RUSH COUNTY, Ind. (WISH) – The FBI is investigating artifacts at a Rush County home, saying some of them may have been “acquired improperly.”
Officials say 91-year-old Donald C. Miller has collected artifacts for over eight decades, saying he has Native American artifacts, and relics from the U.S., Haiti, New Zealand, China, Greece, and many other countries.
Miller told CBS he’d collected them from nearly 200 countries.
“Over the last several months, an FBI investigation has determined that Mr. Miller may have knowingly and unknowingly collected artifacts, relics and objects of cultural patrimony in violation of several treaties federal and state statutes,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert Jones.
Jones said some statutes and laws put into place in the last several decades may not have been in effect when Mr. Miller collected some of the items.
He said they’re working to determine which are Mr. Miller’s, and which items need to be returned to the rightful owners.
“It’s our duty to ensure they are properly identified, safeguarded, collected and stored in a manner that allow us to eventually to return them to those Native American and other nations and cultural groups who have legitimate rights to ownership,” Jones added.
The FBI is working with other experts, they say, to carefully itemize the collection.
It’s extensive, even for some experts to go through.
“I have never seen a collection like this in my entire life except in some of the largest museums,” said IUPUI Professor of Anthropology Larry Zimmerman.
Many people in the area say they’ve been inside to see the artifacts, and say he was glad to show them off, and teach a history lesson or two.
Melissa Kleiman met Mr. Miller while the company she worked for did some work in his home.
“He was just one of those guys that you meet once in your life, and he has a huge impact on you, and you just never forget him,” said Kleiman. “He was just one of the most interesting guys I’ve ever met. Loves to tell stories of his travels, and he’s been all over the world.”
She says he showed them, as he does for many people, his collection, answering questions along the way.
Officials wouldn’t confirm what specific types of artifacts were in the home. Kleiman says she took video of Miller’s basement collection, showing pots, arrowheads, skulls, even a full skeleton. Officials say there are likely thousands of artifacts.
So when she heard the FBI was investigating there, “I was flabbergasted, because I’m just thinking about this wonderful man that I had met three years ago, and I’ll never forget him and all the stories he told us. I just can’t imagine him doing anything wrong on purpose,” said Kleiman.
The FBI Special Agent in Charge says they’ll turn over their findings to the U.S. Attorney’s office once their investigation is complete.