Thou­sands of ar­ti­facts at oc­cu­pied Ore. refuge

The Denver Post - - DENVER & THE WEST - By Re­becca Boone

Thou­sands of ar­chae­o­log­i­cal ar­ti­facts — and maps de­tail­ing where more can be found — are kept in­side the na­tional wildlife refuge build­ings cur­rently be­ing held by an armed group of pro­test­ers an­gry over fed­eral land pol­icy.

Ryan Bundy, one of the lead­ers of the group oc­cu­py­ing the Mal­heur Na­tional Wildlife Refuge in south­east­ern Ore­gon, says they have no real in­ter­est in the an­tiq­ui­ties. Still, their ac­cess to the ar­ti­facts and maps has some wor­ried that loot­ers could take ad­van­tage of the sit­u­a­tion.

“There’s a huge mar­ket for ar­ti­facts, es­pe­cially ar­ti­facts that have prove­nance, where you can iden­tify where they came from,” said Carla Burn­side, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice’s refuge arche­ol­o­gist.

More than 300 recorded pre­his­toric sites are scat­tered across the refuge, in­clud­ing burial grounds, an­cient vil­lages and pet­ro­glyphs. Some of the ar­ti­facts — in­clud­ing spears, stone tools, wo­ven bas­kets and beads — date back 9,800 years.

The ar­ti­facts and re­mains came from an­ces­tors of the Burns Paiute Tribe. Chair­woman Char­lotte Ro­drique says she feels help­less know­ing that her tribe’s cul­tural her­itage is now in the hands of the armed group.

“As far as I’m con­cerned, our his­tory is just an­other hostage,” Ro­drique said.

The tribe has sent a let­ter to the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice and the U. S. at­tor­ney for Ore­gon, Billy Wil­liams, ask­ing that mem­bers of the armed group be pros­e­cuted if any ar­ti­facts or maps are dam­aged or miss­ing.

WHY AREN’T THE RELICS AT A MU­SEUM?

About 7,000 ar­ti­facts and sam­ples from the refuge are kept at a mu­seum in Eu­gene, Ore. But 4,000 more are kept at the refuge for re­search.

Only Burn­side has a key to the room con­tain­ing the ar­ti­facts and the maps. She’s since seen pic­tures of the oc­cu­piers in her of­fice, ad­ja­cent to the room where the ar­ti­facts are stored. The group has been look­ing through govern­ment files at the site, but it is un­clear if they’ve gone through the room with the ar­ti­facts. Bundy told The As­so­ci­ated Press that he’s seen the ar­ti­facts and lots of maps, but he didn’t knowwhat the maps il­lus­trated.

The ar­ti­facts and maps are legally pro­tected by the 1979 Arche­o­log­i­cal Re­sources Pro­tec­tion Act and other fed­eral laws.

WHAT ABOUT THE PRE­HIS­TORIC SITES?

Sci­en­tists are also wor­ried about un­in­ten­tional dam­age that could be done to the pre­his­toric sites by cat­tle, ve­hi­cles and heavy equip­ment.

The group at the ranch has driven road graders and other large con­struc­tion equip­ment around the refuge head­quar­ters build­ings, but Bundy said Thurs­day they haven’t used the ma­chin­ery to move any earth. He wouldn’t rule out that pos­si­bil­ity, how­ever.

In 2014, Ryan Bundy and sup­port­ers of the Bundy fam­ily rode ATVs on fed­eral land closed to motorized ve­hi­cles in Utah as part of a protest. Their route took them along an il­le­gal trail that crossed through Amer­i­can In­dian arche­o­log­i­cal sites.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.