Heinrich Bipartisan Bill To Safeguard Tribal Items Clears Senate Indian Affairs Committee

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich’s (D-N.M.) Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony (STOP) Act passed unanimously in the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and is now eligible for consideration in the full Senate. The bipartisan bill would prohibit the exporting of sacred Native American items and increase penalties for stealing and illegally trafficking tribal cultural patrimony. 

“The STOP Act has received widespread, bipartisan support and continues to demonstrate growing momentum. Today’s vote is a critical step in passing the STOP Act into law to safeguard sacred Native American items,” said Senator Heinrich. “We all recognize the incredible beauty of American Indian art--from the remnants of ancient wonders that we can explore and admire in places like Chaco Canyon and the Gila Cliff Dwellings to the traditional and modern art masterpieces created by Native artists to this day. But we can also recognize a clear difference between supporting tribal artists or collecting artifacts ethically and legally as opposed to dealing or exporting items that tribes have identified as essential and sacred pieces of their cultural heritage. I want to thank Chairman Hoeven and Vice Chairman Udall for holding a vote on the STOP Act and will continue working with my colleagues and tribal communities to ensure we build on this momentum so we can help repatriate stolen culturally significant items back to their rightful owners.”

“The STOP Act is important legislation to help combat the harmful practice of trafficking illegally obtained tribal cultural items overseas. The bill provides the tools necessary to prohibit the export of these items, and increases penalties for trafficking cultural patrimony,” said U.S. Senator Tom Udall. “As Vice Chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs, protecting Native American cultures and traditions for New Mexico’s tribes and all of Indian Country is one of my top priorities. Thank you to thank Senator Heinrich and Governor Kurt Riley of Acoma Pueblo for their advocacy on this issue.”

“The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs’ positive vote today on the STOP Act marks an important milestone in the national effort to protect sensitive tribal cultural patrimony from being stolen and shipped out of the United States for sale,” said Governor Kurt Riley of Acoma Pueblo. “We are deeply appreciative to Senator Heinrich for taking the lead in building a bipartisan coalition to support this legislation. As the legislation proceeds through the process, Acoma remains open to discussing any amendments, such as establishing an export certification process, but we are grateful that the legislation, as it now stands, addresses the heart of the matter. This vote is a very encouraging show of support for Indian Country by the committee.”

Senator Heinrich introduced the STOP Act with students from the Santa Fe Indian School Leadership Institute’s Summer Policy Academy (SPA) in his office in Washington, D.C. The students shared a position paper and personal stories on the importance of the STOP Act, articulating their generation's concern about fulfilling their sacred trust as generations before them have.

The STOP Act has the support of the National Congress of American Indians, the All Indian Pueblo Council, United South and Eastern Tribes Sovereignty Protection Fund, the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association, the Midwest Alliance of Sovereign Tribes, and more than 20 individual tribes.

U.S. Senators Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) are cosponsors of the bill.

A copy of the bill is available here.