Paris auction house set to sell more sacred objects

HOPI, Ariz. - On May 12, the Hopi Tribe received notice from Eric Wilson, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) International Affairs Coordination, that the U.S. Embassy in Paris, France learned of another auction the EVE Auction House plans for June 1.

Included in the auction catalog are objects of Native-American tribal origin.

The Office of the Assistant Secretary, BIA, is once again assisting the U.S. Department of State in identifying U. S. tribal governments that seek assistance in communicating tribal governments' wishes regarding this scheduled auction.

The Hopi Tribe has been vigorously asserted its tribal sovereignty and rights in the international arena and in Paris, France to protect objects sacred to the Hopi people; particularly the "Katsina Friends."

The Hopi Tribe is again requesting the support of Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake to direct the U.S. State Department, U. S. Department of Justice, F.B.I. and other federal agencies to assist the Hopi Tribe for a voluntary return of auction objects identified to be of Hopi origin to the Hopi Tribe.

The Hopi Tribal Council has consistently directed its executive officers to pursue whatever means necessary to stop Katsina Friends from being illegally sold at auctions and forever lost in private collections.

"We need to bring all our katsina friends home to their rightful place on the Hopi lands," Chairman Herman G. Honanie said. "Hopi is absolute in its stance that these auctions must cease. We call on all local, state and federal agencies to aid our efforts in recovering our sacred Katsina Friends. They belong on Hopi and must be returned."

A special Hopi Tribal Council meeting took place May 21 to discuss the June 1, EVE Auction in Paris.

Initiated society members are vested with the caretaking and protection of these sacred entities. The sacred objects are objects of cultural patrimony and cannot be transferred, sold, conveyed and removed from the jurisdiction without permission of the Hopi Tribe pursuant to Hopi customary law and tradition, Hopi Ordinance 26 and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).

Katsina Friends and associated society or ceremonial items auctioned and sold fall under NAGPRA's definitions of sacred objects and cultural patrimony. Katsina Friends are religious objects necessary for the use and the continuation of the Hopi religion by present day adherent. The Katsina Friends go through a ceremonial process of deification whereby they embody spiritual life. They then become a Katsina and serve as a messenger to the spiritual domain for rain and life blessings. Katsina Friends are used during Katsina religious ceremonies.

Similarly, Katsina Friends fall under NAGPRA's definition of cultural patrimony. Katsina Friends have ongoing historical tradition and cultural importance central to the Hopi Tribe. They are not property owned by an individual. All Hopis initiated into the Katsina society become caretakers. The Katsina priests and Katsina clan leaders hold spiritual stewardship over all the Katsina Friends. The Hopi Tribe considers Katsina objects as inalienable.

NAGPRA has previously been used to successfully prosecute dealers in Native American Art. In United States v. Corrow, 119 F.3d 796 (10th Cir. 1997) and United States v. Tidwell, 191 F.3d 976 (9th Cir. 1999), art dealers were convicted under the criminal component of NAGPRA, 18 U.S.C. ¤1170(b).

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