Native American group believes remains among Rush Co. artifacts - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Native American group believes remains among Rush Co. artifacts

Updated:
RUSH COUNTY -

There are new reports about what investigators are discovering as they search collection of historical artifacts so huge it fills a Rush County home and several outbuildings.

An organization representing Native Americans believe human remains are buried among thousands and thousands of artifacts collected by Donald Miller in the U.S. and around the world.

The FBI investigation and massive effort to recover thousands of invaluable artifacts is being watched by the American Indian Movement. Until recently, its local chairman lived only a half-hour away from the Rush County site.

"We are glad something like this has happened," said Albert Runningwolf, American Indian Movement.

Runningwolf says his organization has been aware of Miller for years. It suspects his collection of artifacts from Native American tribes and other cultures from around the world include ceremonial treasures and human remains.

"If there are Native American remains there, the remains are to be treated with dignity and respect and reburied," Runningwolf insisted.

Reports say agents have found shrunken heads, Ming Dynasty jade and other questionable artifacts. The FBI isn't commenting.

The 91-year-old Miller spent much of his life amassing what's being called an "amazing collection."

"There are lots of collectors like this out there," said Dr. Christopher Moore, an archaeologist and UIndy professor.

Moore says laws and international treaties governing the collection, protection, and ownership of artifacts are complicated. Most weren't written until the late 1960s and some are newer that.

"If he had obtained it five years ago, would mean he is in trouble," Moore explained "But if he obtained it 50 years ago, than it was obtained legally."

Because criminal cases are so difficult to prove, Moore says prosecutions are rare.

The FBI says Miller is cooperating with investigators. Identifying and documenting the thousands of artifacts is expected to take several more days.

This is likely the biggest operation ever undertaken by the FBI Art Crime Team. Since it was created 10 years ago, the team, according to its website, has recovered about 2,500 items worth $150 million.

Agents working in Rush County are examining thousands and thousands of artifacts. Documenting and tracing back ownership could take years, however. Art and artifacts looted during World War II are still being returned to their rightful owners.

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