Tuesday 18 May 2010

The US "Collectors' Rights" Lobby and Washington State Artefact Collectors

Two residents of Goldendale, Washington State have pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to unlawfully removing artefacts, including rocks and stone flakes from a Yakama Nation cultural site (Phil Ferolito, Couple that stole cultural artifacts is sentenced Yakima Herald-Republic Thursday, May 13 2010). The pair (Devin Prouty, 27 and Tiffany E. Larson), 24, have been sentenced to pay $6,690 in damages (to cover the restoration costs at Spearfish Park) and placed on two years probation and additionally to do 150 hours each of community service. Also charged were William Davis and Christopher Hardman.

According to federal court documents, on Aug. 15, 2009 the four people were found removing arrowheads and stone flakes from Spearfish Park near the Columbia River in Klickitat County by a federal natural resource specialist conducting a routine patrol of the area. These acts are against the 1979 Archaeological Resources Preservation Act a law of a type slammed by "collectors' rights" groups such as the Missouri based ACCG as "restrictive" and "Nationalist". Such artefacts on public and tribal lands are protected by federal law (as a sign at the entrance to Spearfish Park warns) and are not to be disturbed.
The four defendants said they didn’t know it was against the law to take the artifacts from the area. Larson said she was collecting arrowheads to pay for college for her son, who is in foster care due to her substance abuse problems, court documents said. Both she and Prouty had a storage unit in The Dalles, Ore., filled with rocks, flakes and other artifacts from the park, according to court documents. Larson admitted to taking artifacts from the area on several occasions.
A total of 2,694 flakes and 197 artifacts were recovered, court documents said.
These people live just down the road from ACCG's John Pennock (Bellevue to Goldendale is only 200 km) and to judge from what he said on a collecting forum just a few days ago, and discussed here, he will surely sympathise. Perhaps US collectors rights activists need to start reaching out to all US artefact collectors and inform them of their rights and how they can fight for them.

The USA in antiquity collecting terms is in the terminology used by ACCG members a strongly "statist" country, in which there is no "middle way" for collectors of objects coming from such sites. The ACCG member will agree that these collectors' property rights to what they had stashed away in their own storage facility are not being respected by this statist regime, there is no respect for the free market in such artefacts and no respect for the right of US citizens to collect things that are old. The ACCG point out that such "statist approaches eventually fail", as here, to protect sites from looting. The US government merely "criminalises" such collectors. Any criminal element or 'rottenness' that exists is the fault of the government's own draconian attempts to control the basic democratic rights of property. The US, ACCG members would therefore argue need to adopt a system predicated on the principles of property rights, free markets, and equality (and they would urge the USA to adopt a Portable Antiquities Scheme type solution). ACCG members like Mr Pennock regard it as a moral imperative not to support restrictive laws like this in which 'Karl Marx' cultural property ideologies attempt to influence the country to criminalize the antiquities trade, thus "enabling and abetting an unethical anti-democratic system and lengthen the date out for when they might adopt more enlightened policies". The ACCG member would no doubt tell collectors Prouty and Larson, "Giving in now, takes away our ability to influence and promote the kind of world we dream of and desire". Wouldn't he?

Now I really do not see that in any substantive way the laws of the United States of America differ from the laws of the countries from which the ACCG wants its US citizen members to be able to buy coins from without bothering about verifying legal origins or export and stuff like that. So if they are calling those foreign laws unrealistic, restrictive and undemocratic, why are they silent about analagous laws in their own land? If they want other countries to scrap these laws and adopt more collector friendly ones, they why do they stay silent about first doing the same at home? Why is it just foreign countries that have to do what US collectors say, when they have not even got the guts to try and persuade the citizens and government of their own country to adopt the measures they would gladly impose on others? Is this a question the US "collectors' rights" movement is ever going to address? Or are they going to continue ranting about those nasty old "Marxist" and "nationalist" foreign countries, not seeing the beam in their own eye?
Vignette: The splinter in the ACCG eye.


Anonymous said...


Paul Barford said...

Profile Not Available. The Blogger Profile you requested cannot be displayed. Many Blogger users have not yet elected to publicly share their Profile. If you're a Blogger user, we encourage you to enable access to your Profile.

Another anonymous. Even authors of one word comments want to hide their identity. If it is "boring" Jaymee don't read it, nobody forced you to.

Damien Huffer said...

Seems like you used too many "big words" for Jaymee's liking. Oops!

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