The Burns Paiute Tribe in Oregon rejected militants’ claim that they wanted to “open a dialogue” regarding thousands of tribal artifacts, and asked for more government protection, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
“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,” said the tribe’s chair, Charlotte Rodrique, in a letter to the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigations.
The letter, which asks officials to restrict the militants’ movements, was sent less than a week after a video was posted online showing group members walking through what they said was a room containing tribal artifacts inside the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
In the video, the group claimed that the room is infested with rat’s nests and suggested a willingness to return the items to the tribe.
But instead of appointing a delegate as the militants requested, tribal officials met with not only state police, but state US attorney Bill Williams and officials from both the FBI and Gov. Kate Brown’s (D) office to voice their concerns, including the prospect that the militants may sell some of the tribe’s property — including “confidential documents related to the tribe’s cultural resources” — in order to fund their illegal occupation of the reserve.
“We are more concerned than ever that some of these artifacts will go missing when this is all over,” Rodrique said in a separate statement.
The Paiute criticized the militants for being “glory hounds” earlier this month, saying that the tribe would take a less confrontational tack in its own disputes with federal officials.