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American Outrage

Carrie and Mary Dann are feisty Western Shoshone sisters who have endured five terrifying livestock roundups by armed federal marshals in which more than a thousand of their horses and cattle were confiscated -- for grazing their livestock on the open range outside their private ranch.

That range is part of 60 million acres recognized as Western Shoshone land by the United States in the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley, but in 1974 the U.S. sued the Dann sisters for trespassing on that land, without a permit. That set off a dispute between the Dann sisters and the U. S. government that swept to the United States Supreme Court and eventually to the Organization of American States and the United Nations.

AMERICAN OUTRAGE asks why the United States government has spent millions persecuting and prosecuting two elderly women grazing a few hundred horses and cows in a desolate desert? The United States Bureau of Land Management insists the sisters are degrading the land. The Dann sisters say the real reason is the resources hidden below this seemingly barren land, their Mother Earth. Western Shoshone land is the second largest gold producing area in the world.

'American Outrage is an important document for all those who want to understand the ongoing resistance of Native peoples to U.S colonialism in Indian country. In documenting this struggle, the film is also an eloquent testament to the courage of the Dann sisters and through them to Native women around the country who have engaged and are engaging in this fight for justice.' Eric Cheyfitz, Director of the American Indian Program, Cornell University

'As Director of the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival I have screened thousands of films on human rights over the past 13 years. I applaud filmmakers Beth and George Gage who have achieved that rare film which expertly delivers a potent and timely human rights issue through masterful storytelling, beautiful cinematography, and unforgettable characters. American Outrage is a beautifully crafted, powerful, truly exceptional human rights film whose message and impact will reverberate for years to come.' John H. Biaggi, Director, Human Rights Watch International Film Festival

'Every once in a while you come across a character in a documentary that you know you will not forget for a long time. Carrie Dann is one of those characters. Sadly, her story, like the title rightly tells us, is an outrageous but quintessentially American one: the near-impossible fight to save her pristine land from avaricious government and corporate interests. Compellingly-chronicled by veteran filmmakers Beth and George Gage, American Outrage is a film that will remain not only relevant but essential for decades.' David Holbrooke, Festival Director, Mountainfilm in Telluride

'A beautifully evocative yet morally disturbing documentary. American Outrage provides an excellent history of the Dann sisters' resilience to the dominant culture and of their struggle to maintain a subsistence lifestyle, living wholly and completely with and by their ancestral lands. Their defense of this lifestyle is inextricably linked to their defense against the trespass claims laid against them by the federal government. These complicated legal matters, cinematographically set against breathtaking footage of Shoshone land, are carefully and coherently described by lawyers representing the Dann sisters. The scenes of their humble ranch, of their constant toil to maintain the land and livestock, of their loving family relationships, and of the Tribe's steadfast adherence to its culture and traditions provide a real sense of the deep emotional attachment to their lands and validate their resistance to the terrible injustice done against them and of their rightful indignation. The film lifts this incredible story from the dense pages of the legal opinions and spreads it out in an incredible emotional vista.' Patrice H. Kunesh, Associate Professor of Law, Director, Institute of American Indian Studies, University of South Dakota

'American Outrage tells a story that all Americans should see. It recounts the attempts by Mary and Carrie Dan and the Western Shoshone people to keep their traditional homelands. This is a familiar tale, though, as the United States and the majority society have long used force and 'law' to take the lands and rights of American Indians. This is not just ancient American history, but is an ongoing reality for the Western Shoshone people.' Robert J. Miller (Eastern Shawnee), Professor, Lewis and Clark Law School, Author, Native America, Discovered and Conquered: Thomas Jefferson, Lewis and Clark, and Manifest Destiny

'American Outrage shows the continuing application of the Right of Discovery to justify American acquisition of Shoshone land without native consent. The film reveals that the lust for wealth underlies the federal government's quest for Shoshone land and its possible collusion with multi-national corporations to mine the land for gold. This is a must-see documentary for its message that the United States acquisition of tribal lands under the guise of legality continues today, but also for the human story of two Shoshone women who with steel determination resisted both legally and physically the armed seizure of their land and livestock by federal authorities.' Dr. Linda Parker, Professor, Department of American Indian Studies, San Diego State University

'Highly recommended for academic and public libraries, American Outrage is an outstanding resource for courses in history, government, sociology, law, and ethics.' Douglas Reed, Ouachita Baptist University, Educational Media Reviews Online

'[An] epic story...This documentary portrays the Dann sisters' 35-year struggle for their human rights, a microcosm of indigenous peoples across the globe. Classes can utilize this study Native American history, human rights, contemporary legal issues, and women's studies.' Patricia Ann Owens, Wabash Valley College, School Library Journal

'This moving testimonial is essential viewing...[American Outrage] will be appreciated by history buffs, students of Native American history, and general viewers.' Margaret Miller, University of South Dakota Library, Library Journal

'Should be required viewing for every U.S. citizen.' Sarasota Film Festival

'Here is a committed film made by artists taking the Shoshone side in their struggle against the brutal exploitation they still experience.' Presence Autochtone Film Festival, Montreal

'The big twist, as it turns out, is that the Dann's land was on top of a gold mine, making their removal very profitable for some of the world's largest gold companies. The film also points out the great irony that as the US was taking Shoshone lands for their gold, they were also distributing the new Sacajawea coin. Sacajawea, the woman who led Lewis and Clark safely across the West, was also a Shoshone.' Gina Telaroli, Human Rights Watch

'Real Indians. Real Lives. A powerful testament to Indian self-determination and women-power. The Dann sisters deserve our utmost respect.' Michael Smith, Founder and Director, American Indian Film Festival

'Engaging, illuminating...A worthy film that tackles a subject that ultimately embraces the whole history and foundation of the United States.' DVD Talk


Main credits

Gage, Beth (Producer)
Gage, Beth (Director)
Gage, Beth (Screenwriter)
Gage, George (Producer)
Gage, George (Director)
Steenburgen, Mary (Narrator)
Shenandoah, Joanne (Composer)

Other credits

Editors Suzan Beraza, Scott Conrad; videographer, George Gage; music, Joanne Shenandoah.

Docuseek2 subjects

Distributor subjects

American Studies
Animal Rights
Citizenship and Civics
Conflict Resolution
Earth Science
Environmental Ethics
Environmental Justice
Human Rights
Indigenous Peoples
Native Americans
Political Science
Science, Technology, Society
Social Justice
Western US
Women's Studies


Western Shoshone, Danns, land rights, human rights, Carrie Dann, Mary Dann, livestock roundups, federal marshals, open range, ranch, treaty of ruby valley, Supreme Court, Organization of American States, OAS, United Nations, UN, grazing on public land, Bureau of Land Management, BLM, gold, mining, Julie Fishel, Christopher Sewall, Tim Coulter, Eric Cheyfitz, James Anaya, Newmont; "American Outrage"; Bullfrog Films

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