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Human Rights Defenders

"Media coverage of the Western Shoshone case helped put the United States on Amnesty International's list of the world's greatest human rights violators and brought worldwide attention to the wrongs committed against Native Americans.”
- Jennifer Wolowic, The U.S. Supreme Court, The Western Shoshone, and the Fight for Human Rights in the International Arena, San Francisco State Univ. Treganza Museum Anthropology Papers (2007-08)

The ancestral land of the Western Shoshone is central to the dignity, integrity, and very survival of the Western Shoshone Nation. Land is crucial for their livelihood and has great spiritual significance in Western Shoshone culture.Native Web, How to Kill a Nation: U.S. Policy in Western Shoshone Country Since 1863, http://www.nativeweb.org/pages/legal/shoshone/pamphlet.html (last visited Nov. 1, 2010).

The Dann Sisters

Two sisters, Carrie and Mary Dann are at the heart of the struggle for the rights of the Western Shoshone Nation.Charlie LeDuff, U.S. Agents Seize Horses of 2 Defiant Indian Sisters, N.Y. TIMES, Feb. 7, 2003, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/07/us/us-agents-seize-horses-of-2-defiant-indian-sisters.html. Members of the Western Shoshone and ranchers on their traditional lands, the sisters spoke out and brought claims in national and international forums on behalf of the Western Shoshone people.USA – CARRIE DANN, The Western Shoshone Nation, FRONTLINE, http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/2024 (last visited Nov. 1, 2010). For more than 30 years, they opposed the U.S. government’s claim of their ancestral land and demanded their inherent rights as Native Americans to use the land.Think & Ask, Dann Sisters Hold Firm as Western Shoshone HR884 Turns Public Law 108-270, http://www.thinkandask.com/news/shoshone.html (last visited Nov. 1, 2010). Mary Dann passed away in 2005. Since her sister’s death, Carrie Dann has continued to fight the exploitative business practices damaging the Western Shoshone land and to demand justice for her people.The Univ. of Ariz. James E. Rogers College of Law Indigenous Peoples Law & Policy Program, Western Shoshone, http://www.law.arizona.edu/depts/iplp/advocacy/shoshone/index.cfm?page=advoc (last visited Nov. 1, 2010).

The Western Shoshone Defense Project

The Western Shoshone Defense Project (WSDP) was created in 1991 to help the Dann sisters in their struggle to protect Western Shoshone ancestral land.Western Shoshone Defense Project, Who and What are We, http://www.wsdp.org/ (last visited Nov. 1, 2010). The WSDP advocates for the sovereignty of the Western Shoshone Nation and the sustainable use of their land.Western Shoshone Defense Project, Who and What are We, http://www.wsdp.org/ (last visited Nov. 1, 2010). The organization works extensively to expose the destructive practices of the gold mining industry and was a key actor in the successful lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.Western Shoshone Defense Project, Who and What are We, http://www.wsdp.org/ (last visited Nov. 1, 2010).

Uniting in Support of the Western Shoshone

The Western Shoshone struggle has gained support from many human rights defenders around the world. Amnesty International, the International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Oxfam America have reported extensively on the impact of detrimental business practices on the Western Shoshone Nation.Amnesty Int’l, Indigenous Rights are Human Rights: Four Cases of Rights Violations in the Americas, [2003] AUINDIGLAWRPR 30, available at http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/AILR/2003/30.html ; JOHN RENDLER, FRONT LINE USA, THREATS, ATTACKS, ARRESTS AND HARASSMENT OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS (Paul Hoffman ed. 2004), available at http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/files/en/1171_FrontLineUSA_1.pdf; EARTHWORKS & OXFAM AM., DIRTY METALS: MINING COMMUNITIES AND THE ENVIRONMENT (2004), available at http://www.nodirtygold.org/pubs/DirtyMetals.pdf.

Two networks also promote the rights of the Western Shoshone Nation: the Western Mining Action Network (WMAN), an organization that strengthens the mining activist movement, and the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), an organization that empowers indigenous people to address environmental concerns. The founding director of the Western Mining Action Network also served as counsel in the Western Shoshone Nation’s suit in the Ninth Circuit.

Other organizations similarly work to protect the Western Shoshone’s rights. The Great Basin Resource Watch leads the environmental battle for the Great Basin, a watershed located on Western Shoshone land. The Indigenous Peoples Law & Policy Program at the University of Arizona serves as a resource for legal information, providing easily accessible information about the Western Shoshone legal battle.


"Our Land, Our Life: The Struggle for
Western Shoshone Land Rights"

©2009 Western Shoshone Defense Project and Oxfam America. Western Shoshone Defense Project in collaboration with Oxfam America, produced and directed by Gage and Gage Productions.

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