Environment | Law

Mary Pember: FBI finds ancestors and artifacts in Indiana home






The Indiana home where the remains and artifacts were found. Photo by Mary Annette Pember

Mary Annette Pember reports on efforts by the FBI to repatriate hundreds of ancestors and artifacts recently found in a home in Indiana:
The recent discovery by the FBI of a giant horde of Native artifacts and remains held by Don Miller in Rush County, Indiana offers an opportunity to take a deeper look into the eccentric, obsessive and sometimes shadowy world of such collecting.

Miller, 91, has been well known by as a collector of Indian and other artifacts for years. His collection includes the remains of over 100 Native ancestors, according to tribal leaders consulted by the FBI in the case. Many of the remains are labeled with names that can be traced to Native families alive today. “He had a head with an arrowhead stuck in it, like a skull and all kinds of Indian artifacts from arrowheads to hatchets to peace pipes to just anything,” neighbor Joe Runnebohm told the Indianapolis Star.

According to Drew Northern, FBI Supervisory Special Agent, the agency is reaching out to Tribal Historic Preservation Officers for assistance in repatriating items and remains found at Miller’s home. Within days of the find, the FBI coordinated a conference call and face-to-face meeting with THPO leaders at the Indianapolis office. “Building lasting relationships with tribes and repatriation is our goal,” Northern said.

Although early news reports described the FBI removal of the artifacts and remains from Miller’s home as a raid, later reports indicated that Miller is cooperating with authorities and had invited them into his home to take the items.

Get the Story:
Mary Annette Pember: People of the Dirt: FBI Bust of Remains Collector Hints at Sensitivity to Native Issues (Indian Country Today 5/8)