• Liz Venerable

America’s Oldest Past-time: The Fight Over Land

Photo courtesy of i.guim.co.uk

On January 2, 2016, 26 armed American citizens, named the “Oregon Militia” by various media outlets like CNN, seized the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County, Oregon. This take-over was led by rancher Ammon Bundy, who believed that the United States Forest Service (USFS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and other agencies are constitutionally required to turn over most of the federal public land they manage to the individual states.

If the USFS or BLM was to turn over federal public land, then individuals or private companies could buy this land and do whatever they wanted on it. For example, if the land was a public park, then these private companies could demolish the park and build a hotel. The Oregon Militia occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge building for 41 days before the Oregon Militia surrender to the FBI. After the take over and surrender, 26 militants were arrested and indicted for federal felony conspiracy offenses and other individual charges. One militant was killed while resisting arrest and one militant was wounded before being arrested.

As of August 15, 12 militants have pleaded guilty. However, on October 27, a federal jury acquitted seven of the defendants, including militant leader Ammon Bundy. The acquittal shocked most of the nation – especially those who are following the Standing Rock Sioux and the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) situation.

Photo courtesy of DemocracyNow.org

Standing Rock is a group of protesters who are fighting to stop the DAPL from being built on a part of a reservation. The land is a source of water and is viewed as sacred land for the Sioux Tribe. You can read more about Standing Rock and the DAPL situation here.

In comparison, Standing Rock and the Oregon Militia are two groups of people fighting to control how the land they live on is treated. However, this is where the seminaries end because unlike the Oregon Militia, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe actually owns its land, the protesters for Standing Rock are not armed and they have not taken over a government building.

Unfortunately, this is not the only difference between the Standing Rock protesters and the Oregon Militia. The Standing Rock protesters have been attacked with dogs, smoke bombs and mace, while the Oregon Militia during the first few weeks were allowed to come and go from the refuge at will. The Oregon Militia were armed, yet the unarmed Standing Rock protesters were handled worst by law enforcement even though they initially engaged in peaceful protests.

Photo courtesy of MotherJones.com

Another difference is that the Oregon Militia is a militant group and the Standing Rock protesters are just that: protesters. According to the Oxford Dictionary, a militant is someone who is engaged in a war or who acts aggressively for his or her cause. If you are militant in your beliefs, you do not question them any more than a soldier questions his orders. While on the other hand, the definition of protester is a person who publicly demonstrates opposition to something; a demonstrator.

Overall, it is disappointing to know that in 2016, the people who lived in America before anyone else still have to fight over land that was taken from them, then given back through a treaty in the 1800’s, only to be taken again.

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