January 29, 2016

LaVoy Finicum's Last Video

There are literally tens of thousands of blog posts, news op-eds, academic opinion essays, and so on floating around the internet right now filled with hatred and contempt for the Citizens for Constitutional Freedom and their takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. As I reported a couple days ago ("LaVoy Finicum Killed, Bundy Brothers Arrested"), their leadership has now been decimated. This puts both the immediate and distant future of the movement in extreme doubt.

Many news organizations are now using LaVoy Finicum's YouTube videos to call this movement racist and accuse them of being disrespectful to the traditions and heritage of the Paiute People who once controlled the land around this wildlife refuge. There is even a museum on the refuge site dedicated to the Paiute Tribe. As the CCF inspected the site, they found thousands of Paiute artifacts in poor storage conditions, so naturally LaVoy Finicum made a video about it (Jan 20, Native American Artifacts). Organizations like the Huffington Post and Daily Kos are holding this video up as proof that the CCF leadership treated these artifacts in a disrespectful manner. The video itself is clearly a shoutout to the Paiute People, lamenting the poor storage conditions and asking them to open negotiations to create better storage conditions or even return the artifacts to the tribe. LaVoy Finicum's last video communicates the disappointment and frustration of the CCF at the extremely negative reaction they received from the Paiute People.

I grew up in California. Beyond a handful of brief, bloody battles that were small in comparison with the experiences of the plains tribes, natives in California were mostly left to their own devices. Small pox killed far more of them than battle. Even beyond small pox, starvation at the hands of the Spanish who controlled California early on is responsible for an untold number of native deaths. The Spanish declared all the tribes "Christian" without ever approaching them and offering Christianity as an alternative to their native beliefs. When Spanish soldiers, all of whom were Catholic by the way, went out into the land and encountered natives, any who did not declare for Christ were imprisoned in the "missions" and "educated" until they starved to death or converted. A very small number of Spanish soldiers, settlers, and even priests objected to this practice and either offered refuge to native groups or married into them, giving them the same rights and legal prerogatives as Spanish citizens.

I am not familiar with the history of the Paiutes in the Harney Basin, but according to Wikipedia,

"Because of its climate it received sparse white settlement and was largely left to the Paiute until the late 19th century. Settlement pressures and conflicts with the Paiute in other areas of Oregon caused President Ulysses S. Grant in 1872 to create a reservation for the Paiute encompassing Malheur Lake and much of the basin. Growing settlement pressures, in particular the discovery of gold in the surrounding mountains, as well as the interest of white settlers to form ranches in the region, caused the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to abruptly terminate the reservation in 1879. The Northern Paiute would survive virtually landless until obtaining tracts of land near Burns in 1935."

This confuses me to no end. The federal government has clearly not been a friend to the Paiute People. Not even a tiny bit. Clearly the federal government has been a great source of antagonism and oppression, simply removing them from their land and leaving them homeless from 1879 to 1935. And yet, for some reason when the CCF offered them respect and consideration, the Paiute People responded with anger and disdain. Many of the liberal news outlets are gleeful in their echoing of how the Paiute People are demanding the federal government remove the CCF from the Malheur Wildlife Refuge immediately using whatever force is necessary to do so. This is Paiute land, not American government land. This entire issue began with ranchers objecting to the federal government trying to drive them out of the Harney Basin through coercion and astronomical increases in grazing fees. Why would the Paiute People not be willing to at least talk to the CCF and see what plans they have, if any, for the future of the Harney Basin?

Maybe I am unrealistic, possibly even delusional, but it seems to me that an excellent conclusion to this standoff would be for the Paiute People and the CCF to negotiate some kind of peaceful coexistence that sees the Harney Basin returned to the Paiute People with some allowance made for the ranchers. Such a negotiation could easily conclude with the grazing fees being paid to the Paiute People rather than the faceless bureaucracy of the BLM, with Paiute People even returning to live in the Harney BAsin to pursue ranching, farming, or eco-tourism. Local control that involved both Paiute representatives and representatives from the local ranchers, with all revenue raised on the land being collected directly by the Paiute People, would be a win-win situation for everyone and would remove the BLM from the situation entirely. Why is this idea not even open for discussion?

Sometime in the very near future the remaining members of the CCF will be removed from the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. This removal might happen gradually and peacefully, or it might end with a bloody firefight. At this point, either conclusion is possible. In both cases, the Harney Basin will pass back into the full control of the BLM, with both the Paiute People and the local ranchers being denied any future involvement. Instead, radical conservation groups filled with individuals who have never set foot in the Harney Basin and who will never visit the Harney Basin, will enter into negotiation with the BLM and the Department of the Interior to bring about a "sustainable" future. Why has nearly two-thirds of our land been given over to people who have no interest in the land itself, who have never seen it, and who never will see it? Why are academics, activists, and politicians being allowed to exclusively define a "sustainable" future for American wilderness areas that they have no interest in visiting, exploiting, or maintaining? Why has "sustainable" come to mean allowing a return to paleolithic chaos where the land is allowed to experience massive, uncontrolled plunges between complete devastation by annual fires and cyclical extinctions?

Does no one understand that "sustainable" and "natural" are not mutually exclusive? Historically, the most biodiversity and best longevity are always experienced in lands where humans and nature work together to bring out the best in both. This kind of genuine sustainability cannot be achieved by abstract academic theories or distant management by bureaucrats who never seen the consequences of their decisions. Genuine sustainability can only be achieved through intelligent local control over both management of the land and exploitation of the available natural resources.

Mark my words, this 29th of January 2016, within half a century America's wilderness will be handed over to Chinese, Russian, European, and Australian mega-corporations for profiteering and massive destruction. The only way to prevent this apocalypse is to return American wilderness to local control by local people who have a vested interest in both living off the available resource base and passing that resource base on to their heirs. Some destruction will still occur, because some people are short-sighted, but this destruction will be minor compared to what is coming in the very near future if the federal government retains control over the people's wilderness.

America's natural lands need much less federal control and far more of this:
Local Farmers Earn Clean Water Awards