ELKO, Nevada ? The Bureau of Land Management followed through on an earlier attachment order on livestock owned by Western Shoshone ranchers and launched early morning raids May 24 to begin confiscating what they label as unauthorized livestock on grazing lands.
The livestock was located on lands to which the Western Shoshone still claim title. The federal government claims the Shoshone have been compensated for the land. The impoundment of livestock began at 6:50 a.m. Friday at the start of the long Memorial Day weekend.
The first roundup targeted livestock owned by Raymond Yowell, chief of the traditional Western Shoshone National Council. Supporters of the Shoshone claimants feared that the horse herd of the rancher sisters Carrie and Mary Dann would be next.
The Dann sisters and Yowell are holdouts, as they are called, and refused to accept federal compensation for land they say the Shoshone people never ceded to the United States.
"The BLM confiscated 150 head of unauthorized livestock. A lot of the livestock was owned by Yowell," said Mike Brown, spokesman for the BLM.
"Trespass cattle were turned out on top of permit cattle. The rancher with the grazing permit is paying for the feed and it isn't fair for unauthorized cattle to be in the area. This is something we do not take lightly."
Brown said that last spring cattle were grazing on pasture that was reseeded and they were putting a strain on the land.
"We have to treat all users of public lands fairly," Brown said.
In 1979 the Indian Claims Commission awarded the Western Shoshone $24 million for 26 million acres of land with grazing rights. Many in the Tribe refused the money, claiming that the land could not be sold.
Some Shoshone members are willing to accept the BLM and government offers but Yowell and the Dann sisters remained adamant that the land belonged to Mother Earth and could not be sold. Sen. Harry Reid, D. ? Nev., has introduced a bill that would force the distribution of the Shoshone trust fund, which with interest has grown to nearly $130 million. But the Senate Indian Affairs Committee cancelled pending hearings on the bill, S.B. 958, in mid-March, after the traditional Western Shoshone mounted a vigorous campaign against it.
Carrie Dann reported receiving the impoundment notice from the BLM as she packed to go to Washington in mid-March to speak against the bill.
"I'm not doing too well," Dann said on the afternoon of May 24.
"The U.S. government ripped us off. They offered 15 cents an acre for the land. They wanted to buy the sacredness of the land for a few cents. I won't give up my rights to use the land.
"We have been trampled on," Dann said.
Dann added that each spring the livestock owners receive notice that cattle are not authorized to graze on what the Shoshone call lands they have a right to use. The BLM notice said that livestock on BLM-controlled land would be impounded.
"We can not sell the land. It is our Earth Mother. We get everything from her. They should not attempt to take the land away from us," Dann said.
Dann would not reveal how much livestock she could potentially lose.
The land in question is located in central Nevada in what is called the Crescent Valley.