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Western Shoshone Defense Project Records


The records of the Western Shoshone Defense Project were maintained by sisters Carrie and Mary Dann, two traditional Western Shoshone ranchers living in northeastern Nevada. The Defense Project's mission was to affirm Western Shoshone jurisdiction over Western Shoshone ancestral homelands by protecting, preserving, and restoring Shoshone rights and lands for present and future generations based on cultural and spiritual traditions. It was established in 1991 by the Western Shoshone National Council to provide support to Mary and Carrie Dann as they faced confiscation of their livestock which they grazed on Western Shoshone homelands without paying grazing fees to the Bureau of Land Management.

For over forty years, the Dann sisters and the traditional people of the Western Shoshone Nation fought to preserve their ancient homeland. Both Carrie and Mary upheld a fundamental principle of the Newe’s (Western Shoshone) worldview, with the belief that they were put on these lands by the Creator with a responsibility to protect and preserve Newe Sogobia (Western Shoshone homelands) for the future generations of all life.

In 1973, when the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) demanded that the Danns remove their livestock from the land surrounding the Dann ranch, they refused. They claimed the livestock were on Western Shoshone land as outlined in the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley, and not under the jurisdiction of the United States. The Danns were charged with trespassing on public lands.

Thus began the litigation in Mary and Carrie Dann vs. USA, with the support of traditional leaders from the Western Shoshone National Council. Their case was heard before the U. S. District Court of Nevada four times, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals three times, and the U. S. Supreme Court, which decided against them.

In 2013, Carrie Dann donated her personal papers and the records of the Defense Project to Special Collections so that they could be open to all and help to education future generations.  The collection covers the years 1845 to 2011, with most of the materials from 1930 to 2011. As part of the work for the collection, this website was developed to show just a few of the types of materials and the content that are included.

Those interested in additional biographical information and the contents of the Western Shoshone Defense Project Records can be found by using the guide to the collection.