June 19, 2004 – According to the Western Shoshone Defense Project (WSDP), the US House of Representatives will vote on the hotly contested Western Shoshone Distribution Bill (HR 884) on Monday June 21.
The WSDP, an organization that works to preserve and restore the land rights of the Western Shoshone Indians, called the bill the "largest Indian land theft in modern history." Tribal leaders have accused lawmakers of attempting to force the Western Shoshone to accept payment for 60 million acres of land they do not want to sell.
If passed, each member of the Western Shoshone would receive a payout of approximately $20,000.
Lawmakers pushing the bill say it merely seeks to pay the Shoshone money that is owed them. They say the payout will not transfer ownership of the land out of Western Shoshone hands. But tribal leaders say refusing the money is a matter of principle. They also fear that if the Western Shoshone accept the money, it will be seen as a land sale and will legitimize non-Indian encroachment on the territory. They especially fear that is will allow the government to lease the land for mining corporations.