Oregon standoff: Militias accuse govt of mistreating Indian artefacts

© Blaine Cooper
The armed militia holding a federal site in Oregon has accused the government of ‘leaving to rot’ some 4,000 Native American artefacts stored at the facility. Earlier tribal leaders asked federal authorities to protect their heritage from the militiamen.

In a video posted by the militias one of their leaders, LaVoy Finnicum, is seeing walking a small storeroom full of cardboard boxes apparently located at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

“There are boxes of artefacts in here. See, there are some rat nests in here. This is the way we found it,” he says pointing at some of the boxes.

“Whoever was in charge of these native artefacts just boxed them up and let them rot down here,” comments the camera operator.

The artefacts in question are the legacy of the Burns Paiute Tribe. Days earlier some tribal leaders voiced grave concern about their possible destruction or looting.

“Armed protestors don’t belong here,” Charlotte Roderique, chair of the Burns Paiute Tribal Council, said in a statement Friday. “They continue to desecrate one of our most important sacred sites. They should be held accountable.”

“They could be on eBay right now — we don’t know,” commented Jarvis Kennedy, another member of the Tribal Council.

Facing the accusations, the militiamen said they had no interest in the artefacts and would gladly hand them over to the tribe.

"If the Native Americans want those, then we'd be delighted to give them to them," said Ryan Bundy, one of the leaders of the group.

The tribe demanded federal action under the 1979 Archeological Resources Protection Act and other federal laws, which criminalize mishandling of historic artefacts. The Paiute has refused to enter any type of negotiations with the militia, saying it would help legitimize the seizure of the refuge, AP reported.

The Oregon standoff started on January 2, when an armed group led by Ryan Bundy’s brother Ammon seized the federal facility to protest federal prosecution of two local ranchers, which they believe to be unjust and illegal.