The tribe was promised the land in and around the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by treaty that was negotiated in 1868. But the Senate never ratified the agreement and the federal government ended up taking all 1.78 million acres.
"We as a tribe view that this is still our land no matter who's living on it," Chairwoman Charlotte Rodrique said at a press conference on Wednesday, The Oregonian reported.
Tribal leaders are worried that the armed group is damaging sacred, cultural and other sites at the refuge. About 20 people have been occupying the land since Saturday.
By Charlotte Rodrique
We were forcefully removed from this land (and much more) over the course of numerous bloody disputes. Negotiated ownership terms that came later—first agreed upon, but not ratified, in a peace treaty with the government in 1868—were mostly ignored and unenforced, as ranchers and mining operators pushed further into Paiute territory over the following decades.
Our access to traditional lands has steadily eroded ever since, but the Malheur sanctuary, which is about 30 miles from our reservation, is of great cultural value to us still. Today, the Burns Paiute has a good relationship with the federal employees who work there: They have been a protector of our artifacts and history, which include petroglyphs and many natural resources that are culturally relevant to our needs. We can’t hunt on the parkland, of course, but tribal people still have a right to go in and gather certain plants, such as willow and tule.
Again, who owns the land?
Q&A: For Native Community, Irony and Shaky Claims in Oregon Standoff
By Anna Challet
It shows a lot of ignorance that most Americans have about the shaky nature, legally speaking, of the authority that the U.S. government has over the land it purports to own. It goes back to the Doctrine of Discovery, which was formulated by the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court … when a discovering Christian nation sets foot on land in the Americas, the title to that land immediately reverts to that discovering nation, and for the Native people, the indigenous people, their title disappears.
The indigenous people in the Americas are the only people in the world who do not possess fee simple title to their land. The Supreme Court has cited the Discovery doctrine as recently as 2005 as still being the law of the land, in a case between the city of Sherrill, New York and the Oneida Nation.
By Jacqueline Keeler
And he has since admitted he knows very little about them.
When he charged into town proclaiming he was "getting ranchers back to ranching, getting the loggers back to logging, getting the miners back to mining" the "original owners" he was thinking about? Without a doubt they were European Americans like himself.
But in fact, it is the Burns Paiute Tribe and other Northern Paiute tribes who are the "original owners" and possess the strongest legal claim to the land, particularly to the wildlife refuge which was once part of their former Malheur Indian Reservation. A 1.78 million acre reservation that was later opened to white settlement after the Paiute and another tribe, the Bannock, facing starvation rose up against settler depredations.