Law | National | World

Mary Pember: Federal raids slow black market of Indian artifacts






A home in Indiana where Indian remains and artifacts were found. Photo by Mary Annette Pember

Mary Annette Pember reports on how recent raids by the FBI in Indiana and by the Bureau of Land Management have slowed the global trade in Indian artifacts:
The FBI, aided by its Art Crimes Team, removed thousands of Native American and other cultural artifacts from the home of antiquities collector Don Miller. The remains of over 100 Native ancestors were among items taken from Miller’s collection.

The FBI removed artifacts from Miller’s home that were obviously illegal, such as funerary items and human remains. According to Agent Northern, the questionable artifacts represent only a portion of Miller’s extensive antiquities collection. No charges have been brought against Miller, 91, who has been very cooperative with investigators and may have been unaware of the legal status of items within his collection.

In Utah, however, the BLM seized a wider range of items, including more utilitarian artifacts such as cradleboards, projectile points, hand tools, pendants, grinding stones and others. Since they were clearly looted from federal lands, however, even utilitarian items fall under the province of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, (NAGPRA) according to Agent Northern.

Large-scale investigations like these present unique challenges to law enforcement agencies such as proper storage, often for years, and repatriation to tribes under NAGPRA. Federal curators are now in charge of storing and caring for huge treasure troves of Native American artifacts seized during investigations.

Get the Story:
Mary Annette Pember: Huge Black Market in Native Relics Slowed by FBI Seizures (Indian Country 7/7)

Related Stories:
Mary Pember: Digging the dirt for Native ancestors and artifacts (05/13)
Mary Pember: FBI finds ancestors and artifacts in Indiana home (5/8)