Tribe calls for federal government to act on 'illegal occupation - KPTV - FOX 12

Tribe calls for federal government to act on 'illegal occupation' of wildlife refuge

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The Burns Paiute Tribe has called on the U.S. Department of Justice to act on the "illegal occupation" of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Tribal Chair Charlotte Roderique sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and FBI Director James Comey saying, "Law enforcement continues to allow the armed militants to come and go from the Refuge as they please. Additionally, new armed militants arrive daily. Allowing the militants free passage to and from the Refuge must stop."

Specifically, Roderique wrote that the armed occupiers are allowed to freely leave the refuge, and even the state, to restock and replenish supplies and hold news conferences.

Previously, Gov. Kate Brown, Harney County Sheriff David Ward and members of the community have called for the group, led by Ammon Bundy, to leave town and return to their homes.

A group spokesman has responded by saying it's the FBI that should leave town.

Bundy met briefly with an FBI agent Friday, but cut the meeting short saying the agent would not talk to him in front of the media.

According to the Associated Press, the group has recently bolstered a front entrance blockade and set up another checkpoint at a back entrance. An AP reporter interviewing Bundy on Friday was not allowed to enter the area without an escort from an armed militant.

The Burns Paiute Tribe, a federally recognized Indian tribe headquartered in Burns, has expressed "grave concern" over the handling of cultural artifacts at the refuge headquarters.

Tribal council members met last week with U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams, and with representatives from the FBI, the governor's office and Oregon State Police, to express their concerns.

Tribal representatives requested that prosecutors seek federal and state criminal penalties for anyone who steals or harms tribal cultural resources. 

"It is clear now that the lawbreakers have gained access to the artifacts and the files, even posting videos on social media from the storage area," said Rodrique. "We are more concerned than ever that some of these artifacts will go missing when this is all over."

As part of its treaty with the federal government in 1868, the government committed to inflict punishment for "any crime or injury [that] is perpetrated by any white man upon the Indians aforesaid… according to the Laws of the United States and the State of Oregon," a tribal release states.

Bundy has said the group is not interested in the artifacts and he believes his group's work is appreciated by locals. He told the Associated Press the federal government had turned grazing from a "right" to a "privilege."

The occupation of the refuge began Jan. 2. Bundy's group has said it plans to open the 300-square-mile refuge for cattle this spring.

Copyright 2016 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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