On April 22, 2005, the elderly rancher who led a strong legal and defiant battle against the Bureau of Land Management and Department of Interior died as she was returning from mending the fences on her ranch. Mary Dann, and her sister Carrie, have been in decades-long struggles to retain the right to graze their livestock on their land.
They became public figures when the Department of Interior and the Bureau of Land Management tried to enforce the 1863 Treaty of Ruby River. The funds have been in dispute since the Treaty was signed. Many Western Shoshone did not agree to the treaty which allowed mining and storage of nuclear waste storage at Yucca Mountain on “aboriginal” land.
In February of 2003 agents of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) confiscated and sold hundreds of horses that belonged to Mary and Carrie Dann. The sisters resisted all efforts to remove them and their livestock from their original homeland. In fact they took the story of their struggle to the United Nations and Organization of American States.
Mary was in her 80’s when she died leaving behind children and grandchildren who will miss her strong leadership of what is right and what is wrong. As a teenager Mary refused the U.S. government’s offer of money for what was termed “aboriginal Shoshone land” and has never accepted the United States claim that Shoshone land had been bought and paid for. Mary claimed that Horse Canyon where gold mining was occurring to be spiritual and cultural areas.
Mary Dann was been representative of Western Shoshone Nation’s fight to reclaim 24 million acres of what they say are ancestral lands in four states, California, Utah, Nevada and Idaho. The $26 million that the United States Government has paid into a special fund has not been accepted nor did the Western Shoshone Nation accept the United States reason for purchase as “the tribe lost the lands by the gradual encroachment of white settlers.”
This photo was taken by supporters of the Western Shoshone Nation claim against the United States Government on their land. As Steve Melendez who is President of American Indian Genocide Museum in Houston said, “Mary Dann looked back at history and seemed to say “the injustice stops here!” He remembers Mary’s words to the Bureau of Land Management when she was accused of trespassing on her own ranch land, she said, “We are not going to pay you for the grazing of our cows on our own land.”
Mary Dann’s death will leave a void in her family and tribe’s life but her spirit will continue to lead them on in their quest for justice and for return of their land.