CANNON BALL – North Dakota’s chief archaeologist has found that no burial sites or significant sites were destroyed by Dakota Access Pipeline construction, according to an early draft of an internal memo authored by the State Historical Society.
In a memo sent Thursday from state archaeologist Paul Picha, he writes that seven archaeologists from the State Historical Society 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.
Kim Jondahl, director of communications for the State Historical Society, said the document published by Port is “the first draft of an internal memo.” A final summary will be released by the Morton County Sheriff’s Department, which is leading a joint task force, said Jondahl, who referred questions to county spokeswoman Donnell Preskey.
The internal memo is different than what was provided to law enforcement and is not the most recent version, Preskey said.
Preskey declined to release the document provided to law enforcement, emphasizing that the investigation is still underway.
“Discussions with the State Historical Society are ongoing,” Preskey said.
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.
Preskey also declined to comment on who participated in the cultural survey last Wednesday.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe was not allowed to participate in the survey, said Jan Hasselman, an attorney for the tribe.
Tim Mentz, former tribal historic preservation officer, wrote in documents filed Sept. 2 in federal court 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 the law enforcement task force. 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 Standing Rock Sioux Tribe did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.