The armed militia members occupying a federally owned wildlife outpost in eastern Oregon have demanded that the land be “returned” to them. But who really has claim to this forest? We speak with Jacqueline Keeler, a writer and activist of Dineh and Yankton Dakota heritage who wrote about the 2014 Bundy ranch standoff for The Nation and is now working on a new piece which in part examines the history of the Paiute tribe’s treaty rights to the forest currently occupied by the nearly all-white militia.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. The Obama—we’re going to talk for a moment about the land dispute that’s going on in Oregon. Jacqueline Keeler is with us. We are going to turn to the issue now of land rights. The armed militia members have demanded that the land be, quote, “returned” to them. But who really has a claim to this area?
We’re joined in Portland, Oregon, by Jacqueline Keeler. She’s a writer and activist of Dineh and Yankton Dakota heritage who wrote about the 2014 Bundy ranch standoff for The Nation magazine and is now working on a new piece, which in part examines the history of the Paiute tribe’s treaty rights to this very forest currently occupied by the nearly all-white militia.
Jacqueline, it’s great to have you on with us from Portland. Can you talk about what you found so far? Tell us the history of this area in eastern Oregon.
JACQUELINE KEELER: Yes. Well, I’d like to start off saying that today, in January, this is the 137th anniversary of when 500 Paiutes were loaded onto wagons and walked, under heavy armed guard, from their—from the lands where the Bundys are right now holding it and to the Yakama Reservation in Washington state, some 300 miles, knee-deep in snow. And they were forced to march, shackled two by two. And so, that’s some of the background there.
AMY GOODMAN: And then, continue. Take us through to today. What happened to this land? How did it change hands?
JACQUELINE KEELER: Well, the area called the—now called the Malheur, it was called the Malheur Reservation, and it actually constituted nearly 1.7 million acres of land. But with incursions from white settlers, they basically pressured the federal government to open it up to settlement. And so, in 1876, President Grant did that. And then, after there was an uprising with the Bannock Indian War in 1878, due to issues of starvation and deprivation in the middle of winter again, the Bannock and the Paiute rose up, and then that’s when they were force-marched out of the area and lost most of the land. I mean, they actually were allowed to return five years later, but they didn’t really have a land base. So they were working for local ranchers and—until 1928, when the Egan Land Company gave the Burns Paiute 10 acres of land just outside the city. And the land was an old city dump, which the Indians cleaned and drilled a well to make ready for houses.
AMY GOODMAN: When you were writing about the Cliven Bundy standoff in 2014, you wrote, “If the Nevada rancher is forced to pay taxes or grazing fees, he should pay them to the Shoshone.” Explain.
JACQUELINE KEELER: Yes. The Shoshone—most of Nevada is actually covered under the Treaty of Ruby Valley, and that was signed 1863. And it did allow for passage, you know, of military and also settlers crossing the land. But it did not give up any land. So, the Shoshone have never officially signed a treaty to give up land.
AMY GOODMAN: Jacqueline Keeler, I want to thank you for being with us—just a little bit of history is always helpful—writer and activist of Dineh and Yankton Dakota heritage. Her forthcoming book is titled Not Your Disappearing Indian. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we turn now to our next segment.