Our van rooted itself in the bug dust on our first trip outside of Elko Nevada. It was stubborn so we left it on the edge of the beaten road of fine earth and drove on our flat tire (we didn't know at the time) all the way to rock creek where the sunrise ceremony's are performed to speak with members of the Western Shoshone tribe and the Western Shoshone Defense Project.
The day was a shock of information that touched on military testing on native land, gold mining and toxic heap leaches.
In 1863 the US government and the Western Shoshone entered into the Ruby Valley treaty, which was known as the treaty of peace and friendship, and allowed the US safe passage through Shoshone lands. Over time white settlers moved into the lands.
Fast forward to 1962. Through some deceptive maneuvering the Department of Interior persuaded a group of Western Shoshone to seek compensation for their lost land. It was decided that the Western Shoshone had been deprived of their land by 'gradual encroachment' and that they should be compensated. Compensation was based on a date 9 years following the Treaty of Peace and Friendship. The Western Shoshone refused to accept the payment so the Department of Interior received the money on behalf of the Western Shoshone.
The Dann sisters, two Western Shoshone elders (Mary and Carrie) became tangled up in this mess of who owns what piece of the earth when the Bureau of Land Management, a branch of the US department of the interior confiscated 700 horses and 200 cattle from the elderly Dann sisters, fining them $564,000 for allowing their cows and horses to graze on lands outside of the boundaries of their homestead.
Their story became the subject of a powerful documentary "Our Land Our Life."
Women's Earth Alliance had the great opportunity to meet with Carrie Dann and Julie Fischel, the attorney for the Western Shoshone Defense project. We were invited as guests at Julie's home, where we scarfed down a late night pasta and later were graced with words of wisdom from Carrie Dann.
I wished the camera was running. But it was seated on the couch in the nearby living room...some moments are just that, moments.