Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

September 28, 2011

Northern Paiute Traditional Gatherer Scheduled for US Court

Northern Paiute gatherer and craftsman Kwassuh, Wesley Dick.
Traditional Northern Paiute gatherer Kwassuh, Wesley Dick, is scheduled to go appear in US court -- the day after Columbus Day -- for practicing his traditions in his homeland
By Kwassuh, Wesley Dick
Censored News

These events are based onthe understanding and acknowledgment of two worlds.

1. The lifeways, the unique cultures, the sacred ceremonial, the loss of identity, customs, traditions and quality of lives the Native Americans all shared from past thousands of years to the present. The aboriginal peoples needs to live good lives depends on the freedoms our ancestors practiced in their daily lives. Respect and the love of our mothers is the same relationship we share with the Earth. The strength, wisdom and protection our fathers provided is related to the respect and honor we have for the Creator. This relationship will never end among all indigenous people worldwide.

2. The interference of these non-Native immigrants that forcibly claimed my people’s homes, food, and more. Including forcing their own religions upon my people and forcing them off their homelands; forcing their laws, rules, regulations, limitations, executing their punishments, penalties, threats, and worse of all the senseless murders that were committed by these people for their own benefit. Also, dislocating and imprisoning the Natives to other areas, the destruction of space; the destruction of the air we breathe, the destruction of the water we drink, the destruction upon our earth, the destruction of plants, the destruction of our animals, the production of toxic chemicals, the production of mass weapons, and the list goes on by these non-Native immigrants with absolute disregard for the good life the aboriginal people had lived for thousands of years are absolutely nothing to be proud of by a nation that claims to uphold “Life, Liberty and Justice for All”. This has been at the expense of the Native American people and now the destruction of the earth and its atmosphere.
Kwassuh's craft made from tules. Photo Kwassuh.
A majority of Native people relate and possess inside themselves the same feeling of loss, direct threats, misinformation, lack of knowledge, and worse of all misguidance from our present tribal leaders who do not seem to have learned from the past Tribal leaders whose failures have heavily burdened our people today time after time. These are the same individuals who before election time, promised to uphold, respect, protect, and preserve our tribal concerns and matters.

It’s amazing how many of these individuals tend to profit on their own behalf and benefit for their own certain followers at the expense of the ones who are really in need of. Financial failures are the most obvious and well known among many tribal governments and seems to be a never ending issue. The loss of our lands is another failed example, but worse of all is the loss of our culture and the loss of our ancestors teachings by our own people except for books, old pictures, artifacts that are collected in museums or individual collections that most people see today. It’s become harder to gain the correct answers among our own people today because the most knowledgeable elders in our communities are passing away and the newer generations are influenced by other societies. I, Wesley Dick (Kwassuh) have always known of the importance of taking the time to learn from my own people, especially while participating, assisting my own tribal people through hunting, plant gathering, ceremonial and all culturally related events. Since the stories shared by my grandparents, family and friends and the killing of my first rabbit when I was 8 or 9 years old, this was the beginning stage of respecting a living being that I learned would provide nutrition and the spiritual understanding of the rabbit to help me throughout my life. From that time, I have excelled in my life-learning importance of all living plants and animals both physically and spiritually from the teachings of my own people and the direct connection of their lifecycle is respectfully honored in our ceremonies and the need to pass on these teachings is the most important. The result of today’s modern hunting methods don’t include the spirituality of these animals being killed. Sadly today’s Native hunters have excluded prayers and the respect of the animals, in exchange hunting is considered sport and the animal is game. The antlers are treasured but the hides and hoofs are thrown away regardless of their spiritual significance that are sacred only to our traditional people.

The efforts to continue what I have learned and the experiences I have been successful in from past to present, has been tremendously disrespected and these interferences have put a large delay in the progress and fulfillment of my obligations to my family and my people. A very heavy financial burden has also been placed on me and my family at the worst of these difficult times. The need to sell some of our personal belongings and get personal loans from the pawn shop in order to maintain the everyday cost of living, having to drive a many distance to and from the library in order to produce documents, traveling to get advice from legal persons, and having to get donations to assist us. Worst of all, is the need to defend myself to this United States Court that cites me because I was doing what I am supposed to be doing as a traditional Native person which is picking my peoples traditional plant in a ceremonial way and citing me for being where my people used to be which is a known burial, ceremonial and traditional plant gathering and hunting area. These customs are known by the Northern Paiute, Western Shoshone, Washoe and recognized by the United States of America.

A formal letter of request for financial assistance was read, given and received by my Tribal Council and was denied even though I explained in detail my full intentions to defend myself and stand up for our Native rights. This is just a few examples of the undue and unnecessary steps we have endured so far. I am thankful to my family and friends for their help in getting me this far. Having to take my family on an over 2,000 mile round trip to the State of Washington to get fair justice by a Tribal Court was especially financially difficult. The Tribal Court panel of judges consists of several indigenous Nations who are very knowledgeable in national and international laws. They recognized my obvious human rights that are being violated. With their assistance and respect, that they have shown me and my family, made it well worth the trip.

This first incident with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service not acknowledging or respecting my inherent rights or my aboriginal rights to practice the sacred methods of my peoples traditional plant gathering and use, outraged not only my tribal people among my reservation, but also included the non-Indians in my local community and surrounding cities and states; most of all, many indigenous people worldwide. These people have all expressed outrage of these nonsense claims and ignorance on behalf of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. In order for myself to be cited for $675.00 for picking my own traditional plant that the U.S. Wildlife Refuge burns thousands of these plants each year, they already spent thousands of dollars to try me in their court. Also, the majority of the tule bundle that I prayed for and picked on the Stillwater Reservation was the majority of the bundle that was confiscated on May 14, 2011 still seems to be ignored. The small amount of tules I observed and picked in the ditch was also acknowledged in the ceremonial way as always. Then, the citation for $175.00 for trespassing, which I was on my own aboriginal territory, to try to collect a $175.00 from me will be an additional thousands of dollars in their court proceedings, not to mention, the embarrassment they will learn is the result of their own ignorance because that’s another traditionally known area by my people, the visitors, hunters, officials, and other Natives. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe both states “Home For The Numa” and acknowledges the Northern Paiute people/Toi-Ticutta with their signature stamps/emblem located at the bottom of this sign.

There is absolutely no signs saying No Admittance, Restricted Area, Authorization Only, No Trespassing, Barriers, Fenced Area, Punishment and Fines signs where my truck was parked. The only sign visible to me were Welcome and Auto Tour Loop.
This has always been a known traditional ceremonial and burial area told to me by my grandmother and elders, where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife claims I trespassed/unauthorized area/travel off designated route that I’m being accused of.

There will be a new upcoming misguided direction of this same wildlife officer who cannot tell the difference between a red faced bear hide and an elk hide. Along with my own Tribal police officer who misidentified this hide also and assisted in confiscating my property which places me and my family in a huge financial loss because I needed my flatbed trailer and all its contents. These officer’s threats of felony charges didn’t intimidate me. I replied to them to go ahead and charge me because as a Native traditional practitioner, I have the right to possess any plant, mineral or animal that comes from the Earth especially when it pertains to our sacred culture. No charges were filed and the ridiculous claims of me being in possession of a red faced bear or any bear never existed. A week later, Tribal Police called me to come and pick up my elk and deer hides that the U.S. Wildlife took from our property. These officer’s claims of a head and claws seems to have disappeared.

To date, I never received any written incident reports from these officers or their departments. But I finally received the return of my hides and I await the return of my flatbed trailer by the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe. Some of the results of my loss include: (1) To complete my hide tanning structure; that is now taken, (2) the wood stumps I have been saving that I planned on using for smoking, (3) the various wood chips I also used for smoking my hides, (4) there were a few tires I could have sold for $10.00 each, (5) the deer hides I intended on tanning for my5 year old daughters dress, (6) the loss of my elk hide I intended on producing hand drums from, (7) the water containers that the hides were contained in, (8) the two axle flatbed trailer that was taken; I paid $600.00 for it and purchased it for the intent of hauling large items and cords of wood on, (9) the hunting trips I have missed out on, (10) the plant picking trips I normally take with my family, (11) ceremonies I had planned on attending, (12) powwows me and my family annually attend, (13) part time jobs I’ve missed out on, from cutting wood, mending fences, and ground clearing, (14) the inability to promise dependability to a full time job (I have been an experienced drywall finisher for over 20 years). These matters with Fish and Wildlife by having to defend my inherent rights and now the illegal taking of my property, has put my family and I in a great financial burden, huge cultural delay and interference with my traditional activities my family and I normally do at this time. No others should have to go through this.

The United States District Court in Reno decision on July 21st Decision of the Government's Oral Motion for Dismissal without prejudice of citation #2011055-N31, Taking of any animal or plant without authorization is granted. I need to define this court decision. It is very important to me to understand how this decision will affect myself and my people who plan on carrying out our plant gathering, hunting and religious matters for today and the future. Does this ruling mean we will have no further interference from these Wildlife Game Officials? Will this ruling assist our neighboring/related Tribes in similar situations? Will our inherent rights and reserved rights as Native Americans be respected from now on? Will our Native sovereignty issues with the United States of America finally be clear and present to these individuals who claim to represent the laws and acts the United States of America claims to be proud of upholding. Maybe these law enforcement officials will make no more mistakes and better understand matters concerning the real aboriginal peoples of this land so we can be able to provide, protect, preserve, maintain, and live the way our ancestors once normally lived and honor them in the right way they deserve and stand in our rightful place in the beautiful circle of life where we belong. This Reno District Court Judge ignored the Tribal Declaratory Judgment that was hand delivered and placed on the District Court Judges desk by his secretary before July 21st court and proceeded to continue with his own proceedings ignoring the Native American rights and laws that pertain to my case. This Declaratory Judgment by the Kuiu Kwaan Tribal Court was stamped and dated by the U.S. District Court on July 21, 2011.

I have been a teacher, demonstrator, practitioner, provider, mentor, a ceremonial assistant, plant gatherer, skilled hunter, and a valued asset to my community, but most of all I am a father to my children, a son to my mother and father, a brother to my sisters and brothers, an uncle to many nieces and nephews, a grandfather to my step-daughter’s children, a good friend to many, a spiritual person and someday an important elder of my tribe. All these people are counting on me to continue what I have been happy to provide and accomplish for many years. In these modern times, all nations of people are supposed to be more educated and aware of the past to better our next generations. Thanks to my single shot 22 MAG rifle I owned for at least 25 years, I once killed 3 jackrabbits in one shot, with one bullet. This rifle is only good if I have a bullet though. I could never accomplish a shot like that with a bow and arrow, even though I am content with one rabbit with one arrow. Our F-350 Duly truck and two axle flatbed trailer was expected to haul 3 to 4 cords of wood from the mountains to home. With no gas, and now minus my trailer, I will be lucky to get only a cord of wood or none at all.

These unnecessary interferences and absolute ridiculous distractions and delays hopefully will end immediately because I have much more to offer and much more to do and accomplish for my family and my people. I see myself as being charged by the United States of America for practicing what I know I am supposed to do as a traditional Native person, being charged for being where I am supposed to be as a traditional Native person, and being charged for being a Toi-Ticutta. The only one guilty is the United States Wildlife Officer and their representatives for interfering, interrupting and preventing me to do as my people are known for doing. These individuals are in total violation and need to be corrected immediately or this will be another case of history repeating itself and another case of indigenous human rights being violated and disrespected by the nation who claims “with liberty and justice for all”.

Thank you, Wesley Dick (Kwassuh)
Northern Paiute (Toi-Ticutta) and member of the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe

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