Ammon Bundy insists his Citizens for Constitutional Freedom is standing up for the little guy—the ranchers he thinks really own the Oregon sanctuary his group is occupying. But the Northern Paiute tribe, which the Washington Post says has hunted and fished on the land now inhabited by the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for more than 1,300 years, is underwhelmed by the protesters. "We as Harney County residents don't need some clown to come in here and stand up for us," tribal councilman Jarvis Kennedy said Wednesday, per KTVB. "Don't tell me any of these ranchers came across the Bering Strait and settled here," tribal chairwoman Charlotte Rodrique added. "We were here first." The refuge isn't technically part of the nearby Burns Paiute reservation, where the tribe was relegated to in 1868, the Post notes—but the Paiute say it's sacred ancestral land to which the refuge gives it access.
The Paiute also work with the Bureau of Land Management to preserve archaeological sites, and they're afraid Bundy and Co. will damage those, the Oregonian notes. Rodrique calls out the hypocrisy of the occupiers' beef with the government, noting to KTVB that most area ranchers regularly dip into federal money when it comes to drought and grazing subsidies and other funds to sustain their livelihoods. Law enforcement has so far been tiptoeing around the occupiers, which angers Kennedy. "I wonder if it was [a] bunch of natives that went out there and overtook that, or any federal land," he said, per the Oregonian. "Would they let us come into town and get supplies and re-up?" And he didn't mince words about what he thinks the occupiers should do next: "They just need to get the hell out of here." (Read a brief history of the Paiute in Oregon in the Washington Post.)