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The armed ranchers occupying a wildlife refuge in rural Oregon are demanding the federal government relinquish land they say is the rightful property of private American citizens.

The Burns Paiute tribal council, the American Indian tribe that lives near the refuge, has other ideas about to whom the land really belongs.


In a press conference Wednesday, Fox News reported, Burns Paiute tribal leader Charlotte Rodrique said she "had to laugh" at the ranchers' demand that the Malheur Wildlife Refuge be given back to "local residents," because she knew they were not talking about giving the land to the tribe.

The 13,700-acre Burns Paiute Reservation sits just north of the refuge, but tribal members consider the entire nearby area part of their ancestral land, Fox reported:

The tribe has guaranteed access to the refuge for activities that are important to their culture, including gathering a plant used for making traditional baskets and seeds that are used for making bread. The tribe also hunts and fishes there.

Jarvis Kennedy, a tribal council member, said: "We don't need these guys here. They need to go home and get out of here

Here's a map showing where the ranchers are holed up, and the Burns Paiute's formal reservation seat.

Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 1.44.39 PM

In a corresponding op-ed in the New York Times Thursday, Rodrique blasted the premise for the ranchers' actions.


"I am not sympathetic when I hear that a group of armed individuals want territory we have lived on for thousands of years to be 'returned' to the 'people of Oregon,'" she wrote. "I’ve certainly had the urge to yell and demand for respect of our ancestral land, but these individuals certainly aren't speaking for us, let alone the ranchers, who have rejected their support."

She also needled the group for its apparent lack of preparation.

"Had the Paiute staged a similar occupation, we wouldn't have needed to ask for snacks or winter socks. (Roots and berries hit the spot and rabbit fur is remarkably warm.)"


Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.

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