Smith brooks no tolerance for pot thieves and artifact bandits — an incessant threat to Indian history. He relates multiple incidents where a crew from Arkansas was hitting Coahoma County Indian sites at night and making off with major pottery pieces — highly desired in the private market and easily worth thousands of dollars. “The pot hunters didn’t have to hit Ebay with this stuff. This was the kind of material where the thief knows a collector — and it’s gone forever.”

Smith is torn when it comes to Ebay and the private market. “If there was something on Ebay that had real historical value and was from the Delta region — I’d buy it just to bring it home to the Delta. Now, keep in mind, that’s a two-way street. I would absolutely hate to promote the idea of selling pots. That may just generate more theft. But a lot of this auction material comes from estate sales or people who have had the item passed down in their family. If I know a particular item is from this region, then I want it to come home. And then maybe one day I’ll leave it to the library or museum.”

It’s not greed and glory that drive Smith into the furrows hour after hour. It’s a sincere love of Delta history, a hope to preserve a hidden culture, and of course — the primal thrill of the hunt. “Some of the things I’ve found, I can remember exactly where I was standing, no matter how many years it has been. And even now, one little decent piece will charge me for hours. I’m convinced there is another one coming in the next three to four steps. Absolutely convinced.”


(For photos of Smith's collection, see Delta farmland reveals secrets of Indian history)


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