Two Tribes of Native Americans, the Acoma Pueblo Nation in New Mexico and The Hoopa Valley Tribal Nation of California are opposing a scheduled sale of nearly 500 tribal artefacts in a Paris auction house. They want the sale stopped and the artefacts returned.
“These are not works of art,” Governor Kurt Riley of the Acoma Pueblo Nation stated. “These are religious items dear to our culture. When gone, a piece of ourselves goes missing.”
The tribes have the support of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian and the US departments of Interior and State. The French auction house has not as yet responded.
The US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural affairs stated at a recent press conference in Washington: “In the absence of clear documentation and clear consent of the tribes themselves, these objects should not be sold.”
US authorities have been talking with French counterparts since the auctions began in 2013, “But we are still awaiting a response from the French.”
Selling Native American artefacts is either illegal or highly restricted in the United States. depending on the objects and where they were recovered. And tribes have said that such sales are offensive as they expose treasured and sacred objects as merely pieces of commerce.
“These items are part of our daily lives and on certain occasions these are used in ceremony,” Governor Riley stated. “Thanks to the Internet, tracking and finding such artefacts has become easier.” he said, and efforts to recover them have stepped up.
“We’ve been successful in the United States to recoup some of those items,” he said. “It’s in France that they’ve not been receptive to our position.”
A Native American consultant has tried to explain their position to the French but their agency has ruled that “Native American groups do not have legal standing on French soil”.