Rick Bowmer/AP

Oregon Militia Nuts Hold Paiute History, Artifacts Hostage

Jacqueline Keeler
1/19/16

This weekend, Burns Paiute tribal chairperson Charlotte Roderique spoke to Indian Country Today Media Network about the status of the occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, “We are really worried about the status of the artifacts down there.”

On Friday, the tribe delivered a letter to federal agencies including the U.S. Attorney and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service demanding prosecution of Ammon Bundy and other armed militants occupying the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, “If the occupiers disturb, damage, remove, alter, or deface any archaeological resource on the refuge property.

There are approximately 4,000 artifacts belonging to the tribe in the buildings the militants are holding. The occupation is entering its third week.

The tribe is demanding federal action under both the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 and a "protection against bad men” provision in the treaty the tribe signed with the United States in 1868.

Under ARPA, a federal law authorizing law enforcement and penalties in the defense of archeological sites on public land, removing artifacts is a felony offense. First time offenders can be fined up to $20,000 and imprisoned for up to one year. Second time offenders can be fined up to $100,000 and imprisoned for up to 5 years.

Bundy supporters have damaged Native American archaeological sites before, most notably, when they drove ATVs through a canyon trail in Utah in protest of protected federal lands trampling the ruins of homes belonging to the ancient Puebloans. Also, the Southern Paiute tribes in Nevada have accused the Bundy family of defacing ancient Paiute petroglyphs in Gold Butte. Incidentally, Southern Paiute community members held a rally last week in Las Vegas in support of the Burns Paiute tribe.

“I understand they took a bulldozer and built a line around the refuge headquarters,” Roderique said. She notes that in the past when a water line was put in at the refuge the tribe’s cultural resources department oversaw the work done to make sure no artifacts or sites were disturbed. “We have a good working relationship with them. That is, the relationship has evolved for the better.”

The community has also reached out to her, “I’ve gotten calls from ranching families who support the tribe. They’ve seen the [Paiute] campsites out there. They’ve been in that area and they know where things are. You can’t go and bulldoze things. I don’t know what these people are doing if they are doing things to just get a rise or to be martyr—all they are doing is making enemies out of the people they professed to support.”

Carla Burnside, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's archaeologist at the refuge, has told the tribe that she has seen pictures in news reports of militants sitting in her office, even at her desk with files open that contain sensitive information about archaeological sites belonging to the tribe.

This past week, the Burns Paiute tribal council passed a resolution to formally recognize Malheur Lake and its shoreline as “Sacred Places and Traditional Cultural Properties” of the tribe and cited the tribe’s own “Aboriginal Lands Protection Policy” which covers “the tribe's aboriginal territory beyond current Trust lands (Resolution 2006-12) which defines cultural resources as: ‘any material objects of human life or activities that are of cultural, historical, archaeological, sacred, spiritual, or traditional interest to the tribe. This shall include all remains, sites, objects, structures, artifacts, implements, plants, animals, and locations within the tribe's aboriginal territory.’”

Occupation leader Ammon Bundy, from Arizona and son of Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher involved in a standoff with the federal government over $1 million in unpaid grazing fees on public land, has offered to meet with the tribe but the tribe says he has no right to hold their history hostage and have refused to grant him even the appearance of such authority by meeting with him.

“Some of the members of the community were open to them,” Roderique says, “when they first came but now the county chained and locked everything up and said no you can’t have your meeting in town.”

Harney County officials have stated they will not allow the militants to use any county-owned building for fear of more takeovers of public property.

“They tried to ask us for our gathering center and our facility was booked up. We just kind of laughed and said they want to use our 'savage' facilities?”

Roderique was referencing a “Harney County Committee of Safety” website made by supporters of the takeover who profess to exist “to secure the property and lives of the association members from threats from the savages.”

The support, however, has been “overwhelming” says Roderique. The tribe has received letters of support from other tribes like the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and the Klamath tribe of Northern California and even farther away from First Nations tribes in Canada and many Native American organizations and Mexican American organizations.

“Those things are so empowering. When we had our press conference we didn’t know the attendance and response was going to be as big as it was. I really appreciate all the Native people for their concern because it could be any one of us that this could happen to.”

Roderique told ICTMN that it is not only title to the land that matters to her but the plants and wildlife on the land some of which are going extinct. “We are the Wadatika people. The plants we are named after grow on the banks of the Harney and Malheur lake. If they put cattle in there [Bundy has called for the land to be returned to private ranchers] they will destroy these plants.”

“As a little girl, we’d go along the river in the marshes and gather waterfowl to eat in the spring. We’d make our little tule baskets. I was told by elders if there are three eggs, take one. Leave the other two. One is going to grow up and fulfill its life. One is going to be taken by predators. So you never just go and throw all the eggs in your basket, you only, only take one. Find another nest and find another one. That way there was continuation of the species. Our people have been doing that for thousands of years and those are the things that are taught to the next generation. We restrict our hunting and gathering accordingly to ensure there is a future. We don’t have the attitude that the Bundys have.”

This weekend, the first occupier was arrested in Burns at a Safeway for theft of a government vehicle and another cited for driving without a driver’s license when the government van he was driving on icy roads overturned. And last week, Bundy’s personal bodyguard “Fluffy Unicorn” was arrested in Arizona for an outstanding warrant.

A protest is planned in Portland, Oregon on Tuesday against the illegal occupation by environmental groups including the Portland Audubon and the Center for Biological Diversity.

Jacqueline Keeler is a Navajo/Yankton Dakota Sioux writer living in Portland, Oregon and co-founder of Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry, creators of Not Your Mascot. She has been published in Telesur, Earth Island Journal and the Nation and interviewed on MSNBC and DemocracyNow and Native American Calling. She has a forthcoming book called “Not Your Disappearing Indian” and podcast. On twitter:

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onedman's picture
onedman
Submitted by onedman on
With all that is a stake here I do not understand why this is still happening. Does anyone have a clue? I don't want to see anyone hurt but freeze 'em out or something, Please.

Thomas Robert Lacovara-Stewart
Thomas Robert L...
Submitted by Thomas Robert L... on
PLEASE BE ADVISED : I am a reporter, and a liberty activist. I am embedded at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. Please be advised respectfully, that the museum that is located at the refuge is off limits to protesters. I am engaged to a Native American woman, and my mentor was Bob Redfeather of Vineland NJ. I am a friend to the Native American people. I want to take this time to not only tell you that your sacred artifacts are safe and secure, but that I personally discovered in the basement of one of the refuge buildings, what appears to be not only Paleo era artifacts, but projectile points, skinners, etc. Now comes the part where you should be angry. They were located in a dirty basement on shelves in boxes where mice had made nests in, and defecated in. Dates going back in discovery into the 80's. They were untouched and secured. Photographed and as I called my fiancé and asked her how do we be as respectful as possible to let the Honorable Paiute people get them back .......and I will defer to her advice. We will say a prayer to Our Creator......and we will remove the filth that they were laying in after we have fully recorded them. They are primarily in plastic bags, so the actual dirt does not appear to have touched them. It is my intention to do so and to advise Ammon that I believe after this they should be offered to the Paiute people as a token of our friendship, our respect, and our commitment to unite in a common cause which is to place control of these matters unto local people. Only when we have local Constitutional respect, can we hold our local politicians and representatives accountable. Please know that we are not your enemy, we are not insane militants.....and we absolutely WILL NOT desecrate your cultural historical artifacts. Any report of any such thing is not only untrue, but are bald faced lies that we do not know the source of. Respectfully Thomas Lacovara-Stewart RTR TRUTH MEDIA ResurrectTheRepublic / DirtyUncleSam TRUTH Radio Broadcast Republic Broadcasting Network ( RBN )

aNewsReporter's picture
aNewsReporter
Submitted by aNewsReporter on
Please watch this video: DISCOVERED Paiute Artifacts at ​Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Shelved for OVER 2 Decades http://www.RTRTruthMedia.com

TRoosevelt's picture
TRoosevelt
Submitted by TRoosevelt on
The "liberty activist" claims that the militants are respecting the Paiute heritage even after they bulldozed roads through their ancestral land. Does he expect anybody to believe his lies?

shotwell77's picture
shotwell77
Submitted by shotwell77 on
These people needs to leave. They damaged ancient sites in Utah, now they are destroying Paiute sites in Oregon. BTW we each reserve the right to choose our own "friends," Thomas Robert—take your delusional posts elsewhere.

shotwell77's picture
shotwell77
Submitted by shotwell77 on
These people needs to leave. They damaged ancient sites in Utah, now they are destroying Paiute sites in Oregon. BTW we each reserve the right to choose our own "friends," Thomas Robert—take your delusional posts elsewhere.

Jenny Burnham's picture
Jenny Burnham
Submitted by Jenny Burnham on
I won't speak for the Paiute as to the disposition of their artifacts but to say my understanding is that they have working with the refuge to preserve them and their sacred sites. (And someone can correct me if I am wrong.) I will say as someone archaeologically trained, do not mess with the artifacts. Do not remove them from their bags (and if you do, you damn well better be wearing gloves, preferably latex medical gloves), do not lose or mix up their labels (which gives all the information about their provenance), do not screw up how they are cataloged. These do not belong to you, you should not be messing with them in the first place. But the Thomas Robert Lacovarat Stewart's claim " It is my intention to do so and to advise Ammon that I believe after this they should be offered to the Paiute people as a token of our friendship, our respect, and our commitment to unite in a common cause which is to place control of these matters unto local people." ...is shot dead by this statement made by Ammon Bundy's brother: "We also recognize that the Native Americans had the claim to the land, but they lost that claim,” Ammon Bundy’s brother, Ryan, said recently. “There are things to learn from cultures of the past, but the current culture is the most important.” http://gawker.com/oregon-wildlife-refuge-occupiers-ransack-native-america-1754179614 Mind you, that does not mean the "current culture" that has been looking after this land up until three weeks ago. And frankly up until this moment the only "current culture" the Bundy-ites claimed to be fighting for were the ranchers. So in short Thomas, since you have not gotten the support you all thought you would, you're now trying to con the Paiute into joining you with lies and holding their artifacts hostage. You're nothing but another cavalry with another treaty you have no intention of keeping. Leave the artifacts alone. Leave the reserve. You say you are not extremist militants? Do you see anyone else in the United States taking over federal property and preaching sedition and revolution? And that little Constitution pamphlet you all keep waiving around, why don't you all read Article IV, Section 3, clause 2 and then get the hell out of there before you do even more damage to property that does not belong to you.

Randy Phillips's picture
Randy Phillips
Submitted by Randy Phillips on
I find it difficult to believe the "Liberty Activist"

mirdad's picture
mirdad
Submitted by mirdad on
Thomas Robert L.. you did not address the bulldozing, and please don't pretend that all of the armed occupiers share your views or your wish to respect native culture or that you have any ability to protect the land and artifacts from them if they want to do damage. If you are a friend to the native people as you claim then why don't you respect the wishes of the Paiute people and get off that land and away from their artifacts. If you have a genuine grievance about the handling of those artifacts by Federal workers, then start a dialogue with the Paiute and use your white privilege to affect some change at the local level in terms of how they are protected and preserved. Talk to some of your independently wealthy occupiers about donating needed funds to the Paiute for cultural preservation. If you want local representation with equal justice for all, then reach out to the Paiute and talk to them about how you can organize to have everyone's rights better represented by local government. Maybe that would make a better case that you are not just the same old white man believing in your superiority while angling to take somebody else land and resources for your own benefit.

Jim Lauckner
Jim Lauckner
Submitted by Jim Lauckner on
How terribly generous of Mr. Lacovara-Stewart to "offer" to the Paiute artifacts that they already own as a "token" of friendship.

David Hollenshead
David Hollenshead
Submitted by David Hollenshead on
The only thing one needs to hear about this occupation came out of their leader, Ammon Bundy's mouth. From ABC News: "We also recognize that the Native Americans had the claim to the land, but they lost that claim," Bundy said. "There are things to learn from cultures of the past, but the current culture is the most important."
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