The Acoma Pueblo Nation from New Mexico and the Hoopa Valley Tribal Nation of California have announced their opposition to a scheduled sale next week of close to 500 artefacts at the EVE auction house in Paris.
They want the sale stopped and the artefacts returned. “This is not a work of art,” said Governor Kurt Riley of the Acoma Pueblo Nation, explaining how the Acoma view the objects up for sale. “This is a religious item that is dear to us. And when it’s gone, it’s like 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 the interior and state. The EVE auction house did not respond to a request for an interview.
“In the absence of clear documentation and clear consent of the tribes themselves, these objects should not be sold,” Mark Taplin of the US department of state’s bureau of educational and cultural affairs told a press conference in Washington.
Taplin said US authorities have been talking with their French counterparts since the auctions began in 2013. “But I must say we are still awaiting a response from the French side.” The battle is both cultural and legal. Selling Native American artefacts in the US is either highly restricted or illegal, depending on the objects and where they were recovered. And tribes have said that such sales are offensive insofar as they expose treasured and sacred objects to public commerce.
French judges have supported the auctioneers’s view that selling the artefacts is legal, as no French law expressly prohibits the sales, and have refused to stop auctions when tribes have sued. — AFP