs have rescheduled a hearing on the Western Shoshone Claims Distribution Act (S958). The legislation being promoted by Senator Reid was developed without the consent or participation of either the Western Shoshone Federally recognized Tribal Councils or the Traditional Government. The bill would provide a one time individual cash payment to all Western Shoshone in compensation for the extinguishment of title to their ancestral lands and all rights attached to those lands. In what can only be interpreted as an attempt to railroad this legislation through committee without a full discussion of the issues at stake, Senator Reid's staff have informed the Western Shoshone that only three representatives chosen by Senator Reid himself will be invited to speak before the committee. According to staff at the Senate Indian Committee, as August 2nd is the last day of the session before recess, it is likely that only the Chair (Senator Daniel Inouye) and Vice-Chair (Senator Ben Nighthorse-Campbell) of the Senate Committee will be present for the hearing along with Senator Reid. This is outrageous act of disrespect on the part of Senator Reid and the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and an affront to the many generations of Western Shoshone people who have struggled to have their Treaty and rights respected.

Please Contact The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Senator Reid and your own Senators!!!!

Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs
838 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224-2251
 http://indian.senate.gov

Chairman
Daniel K. Inouye
Hawaii
(202) 224-3934

Vice Chairman
Ben Nighthorse Campbell
Colorado
(202) 224-5852

Reid, Harry (D - NV)
528 HART SENATE OFFICE BUILDING
WASHINGTON DC 20510
(202) 224-3542
 http://www.senate.gov/~reid/email_form.cfm?lowsrc=1

To reach any member of Congress you can contact the United States Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121

Important Points and Background:

Several international human rights bodies have recently raised concerns about the United States policy towards Native American Nations in general and the Western Shoshone in particular. At a time when the U.S. has an active and expanding role internationally, it is extremely important that we retain the respect and trust of the international community. Flagrant disregard for the international institutions we have helped created can only weaken us and undermine the credibility of the United States as a defender of human rights. The current efforts of Senator Reid and the Senate Indian Committee directly contradict the issues raised by several human rights bodies. The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination noted specifically in its 2001 report reviewing the United States:

"The Committee notes with concern that treaties signed by the Government and Indian tribes, described as "domestic dependent nations" under national law, can be abrogated unilaterally by Congress and that the land they possess or use can be taken without compensation by a decision of the Government. It further expresses concern with regard to information on plans for the expansion of mining and nuclear waste storage on Western Shoshone ancestral land, for placing their land to auction for private sale and other actions affecting the rights of indigenous peoples. The Committee recommends that the State party should ensure effective participation by indigenous communities in decisions affecting them, including those on their land rights, as required under article 5(c) of the Convention, and draws the attention of the State party to General Recommendation XXIII(51) on Indigenous Peoples which stresses the importance of securing the "informed consent" of indigenous communities and calls, inter alia, for recognition and compensation for loss. The State party is also encouraged to use as guidance the ILO Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, part of the Organization of American States (OAS), has issued a confidential report to the U.S. after investigating the case of the Western Shoshone. It is understood that the Commission does not issue reports unless a human rights violation has been found. This Shoshone complaint focuses on the Indian Claims commission proceedings and their subsequent use by the Federal government in extinguishing all land rights. The Senate Indian Committee had been asked to delay any hearing on Western Shoshone issues until the report became public. They have refused to do so.

Representatives from all affected Western Shoshone communities should be allowed to testify before a fully represented Committee on Indian Affairs. This includes Chairmen from the Federally recognized councils, Traditional leadership and representatives from communities not under the Federal recognition system (ie. the Dann Band) and Western Shoshone organizations. What right does a U.S. Senator have to choose who will represent the Western Shoshone people? The Federal government has recognized the Western Shoshone as a self-governing Nation through the 1863 Treaty of Peace and Friendship signed in Ruby Valley. It has since recognized most of the Western Shoshone communities as self-governing independent tribes each with their own councils and leadership under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. The witness list for the March hearing included 15 Western Shoshone invited to testify, some of whom were Chairpeople or representatives of their communities and others whose only reason for being on the list was their affiliation with the Claims Steering Committee. Other Western Shoshone non-governmental organizations such as the Western Shoshone Defense Project who have worked on the issues for 10 years were left off the invitation list as well as communities with Western Shoshone membership such as the Winnemucca Indian Colony. Now the Senator and the Senate Committee proposes to reduce the inconsistent representation even further by having only three invited witness's, two "for" the legislation and one "against", however these names and how they were reached has not been explained.

Scheduling the hearing with less than 12 business days notice, in the afternoon on the last day of the session is an insult to all the Western Shoshone and the U.S. public who expect the U.S to treat Native Americans in an honorable fashion. In March the hearing was cancelled the day before it was scheduled, without any attempt to contact Tribal leadership who were flying to Washington DC. The dozen Western Shoshone witnesses were offered no compensation for the expenses incurred in getting to DC for the March hearing, and not a single Senator on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (Senator Reid, the bill sponsor included) could find the time to meet with any of the Western Shoshone representatives who had made the trip. The hearing should be scheduled to insure the attendance of the full committee as well as a fully represented Western Shoshone Nation

Senator Reid has ignored repeated communications from various Western Shoshone councils, organizations and concerned tribal members, and has instead only communicated with associates of the Western Shoshone Claims Steering Committee, the non-governmental tribal organization who developed and promotes the legislation. He is now attempting to limit the scope of the hearing by limiting and hand picking those who will testify before him. This follows a long pattern of treatment set by the Indian Claims Commission when they consistently refused to allow various tribal governments and organizations from intervening in the claims process, finally refusing to let the Western Shoshone fire the lawyer who was supposed to represent them. The discriminatory and racially biased Claims proceedings were then finalized when the Secretary of the Interior, acting as the "trustee" of the Western Shoshone. The claims proceedings have been the entire legal basis for the U.S. to deny Western Shoshone rights, yet the Supreme Court has ruled that because the Claims Commission "found" that title had been extinguished, the Federal Courts no longer have to consider any Western Shoshone cases based on rights or land title.

For more information contact the Western Shoshone Defense Project at 775-468-0230, fax 775-468-0237 email  wsdp@igc.org

homepage: homepage: http://www.shundahai.org
phone: phone: 775-468-0230