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Tribe Denounces Malheur Refuge Occupation


Burns Paiute tribe chair Charlotte Rodrique addresses reporters during a press conference in response to the armed occupation of the nearby Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Burns, Ore., Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. A leader of the Oregon Indian tribe whose ancestral property is being occupied by an armed group opposed to federal land policy said Wednesday that the group is not welcome and needs to leave.

Burns Paiute tribe chair Charlotte Rodrique addresses reporters during a press conference in response to the armed occupation of the nearby Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Burns, Ore., Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. A leader of the Oregon Indian tribe whose ancestral property is being occupied by an armed group opposed to federal land policy said Wednesday that the group is not welcome and needs to leave.

Manuel Valdes/AP

The Burns Paiute Tribe has denounced the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Headquarters.

Tribal council members said Wednesday the militants are desecrating sacred traditional property and need to leave. The 190,000 acre wildlife refuge is within the Paiute tribes’ ancestral territory in Southeast Oregon.  

“Armed protesters don’t belong here.  By their actions, they are endangering one of our sacred sites,” said tribal Chair Charlotte Roderique.

Rodrique said she told a friend she was offended by the militants’ notion that they could return the refuge lands to their rightful owners.

“I’m sitting here trying to write an acceptance letter for when they return all this land to us,” Roderique said.  

“What if it was a bunch of natives that went out there and overtook that? Would they let us come into town and get supplies?” said Council member Jarvis Kennedy. “They just need to get the hell out of here. We don’t want them here.”

Ammon Bundy was asked about the tribe’s comments at a press conference at the wildlife refuge Wednesday.

“That is interesting,” Bundy said, responding to a reporter’s question. “They have rights as well. I would like to see them be free from the federal government as well. They’re controlled and regulated by the federal government very tightly and I think they have a right to be free like everybody else.”

The council said the tribe sees the wildlife federal managers of the refuge as good partners.

“We look at them as a protector of our cultural sites in that area,” Rodrique said.  She expressed concerns about the cultural artifacts in the refuge.

The Burns Paiute Reservation consists of about 1,000 acres near Burns. There are 420 enrolled members of the tribe, about half of whom live on the reservation. The location of the refuge was a wintering ground for the Paiute people before white settlers arrived.

Roderique describes the militants as “ramrodding their way through things and possibly being destructive.”

“This is still our land, no matter who is living on it,” Rodrique said.

She said she had not spoken directly to the Bundys.

“I wouldn’t dignify them with a meeting,” she said.

Roderique thinks law enforcement should cut the power to the refuge headquarters and wait out the occupiers.  

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