To better protect sacred indigenous objects from being sold in international markets, Senator Martin Heinrich has introduced the Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony (STOP) Act with support from politicians of both parties as well as tribal leaders. The introduction of the bill comes several months after EVE (Estimations Ventes aux Enchères) auction house in Paris went forward with a sale of disputed objects, despite protests and an emergency meeting at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. Heinrich was involved in getting an Acoma shield, which was believed to have been acquired illegally, removed from the auction, yet other objects of dubious origin, including some involving human remains, were sold.
The Democratic congressman from New Mexico announced the introduction of the STOP Act at a July 6 press conference in Washington, DC, following a July 5 meeting with tribal leaders in Albuquerque. The bill would increase the penalties for criminal violations of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), with the maximum prison time becoming 10 years instead of five; give two years of amnesty for returning illegally acquired objects; ask the US Government Accountability Office for a report on illegally trafficked objects; and form a tribal working group for implementing the report’s recommendations. Perhaps most importantly, the STOP Act would prohibit the export of any object obtained in violation of NAGPRA, the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, or the Antiquities Act. As stated in Heinrich’s announcement, the French government “has cited the lack of an explicit export prohibition as an impediment to enforcement of NAGPRA and related laws overseas.”
Pueblo of Acoma Governor Kurt Riley said at the press conference that his pueblo “has firsthand experience with the illegal removal and trafficking of our cultural objects and the uphill battle that comes with seeking their repatriation.” The May auction was just the latest in a series of controversial sales at EVE going back to 2013, all of which represent the larger issue of US federal laws like NAGPRA not stopping the sales of patrimony and human remains. Another auction of Native American objects is listed on the EVE calendar for November 29, although no lots are listed as of now.
Senator John McCain of Arizona announced on July 8 that he would cosponsor the act, joining Senators Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) and Tom Udall (D-New Mexico) in their support. In a statement, Senator McCain said: “I have worked for many years to help protect these objects and keep them within the Native American community. Congress must impose stiffer penalties to stop these sacred items from being lost forever.” He’s one of the many US politicians who have sent letters condemning the auctions.
EVE has been particularly brazen with its sales and dismissive of American challenges to them. When Alain Leroy, auctioneer at EVE, was asked for comment on the May auction, he responded that “all the items proposed are of legal trade in the US and in France,” and “the public auction process allows the different tribes to acquire their past, and that is exactly what some tribes prefer to do, seeking efficiency and discretion.” The auction house even live-streamed the sale of such objects as a Lakota war shirt made in part from human hair. The STOP Act has the potential to strengthen protections for these items, many of which fell out of tribal hands during displacement in the 19th and early 20th centuries. At the least, it continues to draw attention to the disappearance of sacred culture into private hands.
In an open letter, European institutional leaders defend Manuel Borja-Villel, who has faced right-wing attacks for his progressive programming.
A new study posits that rising smog levels in 19th-century London and Paris likely played a role in blurring the lines of realism.
In Seongmin Ahn’s paintings, it is not our past we are looking at but our possible future.
Born in Shiraz, Sokhanvari fled Iran as a child a year before the Revolution and has devoted her artistic practice to the country she left behind.
Join the New-York Historical Society on February 10 for a virtual conversation about our changing relationship to the natural world with Julie Decker, John Grade, and LaMont Hamilton.
Stephen L. Starkman’s moving book about his encounter with mortality leaves a place for perseverance and hope.
“We clearly f-ed this one up,” said a Metropolitan Transit Authority rep, adding that the error in the artist’s last name is being fixed.
At least we won’t have to look at it on Earth.
From residencies, fellowships, and workshops to grants, open calls, and commissions, our monthly list of opportunities for artists, writers, and art workers.
Presented by Northwestern’s Block Museum and McCormick School of Engineering, this new exhibition seeks empathy at the boundaries of life. On view in Evanston, Illinois.
The statue could be a likeness of Trajan Decius, emperor of the Roman Empire from 249 to 251 CE.
The action could disrupt public access to the museum as workers campaign for higher wages and better labor conditions.