Drop that arrowhead, cont’d

by Walter Olson on May 1, 2014

Last month I wrote about a strangely aggressive FBI raid on the rural Indiana home of a retiree locally famous for collecting artifacts and curios from around the world. In a piece written then but overlooked by me at the time, Radley Balko puts this in the context of equally aggressive armed enforcement raids on Indian artifact collectors in Florida and Utah, resulting in ruin for many defendants and, according to the reporting, at least four suicides of persons under investigation. Balko:

I remember collecting arrowheads as a kid. Depending on the state and the land on which you’re finding them, that in itself may or may not be legal today. Some states began banning the practice decades ago. But the laws were rarely enforced, and when they were, authorities targeted people stealing from preserved sites or tribal lands, or selling high-dollar artifacts.

No more. Under the phalanx of state, federal, and tribal laws, it may be a felony not only to buy and sell some manmade artifacts, but also to remove them from the bottoms of creek beds or dig them from the dirt. Most of the people busted in the Florida raids were hobbyists. And it’s conceivable that some of them had no idea they were breaking the law — though it also seems likely that some probably did.

{ 5 comments }

1 Andrew M Garland 05.01.14 at 3:52 am

It is probably a crime to pick up a pebble on federal land and keep it. Or, throw a peach pit into the woods.

Government claims that it is wise, good, and will use its power with discretion to improve life for us all. It constantly shows that this is a lie.

Somewhere there is a bulletin board recording the numbe of arrests each bureaucrat has made that month, or large sting operations he has participated in. Citizens are the fodder for getting another star or a raise in retirement pay 20 years from now.

2 Allan 05.01.14 at 8:23 am

Andrew, that whoosh you just heard was the other ship passing you in the night. Randy Balko’s issue is not the concept that the federal goverment has the right to make the laws, but that the laws are not entirely clear and are enforced with outrageous shows of force.

3 MattS 05.01.14 at 11:56 am

Allan,

“enforced with outrageous shows of force.”

Understatement of the year, and it’s only the beginning of May.

4 david7134 05.01.14 at 7:38 pm

I was leaving the Painted Desert when we had to stop at the ranger road block. He asked if we had accumulated anything on passing through the park. I told him that we had a van full of his flies (they are really bad there) and that he could have them back. I have made people mad in my life, but I could tell that I hit a home run with his reaction. I know I reduced his life by a few years and hopefully saved the country some on his retirement obligation.

I also have a friend that found an Indian midden and some artifacts. He sent off a sample for carbon dating (he could afford it) and the result was 20,000 years old. He immediately called the local archeologist at the local college and was told that they were aware of the site and they were not doing anything about it. Note that the date is way off on North American occupation. Instead, they let the site wash on into the Red River and out of history.

5 OBQuiet 05.02.14 at 11:16 pm

The one that gets me is the ‘illegal’ trading of ancient coins. That was what they were MEANT FOR!

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