The home of a 91-year-old missionary and World War II veteran has been raided by the FBI, which is looking through the man’s collection of artifacts he brought back from foreign countries.
The FBI erected tents on Don Miller’s property and brought in semitrailers. The Star reported that the FBI removed thousands of artifacts from the property. Miller never has made his collection a secret, and has been featured in news stories and regularly invites people to his home. He has visited nearly 200 countries.
“What could he of all people have to hide?” Elizabeth Dykes, who knows Miller, told The Star. News stories describe Miller as a local character with an incredible collection of artifacts that include a mummy case, a Nazi helmet and a shrunken head. The stories also stated that Miller and his wife travel around the world as Baptist missionaries and regularly worked with orphans.
“It’s odd. The whole situation is odd,” Dykes said. “I about flipped my lid yesterday when I saw this.”
Raid For Reparations
The FBI would not say whether Miller had broken any laws or whether he was facing any criminal charges. Instead, the bureau’s goal is to catalog the artifacts and return them to their countries of origin, FBI Special Agent Drew Northern told The Star.
“We’re collecting and analyzing with the goal of repatriation,” Northern said. The agent didn’t say what artifacts would be repatriated or to whom.
Miller has apparently been collecting the artifacts for decades. A 1998 Star article described Miller’s home as a museum. Many of the artifacts such as spears, a dugout canal and battle axes come from tribal peoples in other nations. Miller even had dinosaur eggs from China, and a cowbell from Tibet. He also had some Native American artifacts including a Winchester rifle used by a Sioux Warrior at the Battle of Little Big Horn and large numbers of arrowheads.
Special Agent Robert Jones told the Los Angeles Times that Miller potentially had collections that were in violation of treaties and federal statutes – but it is unknown whether his collections predate those restrictions.
The FBI has apparently been investigating Miller for some time but its agents refused to divulge many details of the investigation. The bureau called upon art experts and museum curators for help with the cataloging.
“I have never seen a collection like this in my life except at some of the largest museums,” said Larry Zimmerman, a professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, told the Times.
Man Of ‘Mystery’
The Star described Miller who lives near Waldron, Indiana, about 35 miles from Indianapolis as a man of mystery and even compared him to Indiana Jones. The newspaper noted that Miller kept a terracotta statue from China on his front porch and showed artifacts off to visitors.
A retired consultant to the US Navy, Miller said he had worked on the Manhattan Project, which developed the atomic bomb during World War II.
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He also liked to tell stories of his adventures as a missionary and an amateur archaeologist. People who know Miller believe the stories about him.
“He is a magnificent person and was always 100 percent authentic,” Rick Bolt, a former coworker of Miller’s, told the Star. “He was also remarkably consistent with his stories, and all the details I ever checked were accurate.”
Miller had been questioned about his collecting in the past. Amy Mohr, a member of his church and a fellow missionary, told a reporter that she saw customs inspectors stop Miller from taking cannonballs out of Haiti.
What Did The Missionary Do?
Miller might have violated federal and international laws by bringing some of the artifacts into the country, DePaul University Law Professor Patty Gerstenblith told The Star.
The United States has treaties with some nations that require Uncle Sam to return illegally acquired cultural artifacts, Gerstenblith noted. There are also some countries, including Egypt, where it is illegal to export artifacts.