"Thousands of archaeological artifacts — and maps detailing where more can be found — are kept inside the national wildlife refuge buildings currently being held by an armed group of protestors angry over federal land policy.
Ryan Bundy, one of the leaders of the group occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Oregon, says they have no real interest in the antiquities. Still, their access to the artifacts and maps has some worried that looters could take advantage of the situation.
"There's a huge market for artifacts, especially artifacts that have provenance, where you can identify where they came from," said Carla Burnside, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's refuge archeologist.
More than 300 recorded prehistoric sites are scattered across the refuge, including burial grounds, ancient villages and petroglyphs. Some of the artifacts — including spears, stone tools, woven baskets and beads — date back 9,800 years.
The artifacts and remains came from ancestors of the Burns Paiute Tribe. Chairwoman Charlotte Rodrique says she feels helpless knowing that her tribe's cultural heritage is now in the hands of the armed group."