The leader of a Native American tribe in Oregon chuckled at the fact that Ammon Bundy and his Citizens for Constitutional Freedom group are demanding the federally controlled land at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge be returned to locals.
Charlotte Rodrique said she “had to laugh” at that request because she knows he isn’t talking about her tribe, which considers the land sacred, The Associated Press reported.
Rodrique, the leader of the Burns Paiute tribe, said the armed occupiers who took over the refuge Saturday are not welcome and have no rights to the property in a Wednesday press conference.
“The protesters have no right to this land. It belongs to the native people who live here,” Rodrique said, adding the occupiers are “desecrating one of our sacred sites” with their presence.
At first, the native leader said she could relate to their grievances — as her tribe had been removed from the land before — but disagreed with their armed approach.
“I just think they’re a bunch of glory hounds,” Rodrique told Reuters. “Look at us, look at what we’re doing.’ I don’t give much credence to their cause.”
The armed occupation of the refuge entered its sixth day on Thursday. On Saturday, about two-dozen armed protesters broke into the refuge’s unoccupied building and refused to leave. It followed a march in protest of new prison sentences for two ranchers who were convicted and previously served time for setting fire to federal grazing land.
Those two ranchers, — Dwight Hammond, 73, and Steven Hammond, 46, — reported to prison Monday, Reuters reported. A judge ruled in October that their prior terms for the arson — three months for the father and one year for the son — were too short under federal law. They will now serve about four more years each.
The Hammonds said they set fires in 2001 and 2006 to stop invasive plants from spreading on their ranch, which is adjacent to the refuge near Burns, Oregon, according to The Associated Press. Prosecutors said the Hammonds set the fire to cover up poaching in the area.
The group of anti-government protesters — which is calling itself Citizens for Constitutional Freedom — believes the Hammonds have been treated unfairly and exposed to double jeopardy for having to serve multiple sentences. They’re demanding that federal lands be turned over to local authorities and that the Hammonds be freed.
Local authorities have made no attempt to reclaim the refuge. The local sheriff pleaded with the occupiers to “go home,” and other residents haven’t seemed pleased with their takeover, either. The Hammonds have tried to distance themselves from the militia, saying through their attorney that the group didn’t speak for them.
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