Bipartisan bill increasing penalties for the trafficking of Native American cultural items heads to Senate

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Legislation to prohibit the exporting of sacred Native American items and increase penalties for stealing and illegally trafficking tribal cultural inherited property introduced by U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) was passed by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. The legislation will now be available for consideration on the Senate Floor.

According to a press release Thursday from the office of Sen. Heinrich, the Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony (STOP) Act, has been endorsed by organizations and tribes across Indian Country.

“I appreciate the collaboration and support from New Mexico’s Pueblos, the Jicarilla and Mescalero Apache Nations, the Navajo Nation, and tribes across Indian Country to craft the STOP Act. Today was an important step forward in our efforts to stop the trade of culturally significant items and repatriate stolen pieces to their rightful owners. I will continue fighting to see that this legislation makes its across the finish line,” said Heinrich in the same press release.

“For generations, Native American cultural items, including human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony have been looted and sold to collectors in the United States and abroad,” said Murkowski in the same press release. “My hope is that the STOP Act will put an end to these injustices by improving protections of Native American tangible culture heritage and returning illegally traded items to their rightful owners. The repatriation of this tribal cultural patrimony – the cultural artifacts and valued items is critically important to our Indigenous communities.”