ST. GEORGE – The aftermath of the Malhuer Wildlife Refuge occupation in Oregon and death of Arizona rancher Robert “LaVoy” Finicum was a topic of discussion at a public forum Thursday night titled “The Feds versus the Ranchers.”
“My husband’s voice was silenced,” said Jeannette Finicum, widow of LaVoy Finicum who was killed in connection with the occupation in Oregon, “but ours are not, and we’re going to keep talking.”
Jeanette Finicum, of Cane Beds, Arizona, and Kanab resident Shawna Cox, a mother of 13 and longtime friend of the Bundy family, participated in the discussion forum hosted by Dixie Republican Forum in St. George. Representatives of federal agencies like the Bureau of Land Management were not asked to attend the forum.
Cox and Jeanette Finicum shared their experiences surrounding the 2014 standoff at the Bundy Ranch in Bunkerville, Nevada, between the Bundys, their supporters and the BLM, as well as the early 2016 wildlife refuge occupation in Oregon with the attendant death of LaVoy Finicum.
Cox was directly involved in the standoff and occupation and was present when LaVoy Finicum was shot by the FBI and Oregon State Police. She called it “a kill stop.”
Jeanette Finicum’s recollections primarily involved watching her husband as he got involved with the Bundys and then the refuge occupation.
She recalled the last time she saw her husband alive and become emotional as she recounted the night she and her family learned he had been killed.
LaVoy Finicum originally went to Oregon to support the Hammond family, Jeannette Finicum said. He and others, like brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy, felt the Hammonds were being abused by the federal government.
He also went there to teach the people of Harney County, Oregon, and the surrounding counties about the Constitution, she said, and the overreach of the federal government.
Like the Bundys, LaVoy Finicum believed that the federal government has overstepped its bounds in relation to public lands management. The U.S. Constitution does not allow the government to own public lands that should otherwise be in the ownership and control of the states, they said.
“We are members of the and citizens of the United States. We are all citizens of the same United States,” Jeanette Finicum said when people asked why her husband was in Oregon. “So we should be concerned with what’s happening in Oregon. We should be concerned with what’s happening in our neighborhoods.”
Cox said she was restricted in what she could say due to being one of the defendants involved in court proceedings starting in September.
“There’s a lot of stuff that will be going into court,” she said.
Cox was part of the group arrested by the FBI and Oregon State Police in connection with the wildlife refuge occupation. The group includes brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy who are currently incarcerated.
Members of the group were each charged with conspiracy to impede federal officers in their official duties. The Bundys, along with their father Cliven Bundy – who was arrested when he flew to Oregon – have also been charged with offenses related to the 2014 standoff in Nevada.
Read more: FBI arrests Cliven Bundy in Portland
Cox was released soon after her arrest and has opted to serve as her own lawyer. She said she has no trust in any defense attorney appointed by a federal court she also doesn’t trust.
Cox’s lack of trust in the federal court and the government that employs it, along with the agencies involved in LaVoy Finicum’s death, is shared by Jeanette Finicum.
“I have no faith or trust in the federal government or the FBI or Oregon State Police,” Jeanette Finicum said, adding she also has no faith or trust in the Harney County Sheriff or the federal judge overseeing the case.
Jeanette Finicum said there are still many questions to be asked and many questions left unanswered related to incidents that played out in Oregon and her husband’s death. She has little faith that the answers she is looking for will be supplied in court. To that end, she said, she is in the process of starting a lawsuit and independent investigation.
“I will have my own independent investigation done because that’s the only way to believe the evidence coming my way,” Jeanette Finicum said.
Part of that investigation will involve requesting evidence from the federal government via Freedom of Information filings.
Throughout the discussion forum Thursday evening, Cox made reference to her belief that God’s hand was at work during the 2014 standoff, as well as in incidents related to the refuge occupation and the events that followed. She has described some of these instances as miracles.
Cox counted her being released from jail and recently being able to remove a tracking ankle bracelet and being released from house arrest as a part of those miracles. This also includes help Cox said she is receiving from others as she prepares to defend herself in court.
“We’re making great strides,” she said.
While Cox prepares for a court battle, Jeanette Finicum and at least one of her daughters will be busy caring for a herd of around 150 head of cattle.
Jeanette said she has had to learn to become a “cowboy” along with her 18-year-old daughter since LaVoy Finicum’s death. However, they have not been left alone in this endeavor.
“Some things are challenging, but we’ve had a lot of rancher friends come and show us what to do and how to do it,” she said, adding that others have also donated hay for the cattle.
Jeanette Finicum’s father-in-law has also provided a parcel of land on private property where the cattle can be kept. She and her daughter have been fixing up the land with fencing, water lines and other infrastructure along the way, she said.
Prior to going to Oregon, LaVoy Finicum told the BLM he wouldn’t renew his grazing contract and would pay his fees to the county government as Cliven Bundy has done in 1993.
Read more: Arizona rancher follows in Bundy’s footsteps – Includes video interview with LaVoy Finicum from October 2015.
Whatever communication is being had between the Finicums and BLM now is taking place through lawyers, Jeanette Finicum said. She hasn’t spoken with anyone from the agency herself.
As the forum drew to a close, one of the attendees asked if Jeanette Finicum lived in fear of any reprisal from the federal government. While she said she believes her family and the Bundys are under surveillance, it won’t change what they do or say.
“We’re just going to go on living and we’re going to go on speaking,” she said.
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