NOTE FROM THE EDITOR
Dear readers, this an enlightening article about a part of the history of the United States land after it was taken from Native Americans during the Indian Wars, put on a government trust, and granted rights to use it to private corporations, such as the transcontinental railroad. Written by Steve Russell, of the Indian County publication, it will show you the real history of injustices committed against the real settlers of America. PART 2 of a series of two.
Confronting the Feds: Armed ranchers and peaceful native water protectors
by Steve Russell
In 2014, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy was the target of BLM enforcement action because he had failed to pay grazing fees for 20 years. Bundy claimed that if he owed grazing fees, he would owe the state of Nevada rather than the federal government in spite of a Civil War era “paramount allegiance” clause in the Nevada constitution. Bundy’s determination to continue fighting the Civil War intersected with the continuing Indian wars when Shoshone elders Carrie and Mary Dann met the same issue with peaceful civil disobedience.
In 1979, the Indian Claims Commission awarded the Western Shoshone $26 million in compensation for Shoshone lands lost to “settler encroachment” in violation of the Treaty of Ruby Valley. The Shoshone refused the money because they had never agreed to sell the land at any price.
The Dann sisters grazed their cattle on Shoshone treaty land without paying fees to the BLM, based on the Treaty of Ruby Valley, Art. VI of the Constitution, and a report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States.
In 1992 and again in 2002, the BLM rounded up the Dann sisters’ cattle and sold them for grazing fees. In 2014, the BLM rounded up 400 head of Cliven Bundy’s cattle for the same reason.
Before the cattle could be sold, armed “patriots” of the militia movement invoked Second Amendment remedies. They appeared on video sighting their assault rifles on BLM employees. Facing some 400 armed men promising a bloodbath, the BLM wisely decided that grazing fees were not worth anybody’s life. The feds gave the cattle back and stood down, resulting in major encouragement for the militia movement.
The next battle in the militia movement’s refighting of the Civil War also had a subtext of the Indian wars when Cliven Bundy’s sons Ammon and Ryan led an armed occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. Cliven Bundy announced by YouTube video that the federal government “has no jurisdiction or authority within the state of Oregon.”
The Bundys didn’t know or didn’t care that the Malheur Wildlife Refuge was formerly the Malheur Indian Reservation, established by order of President U.S. Grant for the Northern Paiute. Today, the Burns Paiute Reservation occupies a tiny part of what used to be the Malheur Reservation, and the Paiute tribal government has reached a modus vivendi with the park rangers at Malheur to protect Paiute sacred sites and allow ceremonies. Should the government close the wildlife refuge, possession does not revert to Oregon, but to the Paiutes.
Even after he had notice he was occupying Indian land, Ammon Bundy pleaded on YouTube for reinforcements and for supplies, claiming, “We’re going to be staying for several years.” Cliven Bundy chimed in with a video urging his supporters to go to Malheur and go armed.
Bundy’s call for reinforcements was in vain and the occupation ended with one militiaman dead, the leaders in custody, and the Bundy clan facing federal indictments for the actions against federal officers back in 2014.
Recently, another call for reinforcements went out on social media. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe claims that the Dakota Access Pipeline is crossing treaty lands and the Standing Rock water supply without the consultations to which the tribe is entitled.
The Sioux and their allies have been at what they call the Sacred Stone Spiritual Camp on land owned by a Standing Rock citizen, LaDonna Allard, since April.
Construction near Standing Rock started on August 10, and the next day about a dozen demonstrators were arrested trying to block the project, including Standing Rock Chairman David Archambault II. The call for reinforcements went out and, within a week, the Camp swelled from a few dozen people to over 2,500.
Archambault has made clear repeatedly that while direct action has become necessary, he and the rest of the leadership want nonviolent direct action. No weapons are allowed in the Camp.
The Indian wars continue as tribal peoples work to defend what little land and resources they have left, but they offer no violence to BLM employees, who inherited the historical injustice rather than causing it.
The descendants of settlers who could not have become ranchers without massive federal subsidies have now convinced themselves that the federal authority to set them up in business does not extend to charging them grazing fees, and over that they threaten to kill BLM employees and their contract cowboys.
The government subsidies for settlement of the west were premised on the faith that white settlers represented civilization and spreading that civilization justified encroachment on Indian treaty lands before the ink was dry on the treaties.
Over 150 years later, we can see how that worked out as the Standing Rock Sioux put their bodies in the way of a project across treaty land that threatens the water everybody drinks. The Indians have put down their weapons but they refuse to submit quietly to this latest outrage—while some of the settlers are prepared to shoot federal employees over collection of grazing fees.
In an interview with ICTMN, Standing Rock Chairman Archambault observed how, “Tribes across this nation are continually paying the costs for the benefits or gains of others.” He then related how the pipeline route was relocated away from Bismarck when the people there expressed concern for their drinking water.
He went on to describe the jobs and energy independence said to be good reasons for the pipeline:
“All of that is good as long as they don’t reap these benefits at our cost, but tribes across the nation see all the time, over and over, our lands reduced, our lands are inundated with floodwaters, and there’s no concern for tribes. This is another example of that.”
Chairman Archambault then reflected:
“It may seem hopeless sometimes, but it’s not. There’s a way to live life in a good way . . . without violence, and bring back our prayers and our peace . . . It’s important to know and understand that we have to remain a proud nation. There are a lot of wrongs that are done to us, and all those wrongs are never going to get an apology. But we have to move forward, and we have to forgive them.”
Explain once more, please, who represents civilization?