I-Team: Bundy's 'ancestral rights' come under scrutiny - 8 News NOW

I-Team: Bundy's 'ancestral rights' come under scrutiny

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LAS VEGAS -- Federal authorities remain silent about their next plans to confront Cliven Bundy at his Bunkerville ranch.

Both sides are fighting over history, with federal courts denying Bundy's claims of "ancestral rights" on the Virgin River valley. The I-Team dug into century-old records to examine Bundy's claims.

At the Bunkerville camp next to Cliven Bundy's ranch, there are constant reminders of history.

Revolutionary War flags, ancient Greek mottos and native American symbols, all mixing together to create a growing identity and narrative for protestors.

This land is unusually fertile and green for southern Nevada. Cliven Bundy grows melons there. They are said to be the best in the state.

His cattle, until recently, roamed freely on land managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management. Before the roundup that sparked protests, confrontations and gunmen taking a bridge, Bundy explained his "ancestral rights" to the I-Team.

"I've lived my lifetime here. My forefathers have been up and down the Virgin Valley here ever since 1877. All these rights that I claim, have been created through pre-emptive rights and beneficial use of the forage and the water and the access and range improvements," Bundy said.

Clark County property records show Cliven Bundy's parents bought the 160 acre ranch in 1948 from Raoul and Ruth Leavitt.

Water rights were transferred too, but only to the ranch, not the federally managed land surrounding it. Court records show Bundy family cattle didn't start grazing on that land until 1954.

The Bureau of Land Management was created 1946, the same year Cliven was born.

"My rights are before the BLM even existed, but my rights are created by beneficial use. Beneficial use means we created the forage and the water from the time the very first pioneers come here," Bundy said.

Early census records show Cliven's maternal grandmother, Christena Jensen, was born in Nevada in 1901 (other records show she was born in 1891 as Abigail Christina Abbott).

One word spreading through Bundy supporters and his armed guards is that what the federal government is doing to Bundy is exactly what they did to native Americans.

"They are literally treating western United States citizens, ranchers, rural folks like this- are the modern day Indians. We're being driven off of our lands. We're being forced into reservations known as cities," Justin Giles, an Oathkeeper from Alaska, said.

The local Paiute Indians were forced into reservations by federal troops in 1875. Two years prior, the tribe was promised the same land Cliven Bundy now grows his melons ,and until recently, grazed his cattle.

The I-Team's research team has come up with an in-depth look at the genealogy and property records that form the basis of Cliven Bundy's claim of ancestral rights on the ranch land.

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