With just one glance, Columbus native Roger Seefeld can pinpoint the material, date and application of a Native American artifact.
When one enters the Seefeld home, it looks like any other Nebraska home except for the array of framed artifacts decorating the walls of his basement. Seefeld spent roughly 58 years scavenging land in Platte, Polk, Colfax, Butler and Nance counties for Native American history.
Seefeld said he pinpoints locations based on the ground’s topography and through word of mouth.
“If someone isn’t looking for the artifact, then it will never be found,” said Seefeld, noting the relics could decay and break over time, causing their history to disappear.
Seefeld found his passion through his father, who was also an avid collector that found his inspiration from the Native American artifacts displayed in a Genoa bank. Seefeld at age 8 began accompanying his father on his expeditions and started a collection of his own.
Although two of Seefeld’s brothers also tagged along during these trips, Seefeld said the craft didn’t spark their interest as much as it did his. Seefeld’s collection consists of artifacts, such as arrowheads, hide scrapers, beads, jewelry, pottery, bone tools and musical instruments, dating back from 8,000 years ago to the 1800s.
“I’ve always enjoyed history,” said Seefeld, who is a member of the Nebraska Archaeological Society, which is a chapter of the Central States Archeological Societies and a nonprofit organization developing a better understanding among students and collectors of archaeological material, professionals, as well as museums and institutions of learning. “(I enjoy) not knowing what you’re going to find because it is always a surprise.”
Seefeld said many of the items he found were pieces of history that were left behind, lost and hidden. Seefeld noted he typically conducts his searches in the spring and fall before crop plantation and after harvest season.
When it comes to sharing his collection, Seefeld is not shy. He has visited several schools, including Lost Creek, Shell Creek, Platte Center elementary schools and Columbus Christian School, in the area. During those visits, he said he has educate students about Native American history and shows his artifacts.
Seefeld said it’s important for youth to learn the history of the original people in Nebraska and how they survived. He noted he enjoys emphasizing how Native Americans utilized every part of the animal, from using it as food to tools to clothing.
“There was no waste,” Seefeld said.
Genoa archaeologist Nancy Carlson, who is also a member of NAS, participated in several Nebraska Artifact shows with Seefeld. Among the many collectors in the show, Carlson said Seefeld is a definite standout because of his robust collection.
“He has a pretty outstanding Pawnee (Plains Indian tribe headquartered in Pawnee, Oklahoma) collection,” Carlson said.
Seefeld will be participating in next year's Nebraska Artifact Show in Seward, though specific details on the time and date have yet to be determined.
Seefeld said he hopes to see his 12-year-old grandson, who has shown interest in collecting artifacts, follow in his footsteps. Even after five decades, Seefeld said he has no plans on stopping his passion anytime soon.
“As long as I can go,” he said.
Natasya Ong is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.