United States Terrorism: BLM Strikes the Dann Ranch Again
"Domestic terrorism," says Carrie Dann.
After a long Sunday spent struggling to monitor and document the federal raid on Western Shoshone cattle, grandmother Carrie Dann was finally allowed into the valley where her cattle once grazed.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), through the use of armed federal agents, on Sept. 22 blocked the Danns, Western Shoshone supporters and friends from entering the area, until the bitter end of the day--just in time for Carrie Dann to watch 200 head of cattle loaded onto trucks for federal disposal.
Members of the Nevada Live Stock Association (NVLSA) were on hand in support of the Dann sisters. According to a NVLSA press release, "Helicopters and surveillance airplanes roamed the skies. The BLM deployed and established a lock down of a great portion of Eureka County with armed quasi-militarized BLM enforcement officers as well as other federal agents.
"BLM set up the evening before the attack. A large base camp with helipad, command post trailers, up to 100 personnel, the majority of which were armed. Various types of weaponry, camouflage... as well as some special operations type personnel," the NVLSA release said.
The armed raid was one more in a series of confrontations, spanning decades, between the federal government and the Western Shoshone over lands the Shoshone people say are theirs, lands recognized by the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley.
Although they have been barred from judicial relief in the U.S. Courts, the Western Shoshone received confirmation of their land claims in July of this year, when the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights, Organization of American States, affirmed the Danns' argument that the U.S. is using illegitimate means to claim ownership and control of Western Shoshone land.
The Inter-American Commission called upon the U.S. to take action to remedy the situation of the Western Shoshone and their land rights.
Instead, the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs is pushing forward Senate Bill 958 with a "pay off" to the Shoshone of approximately $0.15 per acre for land (the same area which encompassed the Carlin gold trend--with a mined value of $20 billion dollars and rising.)
Senator Reid, the sponsor of the bill, has bypassed traditional governments in pushing the meager distribution through. The failure of Senator Reid to reasonably address the issue of land rights is especially questionable in light of another bill he had sponsored, Senate Bill 719, the Northern Nevada Public Lands Management Act, which would open all "public lands" in Nevada (approximately 87% of the State) to privatization and sale to the highest bidder--multinational corporations have already begun exploration activities, according to the Western Shoshone Defense Project (WSDP).
After receiving news of the pending raid, Mary Dann, now in her early seventies, appeared tired. "We have repeatedly asked the federal government for Western Shoshone land transfer documents. If our ancestors agreed to give up or sell this land we would respect that agreement. But the federal agencies have never shown us such documents and our own Shoshone history does not talk about any agreement or document giving away the land."
In fact, legal scholars and the Report of the Inter-American Commission agree that U.S. history contains no cession or abandonment by the Western Shoshone people, and the 1863 Treaty stands untouched. Carrie Dann's only public statement was to term the current federal action as "domestic terrorism."
Warned of the impending raid on Friday, Sept. 20, by an anonymous phone call, Mary and Carrie Dann, their family, supporters from their own and other Shoshone bands, and Indian and nonIndian supporters, worked non-stop to round up their livestock.
Early on Saturday morning, Carrie Dann's grandchildren--Tyson, 24, and Stephanie, 10--rode out to gather up saddle horses to bring the cattle in. They were met by a helicopter, suspected to have been hired by BLM, which swooped down on the herd and scattered the horses as the two riders approached. Neither rider was injured.
A complaint based on the reckless endangerment of the two grandchildren was filed with the Eureka County Sheriff's Department by Carrie Dann immediately after the incident. The round up of the Dann livestock continued.
According to Julie Fishel, attorney with the WSDP, "Our cowboys got more cows than their cowboys, even though we were outnumbered by about seven to one." Among the members of the pro-Dann crew were two Shoshone women on ATVs, who had rounded up about 15 head of cattle. Blocked off by federal agents, they herded the cattle through the group of agents, taking the cattle and themselves to safety.
One of the reasons BLM gives for their harassment of the Dann sisters is that the lands are being overgrazed, and BLM claims the right to confiscate "excess" livestock.
According to NVLSA Chairman David Holmgren, who helped remove some cattle to safety, "All of the cattle were in excellent condition with big calves and lots of milk. The BLM statement that there is only 'dirt and weeds' left as told in the Reno Gazette, is totally false. I want all real ranchers to know that. We friendly cowboys used a leased helicopter ourselves this morning (Sept. 23) to sight more cattle and bring them in before the BLM rustlers get them."
On Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 24, the BLM attempted to serve the Danns with a Notice of Sale of their cattle, as well as a Writ of Seizure. Writs of Seizure are to be issued prior to seizure, not after the fact, according to the WSDP.
Carrie Dann informed the BLM agents they had no jurisdiction and that she would not accept service on the theft of her property. The meeting was videotaped.
To support the Dann sisters, the Western Shoshone Defense Project suggests letters, calls or e-mails to your U.S. Senators, and to Sen. Daniel Inouye, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.
The 200 head of Dann cattle will be auctioned by the BLM in Reno on Oct. 4. Supporters are planning to buy back what cattle they can, and donate them back to Carrie and Mary Dann.
FMI: Western Shoshone Defense Project (775) 468-0230.
© News From Indian Country late September 2002