Dann Sisters, Mary & Carrie

BLM takes land from another Nevada rancher, Indian sisters

BLM takes land from another Nevada rancher, Indian sisters

You think the USA’s war is over with the Native America Indians? Yeah, we did too.

“I was indigenous and in one single evening they [the BLM] made me indigent. If you think the Indian wars are over, then think again”.

Dann Sisters, Mary & Carrie
Dann Sisters, Mary & Carrie

About an hour southwest of Elko, in Nevada’s Crescent Valley, the Dann sisters, Mary and Carrie, had lived peaceably on a plot of land, raising horses and cattle for a generation. Their people had lived peaceably on that land for many, many generations.

But then the Federal government, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) steps in.


Gold mine
Gold mine

Unfortunately, their ranch butts-up against a large gold deposit. The federal government permitted gold mining at Cortez in 1969. In 2010, the latest available figures, 1,140,000 ounces of gold had been removed from the land.

The Dann’s generations lived peaceably for hundreds of years…until 1973.

In 1863 the United States government signed a treaty with the Shoshone (Sha’ Shoney) Indian nation.    The Treaty of Ruby Valley gave title to 60 million acres of land belong to the Shoshone’s.  This is very important a hundred years later when the Federal government began taking the land from these Indians.  (See more on this treaty)

You think the USA’s war is over with the Native America Indians? Yeah, we did too.

BLM Agents at Dann's
BLM Agents at Dann’s

In September 2002, BLM agents swooped in and seized 227 cattle from their ranch, where the pair were raising cattle and horses on land purchased by their father Dewey Dann in the 1930s.

See a great video documentary of the Dann sisters, Shoshone Indians, and their attack by the US Gov’t that continues today.

In December 2002, the Danns were ordered to remove remaining livestock, 250 additional cattle and 1,000 horses, and they were charged with trespassing on public land. They were served with $3 million in fines for past due grazing fees.

Dead baby horse, mom
Dead baby horse, mom

The BLM took some of these cattle and horse to other remote areas of Nevada and turned them loose…to die.  Knowing they would starve to death!  The sisters beg and pleaded with the BLM but it feel on deaf ears.  Ears that are suppose to protect animals.  (see “BLM intentionally killing endangered turtles“)

Carrie Dann says, “I was indigenous and in one single evening they [the BLM] made me indigent. If you think the Indian wars are over, then think again”.

Dann Sisters, Mary & Carrie
Dann Sisters, Mary & Carrie

The Dann sisters did not transfer grazing permits into their name from their late father, Dewey Dann. Instead, they argued that their land was within the boundaries of the Western Shoshone and therefore live under territory rule. The federal government however claimed the land was public and purchased from the Western Shoshone in 1979.

The BLM, then served the Danns warrants, and followed through with their warning to auction off their remaining livestock in January 2003. The sisters sued the BLM to prove rightful ownership of land, but watched as agents removed their cattle and horses on January 18th. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that since the Danns received no money for their land, it was still theirs.

But the ruling was overturned in the Supreme Court, using a “bar clause” stating that Indian Claims legislation denotes; when money is paid for land, its use and rights to use are forever barred. According to the Supreme Court, the Shoshone land had been gradually encroached upon and it no longer belonged to the Dann Ranch.

Furthermore, the BLM claimed that the Dann livestock caused irreparable damage to the countryside due to over grazing. “Grass grows back, but mining causes irreparable damage to the earth,” commented Carrie Dann.

Their struggle was the cause for a handful of protesters to fight along with the grandmothers, but their case also acted as a smoke screen for the what the government was planning. On September 24th, 2003, HR 884 made its way to the Resources Committee, which aimed to pay out Western Shoshone land for expansion of the Cortez and development at Yucca Mountain.

Shoshone tribe elders met in Washington DC one month earlier to at least place “hold” on the Bill, but their request was ignored. Mary and Carrie Dann sued the United States government for violating their rights. The Nevada sisters said the U.S. used illegal means to gain control of Native American ancestral lands by slowly encroachment by industry and private landowners.

The U.S. government says it paid the Western Shoshone Nation for its use of their land in 1979, and has since privatized millions of additional acreage. The Western Shoshone Distribution Bill, HR 884, signed into law by President George Bush in July 2004, relaxes the territorial rules held by Shoshones for 150 years.

About 26 million acres transferred to the federal government and is ear-marked by the BLM for mining minerals, storing nuclear waste, and for geothermal energy production. This includes Yucca Mountain, a historical and spiritual area for Shoshones.

In the late 1970s the U.S. government started using Yucca Mountain as a repository for nuclear waste, but it since has maxed-out capacity with 77,000 metric tons of nuclear fuel and radioactive waste. All except 2 percent of U.S. nuclear waste was earmarked for Yucca Mountain with HR Bill 884, beginning in 2010.

The Obama Administration has since placed a hold on operations at Yucca Mountain, albeit for far different reasons. Inter-American Commission on Human Rights found the U.S. government violated the Dann sisters’ rights, although did not state that the Dann sisters owned land.

The Commission suggested an “effective remedy” should make sure respect for the Danns claim to their ranch of 70 years. The Organization of American States human-rights commission reaffirmed land-rights use of the Western Shoshone Indian tribe, rejecting the federal government’s claim the Danns’ live on public land.

It was the first time both councils charged the U.S. government with violating human rights. Carrie Dann says she wouldn’t have sued the BLM had she known the court would favor the government. The Dann sisters fought the federal government without the help from Human Rights Watch, or the American Civil Liberties Union. The two women committed themselves to preserving their ancestral land.

Mary died following an ATV accident on her ranch in central Nevada while repairing a fence-line on April 22, 2005. She was 82 years old. Mary’s niece, Patricia Paul, said her aunt had “died as she would have wanted — with her boots on and hay in her pocket.”

Two years later, Carrie was arrested with 38 others for trespassing at the Nevada Test Site at a Nevada Desert Experience event protesting governmental programs at the site. She continues with activities to try to end nuclear testing and programs at the site.

Carrie, along with Western Shoshone Defense Project and four other tribal and public interest groups, in November 2008, sued the federal government and Canadian Barrick Gold, seeking an injunction to stop the Cortez Hills Expansion Project on Mt. Tenabo, which the Western Shoshone also consider sacred land. The case is pending.

See all our stories related to the government grabbing land from Americans.

Credit: Tom Darby, The Real Media



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