Albert Bender: Occupied land still belongs to Burns Paiute Tribe

A view of the Steens Mountains from the Buena Vista Overlook located in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. Photo by Jeff Sorn / Oregon Department of Transportation via Flickr

Albert Bender, a member of the Cherokee Nation, looks at the history of mistreatment of the Burns Paiute Tribe as an armed group continues its occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon:
In this case the land in question belongs to the Paiute people whose occupancy goes back 15,000 years. We must look at the historical background.

The occupied land of the wildlife refuge is comprised of 187,000 acres and was the 19th century Malheur Indian Reservation. This was under the Treaty of 1868, which was never ratified by Congress. Because of this technical shortcoming, the reservation was formally established in 1872 by order of President Ulysses S. Grant.

But white settlers began encroaching on the reservation as soon as it was established. They began requesting boundary changes to the reservation that would reduce Indian land. Grant, under heavy pressure from the land-hungry, Indian-hating settlers, opened for white settlement areas of the reservation on the northern shores of Malheur Lake. This was a severe blow to the Paiute people who gathered important food resources from that area. Conflict increased between Indian and white leading to the Bannock War of 1878.

In January 1879, captured Paiutes and Bannocks were removed in knee-deep snow, many in shackles, from the Malheur Reservation to the Yakama Reservation, 350 miles to the north in present-day Washington state. One group reportedly force-marched by U.S. soldiers simply disappeared. They were never found.

Jubilant at the Indian removal, ranchers and settlers swarmed into the reservation, grazing their herds on the best meadowlands (ultimately upsetting the delicate ecological balance). The U.S. Army did next to nothing to remove these trespassers from Indian land. In fact, the federal government did a complete about face and at the behest of the Indian agent "discontinued" the reservation in October 1879.

Get the Story:
Albert Bender: “We were here first”: Occupied Oregon land still belongs to Paiute tribe (People's World 1/13)

Another Opinion:
Brian Ward: Who does Malheur belong to? (Socialist Worker 1/13)

Also Today:
Fervor in Oregon Compound and Fear Outside It (The New York Times 1/13)
Oregon standoff: Militants say they'll reveal exit plan Friday (The Oregonian 1/12)
Militants Use Government Computers To Create Own Website (Oregon Public Broadcasting 1/12)

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Jacqueline Keeler: Paiute ancestors were forced on Trail of Tears (1/8)
Peter d'Errico: Armed White men invade Indian lands in Oregon (1/8)
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Charlotte Rodrique: Land rightfully belongs to Burns Paiute Tribe (1/7)
Burns Paiute Tribe tells armed group to leave ancestral territory (1/7)
Burns Paiute Tribe not happy with armed group on ancestral land (1/6)
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