Burns Paiute Tribe: Malheur Occupation May Disturb Artifacts
A Burns Paiute Tribe and Malheur militants court battle is brewing as the Tribal Chairperson has asked the government to take action if any of the 4000 artifacts, maps, and samples kept in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge go missing or get damaged.
The Burns Paiute Tribe and the Malheur militants could be facing off in court soon. For several weeks now, a group of men and women being led by Ryan Bundy and Ammon Bundy under the name of Malheur militants have been occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Burns, Oregon.
The so-called Malheur militants/anti-government militia are an armed group of protesters angry over federal land policy, which they hope to get back to farmers and ranchers in the area. Lawmakers and police in Oregon have been avoiding any confrontation with the Malheur militants hoping they will get tired and leave the refuge on their own – thus far it is not happening.
This week, the leaders of the Burns Paiute Tribe, who are tired of having the land occupied by a group of Caucasian people, asked that legal actions be taken against them. In a letter to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Director Robyn Thorson, Tribal Chairperson Charlotte Rodrique also asked for greater protection for cultural resources that are stored at the refuge.
According to the letter, there are more than 4000 artifacts and maps to other prehistoric sites, which could fall into the hands of looters. The tribe is also requesting an inventory of archaeological resources at the refuge headquarters.
Rodrique said that she feels helpless knowing that her ancestors’ possessions and remains are now in the hands of the armed group fighting with the Obama administration for the land. In the letter to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regional, the tribe leader said:
“Armed protestors don’t belong here.They continue to desecrate one of our most important sacred sites.They should be held accountable. All I want is that our past be respected, that things don’t go by the wayside, that they’re not destroyed by cattle.”
The Burns Paiute Tribe are a federally-recognized Indian tribe, who inhabit southeast Oregon, southern Idaho, northern California, and Nevada with its headquarters in Burns, Oregon. The Burns Paiute Tribe’s ancestors signed a treaty with the federal government in 1868 where the Government guaranteed “it would protect the safety and property of the Northern Paiute people. The Government also committed to inflict punishment for any crime or injury [that] is perpetrated by any white man upon the Indians aforesaid … according to the Laws of the United States and the State of Oregon.”
Earlier this week, the Burns Paiute Tribal Council passed a resolution designating the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge as a “Traditional Cultural Property” under the National Historic Preservation Act. This is the first step towards greater cultural resources protection under the National Historic Preservation Act.
Meanwhile, Ryan Bundy, who claimed that God asked him to fight for the land, said that while he has seen and touched the artifacts, he has no interest in them. He told media outlets that they are willing to turn the objects to the tribe, but not the land. Bundy stated:
“We also recognize that the Native Americans had the claim to the land, but they lost that claim. There are things to learn from cultures of the past, but the current culture is the most important.”
What are your thoughts on the looming court battle?