Environment | Law | National

Defendants charged for damaging sacred Burns Paiute Tribe site

Bald eagles at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. Photo by Steve Shunk / Facebook

Two people who participated in the armed takeover at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon have been charged for damaging a site sacred to the Burns Paiute Tribe.

Sean Anderson and a second person are accused of causing more than $1,000 in damage to the archaeological site. The charges apparently stem from a road and latrines that were dug in and near the site. Federal investigators said human waste was found in at least one of the latrines.

The identity of the second person is redacted in the version of the indictment that was unsealed on Wednesday. In total, 26 people are facing charges in connection with the 41-day occupation of the refuge. The defendants include Eric Lee Flores, a 22-year-old member of the Tulalip Tribes who reportedly went back and forth between the refuge and his reservation in early January, when the incident began.

Flores is not specifically accused of damaging archaeological sites, according to the superseding indictment. But he's facing other charges for allegedly threatening federal officers and employees and possessing a firearm within a federal facility.

The land in and around the refuge was initially set aside as a reservation for the Burns Paiute Tribe in the late 1800s but the federal government took 1.78 million acres from the Northern Paiute people and forced them to march to reservations in neighboring Washington.

After the Paiutes were allowed to return, they were placed on a much-smaller reservation in present-day Burns, about 30 miles from the refuge. The tribe repeatedly called for the anti-government protesters to leave their ancestral territory and has been concerned about damage to sacred sites and artifacts.

“I’m glad they cleaned up all those urinals they made,” tribal council member Jarvis Kennedy told Indian Country Today. “They went in with Hazmat suits on and got all of that out of there and covered it up. When I first saw it kind of made me mad. That’s our burial ground area.”'

“I think they got a case against them,” Kennedy added. “[The militants] were dumb enough to make a video of themselves making the road and digging. They also left fingerprints on the controls of the heavy equipment they operated.”

Get the Story:
Wildlife refuge occupiers indicted on gun charges, stealing from government (AP 3/9)
Oregon Protesters Face New Charges Over Occupation of Refuge (Reuters 3/9)
Judge: Malheur Occupation Trial Could Take More Than A Month (Oregon Public Broadcasting 3/9)
Occupation leaders talked about using explosives, drones in 'worst-case scenario,' court testimony reveals (The Oregonian 3/9)
Burns Paiute Make First Visit After Armed Takeover of Malheur Refuge (Indian Country Today 3/9)

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