Treaty? What Treaty?

Published on Tuesday, April 11, 2006 by
by Haider Rizvi
(Photo: National Science Foundation Atomic Archive)

UNITED NATIONS - Native Americans want U.S. authorities to cancel plans to detonate 700 tons of explosives on what they say is tribal land in Nevada.

The planned explosion, scheduled for June 2 some 90 miles from Las Vegas, is aimed at aiding U.S. efforts to develop ''bunker buster'' weapons capable of penetrating solid rock. Officials have suggested the test would constitute the largest non-nuclear, open-air blast in the test site's history.

Federal officials have described such efforts as essential to the administration of President George W. Bush's self-styled ''war on terror'' but to leaders of the Shoshone, also known as the Newe people, the planned detonation is just the latest in a decades-long history of experiments at the Nevada Test Site to shake the earth and raise a dust cloud.

''We are opposed to any further military testing on our lands,'' said Raymond Yowell, chief of the Western Shoshone National Council.

The site of the latest proposed test sits on the land recognized under the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley as part of the tribe's national territory, Shoshone leaders said, and the U.S. military therefore has no right to use it.

The U.S. government disagreed and has asserted its ownership of the land.

"Without going through a lot of detail, the issue of ownership of the land area occupied by the Nevada Test Site, and for that matter very large sections of Nevada and Utah, is very complex (going back to the Ruby Valley Treaty) and in our eyes has been resolved," said Kevin Rohrer, a spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration, which operates the test site.

What makes this "dispute" more interesting to me is this story about Native American rights according to International Law. Didn't the US sign some treaties in the '60s?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

International law protects Native American interests

With 29 tribes in Washington and five in Idaho, the Pacific Northwest's Native American communities play an essential part in the region's contemporary political and cultural life. There have been a number of significant policy disputes between the federal government, the states and their Native American populations, most notably involving water rights. Long viewed as strictly domestic matters, these issues now reverberate in international law.

The case of the Dann sisters is a poignant example. Mary (now deceased) and Carrie Dann, Western Shoshone Elders, have long sought access to Western Shoshone ancestral lands, including much of present-day Nevada and extending to parts of Idaho, Utah and California. When denied access by the U.S. courts, the Dann sisters continued their struggle as a matter of international human rights law.

In a strongly worded rebuke to the United States in 2002, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (a body of the Organization of American States) found that the inadequate process afforded the Dann sisters by the U.S. Indian Claims Commission constituted a violation of the protections they were owed under the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.

Now, in a ruling on March 10 of this year, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has joined the fray. The United Nations claimed to have credible information that calls into question the U.S. government's assertion of federal ownership of nearly 90 percent of Western Shoshone lands. In a landmark ruling, the United Nations expressed concern about the U.S. claim to the land by theory of "gradual encroachment" and urged the United States to "freeze," "desist" and "stop" activities that threaten Western Shoshone ancestral lands. Diplomatic exchanges rarely take such an urgent and stern tone.

(emphasis mine)
How might they
try to adjudicate that here? If you read that carefully, its kind of arguments have sputtered to life and died quickly over and over across the United States for decades.

"Well, sure. We took their land. There weren't enough of 'em to hold US to the treaties..." Just your normal, average American has no problem with this. It's History.

And maybe someday, some time most likely decades hence, the US will figure out how to acknowledge and pay for it. Rationally. Fairly to be hoped, but at the very most, rationally.

If the insane need to develope new bunker buster freakin' nukes weren't such a big and poisonous issue, I'd suggest they wait for the next Administration though. This one has little enough concern for our own, National laws.

As it stands, I'm glad the Shoshone folk are standing up in whatever court they can get.


  1. Well, geez. Why don't they just practice in Iraq? Isn't that what we got Iraq for? I mean, Iraq and Nevada must look somewhat similar, don't you think? But if they do have to practice in Nevada they should practice on the Bellagio.

  2. No. No.. You're right 'bout their practice space being off-continent. And they sho do seem to be tryin' to annex Iraq for that purpose.

    Personally, this is one of the reasons I push so hard for space exploration: We can put 'em all on one of Jupiter's moon and let 'em kill each other gleefully while we enjoy a cleaned up Earth and bio-terraformed Mars, etc.

    But the can't wreck the Bellagio!

    Actually, I'm kinda surprise BushCo hasn't turned his focus on America's Own Axis of Evil: from South Beach, through the future US Capital of Las Vegas and terminating at Hollywood and Vine. That'd be good reason to raise all those tribal lands again. Security!

    And I'm gonna try and fix the stupid margins on this post. what a pain .. lol

  3. Unfortunately, this is typical US gov't behavior regarding Native treaties. It hasn't happened in a while, but Washington has violated the vast majority of treaties it has ever signed with Native tribes. Until the development of massively destructive weapons, these lands were all but immune to such trespass simply because they contain no resources the gov't has ever wanted. But now their very barrenness IS that resource, and the fact that the Native people see the land as anything BUT barren -- as, in fact, teeming with life that has as much right to exist as we do -- means squat to them.

    Too many everyday folks share that opinion (the gov't, after all, merely represents it; it didn't create the attitude), largely because most people are woefully out of touch with the Earth and because our society's oft-unstated underlying assumption is that we have the right to dominate Earth and "primitive" people because we're "favored by God" (or, in less overtly religious tones "Manifest Destiny.")

    The fact that such an attitude is profoundly, sociopathically arrogant hasn't yet occured to enough people to stop it. It had better pretty soon, or that arrogance will become suicidal.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts