ND archaeologist: No burial sites destroyed by Dakota Access

CANNON BALL, N.D. - North Dakota's chief archaeologist has found that no burial sites or significant sites were destroyed by Dakota Access Pipeline construction.

CANNON BALL, N.D. – North Dakota’s chief archaeologist has found that no burial sites or significant sites were destroyed by Dakota Access Pipeline construction.

In a Sept. 22 memo from state archaeologist Paul Picha, he writes that seven archaeologists from the State Historical Society of North Dakota surveyed the construction area west of State Highway 1806 that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe says contains sacred sites.

The team found no human bone or other evidence of human burials or cultural materials in the 1.36-mile corridor, Picha writes in a memo published Monday by Say Anything blogger Rob Port.

Picha has not responded to inquiries from Forum News Service about the Sept. 21 survey. Donnell Preskey, spokeswoman for the Morton County Sheriff’s Department, said questions to Picha were referred to her. Preskey declined to release the memo, saying it was part of an ongoing investigation.

Preskey said the memo published by Port is different than what was provided to law enforcement.


The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe was not allowed to participate in the Sept. 21 survey, said Jan Hasselman, an attorney for the tribe.

Tim Mentz, former tribal historic preservation officer, wrote in documents filed in federal court on Sept. 2 that he surveyed that area and identified at least 27 burials, 16 stone rings, 19 effigies and other features in or adjacent to the pipeline corridor.

On Sept. 3, Dakota Access construction crews worked in the same area and tribal officials say they destroyed sacred sites. Dakota Access officials have said there were no sacred sites destroyed.

The team of archaeologists surveyed the corridor at the request of a law enforcement task force led by the Morton County Sheriff’s Office. The team found 10 locations where rodent- to bovine-sized mammal bone fragments and teeth were present, Picha wrote.

“Locations adjacent to but outside the construction corridor previously recorded by Tim Mentz Sr. and others were inspected and photographed,” Picha wrote.

The State Historic Preservation Office had previously concurred with a cultural resource survey of the pipeline route that found that no significant sites would be affected.

But in a court affidavit filed in federal court, the current tribal historic preservation officer for Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Jon Eagle Sr., wrote that he disagreed with their assessment.

“After reading the surveys prepared by DAPL, it is apparent to me that the archeologist involved do not have the knowledge or cultural sensitivity to be identifying and or evaluating sites that are significant to the tribes,” Eagle wrote.


The sheriff’s office is investigating what occurred on Sept. 3, including a clash between protesters and Dakota Access private security with guard dogs and pepper spray.

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