The Burns Paiute Tribe has inhabited Oregon for 6,000 years. Including the part of Oregon located inside the Malheur National Wildlife refuge, where armed white militants are currently engaged in a standoff with the federal government over the ownership of the federally-controlled land they're holding hostage. The tribe has a few thoughts about that.
"They just need to get the hell out of here," Jarvis Kennedy, a member of the tribal council, said in a press conference on Wednesday, according to a report from The Oregonian. "They didn't ask anybody, we don't want them here...our little kids are sitting at home when they should be in school."
The Oregonian explains that "the tribe once occupied a large swath of land that includes the Malheur National Wildlife refuge," which they used as a wintering ground until they were forced out by white settlers in the 1870s. Now, about 200 people live in the Burns Paiute Reservation, which is 30 miles away from Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters. The tribe works with the federal government to preserve important archaeological sites on the reserve, which they worry could be damaged by the militants.
“We never gave up our aboriginal rights to the territory, so we as a tribe actually view this as our land, no matter who is living on it,” said Charlotte Rodrique, a tribal chair. “Armed protesters don’t belong here.”
Although the tribe indicated that it was satisfied with the federal government's response to the militants so far, some members couldn't help but wonder whether Native Americans would receive the same kind of treatment if they were ever to assert their actual rights to the land using similar tactics.
"I wonder if it was bunch of natives that went out there and overtook that, or any federal land," Jarvis Kennedy said. "Would they let us come into town and get supplies and re-up?"