one knows by now that a group of armed, out-of-state white men have occupied buildings of the Malheur (which in French means, "misfortune") National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon. According to these men, what is at stake is nothing less than freedom: the freedom of the American individual to own and exploit private property.
However, an AP article of January 15 shows what is potentially most endangered in this standoff: Paiute tribal history, and besides that, the science of archaeology-- of knowing our past-- itself.
Carla Burnside, the staff archaeologist at the refuge, and Charlotte Rodrigue, Chairwoman of the Burns Paiute tribe, are both concerned that the occupiers will loot or damage the 4000 artifacts and maps that are kept on site for research.
The tribe works extensively with federal officials on archaeological projects undertaken there. In a letter to the US Fish and Wildlife service and the US attorney for Oregon, Billy Williams, Rodrigue has asked that the occupiers be prosecuted if they steal or damage any of the artifacts, or damage an y of the ancient tribal sites shown on the maps.
"All I want is that our past be respected, that things don't go by the wayside, that they're not destroyed by cattle," Rodrigue said in a telephone interview with AP.
HOW DOES BUNDY WANT THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES HANDLED?
Ryan Bundy, one of the leaders of the occupation, said people interested in archaeology are welcome to explore the refuge, but that cattle ranchers and loggers should have priority when it comes to land use.
"Before white man came, so to speak, there was nothing to keep cattle from tromping on those things," Bundy said.
Though some countries had domesticated cattle 10,000 years ago, the animals came to the United States with European settlers.
"We also recognize that the Native Americans had the claim to the land, but they lost that claim," Bundy said. "There are things to learn from cultures of the past, but the current culture is the most important."
This last section is the most important. I have been trying to come to conclusions about this occupation as it has unfolded. Once, decades ago, I associated with a group that, while not reaching the level of organization of a militia, was a group of armed men and women in a rural area spanning a couple of counties who had commonly concluded that in the case of martial law and suspension of democracy, we would fight for our land and families.
Most of us were Vietnam veterans and our wives and ol' ladies. Black Vietnam vets were members; this was not a racist all-white phenomenon. I would be part of any such local organization if one were to present itself, which it surely does not where I live now.
But this occupation is not that. Nobody local is involved in it, as I understand it. If someone local was, I expect we would have heard about it in the press because of the firestorm of opposition he or she would face in their own community.
Democracy in the US, though definitely endangered by the CU ruling, and with the Sword of Damocles of a false flag attack always hanging over our heads because the neocon cabal that determines American foreign policy has shown that it is capable of it already in the Ukraine and elsewhere, is not going to be suspended as a result of US federal land use and ownership policy.
This section is not stated in the language of White Aryan Resistance or the National Socialist White People's Party (the American Nazi Party renamed after the death of George Lincoln Rockwell, the founder), the two most extreme American white supremacist organizations I can think of. But it is truly difficult to conceive a more brutal combination of white supremacy and atavistic economic determinism than the last paragraph of Ryan Bundy's explication of his attitude, his slant, on "The People" possessing the country.
Loggers (I was a logger and sawmiller at the time I was involved with the sub-militia group) and miners should be able without hindrance to completely depreciate all non-renewable resources. Cattlemen should have as close to an open range as, well, as private businessmen can negotiate among themselves. And the Native Americans lost their claim. That's Mr. Bundy's attitude, and plainly stated, too.
This sounds like the reductio ad absurdum of libertarianism, and a case study in Social Darwinism thrown in for good measure. Bundy ignores the fact that the way the Native Americans "lost their claim" was through hundreds of broken treaties and outright military invasion and occupation.
I understand that these occupiers are not, by any psychological or legal standard, crazy. They are appropriate in affect and effect. But there is a stunning lack of thinking-through going on in their minds, it is clear. And as Bundy's comment about "cattle tromping" illustrates without saying it (so I will say it), a hefty supply of ignorance.
Thus, I also understand why, unlike the government's response to the Branch Davidians, these occupiers have not been stormed or even blockaded in until they get hungry and are prepared to negotiate their safe passage out of the Refuge and out of the county. They might not be crazy, but they might act erratically because of their attitude, and because there may be individuals who are more erratic (or more fanatic) than others among them.
Of course, it is to be remembered that in 1995, the FBI aborted a frontal assault on the white supremacist compound in Oklahoma called Elohim City, with whom Timothy McVeigh was associated because (according to the suppressed testimony of the BATF/FBI infiltrator at the McVeigh trial) the compound was heavily armed, with explosives and heavy weapons, and the government invaders would take significant casualties. So not acting decisively against groups of heavily armed white men is completely in line with federal policies since at least the Clinton Administration.
The Bundyistas are putting their chips on what I see as the analogue to the "peculiar institution" that North and South fought the Civil War over: unregulated capitalism-- or at least the unregulated right to private property. And presuming to say that the onmarch of capitalism is RIGHT, and to be acquiesced to by all concerned (presumably including the Paiutes most affected), because it is "current." I don't even think the Koch brothers would use that justification.
The sheriff is right. They should pack up and leave. Heck, they've been invited to, apparently, without prosecution, as long as they don't hurt the artifacts.
Eventually, I predict they will leave en masse. I just don't see "martyr" written on Ryan or Ammon Bundy's faces.
I think all he really wants is the right of the American exceptionalist to make money any way he wants, and personally own the land the BLM is currently in charge of. I believe they will go away, and live to fight some other day.
My name is William Perkins Homans the third, but probably more people know me as the bluesman (and artist) Watermelon Slim.
I've been in the fight against war, fascism, injustice and inhumanity for 47 years. I was at MayDay, 1971, and at the moratorium March the week before. I was one of the leaders of the Great New Jersey (more...)