Mary Dann and Carrie Dann

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The Dann Sisters
Carrie Dann and Mary Dann.jpg
Mary and Carrie Dann, 1979
Nationality American
Occupation Ranching, cultural and spiritual rights, and land rights activist.

The Dann Sisters, Mary Dann (1923–2005) and Carrie Dann (born c. 1932), are Western Shoshone elders who are spiritual leaders, ranchers, and cultural, spiritual rights and land rights activists. Mary Dann died in 2005.

In 1993 the Dann sisters received the Right Livelihood Award.[1]


In 1863 the US made the peace Treaty of Ruby Valley with the Western Shoshone, which was to allow US citizens safe passage through their territory and permit mining for gold on their land. It defined their territory as what is now a large portion of Nevada and four other states, as well as the underlying mineral rights, and said the Shoshone would never have to give up their land.[2] Over the ensuing decades, the US acquired much of the Western Shoshone land, largely by Congressional legislation. Most of the land is now publicly held by federal agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in the Department of Interior and the Department of Energy (DOE). It used some of the land for nuclear testing, and has conducted more than 100 atmospheric tests, "more than anywhere else in the world." DOE has detonated nearly 1000 bombs.[3]

The Western Shoshone filed suit decades ago to try to reclaim their land. In 1962 the now defunct Indian Claims Court ruled the Shoshone had lost control of their land due to settler encroachment and were not entitled to any claim from the US government.[4] As the case proceeded, in 1979 the Indian Claims Commission awarded a $26 million land claim settlement to the Western Shoshone. The US Supreme Court ruled in 1985 that the Shoshone land claims were extinguished by the financial settlement. The Shoshone refused to take the money, which is earning interest. Eighty percent of the Shoshone who voted on the issue were against accepting the financial settlement; instead, they asked the US to respect the terms of the 1863 treaty. Some Shoshone have wanted the tribe to take the money and distribute and invest it for the welfare of the tribe.[4]

Since 1973, the Dann sisters conducted civil protest by ranching and refusing to pay grazing fees to BLM to run their cattle on what they consider Shoshone land.[4] They contended the US had taken the land illegally and not abided by the terms of its treaty. In 1982 some tribal members organized the Western Shoshone National Council as a governmental group; they elected Raymond Yowell as chief. It is an alternative to what they call the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) governments of the Duckwater and Yomba reservations, which are federally recognized tribes. Yowell has worked to ensure the tribes do not accept the settlement money (up to $100 million in 1998) because that would extinguish their claims to their former territory.[2]

In 1998 BLM issued trespass notices to the Danns and Raymond Yowell, chief of the Western Shoshone Nation, ordering their removal of hundreds of cows and horses from public lands in Eureka County, Nevada.[2] Carrie and Mary Dann filed a request for urgent action with the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. They had been active in the movement to recover millions of acres of land in Nevada and bordering states that originally belonged to the Western Shoshone tribe.

The Dann sisters persuaded the UN of their case. It ordered the US government to halt all actions against the Western Shoshone people, a mandate which was mostly ignored.[4]

Mary Dann[edit]

Mary Dann (January 2, 1923 – April 22, 2005) was a Native American activist. She died from an accident on her ranch in Crescent Valley, central Nevada, on April 22, 2005.[5][6]

Carrie Dann[edit]

Carrie Dann (c. 1932- ) is a Western Shoshone spiritual elder and activist for land and tribal rights.

On April 1, 2007, Carrie Dann was arrested with 38 other activists for trespassing at the Nevada Test Site at a Nevada Desert Experience event protesting governmental programs at the site.[7][8] She has continued with activities to try to end nuclear testing and programs at the site.

In November 2008 Dann, with members of the Western Shoshone Defense Project and four other tribal and public interest groups, sued in federal court against the US and Canadian Barrick Gold, seeking an injunction to stop the "largest open pit cyanide heap leach gold mines in the United States - the Cortez Hills Expansion Project on Mt. Tenabo," which the Western Shoshone consider sacred land. In addition to spiritual concerns, tribal and other groups are concerned about the proposed project's environmental impact on water, air and ground quality.[1]

Documentary film[edit]

Newe Segobia is Not for Sale was produced by Jesse Drew in 1993. The film depicts confrontations between Federal Bureau of Land Management officers determined to impound the women's livestock, and the Danns who demonstrate treaty violations with the U.S. government.

In 2008 the documentary film American Outrage was made about the Dann sisters and their decades-long struggle against the U.S. Government for the right to graze their horses on what they argued was tribal grazing land.[9] The film follows the Dann sisters and tribal rights advocates as the issue moved from the initial disagreement to a Supreme Court decision and subsequent action at the United Nations.[10]


  1. ^ a b Wolf, Lisa J. (November 24, 2008). "Shoshone Indians Sue to Stop Barrick's Nevada Gold Mine". Environment News Service. Retrieved October 28, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c Vogel, Ed (April 5, 1998). "Shoshones stake their claim". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved October 28, 2011. 
  3. ^ "Mary † and Carrie Dann of the Western Shoshone Nation (USA)", The Right Livelihood Award, accessed 13 December 2011
  4. ^ a b c d LeDuff, Charlie (October 31, 2002). "Range War in Nevada Pits U.S. Against 2 Shoshone Sisters". The New York Times. Retrieved October 28, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Remembering Mary Dann – W. Shoshone Warrior". American Indian Movement of Colorado. April 25, 2005. Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  6. ^ "Mary Dann, Activist for Shoshone Tribe, Dies". The New York Times. Associated Press. April 23, 2005. Retrieved October 28, 2011. 
  7. ^ "Martin Sheen protests Nevada test site". Eugene Register-Guard. Associated Press. April 2, 2007. Retrieved October 28, 2011. 
  8. ^ Rizvi, Haider (April 11, 2006). "Native Americans Want 'Bunker Buster' Test Stopped". Common Dreams. Retrieved October 28, 2011. 
  9. ^ "American Outrage (NY Premiere)" (PDF). Human Rights Watch: International Film Festival. Retrieved 17 February 2015. 
  10. ^ "American Outrage (2008)". IMDb. I. Retrieved 17 February 2015. 

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