Environment | Law | National

Burns Paiute Tribe to help assess damage from armed takeover

FBI Special Agent in Charge Greg Bretzing speaks at a press conference in Burns, Oregon, on February 11, 2016. Photo from FBI Portland / Twitter

The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon will remain closed for several weeks as federal authorities work with the Burns Paiute Tribe to assess damage caused during the 41-day armed occupation of the site.

Authorities will be looking for potential violations of the Native American Graves and Repatriation Protection Act and the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, FBI Special Agent Greg Bretzing said in a statement. The tribe has been worried about damage to sacred sites and thousands of artifacts at the facility.

"As we complete the necessary safety checks and process the crime scene, we will work with the tribal members to ensure that our work remains sensitive to their historical and cultural concerns," Bretzing said on Thursday.

The land in and around the refuge was originally set aside as a reservation for the Northern Paiute people, whose ancestors signed a treaty that was never ratified by the Senate. The federal government ended up taking all 1.78 million acres after forcing the tribe to march to reservations in neighboring Washington.

The tribe returned and lived on the edges of society for decades, The Oregonian reported. "We had nothing," Rena Adams Beers, the tribe's oldest member at 97 years old, told the paper. "You couldn't go to restaurants, couldn't go to the movies. They'd chase you and call you dirty."

The tribe eventually secured a much-smaller reservation of about 800 acres in Burns, about 30 miles from the refuge. Tribal members also own allotments that total about 11,000 acres.

A land claim judgment for the stolen Malheur Reservation resulted in just $743.20 being paid to each member in 1969. Some tribal members want the case reopened.

Get the Story:
Oregon standoff: Last four occupiers surrender at Malheur refuge (The Oregonian 2/11)
Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Occupation Ends (Oregon Public Broadcasting 2/11)
Oregon wildlife refuge standoff ends as last four occupiers surrender to FBI (The Washington Post 2/11)
In Oregon town, relief at the end of the refuge occupation (The Washington Post 2/12)
Patient strategy pays off for FBI in ending Oregon standoff (AP 2/12)
Authorities to Sweep Oregon Wildlife Refuge After Armed Standoff (Reuters 2/12)
Oregon Standoff Ends as Last Militant Surrenders (The New York Times 2/12)
Unlikely Peacemaker, Michele Fiore, Helps End Oregon Standoff (The New York Times 2/12)

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