After armed militants occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge posted a YouTube video in which they rifled through Native American artifacts housed at the federal site, the Burns Paiute Tribe is asking the FBI and the Department of Justice to file criminal charges and end the occupation.
In a letter dated on January 22, Burns Paiute Tribe chairperson Charlotte Roderique expressed concern that the militants might try to sell Paiute artifacts in order to fund their cause. She also noted that tribal members have been "subjected to harassment by individuals who either came here to support the protestors or have been emboldened by their example to voice bigotry and hatred toward the Indigenous people of Harney county."
Here's more from Roderique:
Law enforcement continues to allow the armed militants to come and go from the Refuge as they please. Additionally, new armed militants arrive daily. Allowing the militants free passage to and from the Refuge must stop.
The lawbreakers who occupy the Malheur headquarters continue to seek outside financial support for their efforts. We fear that our Tribal cultural patrimony provides an all too easy funding source for the militants. Unfortunately, there is a long history of a black market for Native American antiquities. There continues to be a robust market for the sale of tribal artifacts, notwithstanding the outright illegality of their acquisition. Allowing the militants free passage from the Refuge means that our cultural patrimony is unprotected and easily transported outside the Refuge for sale or misappropriation by the militants.
Roderique's letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and FBI director James Comey concludes by asking law enforcement to prosecute the Oregon militants under the Archaeological Resources Protection Act.
The tribe's letter marks a significant new development in the nearly month-long occupation of the refuge. By demanding a response under the tribe's treaty rights with the federal government, Roderique is exercising tribal sovereignty over what happens at the refuge. The takeaway is that two sovereign nations are now formally involved with the Bundy occupation: the federal government and the Paiute. If the Feds don't respond to Roderique's letter, they potentially risk a major lawsuit.
Read the full letter here.