Trial opens into standoff on land stolen from Burns Paiute Tribe

The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. Photo by US Fish and Wildlife Service

Seven people are going on trial in connection with the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.

Anti-government protesters took over the refuge in January, contending the site should be "made available to its rightful owners, the people." They never fully acknowledged that the land was taken from the Burns Paiute Tribe in the late 1800s.

The tribe condemned the occupation, which ended in February after 41 days. The participants are facing numerous charges and some are accused of damaging cultural sites and archaeological sites at the refuge.

Two defendants in particular dug a road and a latrine in and near sacred areas of the refuge, according to an indictment. One latrine contained human waste, federal investigators said.

Those two defendants, though, are not scheduled to go to trial until February 2017, The Oregonian reported. The trial that begins on Tuesday includes ringleaders Ammon Bundy and Ryan Bundy, who are the sons of anti-government figure Cliven Bundy.

In total, 26 people were charged in connection with the standoff. Eleven pleaded guilty, including Eric Lee Flores, a member of the Tulalip Tribes, who admitted he aided the other defendants in the early days of the incident.

Additionally, all three Bundys are facing charges in connection with a different armed standoff in Nevada.

The land in and around the refuge was initially created as a 1.78 million-acre reservation for the Burns Paiute Tribe in 1872. The federal government forced the tribe's ancestors off the land and forced them to march to reservations in Washington following the Bannock War in 1878.

Some tribal members eventually returned to Oregon and found themselves as outcasts in their own homeland. A land claim was later settled by the Indian Claims Commission for just pennies on the dollar.

The tribe now resides on a much-smaller reservation of about 800 acres. Tribal members own more than 11,000 acres of allotments.

Read More on the Story:
Oregon standoff: Judge to admonish feds, but deny motion to suppress Facebook evidence (The Oregonian 9/12)
Oregon trial latest in long-running Western land dispute (AP 9/13)
Trial to Begin in Standoff at Oregon Wildlife Refuge (The New York Times 9/13)

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