Letter to the editor: Arizona congressional delegation urges attorney general and FBI director to intervene in French auction on behalf of Hopi Tribe

To the editor:

Dear Attorney General Loretta Lynch and FBI Director James B. Comey:

We are writing to bring to your attention to a timely matter of critical importance to the Hopi Tribe. For some time now, the Tribe has been attempting to recover and repatriate cultural artifacts from an auction house in France.

Specifically, the auction house located in Paris, Estimations Ventes aux Encheres (EVE), has engaged in the sale of sacred objects, despite objections from the Hopi Tribe, the Navajo Nation, and the State Department, among others. Undeterred, EVE appears poised to move forward with anther such auction on June 1. We understand from the Tribe that the auction would include the sale of sacred Hopi objects known as "Kastina Friends." According to tribal tradition, displaying and selling these items is sacrilegious and offensive.

Last year, a bipartisan group of members of the Arizona congressional delegation sent a letter to the State Department prior to EVE's December auction of similarly sensitive objects. In response to that letter, the State Department indicated it would "continu[e] to raise this issue on a bilateral basis with the French." It seems those efforts have failed to bear fruit. Given the role of the Department of Justice and the FBI in enforcing federal protections for Native American objects under laws such as the Archaeological Resources Protection Act and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, we thought your respective agencies might be better positioned to review this matter. To that end, we would appreciate a response regarding potential options the federal government could take to address the Hopi Tribe's concerns.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. As always, we ask that you take no action on this matter that would be inconsistent with existing rules, regulations or guidelines, or that could possibly be construed as unfair or inappropriate. We wish only for your thoughtful consideration of this issue out of fairness and respect to the Hopi Tribe. We look forward to your response.

Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake and Reps Paul Gossar, Trent Franks, David Schweikert, Matt Salmon, Martha McSally, Ann Kirkpatrick, Raul Grijalva, Krysten Sinema and Ruben Gallego.

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