Friday, 9 July 2021

Will the mass robbery of Native American graves ever end?

       Part of the Miller collection (FBI)          

A longish and interesting piece on the private collection of artefacts (Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson, 'Will the mass robbery of Native American graves ever end?' The Washington Post 9th July 2021). It is centred around the story of the raid in April 2014 on the Indiana home of collector Don Miller, age 90:
Inside, and squirreled away in outbuildings across his property, was one of the largest personal stores of cultural artifacts in the world, according to the FBI. “In my experience dealing with antiquities cases, a large private collection would have been 100 pieces,” Carpenter says. “Then I walked into Don Miller’s house.” He had more than 42,000 items. In the basement, glass cases and wooden shelves displayed some of what he’d amassed in a makeshift museum. He loved to show off the items that he’d dug out of the ground and gathered over eight decades [...] One archaeologist brought in by the FBI openly wept when he saw the vastness and quality of what Miller had reaped.
This is a huge problem in the US
Amateur archaeology [sic] is a thriving hobby in America, with many types of collectors. Surface hunters gather what has leached from the earth or what may have been churned up by, say, farm or construction equipment. Relic hunters tend to use metal detectors. And then there are those like Miller who employ shovels and picks and, in his case, heavy machinery. [...] Federal land management agencies estimate that more than one-third of Native American sites on federally protected property have been emptied. Many of those sites were graves. To take just one example of the scope of theft: According to a 1997 FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, 95% of Native American graves on public land in southwest Virginia have been pillaged. And this doesn’t begin to account for the graves on private property.
This is a trend the US should deal with before they start telling other countries how they should look after their heritage. Let the US sort out their own problems in this regard before dictating to others what they should do.


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