I don’t have the whole story or all the facts. That said, if this article is true: they haven’t charged the man, there is no offered evidence as to reasonable suspicion, and there is no explanation given as to what precisely he did wrong. Instead they have taken items worth immeasurable value from a 90 year old man that will take more than his life for them to “catalog.” Just imagine the potential threat to all museums and private owners if it is considered acceptable for officials to take collections just to “verify,” without probable cause for suspicion. It’s incomprehensible. ** DB
“Thousands of Artifacts Seized at Rural Indiana Home”
by Diana Penner via “IndyStar”
“FBI agents Wednesday seized “thousands” of cultural artifacts, including American Indian items, from the private collection of a 91-year-old Rush County man who had acquired them over the past eight decades.
An FBI command vehicle and several tents were spotted at the property in rural Waldron, about 35 miles southeast of Indianapolis.
The man, Don Miller, has not been arrested or charged.
FBI agents are working with art experts and museum curators, and neither they nor Jones would describe a single artifact involved in the investigation, but it is a massive collection. Jones added that cataloging of all of the items found will take longer than “weeks or months.”
“Frankly, overwhelmed,” is how Larry Zimmerman, professor of anthropology and museum studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis described his reaction. “I have never seen a collection like this in my life except in some of the largest museums.”
The monetary value of the items and relics has not been determined, Jones said, but the cultural value is beyond measure. In addition to American Indian objects, the collection includes items from China, Russia, Peru, Haiti, Australia and New Guinea, he said.
The items were found in a main residence, in which Miller lives; a second, unoccupied residence on the property; and in several outbuildings, Jones said. The town originally was Iroquois land.
The objects were not stored to museum standards, Jones said, but it was apparent Miller had made an effort to maintain them well.
The aim of the investigation is to determine what each artifact is, where it came from and how Miller obtained it, Jones said, to determine whether some of the items might be illegal to possess privately.
Jones acknowledged that Miller might have acquired some of the items before the passage of U.S. laws or treaties prohibited their sale or purchase.
In addition, the investigation could result in the “repatriation” of any of the cultural items, Jones said.
Dark Rain Thom, a Shawnee descendant who served on the Indiana Native American Indian Affairs Commission under three governors, said the motives of such collectors vary, and that it’s not uncommon for collections to come to light when an elderly person dies and descendants try to figure out what to do with artifacts.
Often, she said, family members then quietly donate them to museums or arrange to return them to specific tribes — if that provenance can be determined.
Some collectors are motivated by money, as the artifacts’ sale can be lucrative, Thom said. But others with interests in archaeology or anthropology are motivated by a desire to understand the development of a culture through its art items and everyday implements. And others, Thom said, are in it for the thrill of discovery.
The FBI and its partners might have a daunting task determining the origins and provenance of all of the items, Thom predicted.
“It may be 30 years — or never — before they have it all cataloged.”
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