Environment | National

Jacqueline Keeler: Burns Paiute Tribe frustrated by armed group

The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. Photo from Facebook

The armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon entered another week as leaders of the Burns Paiute Tribe remain concerned for their safety and for the land that was promised to their ancestors, Jacqueline Keeler reports for Indian Country Today:
Yet more armed, white militants, members of the Pacific Patriots Network arrived in Burns, Oregon this weekend. They claimed to be there to prevent another Ruby Ridge or Waco by providing a buffer between Ammon Bundy, son of Nevada rancher who drove BLM officers off his land with guns in 2014, and law enforcement.

Carrying guns, they presented a resolution to the FBI and local law enforcement calling for the return of land to the people of Harney County—and surprisingly, recommended co-management with the Burns Paiute Tribe.

However, tribal council members expressed concerns about feeling unsafe with the arrival of more men with guns in their community. Tribal council secretary Wanda Johnson told ICTMN, “These people who have been intimidating our Indian men but they are unchallenged and they walk about town and our concern is if they could escalate things…we don’t want to see bloodshed or see anyone thrown in jail. We feel frustrated that these people can come and go in town and resupply. People are taking things out there and feeding them. Like they are out there in on an outing. It’s so frustrating.”

Some animosity towards Native people can be seen in the Harney County Committee of Safety, a local group Bundy started which refers to Natives as “savages" in their statement of purpose.

Tribal council member Jarvis Kennedy said, “Ask the tribes to send some prayers by us. We can try to solve this with that. We definitely got to keep our eyes open in town. Our employees [many are non-Native] are under threat themselves driving out in tribal vehicles and wearing our tribal emblems on their clothes and hats. We have a tribal member whose son is the chief of police in Burns. Even though he is a cop if something happens to him what are these young guys going to do.”

Johnson worries that, “There may be artifacts in that building taken and brought into town. They may be sold at auction or ground up and sold in China for medicinal use. There are a lot of graves sites and things in that whole area. There is information they can get in those buildings and pass on to duck hunters and such who could be digging those sites in the future…the refuge is underfunded and has only one officer to cover 187,000 acres that they are trying to protect.”

Get the Story:
Jacqueline Keeler: ‘We Don’t Want Bloodshed’: Armed White Militants in Oregon v. Paiute Tribe (Indian Country Today 1/12)

Also Today:
An Armed Occupation In Eastern Oregon (Oregon Public Broadcasting 1/12) Protesters Rip Out Fence at Refuge in Oregon (The New York Times 1/12)
Oregon standoff: Bundy, militants destroy fence at federal refuge (The Oregonian 1/11)
Oregon occupation planned for months by Ammon Bundy and Montana militia leader (The Oregonian 1/11)
Militia Digs in as Takeover Enters 2nd Week (Courthouse News Service 1/11)
With Militants Occupying Ancestral Land, Native Tribe Is 'Very Offended' (NPR 1/10)

Join the Conversation
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