Carrie Dann, defender of her ancestral land, dies

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Carrie Dann, who spent decades fighting the United States government to reclaim the ancestral lands of the West Shoshone Nation, died Jan. 1 at her home in Crescent Valley, Nevada.

Longtime friend and activist Julie Cavanaugh-Bill confirmed the death and estimated Ms Dann to be between 86 and 88 years old. Ms Dann did not have a birth certificate, she said.

The roots of Ms. Dann’s dispute with the government can be traced in part to 1962, when the Indian Claims Commission ruled that members of the West Shoshone Nation, like Ms. Dann and her sister Mary Dann, had lost their claim. on their land. by “progressive encroachment” of the colonists.

The Dann sisters were at the forefront of combat over a stretch of land spread across four western states. They said their rights to the land were enshrined in the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley, in which the United States formally recognized the Western Shoshone claim to some 60 million acres now covering parts of Nevada, Idaho, Utah and California.

The West Shoshone Nation sued the government for breaching the treaty, but the courts ruled that they were not entitled to compensation. The tribe appealed and the Indian Claims Commission awarded them $ 26 million in 1979. But the tribe refused to accept the money in exchange for the land. The United States Supreme Court ruled in 1985 that the tribe lost title to the land when the $ 26 million was deposited earlier as payment, even though the tribe had not collected the silver.

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All the while, the Dann sisters – who spent most of their lives on what had been their fathers’ 800-acre ranch – continued to live in ways reminiscent of their ancestors. As recently as 2002, when Carrie Dann was nearing 70 and Mary was almost 80, they were still breaking horses and fixing fences. They avoided electricity, hot water and even furnaces, the New York Times reported.

The Shoshone sisters and other ranchers have refused to pay grazing fees on traditional Western Shoshone lands – nearly 26 million acres in Nevada, or about two-thirds of the state. The government considers it a public domain.

In 2002, 40 officers from the Bureau of Land Management descended on the Dann’s ranch, supported by helicopters. They confiscated and then sold 232 cattle. It was part of a series of punitive measures taken by the US government over decades.

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Some members of the Western Shoshone Nation eventually accepted government money in an attempt to end the conflict, but the Danns persisted. Representatives of the Western Shoshone Nation appealed to international bodies, including the United Nations, and argued their case with U.S. government officials as recently as fall 2019.

Ms. Dann has helped lead other efforts to protect her ancestral land. During an expansion of a gold mining project at Mount Tenabo in the Cortez Mountains, Ms. Dann argued that the area was home to several creation stories of the Western Shoshone, and the water that flowed below was sacred.

Credit…Laura Rauch / The Bharat Express News

“This is where the seasons of the year were named – back in the days before people came here,” she said in 2011.

Carrie Dann was born to Dewey Dann and Sophie (Dick) Dann in the early 1930s in Crescent Valley. His parents ran the family ranch. She graduated from Eureka County High School in the early 1950s and spent a year at Westminster College in Salt Lake City.

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Her marriage in 1968 to Harvey Knight ended in divorce in 1972. Ms. Dann is survived by her daughter, Patricia Paul, and three grandchildren. Her son, Mark, died in 2015. Mary Dann died in 2005.

The Nevada Museum of Art’s permanent collection includes works of art that touch on the activism of the Dann sisters, and the museum’s deputy director, Ann M. Wolfe, said she had worked with contemporary artists to s ensure that their history is not forgotten.

“Carrie Dann and Mary Dann have fought tirelessly to defend indigenous land rights as defined in the 1863 Ruby Valley Treaty between the United States and the rulers of the Western Shoshone,” Ms. Wolfe said in an email on Tuesday. at the The Bharat Express News. “The story of the Danns is central to understanding the collision between indigenous peoples and colonial settlers that has led to conflict time and time again since the founding of America.

The New York Times contributed reporting.

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