Heinrich, Murkowski Legislation To Safeguard Tribal Items Passes Through Committee

The bipartisan STOP Act would prohibit exporting sacred Native items and increase penalties for illegally trafficking Native cultural objects

WASHINGTON - Today, during a markup in the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, legislation introduced by U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) to prohibit the exporting of sacred Native American items and increase penalties for stealing and illegally trafficking tribal cultural patrimony was passed unanimously out of the committee by a voice vote. The legislation will now be available for consideration on the Senate Floor.

The bicameral, bipartisan Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony (STOP) Act, introduced and championed by Senators Heinrich and Murkowski, has been endorsed by organizations and tribes across Indian Country. The legislation would help prevent instances like the auction of a shield, stolen from the Pueblo of Acoma. Senator Heinrich played a role in the effort to bring the shield home by working with Governors Riley and Vallo to call for its return.

“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.

“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. “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.”