Standing Rock and Malheur

Like many, I am distressed about recent events in North Dakota and Malheur. I agree with Bill McKibben that the pipeline’s original route, above Bismarck, N.D. was changed to a route away from the white power structure and to one that might endanger tribal people and others downstream who just maybe would not pay attention–or at least do not have the power that Bismarck, the oil companies, and the labor unions have.

I agree with those who wonder what the FBI was doing with the Malheur prosecution. Why the conspiracy charges, difficult to prove, when the plain view infractions–trespassing, destruction of federal property and destruction and desecration of Indian sites–were many?

I agree with those who say that white privilege prevails, and that the Indians are being used and abused once again.

I reread what I had written about Malheur and “ownership” of the land in January. Ownership of and responsibility for the land, the water, and all that lives Read The Article

Thinking like a Paiute

I first heard about “Paiute forestry” twelve or fifteen years ago, when we spent a Winter Fishtrap weekend at Wallowa Lake talking about fire. Paiute foresters were Westerners who had picked up on the Indian practice of regular, low level burning of forestlands to keep shrubs and dense regeneration under control.

Indians had learned over millennia that regular fire ensured abundant grasses and root crops as well as easy travel. After the Plateau tribes got horses, about 1730, the grasses were especially welcome. But by 1920 the Forest Service, dominated by European and Eastern, Yale-trained foresters, thought the practice “wasteful,” and derisively dubbed its advocates who worked for the Forest Service “Paiute foresters.”

The Forest Service emerged as a separate entity in 1905. The new agency would manage “forest reserves,” land that had already been withdrawn from the public domain in 1891, eventually to be supplemented by other lands—mostly Eastern forest remnants—purchased from the private sector for erosion control and Read The Article

The land owns the Paiutes

Yesterday, amid the blur of news stories from Burns and John Day about the confrontation between occupiers and law enforcement in this latest chapter of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge occupation, there was an NPR story from Nevada. A reporter and a Paiute tribal member were traveling the BLM ground once leased to Cliven Bundy but now, and for several years, not leased but still grazed by Bundy’s cattle. (Cliven’s sons were leaders in the Malheur occupation and among those arrested.)

The story from Nevada was one of fear and garbage—rangeland and fences left untended, BLM employees absent, and, in other places in Nevada, traveling in pairs with safety concerns. The thing that struck me hardest was when the radio team visited an ancient pictograph shattered by bullets from someone who did not care that they were ancient and sacred to Indians. In Oregon, Ammon Bundy was expressing similar distain for the past, saying that the grazing value on the Malheur Read The Article