When snackless invaders claimed Oregon’s federally controlled Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and Bird Sanctuary in the name of private citizens last week, they were met with loud guffaws from Native Americans, A.K.A. the indigenous peoples of this continent. The anti-government-protesting Bundy Brothers, holed up at the wildlife refuge, insist they will not leave until the land is “returned to its rightful owners,” but they aren’t talking about Oregon’s Northern Paiute tribe.
“Don’t tell me any of these ranchers came across the Bering Strait,” said tribal chairperson Charlotte Rodrique at a press conference this Wednesday. “We were here first.”
The Paiutes have lived in that part of Oregon for more than 13 Centuries. In the 1800s, trappers, traders and ranchers began filtering in. The wildlife refuge and bird sanctuary are part of a reservation generously ceded to the tribe by the federal government in 1868 after they were pushed out of most of their land by the settlers under the auspices of the federal government and from which they were subsequently pushed out after a Paiute uprising in 1878.
The refuge, long considered a sacred space by the Paiute, is not part of the tribe’s current reservation. Following the failed Paiute rebellion, the land was controlled by various federal agencies until 1907 when the Malheur National Forest was consolidated into a reserve. It has never been in the private ownership of any U.S. citizen.
The Bundy’s believe the land should be “returned” [sic] from federal to state and private control to get the “loggers back to logging” and the “ranchers back to ranching,” according to Ammon Bundy.
“The best possible outcome is that the ranchers that have been kicked out of the area will come back and reclaim their land, and the wildlife refuge will be shut down forever, and the federal government will relinquish such control,” Bundy said. The Native Americans, who insist they were there first, could have warned the desperate and hungry militia about the typical result of standoffs with the federal government over land issues.
“They just need to get the hell out of here,” said tribal council member Jarvis Kennedy.
“Them damn injuns,” said one Bundy supporter in the crowd milling about the media near the scene of the standoff. This was followed by admonitions and lessons in proper vernacular, followed by a scuffle and subsequent scattering of the crowd as the police arrived. An animal rights activist on the scene suggested that the land belongs to the animals and birds in the refuge and that the original inhabitants were the herds of animals that roamed before the Native Americans arrived.
The indigenous people of North America are considered to have arrived over 10,000 years ago. There is no general consensus on who owned the land prior to that. Research by writer Graham Hancock suggests that the land originally belonged to an earlier “lost” civilization, the descendants of which have yet to be identified. Others point to the dinosaurs as being the original inhabitants and say when we begin cloning the sauropods they may very well stake a claim.
The infamously transient birds do not seem concerned with who their landlord is. They don’t have to pay rent. It says so in the Bible.