News & Politics

The Oregon Standoff Is Over, but the Militia Left Something Behind to Remember Them by: Their Poop

The militia left behind ‘significant amounts of human feces’ and dug trenches filled with waste on grounds that contained sensitive Native American artifacts.

Members of the Bundy family, part of a group involved in the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

The armed militia in Oregon left behind “significant amounts of human feces” and dug trenches filled with waste on wildlife refuge grounds that contained sensitive Native American artifacts, according to the FBI.

One week after the final four anti-government protesters surrendered at the Malheur national wildlife refuge in rural Harney County, federal investigators have begun the long task of processing the “crime scene” and have uncovered firearms, explosives, potential booby traps and large piles of human excrement, prosecutors wrote in a new court filing.

“Occupiers appear to have excavated two large trenches and an improvised road on or adjacent to grounds containing sensitive artifacts,” Billy Williams, US attorney, wrote in a Tuesday filing in federal court, outlining the FBI’s findings in its preliminary investigation. “At least one of those trenches contains human feces.”

Additionally, he wrote, “tactical teams responsible for initially securing the refuge reported significant amounts of human feces in and around an outdoor camping area”.

Williams was responding to a request by lawyers for jailed militia leader Ammon Bundy to grant the defense team access to the site.

Bundy and 24 other people are facing federal conspiracy charges for their role in the occupation of the wildlife sanctuary, which began 2 January in protest of government land-use regulations and ended after 41 days of a tense standoff with the FBI.

Although the rightwing protesters argued that the federal government should transfer control of the public lands to local people, leaders of the Paiute Indian tribe in the nearby town of Burns have noted that their ancestors first occupied the land, which they say is home to sacred burial grounds and important cultural artifacts.

“This is going to take a lot of healing,” said Jarvis Kennedy, the tribal council’s sergeant-at-arms and a lifelong Burns resident. “Even though they’re gone, the stuff we’re finding out now is still getting us mad and riled up … They just kind of disgust me.”

In addition to burial grounds – which Kennedy said are located throughout the site that the militia occupied – some of the buildings at the refuge headquarters contain documents related to tribal history as well thousands of artifacts, such as baskets, tools and beads, according to officials.

Tribal leaders were outraged last month when militia leaders posted a video of themselves rifling through some of the stored artifacts. The protesters also paved a new road at the wildlife sanctuary.

“It is pretty disrespectful, but what can you expect from people like that?” Kennedy said. “They’re out there trampling on our burial grounds, making roads and digging bunkers … It is pretty well trashed.”

In addition to the trenches and piles of feces, FBI officials have discovered large amounts of rotten food in one of the living quarters at the refuge, prosecutors said. Investigators have further uncovered guns, explosives and numerous vehicles that the FBI fears may be booby trapped.

The tribe has not yet been able to visit the refuge while the FBI continues its work, Kennedy said. “They are doing their best … We’ve just got to be patient.”

As soon as they are granted access, the tribe will likely do some kind of “cleansing ceremony” before assessing the extent of the damage, Kennedy added. “These artifacts you make are a part of you. It has your spirit.”

In the filing, Williams said the government was willing to allow Bundy’s lawyers to visit the refuge before the site reopened to the public – but only after officials have collected evidence.

Bundy’s lawyers argued in court that they had a legal right to have representatives at the refuge as the FBI processed evidence to ensure that officials did not blame him for acts that occurred after he was taken into custody. The occupation continued for two weeks following his arrest.

Attorney Mike Arnold wrote in court filings that Bundy accepted prosecutors’ offer to visit the refuge before the public returns. But, he added: “Mr Bundy also demands access by an investigator and videographer to the site immediately to observe the FBI’s processing of the scene.”

Sam Levin is a reporter for Guardian US in San Francisco.

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