A court document filed last week in the case against militia members who occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon alleges that they dug a latrine trench in a site with Native American artifacts.
After the 41-day occupation of the headquarters and visitors center ended earlier this month, the FBI began processing the scene. That could add charges onto what Ammon Bundy and several others already face: conspiracy to interfere with a federal officer and, for some, weapons charges.
In addition to bomb technicians combing the scene for booby traps, forensic investigators were sifting through evidence left at the scene. The FBI’s Art Crime Team was tasked with processing the scene along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Burns Paiute Tribe “to identify and document damage to the tribe’s artifacts and sacred burial grounds.”
FBI Special Agent in Charge Greg Bretzing told reporters Feb. 11 it would “likely take a number of weeks” to determine if the militia members were in violation of the Native American Graves and Repatriation Protection Act (NAGPRA) and the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA).
In response to a defense motion for site access, U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon Billy Williams said the FBI Evidence Response Team began processing the scene on Feb. 13, a task expected to take 21 days to complete as they process about two dozen structures at the site.
“Tactical teams responsible for initially securing the refuge reported significant amounts of human feces in and around an outdoor camping area,” says the filing. “They also reported that living quarters appear to house large food stores that are spoiling. The outdoor camping area is adjacent to or on a particularly sensitive cultural site that may require extensive processing. Occupiers appear to have excavated two large trenches and an improvised road on or adjacent to grounds containing sensitive artifacts. At least one of these trenches contains human feces.”
“The FBI Art Crimes Team (ACT) is processing these sites. Due to the size and nature of the trenches, equipment is being brought to the site to allow ACT to process these sites safely. Finally, firearms and explosive have been found on the site. There are numerous vehicles on the site and the FBI is concerned that vehicles and buildings may be booby trapped.”
Investigators for Bundy and the other defendants will be allowed into the site after the federal government has finished its crime-scene work and before the refuge is reopened to the public. Defense teams will be under FBI escort.
“The government will make all evidence seized in this investigation available for inspection at the FBI Field Office in Portland consistent with standard FBI evidence viewing protocols,” Williams said.
Defense attorneys want to film the FBI as they investigate the site. They also want a trial to begin in a couple of months, while the federal government wants a lengthier period of time before the start date.
The Oregonian reported this weekend that federal officials are preparing to file additional indictments in March that could expand the list of those charged beyond the current 25 defendants. It could also add new charges.
The penalty for the first offense of the Native American Graves and Repatriation Protection Act is up to 12 months behind bars and a $100,000 fine.
Jarvis Kennedy, a Burns Paiute tribal council member, told Indian Country Today Media Network that the “whole area is an artifact area.”
“If you just walk across there you’ll see chips on the ground where someone made an arrowhead. It’s everywhere…. For them to do that in that area is so disgusting,” Kennedy added of the latrines.