"What we're talking about in Nevada came under what they call the Western Shoshone Tribe, and it involved a treaty called the Treaty of Ruby Valley," said Means, an expert on broken treaties between the US and Indian nations. "And the local people said 'Look, we have a right to our land, rather than to be mined, rather than to be exploited and appropriated by the federal government through their various federal agencies, like the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and other bureaus. The Danns were acting legally under a treaty, but they were harassed, beaten, fined, and arrested for protesting the illegal government policies," he said. "All of a sudden now [in Oregon] we have sort of the same thing going on, only the Bundy clan is being made out to be heroes."
Morningstar also raised the issue of the double standard in the case of the Danns. "Carrie and Mary Dann were fighting for their grazing rights under the Treaty of Ruby Valley," she explained, "and the Treaty of Ruby Valley was a peace treaty that provided passage [for grazing], and they asserted their rights, and very much said that, you know, 'We're here, we've been here. We're not paying additional fees.' But the U.S. government came in during the middle of winter and started running [the Danns'] cattle and horses, by helicopter, and they were corralling them. Many of their livestock died. And these are not millionaire ranchers, these are two elderly Shoshone women. And so it's, again, very concerning and just outright horrendous, in terms of the way that the native people who are the true caretakers of the land are treated, compared to these millionaire ranchers who are provided with tax subsidies," said Morningstar.
In an act of desperation, and in the face of extreme brutality, the older brother of the Dann sisters actually set himself ablaze in front of a police roadblock, as captured in the documentary film "American Outrage." The website for the film describes Carrie and Mary Dann as two "feisty Western Shoshone sisters who have endured five terrifying livestock roundups by armed federal marshals in which more than a thousand of their horses and cattle were confiscated -- for grazing their livestock on the open range outside their private ranch."
The elder Dann's action, according to Morningstar, was indeed an act of extreme frustration, stemming from the fear of the loss of his very way of life. "There was at one point excessive force used by the BLM federal officers, and so they had ... they were twisting the arms, they were forcefully grabbing these elders, and it turned into a standoff at one point, where the elder [Dann] did say, 'This is my livelihood. This is all that I have.' And he ended up essentially lighting himself on fire at the time," said Morningstar. "The fire was put out, he was hospitalized, and then he was charged a fine on top of it, by the BLM, for emergency response to come out."
Leonard Peltier and the Bundys
"This February it will be 40 years of Leonard Peltier's imprisonment," lamented Morningstar. "He has ongoing serious health issues taking place right now. And we see just the gross mistreatment and dual standard when Indians stand up for their rights, and then to see the fact now that the Bundy occupiers are being called activists. They're being called protestors. They've even used the hashtag occupymalheurofthebirdrefuge. And so they're considering themselves to be now part of the Occupy movement," she said. "And they're able to come and go freely. They're seen in town and they're staying in motels. They are shopping at the local stores and eating at the local restaurants. They're very much able to come and go as they please. And yet we know that there's sensitive, classified material within the BLM office."
The local tribes have expressed their deep concerns to law enforcement, and repeatedly asked the Feds to take action, Morningstar said, but their requests have fallen on deaf ears. "The tribe has asked outright to cut off their power, cut off their electricity, so that they're not allowed to continue with this indiscretion. But the FBI's stance has very much been that they've been on standby."
"It's more than a little disturbing," said Bill Means, "this kind of condoning of the vigilantes. They actually believe that this is divine intervention, or manifest destiny. They actually believe it is their God-given right to take Indian land. And that's really what's going on. It's not about the Feds versus the state, states rights. It's about stealing Indian land."
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