Burns Paiute Tribe Sounds Off About Oregon Standoff At Malheur Wildlife Center

Burns Paiute tribal leaders are concerned that participants at the Oregon standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge are going to steal Native American artifacts at the facility. Leaders maintain their "cultural rights" were respected by the government staffers, but worry important tribal materials inside could be destroyed during the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) protest.

Members of the Burns Paiute tribe are calling for Ammon Bundy and the other members of the Citizens for Constitutional Freedom group to go home. "We don't want you here," Oregon Native American leaders said in a public message to the Malheur wildlife refuge protesters, CNN notes.

The ownership upon which the land where Malheur National Wildlife Refuge sits has been in dispute for generations. The Burns Paiute tribe believes that the land still legally belongs to them because a treaty with the federal government was never ratified. About 130 years ago, members of the Paiute tribe were marched off the land where the refuge now sits by the U.S. Calvary. Tribal leaders note that scores of members were killed during the long march out off the land.

Although the tribe had fought the government to retrieve the land for generations, the majority of the 450 tribal members reportedly now feel the federal government is properly respecting and caring for their burial sites. The tribe was ultimately given about 10 acres of land that had been used as the city dump to build a community upon.

As previously reported by the Inquisitr, Bundy and the Citizens for Constitutional Freedom protesters believe they have found a paper trail which reveals an illegal land transfer between the federal government and the former private owners of the land. Farmers and ranchers had worked the land until the early 1900s. The protesting rancher, the son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, has stated multiple times that the group will remain at the refuge until a transparent and thorough investigation into historical deeds and ownership rights is conducted, and the land is transferred to local interests.

The Bureau of Land Management currently has control over approximately 50 percent of the land in the western United States. Increasing usage restrictions have caused a growing number of ranchers to protest the stringent regulations they maintain inhibit the raising of the very livestock which feeds the nation.

"We have good relations with the refuge. They protect our cultural rights there," said Burns Paiute Tribal Council Chairwoman Charlotte Rodrique, said.

Tribal council member Jarvis Kennedy had some stern words for Ammon Bundy and his fellow protester during a press conference held by the Burns Paiute leaders. In reference to police officials deciding against issuing arrest warrants and forcing the "Oregon Militia" off the land, Kennedy added, said, "We'd be already shot up, blown up or in jail. [If the tribe took over the land] Just being honest; they are used to killing us. They are white men. That is the difference. That is just how I see it."

"They just need to get the h**l out of here. To me they are just a bunch of bullies and little criminals coming in here and trying to push us around over here and occupy our aboriginal territories out there where our ancestors are buried."
Although some Harney County residents want the Citizens for Constitutional Freedom protesters to exit the Malheur wildlife refuge immediately, others are far more understanding and have shared food with the men inside the federal facility. Law enforcement officers have not confronted the group, some of which are armed.

"They woke everybody up, we appreciate that. I don't agree with all they are doing, but I don't agree with the government's doing either," 56-year Burns resident, Louis Smith, said about the occupation which began after Dwight Hammond and his son Steven Hammond were sent back to prison.

What do you think about the ongoing Oregon standoff and the comments by the Burns Paiute tribal leaders about the history of the land?

[Image via AP Photo/Manuel Valdes]