The Burns Paiute Tribe has requested that the U.S. Justice Department prevent armed militants from freely moving on and off the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Some have called for the FBI and local law enforcement officials to put an end to the occupation.
“Over the last 23 days since the siege began, law enforcement officials have allowed the militants to freely move in and out of the Refuge headquarters and off the Refuge itself,” Tribal Chair Charlotte Roderique said in a news release. “Despite the illegal occupation, the militants have been allowed to come and go freely and restock and replenish supplies, hold news conferences, leave the state, and more.”
In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and FBI Director James Comey, Roderique called on the federal government to secure the headquarters property and to prosecute occupiers if they violate laws protecting cultural resources. “Law enforcement continues to allow the armed militants to come and go from the Refuge as they please,” Rodrique wrote. “Allowing the militants free passage to and from the Refuge must stop.”
The Burns Paiute Tribe has expressed grave concern over the handling of cultural artifacts at the Refuge headquarters.
Tribal council members met last week with U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams, and with representatives from the FBI and Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s office and the Oregon State Police, to express their concerns.
Tribal representatives requested prosecutors seek federal and state criminal penalties for anyone who steals or harms tribal cultural resources. “It is clear now that the lawbreakers have gained access to the artifacts and
the files, even posting videos on social media from the storage area,” said Rodrique. “We are more concerned than ever that some of these artifacts will go missing when this is all over.”
The Burns Paiute Tribe is a federally?recognized Indian tribe whose ancestors inhabited southeast Oregon, southern Idaho, and northern California and Nevada. The Burns Paiute Tribe’s reservation is headquartered in Burns, Oregon. The Burns Paiute Tribe’s ancestral territory includes the area now managed as the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, as well as other federal lands in southeast Oregon.
The Tribe’s ancestors signed a treaty with the federal government in 1868. It was not ratified by the United States Congress, but both parties acted in reliance
on the treaty, the Tribe’s news release stated. Under its terms, 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.”
In addition, the federal government has a trust responsibility to the Burns Paiute Tribe to protect cultural resources on federal lands, Rodrique said. Several federal laws protect native cultural properties.