WASHINGTON - Tribal and federal officials called Monday's planned sale of Indian remains and sacred objects at a French auction "disrespectful and fundamentally wrong" and called for the return of the items.
Leaders from the Navajo, Hoopa and Acoma Pueblo tribes gathered with federal officials and advocates May 24 to draw attention to the planned Parisian auction, in which they objected to the sale of one Hoopa cultural item and two Acoma Pueblo items, among hundreds of items.
The catalog from the Parisian auction house EVE lists what appears to be hundreds of Native American items, including clothing, weapons and baskets that Riley said should not be in nontribal hands. They are part of a sale that will include items from Central America, Africa and Asia.
Included in the catalog is the Acoma Shield, which Riley described as a "sacred item that no one individual can own."
An email to the auction house was not immediately returned May 24. But notes in the front of the catalog include a reference to a Hopi news article - decrying a 2014 EVE sale of Hopi items - that noted there is no U.S. law against private collection or sale of sacred tribal items.
Rep. Steve Pearce, R-New Mexico, who organized the event, called on Congress to take action to stop the auction, and others like it, by prohibiting the sale of Native American cultural items.
The Navajo have no sacred items in the upcoming auction, but the executive director of the Navajo Nation Washington Office said the tribe has felt the pain of seeing cultural items sold off in the past.
"They are selling human remains," said Jackson Brossy, the Navajo director. "It's ridiculous. It's crazy."
The event at the National Museum of the American Indian came the same day that the Smithsonian Institution returned the remains of 60 Maori and Moriori ancestors to New Zealand's Te Papa museum.
An official from that museum, Arapata Hakiwai, who was in Washington for the repatriation, expressed relief over the return of the remains to the Maori, but sympathized with the Acoma Pueblo and Hoopa tribes.
"People need to realize that these are not objects of curiosity," Hakiwai said. "These are real ancestors."
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