On the very day that the so-called “militia” of white men took over the wildlife refuge building in Oregon, my son e-mailed me, “Imagine if a cadre of armed black men took over a federal building.”
I imagined. There would have been only bloody body parts left for their families to bury.
Contrast that imagined but likely reaction with the federal government’s actual cosseting of the criminal trespassers in Oregon’s high desert country.
Only when a fed-up Gov. Kate Brown demanded that the government take action against the arrogant criminals did the FBI bestir itself. An agent talked by telephone with Ammon Bundy, the bloviator-in-chief of the terrorist occupiers. Yep, the FBI actually talked to the bastards. The FBI agent — identified only as “Chris” — reportedly asked the criminals what it would take to end the occupation.
These redneck rogues have thumbed their noses at the law, the U.S. government and the local officials and citizenry ever since their armed takeover on Jan. 2. The citizenry has made it clear that they want the invaders to get the hell out of their business.
Public land use is a volatile issue in most of the west, where ranching and mining interests have had their way for so long that the other legitimate interests — recreation, the environment — have risked violence when they tried to restore balance. Here in New Mexico, crazies like the Bundy crowd toted automatic weapons to a courthouse and brandished them to intimidate people attending a public hearing on a proposed national monument. But in Harney County, OR, all the stakeholders have worked hard to craft compromises and peaceful solutions to the land use issues.
The stakeholders include the Paiute Indian tribe, whose ancestors owned much of the land whose use the trespassers are now trying to dictate. One of the terrorists, LaVoy Finicum, has posted a video on the internet of himself sifting through boxes of documents and artifacts belonging to the Paiute tribe. “We want to make sure these things are returned to their rightful owner,” said Finicum, who recently provoked the destruction of a Fish and Wildlife Service fence and the disabling of security cameras that he claimed the government was using for surveillance. From the outset, the Paiutes opposed the invaders.
The new Finicum video has enraged tribal leaders.They have called on the feds to protect native cultural resources at the refuge and to criminally prosecute the militiamen. “I feel disrespected that they’re even out there,” said Jarvis Kennedy, the tribal council’s sergeant-at-arms. Kennedy said he was too upset to watch all of Finicum’s video. “It’s like me going through the dresser drawers at their house.”
Tribal leaders say the refuge stores confidential documents and thousands of historic artifacts, such as baskets, spears, tools and beads. The refuge is also home to Paiute burial grounds, whose sacred status has been respected by the refuge management but is imperiled by the “militia” shenanigans.
“I could go to the Bundys where his grandparents are buried,” Kennedy said. “How would they feel if I drove over their grave and went through their heirlooms?”
Kennedy said the tribe has a good relationship with refuge officials and noted that the Paiute people refuse to communicate with militia leaders or visit the occupation. “I’m not going to give them the satisfaction of meeting with them,” Charlotte Rodrique, chairwoman of the Burns Paiute tribe, said last week.
Kennedy noted that the militiamen, with the tacit consent of so-called law enforcement, are free to come and go at the refuge. He said it would be easy for one of them to damage or steal their artifacts and documents. “All the stuff they are doing out there, it’s like a crime scene,” he said.
In fact, it IS a crime scene. One that everyone involved recognizes except for the federal government whose stewardship of our land — yours and mine — has been challenged by a lawless batch of gun-toting yahoos. It’s time to take our land back from them and treat them like the law-breakers they are. Now!