RESPONSE OF THE GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES

TO OCTOBER 10, 2002 REPORT NO. 53/02

CASE NO. 11.140 (MARY AND CARRIE DANN)

 

 

 

          We must again inform the Commission that we respectfully disagree with the conclusions contained in the Commissionís Report; namely, that the United States has failed to ensure the Dann sistersí right to property under conditions of equality contrary to Articles II, XVIII and XXIII of the American Declaration, with respect to their claims to property rights in Western Shoshone ancestral lands. For the reasons set forth in detail in the United Statesí response to the Commissionís draft report dated December 17, 2001, the United States rejects the Commissionís findings in their entirety because: (i) the Dannsí contentions regarding alleged lack of due process in the Indian Claims Commission proceedings were fully and fairly litigated in United States Courts and should not be reconsidered here; (ii) the Commission lacks jurisdiction to evaluate processes established under the 1946 Indian Claims Commission Act since the Act predates U.S. ratification of the OAS charter, and (iii) the Commission erred in interpreting the principles of the American Declaration in light of Article XVIII of the OAS draft declaration on indigenous rights.  The United States will not reiterate those arguments here.

 

          The Dannsí claim is, fundamentally, not a human rights claim, but an attempt by two individual Indians to reopen the question of collective Western Shoshone tribal property rights to land Ė a question that has been litigated to finality in the U.S. courts. The Commission is erroneously attempting to second-guess those historical proceedings, based on a flawed interpretation of contemporary norms of international law and reliance on the American Declaration, a document that is not legally binding on the United States.  The Commissionís findings notwithstanding, the Danns have been allowed full and informed participation in the determination of their claims to property rights in the Western Shoshone lands, and have been afforded due process and resort to the courts for protection of their claimed rights in a fair, equal and meaningful way. As made clear by the submissions of both parties, the Dann sisters litigated their claims to the public lands at issue for many years in the U.S. federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, which found that their claims had been extinguished and that compensation for the taking of the Western Shoshone lands by the United States had been paid. Finally, on June 6, 1991, before the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada, Mary and Carrie Dann withdrew all remaining claims to title based on individual aboriginal rights. The Dann sisters were represented before the court in this proceeding by competent counsel of their own choosing. Accordingly, the Dann sisters have clearly had full access to the U.S. courts and a full and fair hearing of their claims.  Although the courts ultimately found the Dannsí legal arguments to be incorrect after lengthy proceedings and careful consideration, that cannot be considered a lack of respect for their legal rights.

 

          In sum, at all times during the events that gave rise to the petition herein, the Unites States has acted in full compliance with its domestic and international legal obligations. For these reasons, the United States respectfully declines to take any further actions to comply with the Commissionís recommendations.