Monday, March 20, 2006


Human Rights Violations At Home

While America postures and preens as the greatest big country in the World, there are a few cracks in the facade. They're not publicized in your local Daily Bleat, but they do get noticed.

U.S. told to stop abuse of Western Shoshone
© Indian Country Today March 16, 2006. All Rights Reserved
Posted: March 16, 2006
by: Brenda Norrell / Indian Country Today
GENEVA - With strong language calling for the United States to desist and halt the abuse of Western Shoshone human rights, the U.N. Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination issued an ''Early Warning and Urgent Action Procedure'' during its 68th session.

''The Committee has received credible information alleging that the Western Shoshone indigenous peoples are being denied their traditional rights to land, and that measures taken and even accelerated lately by the State party in relation to the status, use and occupation of these lands may cumulatively lead to irreparable harm to these communities,'' the committee said in its conclusions to the United States.

Praising the action of the U.N. committee, Bernice Lalo, among Western Shoshone in a delegation to Geneva, said the future of the people is at risk from gold mining and the unlawful seizure of land.

''We are Shoshone delegates speaking for a Nation threatened by extinction. The mines are polluting our waters, destroying hot springs and exploding sacred mountains - our burials along with them - attempting to erase our signature on the land.

''We are coerced and threatened by mining and federal agencies when we seek to continue spiritual prayers for traditional food or medicine on Shoshone land.

''We have endured murder of our Newe people for centuries, as chronicled in military records, but now we are asked to endure a more painful death from the U.S. governmental agencies - a separation from land and spiritual renewal.''

The committee advised the United States to ''freeze any plan to privatize Western Shoshone ancestral lands for transfer to multinational extractive industries and energy developers.''

Further, the United States was advised to desist from all activities on Western Shoshone ancestral lands in relation to natural resources, which are being carried out without consultation with the Western Shoshone and despite their protests.

''It notes in particular the reinvigorated federal efforts to open a nuclear waste repository at the Yucca Mountain; the alleged use of explosives and open-pit gold mining activities on Mount Tenabo and Horse Canyon; and the alleged issuance of geothermal energy leases at, or near, hot springs,'' the committee said.

The committee said it has been advised of reported resumption of underground nuclear testing on Western Shoshone ancestral lands.

Further, it advised the United States to stop imposing grazing fees, trespass and collection notices, horse and livestock impoundments and restrictions on hunting, fishing and gathering. The United States was told to halt arrests and rescind all past such notices to Western Shoshone people who were using their ancestral lands.

The committee's action challenges the U.S. government's assertion of federal ownership of nearly 90 percent of Western Shoshone lands, approximately 60 million acres in what is now referred to as Nevada, Idaho, Utah and California.

Joe Kennedy, a Timbisha Shoshone in the delegation to Geneva, said, ''The situation is outrageous and we're glad the United Nations Committee agrees with us. Our people have suffered more nuclear testing than anywhere else in the world and ... underground testing [is continuing] despite our protests.

''Yucca Mountain is being hollowed out in order to store nuclear waste. We cannot stand for it - this earth, the air, the water are sacred. People of all races must stop this insanity now in order to secure a safe future for all.''

Judy Rojo, Western Shoshone, said U.S. federal agencies are preventing Western Shoshone access to many sacred places.

''Our ancestors' burials are being dug up and placed into local museums' basement storage areas because of [a] surge of gold mines and nuclear developments. This is an outrage to our people!

''While others are allowed the freedom of religion, we are kept from the very same right. The Newe [people] use this ancestral land for sacred ceremonies.

''Truth is what it is - that can never change. We pray for the healing of our peoples, the land and the harassment and destruction to stop.''

Although the battle has been going on for some time, the delegation said there is now a dramatic rush by the federal government to finalize what they consider to be a settlement with the Western Shoshone.

After receiving the report form the Western Shoshone delegation, the committee said it is concerned by the United States' legal position that asserts that Western Shoshone peoples' legal rights to ancestral lands have been extinguished through gradual encroachment.

The initial request for U.N. intervention came from the Western Shoshone National Council, Timbisha Shoshone Tribe, Winnemucca Indian Colony and Yomba Shoshone Tribe. The committee's decision in March came after the United States failed to respond to previous requests for responses.

The committee told the United States that it has the obligation to guarantee the right of everyone to equality before the law in the enjoyment of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, without discrimination based on race, color, or national or ethnic origin.

Praising the committee's decision to intervene, Steven Brady, Western Shoshone, said, ''Again, we are very pleased that our rights are finally being taken seriously and we look forward to positive actions being taken by the U.S.''

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