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Jun 19, 21

How a Far-Right Network With Links to Law Enforcement is Working to Attack Tribal Treaty and Water Rights in Oregon

On this episode of the It’s Going Down podcast, we speak with Chuck Tanner of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights (IREHR) about the People’s Rights Network, a collection of far-Right activists led by Ammon Bundy, (who has just announced a run for governor of Idaho) famous for his role in a series of armed standoffs in various states alongside members of far-Right militia groups such as the Oath Keepers and the III%ers.

As the IREHR wrote:

A conflict is brewing in the Klamath River Basin in southern Oregon. Ammon Bundy, one of the far-right figures involved in the 2016 armed standoff at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge and his group, People’s Rights, have inserted themselves into the dispute over scarce water resources in the region that could lead to more armed conflict.

Severe drought has gripped the Klamath River Basin. A recurring problem in the irrigated high desert, the current round of limits on water for the Klamath Irrigation Project came April 14 when the Bureau of Reclamation (BoR) released its Klamath Project 2021 Temporary Operations Plan, announcing it would make an “initial minimum” allocation to the Klamath Irrigation Project of 33,000 acre-feet and provide some $15 million in immediate aid to the Klamath Project and $3 million in technical assistance to tribal ecosystem projects. The allocation is at an historic low.

The decision comes as tribes in the Lower Klamath Basin, including the Yurok and Karuk, are facing massive fish die-offs and emergency conditions in their fisheries; and the Klamath Tribes have expressed concern that BoR managed water levels in Klamath Lake be maintained to support its treaty-reserved fisheries.

As a result, water for irrigation has been curtailed. Unhappy with that decision, a group of local irrigators, some of who were involved in a similar conflict back in 2001, are trying to reopen the flow of the irrigation canal. They’ve aligned with Bundy’s People’s Rights network, and are now holding organizing meetings on the property next to the headgates to the canal. Grant Knoll, a Klamath Irrigation District board member and one of the irrigators who purchased the property to stage the big tent People’s Rights protests recently declared, “We’re going to turn on the water and have a standoff.”

Anti-Indigenous opposition from the People’s Rights Network to Native treaty and water rights has grown into a strong ideological component for their brand of far-Right politics. According to IREHR

Bundy completely dismissed [Native] rights, casting them in the conspiratorial terms that dominate his far-right, nationalist, and insurrectionary organization. For Bundy, anti-tribal politics and behavior are nothing new. The disregard for tribal rights endemic to his movement came into relief during the Bundy-led 2016 armed takeover of the Malheur wildlife refuge. The takeover took place in the homelands of the Burns Paiute Tribe, over objections from the tribe. Some of those in Bundy’s group damaged a tribal archaeological site, and two of the paramilitary occupiers were ordered to pay restitution to the tribe.

Also in our discussion, we map out the ideological origins of Ammon Bundy and by extension, the People’s Rights Network, which trace their roots back to proto-milita white supremacist groups like the Posse Comitatus. Far from being ‘anti-government,’ along with current organizations like the Oath Keepers, Bundy and his followers embrace the concept of “Constitutional Sheriffs” which argues that the Sheriff should be the highest law in the land, backed up by the army and the local militia (or posse). As Chuck argues, this embrace of far-Right revolutionary violence, a push for a return to an old colonial order, and a fierce opposition to Native sovereignty, “is the stuff of death squads,” and also finds growing support among law enforcement.

More Info: Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights (IREHR) homepage, on Twitter, and collection of articles on the Klamath Basin conflict.

photo: Anton Ivanchenko via Unsplash

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