Heinrich: Halt French Auction of Sacred Native American Artifacts

Urges U.S. State Dept. to "take all possible action" to repatriate stolen cultural items to Native American tribes

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) is urging the U.S. State Department to take all possible action to help repatriate stolen cultural items to Native American tribes. In the United States, it is illegal to sell ceremonial Native American items. However, in France, where an auction of the items is planned for May 30, 2016, it is not.

In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator Heinrich wrote, "The United States must do everything in its power to ensure that priceless Native American cultural artifacts are returned to the rightful homes instead of being sold off to the highest bidder."

The Pueblo of Acoma in New Mexico has identified a shield as cultural patrimony--objects having ongoing historical, traditional, or cultural importance central to the Native American group or culture itself and are illegal to sell--that is set for auction in France.

"The Pueblo has previously been unable to halt foreign auction of their cultural patrimony, which has resulted in profound damage to the Pueblo's control over their own sacred objects. I urge you to work with your French counterparts to halt the auction before more of the Pueblo's cultural history is sold off into private collections," Senator Heinrich wrote.

The letter from the Pueblo of Acoma is here, and Senator Heinrich's letter to the U.S. State Department is here and below.

The Honorable John F. Kerry
Secretary of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Kerry:

I write to urge the Department of State to take all possible action to help repatriate stolen cultural items to Native American tribes. The United States must do everything in its power to ensure that priceless Native American cultural artifacts are returned to the rightful homes instead of being sold off to the highest bidder.

The Pueblo of Acoma has identified an item as cultural patrimony that is set for auction in France on May 30, 2016. The Pueblo has previously been unable to halt foreign auction of their cultural patrimony, which has resulted in profound damage to the Pueblo's control over their own sacred objects. I urge you to work with your French counterparts to halt the auction before more of the Pueblo's cultural history is sold off into private collections.

I have included the Pueblo's original request to you and Attorney General Loretta Lynch with this letter. If you or your staff have any additional questions, I encourage you to contact my staff,
Ernesto_Rodriguez@heinrich.senate.gov.

I appreciate your timely response in this important matter.

Sincerely,

MARTIN HEINRICH
United States Senator