Sacred Native American artifacts are set to be auctioned in France despite protests. A French judge has ruled that the sale of nearly 70 headdresses and masks, sacred to the Hopi Tribe, will be sold to the highest bidder.
United States ambassadors have plead with French officials to delay or deny the sale of the Hopi artifacts, as they were likely stolen. The masks and headdresses are considered “communally owned” by Hopi tradition. The sale of the artifacts would devastate the Hopi Tribe of Arizona.
As reported by The New York Times, an attorney for the Hopi Tribe argues that the sacred artifacts belong with Native Americans. Attorney Pierre Servan-Schreiber has advocated for the Hopi Tribe, asserting that they have suffered enough. It is his opinion that the French cannot fully understand how sacred the artifacts are to the tribe.
Servan-Schreiber worries that, once the masks and headdresses are sold, they will never be returned to the tribe. He has filed a last-minute to halt the auction, but he is not confident about the outcome.
The auction has been organized and will be conducted by Néret-Minet Tessier Sarrou. The auctioneers are pleased with the court’s decision as they believe they should have the right to sell “any object of a sacred nature, regardless of the culture concerned.” They further stated that they hope to make sacred Hopi artifacts “accessible to the largest number of people” possible.
Charles Rivkin, United States Ambassador to France, has also requested that French officials halt the sale of the artifacts. He contends that they vital to the Hopi Tribe and should not be sold.
It is thought that the artifacts were either stolen from or sold by the Hopi Tribe in the early 1900s. Hopi leaders explain that those sold were not done so with the permission of the tribe, as the artifacts do not “belong” to any individual. They are considered property of the entire tribe.
Currently, the Hopi maintain their tribe as a sovereign nation. Their reservation in northeastern Arizona sits on over 1 million acres of land, and is composed of 12 separate villages. As stated on the Hopi Tribe website, they welcome visitors who are respectful of their land, culture, and traditions.
Artifacts found in the US, belonging to foreign countries, are often protected by agreements between governments. Sacred and historical artifacts are returned, as many have been illegally obtained from the original holder. Additionally, the United States government prohibits the illegal sale of Native American artifacts.
Unfortunately, there are no current policies, or agreements, requiring foreign countries to return artifacts to the US. Foreign countries also do not recognize the US ban on sale of Native American artifacts.
Néret-Minet Tessier Sarrou expects to make close to $1 million selling the sacred Native American artifacts.
[Images via Wikimedia]