Kelly Wilkinson/The Star/From WTHR Chopper 13
FBI agents on April 2, 2014, work around a home in Rush County, Indiana, to confiscate thousands of artifacts from a private collection.

FBI Seizes Thousands of Artifacts from Indiana Home


A collection of cultural artifacts that took a 91-year-old Indiana man eight decades to amass was seized Wednesday, April 2 by the FBI, reports the Indy Star.

There were American Indian items among the collection of Don Miller, who has not been charged or arrested.

The FBI would not describe specific artifacts involved in the investigation, but Robert A. Jones, special agent in charge of the Indianapolis FBI office, told the Indy Star it would take more than “weeks or months” to catalog everything found.

“Frankly, overwhelmed,” is how Larry Zimmerman, professor of anthropology and museum studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis described his reaction to the Star. “I have never seen a collection like this in my life except in some of the largest museums.”

And Miller may not have stored the item to museum standards, but he did try to maintain them.

Jones told the Star that the monetary value of the items has not yet been determined, but the cultural value is immeasurable. Aside from having American Indian objects, he said Miller had items from China, Russia, Peru, Haiti, Australia and New Guinea.

The Star reports that the investigation will determine what each item is, where each item came from, how Miller came to possess each item, and whether it is illegal to own each item privately.

Jones told the Star that Miller may have came to own some items before laws were passed prohibiting their ownership. He also said that some items could be repatriated.

The Star spoke to Dark Rain Thom, Shawnee, who has served on the Indiana Native American Indian Affairs Commission under three governors. She said he motives for such massive collections can vary, and they often come to light when an elderly person passes away and family members have to figure out what to do with the artifacts.

She told the Star that some collectors are motivated by money, others by an interest in archaeology and the development of a culture through their art items. Whatever motivated Miller, his collection was a large one, that will take a long time to research.

“It may be 30 years—or never—before they have it all cataloged,” Thom told the Star.

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Arthur MedicineEagle Sonier
Arthur Medicine...
Submitted by Arthur Medicine... on
Some non Indians are defending the guys crimes of looting and possessing human remains.

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
Are there laws against collecting artifacts from wilderness areas? I'm not talking about burial areas or anything substantial and culturally sensitive, but things like broken pottery, arrowheads, etc.

Carrie L's picture
Carrie L
Submitted by Carrie L on
Yes there are Federal and State Laws that prohibit collecting artifacts from Wilderness areas and public lands like the National Forests, BLM. Areas and artifacts are protected under the American Antiquities Act, National Historic Preservation Act, other regulations.