Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

January 5, 2021

Remembering Carrie

Carrie Dann by Brenda Norrell, Western Shoshone Gathering 2009

Carrie and Mary Dann photo by Ilka Hartmann 1979

Remembering Carrie

Article by Brenda Norrell
Censored News
Translation by Christine Prat

The sun was setting over Eureka, Nevada, and the roads were icy and treacherous. It was February and I worried over Carrie Dann, in her seventies, making the long drive back to her ranch alone. I walked her out to her white truck, trying not to slip on the sidewalk which was a sheet of ice. With a smile, she assured me she would be just fine.

Carrie traveled the world and was a global force, traveling to the Mother Earth Conference in Cochabamba, Bolivia in 2010. Ultimately, however, she was a rancher, a tough working rancher, fighting to protect her horses and the land, air and water.

Carrie passed to the Spirit World on Jan. 2, 2021. Carrie's sister Mary passed in 2005.

Simon J. Ortiz, Acoma Pueblo poet-author,  Retired Regents Professor, Arizona State University, honored Carrie.

"What a grandmother, mother, daughter, sister, Carrie Dann was," Ortiz wrote today.

"A force of life."

"Life of life."

"Generation after generation before, after."

"We -- all people all beings -- are with her always. And she will always be with us."

"She will always be with all peoples -- even those who mislead and are destructive -- because that is the way of the original knowledge -- who are bound by the Sacred Way of life to be responsible for life to be sustainable forever."

When our paths crossed in Phoenix in 2004, Carrie said, "We will never give up our resistance. We cannot. It is not for us but for those yet to come."

When asked what she wanted most, Carrie said, "Liberation."

"I’m still waiting for the day when the Indigenous will be liberated from the control of the United States government," she said.

When Carrie received a U.S. notice of impoundment of her livestock in May of 2004, she said it is domestic terrorism designed to steal the dignity of the people. 

"Economically we were a self-sustaining people. With these recent actions stealing our livelihood we are now facing economic starvation designed to remove us from our lands."

"To me, that is terrorism. Domestic terrorism. This behavior is designed to steal our dignity, our honor and to make us feel that we are less than or lower than human -- we are treated like animals. We are being dehumanized."

Battling the United States theft of Western Shoshone land, Carrie never gave up.

"As Western Shoshone, we have been fighting for many years to simply remain who we are -- Western Shoshone. The earth is our mother and land provides us with life, like the water and the air. To take this land from us will be to lead us into a spiritual death."

Earl Tulley, Dine', remembered his fellow frontline defenders, sisters Mary and Carrie Dann, who like Earl spent their lives in defense of Native rights and the natural world.

Earl said, "The Dann sisters stood and worked as one in defending ancestral land. Their melodious chant was -- and is -- "Not everything that glitters is gold."

"Both served as top hands, working hands at that."

Ofelia Rivas, Tohono O'odham, like the Dann sisters on Western Shoshone land, battles for human rights and protection of the land and sacred on the southern border.

Ofelia said of Carrie, "She was a force."

"When a strong force joins the ancestors, we that are left here on this plane are given a universal blessing. I hope people understand that Carrie Dann is no longer confined to any poverty, any bodily pain and no humanly disappointments by political decisions. Her presence has been a great honor on this Mother Earth."

"May all her family and friends and great many supporters continue her work of defending the lands for the next generations to come."

Back on those icy roads In Eureka, Nevada, in February of 2008, Carrie, the global force, was a working rancher honoring Native youth long walkers.

On the Longest Walk northern route across the continent in 2008, Carrie honored the long walkers, after they arrived on foot from Austin, Nevada.

The Miwok youth, Round Valley singers and Cheyenne Arapaho Calvin Magpie sang traditional songs for Carrie in the Long Walk circle, honoring her endless struggle for Indian rights.

Carrie said the Western Shoshone are faced with the desecration of their sacred places, including Mount Tenabo, as gold mining expands its destruction on Shoshone lands. Further, nuclear testing and the nuclear industry are poisoning the land, air and water.

Carrie remembered when the Long Walk passed through Shoshone lands 30 years earlier. She joined the 1978 walkers in Austin, Nevada.

Gathered in a circle with the walkers and runners in Eureka, she said she was encouraged by Indian youths and their courage.

"I want you to know that I'm proud of you," Carrie said.

Long Walker Tomas Reyes told the walkers that Carrie was one of the great Indians of our time and a great deal could be learned from her example.

Then, in 2010, Carrie, in her seventies, was on the road again. This time on her way to the World Peoples Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Arriving in Cochabamba, Carrie and Timbisha Shoshone Chairman Joe Kennedy had been stalled at the enormous airport in Peru, where Peruvian authorities did not want to recognize Kennedy's sovereign Shoshone passport. 

Mohawk youth Chibon Everstz from Kahnawake arrived on the same flight.

There they were, Shoshone and Mohawk, youth and elders, arriving in solidarity with Bolivian President Evo Morales and Indigenous People from around the world.

Our Land, Our Life, tells the true story.

In Our Land, Our Life, the Dann family's horses are brutally rounded up by BLM helicopters. After capture, many colts and horses did not survive.

In Our Land, Our Life, ranchers Mary and Carrie Dann tell the story of working ranchers, fighting the United States government, which never honored the Treaty of Ruby Valley.

In the film, "Our Land, Our Life," Carrie said the United States government has carried out spiritual genocide. With film footage of the horrific BLM roundup of the Dann family's horses, the film reveals the United States' goal was the seizure of the land for corporate gold mining.

Like the people that the United States government considers expendables, the Dann family horses were considered expendables. After the cruel roundup and capture, many of the colts and horses did not survive.

Western Shoshone land had already been shattered by nuclear testing and the detonation of the atomic bomb at the Nuclear Test Site, resulting in widespread radioactivity and deaths from cancer for Western Shoshone.

The United States refused to honor the Treaty of Ruby Valley.

Watch 25 minutes of the film, "Our Land, Our Life," online. (The full hour long version, 'American Outrage,' is available on DVD.)


During our talk in Phoenix in March of 2004, Carrie said the United States wants an international ruling kept secret.

Article by Brenda Norrell, March 2004

PHOENIX - The United States is attempting to keep secret an international ruling that affects American Indians and property rights. The ruling, in the case of the Western Shoshone, calls for a review of all U.S. law and policy regarding indigenous peoples and in particular the right to property.

On Indigenous Peoples Day, Western Shoshone Carrie Dann said, "The U.S. was found to be in violation of international law—found to be violating our rights to property, to due process, and to equality under the law.

"They have been told to remedy this situation and to review all law and policy relating to indigenous peoples in the United States."

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Organization of American States issued its final report in the case of Dann v. U.S. It is the first judicial review of the United States law and policy regarding indigenous peoples within its borders.

Julie Fishel, attorney for the Western Shoshone Defense Project, said the United States does not want American Indians to learn about the ruling.

"They are nervous about this," Fishel said.

The OAS ruling focuses on the Dann’s right to their ancestral land and the violation of their human rights. In her statement on March 11, Dann said the U.S. is violating the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley.

"They tell us our lands are federal lands," Dann said, speaking of the ranch where her family has lived for generations in Crescent Valley.

Western Shoshone have lived on the land, now called Nevada, for more than 4,000 years. However, Western Shoshone land is being seized for open pit cyanide leach gold mining and the Nuclear Waste Repository at Yucca Mountain, a mountain that Shoshone hold sacred.

Dann said, "At the Nevada Test Site, the current administration wants to reopen nuclear testing and are conducting biological and chemical testing and development at the new Federal Counterterrorism Facility."

"As we see it, these activities are done only for the benefit of the multinational corporations, not for the benefit of the people. On our lands alone, companies such as Placer Dome, Newmont, Barrick, Halliburton, Bechtel and Lockheed Martin are poisoning our air and water and ripping apart our Mother Earth."

Hundreds of the family’s livestock have been seized by the Department of Interior under military-style attacks.

"We are placed under constant surveillance by armed federal rangers and helicopter flyovers. We remain on the land of our ancestors.

"The U.S. Congress and the corporations are waving money and other deals under the noses of our people," Dann said it is the responsibility of the people to preserve life for future generations.

Carrie and her sister Mary have fought the United States all the way to the Supreme Court. After 10 years of legal proceedings, the Organization of American States ruled in favor of the Western Shoshone.

The OAS report came on Jan. 9, 2003, 10 years after sisters Mary and Carrie Dann filed a petition for redress. During the proceedings, several other Western Shoshone communities joined the petition in amicus curiae briefings. The Western Shoshone Nation Council, the traditional governing body, filed a supporting brief.

The case states that the U.S. argued to the Indian Claims Commission that Western Shoshone had lost their land due to "gradual encroachment" of whites, settlers and others. The Western Shoshone argued that the U.S. claim was in violation of its own laws and international human rights laws to which the U.S. is bound as a member of the OAS.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights agreed with the Western Shoshone. The final report found the United States in violation of the right to property, right to due process and right to equality under the law.

The final report issued two recommendations to the United States. The first was to remedy the situation of the Western Shoshone, either legislatively or by providing a hearing on the issue of title.

The OAS also recommended that all U.S. law and policy regarding indigenous peoples, in particular the right to property, be reviewed.

Dann said, "We will never give up our resistance. We cannot. It is not for us but for those yet to come."

Carrie Dann was asked what she wanted most.

"Liberation," Dann said.

"I’ve been waiting all my life to be liberated from the federal government."

Recalling President Bush’s words, she said, "Bush said, ‘We are not the conquerors, we are the liberators.’

"I’m still waiting for the day when the indigenous will be liberated from the control of the United States government."

Listen to Carrie, at the Western Shoshone spring gathering in 2009, by Earthcycles and Censored News.

Article copyright Brenda Norrell. Tribute copyright Simon J. Ortiz. Photo copyrights Brenda Norrell, Ilka Hartmann.

1 comment:

Lloyd Vivola said...

Thank you for this moving and personal remembrance. Like the lives of so many indigenous people who wage resistance in all but complete obscurity as managed by the dominant settler community, the story of Carrie and Mary Dann should be honored as instructive to everyone who "owns" property across Great Turtle Island and retold again and again accordingly. Say their names. "Stolen Land, Swindled Land" is not just a snappy slogan.