FBI examining huge collection of Indian artifacts at home of elderly Indiana man

The FBI says some of the American Indian artifacts in collection of an elderly Indiana man may have to be returned to tribes that made them.

By Frances Burns

Art experts from the FBI are examining the enormous collection of American Indian artifacts assembled over decades by an Indiana man.

While some news media said the FBI had "seized" Donald C. Miller's collection, a spokesman said the bureau is working with the 91-year-old man to determine if some of the artifacts must be returned to American Indian tribes.


“Basically what that means is that treaties, federal laws and statutes dictate who can have these types of items," said Drew Northern, the FBI spokesman agent. "Mr. Miller has been collecting for a long time as everyone knows and he wants to make sure they go back to where they belong.”

Robert Chance Jones, the FBI special agent in charge, said Miller may have acquired much of his collection before those laws and treaties went into effect.

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Miller's collection, stored on his property in Rush County, a rural area about 30 miles southeast of Indianapolis, contains hundreds or possibly thousands of items. Miller said he collected artifacts from almost 200 countries.

“I have never seen a collection like this in my entire life except in some of the largest museums,” said Larry Zimmerman, an anthropologist at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis.


After growing up in Rush County, Miller served the Army in World War II. He has described for the Rushville Republican his assignment to the secret installation in New Mexico where the atomic bomb was developed, including heading the team involved with the detonation during the Trinity test in July 1945.

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Melissa Kleiman told WISH-TV her company did some work on Miller's house and she made a home video showing part of his collection.

“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.”

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