IN GOOD FAITH: The Repatriation of a Massive Collection of Native Ancestors and Artifacts by the FBI May Be A Model for NAGPRA's Future
February 21, 2023
Eight years ago, the FBI made the largest seizure of stolen artifacts and Native American human remains in its history from an amateur archaeologist in Indiana. Now, with the majority of ancestors and artifacts returned to their respective nations, tribal leaders and experts on the case say the bureau has created a model for timely yet thorough repatriation.
Since 2014, a temperature-controlled Federal Bureau of Investigation warehouse in Indianapolis has become a waiting room for thousands of stolen artifacts and the remains of hundreds of Native American ancestors that had been dug out of the ground by amateur archaeologist Don Miller from the 1940s through the 2000s.
That wait is now coming to an end. The warehouse, where boxes of carefully handled artifacts once reached the ceiling, has emptied significantly over the last year, as the FBI has repatriated most of the stolen artifacts and the ancestors' remains. Last November, about 450 remains seized by the FBI from Miller's house in 2014-the majority of the ancestors-were escorted home to South Dakota by delegations from the Oglala Sioux Nation and to Michigan by the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi.