About the film

A century after his death, the remains of Private Thomas Smith, a 19th century “buffalo soldier,” were stolen from a remote frontier cemetery in New Mexico. Making matters worse, the perpetrator then kept the soldier’s bones in his home for thirty years. When he died at Fort Craig in 1865, Private Smith was buried with military honors. How he wound up as a macabre trophy in someone’s personal artifact collection is a focus of the documentary film “Helluva Way to Treat a Soldier.”

While investigating the Fort Craig case in 2005, federal authorities soon realized they were on the trail of one of America’s most prolific looters. It was a case that ultimately emphasized the need for a shift in public attitudes regarding our nation’s historic and archaeological treasures. This documentary, which was filmed as the Fort Craig investigation unfolded, takes the viewer on a bizarre yet informative journey. The film also chronicles federal efforts to address the desecration of fallen soldiers regardless of their rank, color, or the time that has elapsed since their service.

Vanishing History

button artifact
Looting has not only cost the public much of its archaeological & historic treasure, it has resulted in lost history.

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Grave digger

mysterious shadow

One man's passion for history turns into an obsessive hunt for artifacts.

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Get Involved

Get involved in protecting America's heritage.

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Press Kit

 Download press kit. photos, press releases, clips for broadcast.