People of the Dirt, Part Two: The Obsessive and Destructive Artifact Thieves
The main reason for collecting Native artifacts given by Arrowheads.com, however, points to a more visceral urge among enthusiasts and provides an entre to the darker side of the hobby. “Enthusiasts are attracted to the strange world,” tops the list of motivations for the collector.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife agent Robert Stills described digging for artifacts as an addiction in a recent article in the Riverfront Times. The paper also quoted Jerry Hilliard, assistant station archaeologist at the University of Arkansas saying, “A new wave of looting has been seen in epidemic proportions.”
Brief research into the topic on YouTube bears out these claims. Among the thousands of postings related to artifact collecting is an enthusiast named Brooksy. He has posted numerous videos of himself and friends digging for artifacts. One post includes over 35 minutes of footage shot at an artifact show, and is comprised solely of close-ups of framed box after box of arrowheads and artifacts. His forearms, covered with arrowhead tattoos, slide into the picture as he repeatedly fondles the items exclaiming, “Look at that!” in his heavy Arkansas accent. The large number of arrowheads and other artifacts at that one show is overwhelming as is his mind-numbing attention to each items detail.
Brooksy, like many of his brethren, has the habit of including Native flute music with his videos, and appears to burn sage at the beginning of one dig. His prayer is, “Thank you, great spirit, for everything and the chance to look for the finds left behind from those who came before us who left nothing but what they took from the earth.”
Apparently many collectors see their actions as a form of honoring Native peoples. “I actually think it’s paying respect to the people that were here before us, and passing on that history to the next generation,” said Doody in the RifleandRod article.
The hobby of hunting and collecting artifacts does not honor Native peoples and is a symptom of the U. S. policy of removing them from their lands according to Barnes of the Shawnee tribe. “Since [collectors] don’t see any real Indians living nearby, we are like fossils to them,” he says.
Dr. Garrick Bailey, a professor of anthropology at the University of Tulsa, says that until very recently, the remains and artifacts of indigenous peoples were viewed by mainstream America as merely scientific specimens and part of the natural fauna of the land. Bailey served on the review committee for the federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.
At another point along the digging and collecting spectrum are the self-described outlaw diggers like “Guycuchio” and his crew. “Guycuchio,” a wiry young man, appears to be wound tight, and sports the remnants of a black eye and wears enormous black disks in both ears.
After arriving at their spot, they dig until they are shoulder-deep in the earth. Despite the obvious heat and humidity of the Louisiana location, “Guycuchio” displays his jittery enthusiasm as he photographs the handful of arrowheads and spear point he has found. “This area is pretty tore up from me and the other outlaws,” he observes.
Timbergiantbigfoot, however, seems motivated by curiosity and the hope of finding remains of Big Foot. He appears to be part of another subculture of diggers who are convinced that the government is withholding evidence of ancient remains of Big Foot; it is up to him and others to unearth the evidence and share it with the world. He and his buddies find what he describes as mounds or ancient graves in the woods. So they dig. Finding nothing, they vow to return later.
According to authorities the land, private, state and federal, is littered with such efforts.
Money, obsession and/or the drug-fueled need for repetitive movement are all motivations to dig.
State and federal agents are increasingly finding a connection between artifacts and drugs. Sergeant Kevin Glaser of the Southeast Missouri Drug Task Force told the Riverfront Times that his officers have gone into meth houses and found tubs filled with arrowheads and artifacts.
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