Thursday January 07, 2016

Native tribe to Oregon militia: 'We claim this land'

Charlotte Rodrique, the chairwoman of the federally recognized Burns Paiute Tribe

Charlotte Rodrique, the chairwoman of the federally recognized Burns Paiute Tribe (Jim Urquhart/REUTERS)

Listen 6:58

An Oregon native tribe has some harsh words for the militia group that has taken over a wildlife refuge. The Burns Paiute tribe says the land in question belongs to them and the armed ranchers should stand down.

"I don't think they're representative of the Hammond's or the community," Charlotte Rodrique, chairperson of the tribe, told As It Happens guest host Helen Mann. "They're just people trying to come in and make a name for themselves."

oregon militia standoff

Burns Paiute tribe chair Charlotte Rodrique addresses reporters during a press conference in response to the armed occupation of the nearby Malheur National Wildlife Refuge (Manuel Valdes/AP)


Rodrique also questions the ranchers motives. "They're just trying to take a stand for their cause, which is being against the federal government."

'We claim it. Aboriginal. People native to this land.' -  Charlotte Rodrique

The group occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge are protesting the federal government's use of the land and have stated they're not leaving.

Rodrique doesn't mince words when asked who the land belongs to. "We claim it. Aboriginal. People native to this land. People with a 15,000 year history in the area. It's our aboriginal territory."

Oregon Ammon Bundy militia Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

Ammon Bundy, leader of an armed anti-government militia, speaks at a news conference at the entrance to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters near Burns, Oregon (Rob Kerr/AFP/Getty)

During a press conference, Ammon Bundy, the leader of the militia group occupying the reserve, was asked about the Burns Paiute stance and he replied by saying while he didn't know much about their claim to the land, he would like to see them "free from the federal government."

The Burns Paiute Tribe disagrees with the militia's tactics and wants them out. Rodrique, however, emphasizes this isn't a story of "Cowboys and Indians".

"I would like them to leave. Leave things alone. You know, we have established over 25 years, the beginnings of a good working relationship with the surrounding communities."

The Burns Paiute Tribe news conference0:36

She also says the harsh weather conditions may be taking a toll on the ranchers.

"I think they're having a hard time because you can't run around the corner to the bakery to get doughnuts and they're asking for snacks."

Rodrique describes the tribal way "We shared with the people who passed through...If somebody comes to my house and they're cold, I'm going to give them a coat. I'm going to give them a blanket. Whatever, to help them."

Asked whether she would throw a blanket on the militia group's leader, Rodrique replies "I would go down there and show him how to make a rabbit blanket so that he can keep warm."