WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) welcomed the news that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is seeking a warrant to retrieve a stolen Pueblo of Acoma religious shield that's being held in France. The shield was scheduled to be sold off by the EVE Auction House in Paris in May, but was cancelled after the Pueblo of Acoma, Senator Heinrich, and others worked to halt the sale.
"The Department of Justice's request to retrieve this sacred shield is welcome news, and I will work to ensure it's brought back to the Pueblo of Acoma where it belongs," said Sen. Heinrich. "It's critical that we prevent the illegal trafficking of protected Native artifacts, which is why I am working to pass the STOP Act. This legislation will increase penalties for stealing and illegally trafficking tribal cultural patrimony. And it will prohibit exporting these objects and create a tribal working group to help federal agencies better understand the scope of the problem and how to solve it. The United States must do everything in its power to ensure that priceless Native American cultural artifacts are returned to their rightful homes instead of being sold off to the highest bidder."
Earlier this month, Senator Heinrich introduced the Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony (STOP) Act, a bill to prohibit the exporting of sacred Native American items and increase penalties for stealing and illegally trafficking tribal cultural patrimony. Last week, Senator Heinrich announced growing bipartisan support for the STOP Act, which includes cosponsorship by U.S. Senators Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Steve Daines (R-Mont.).
The Navajo Nation and the Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Council have passed resolutions supporting the STOP Act, and the bill has been endorsed by tribes across Indian Country, including the Jicarilla Apache Nation, the Pueblos of Acoma, Santa Ana, Isleta, Zuni, Laguna, Nambé, Jemez, and Ohkay Owingeh as well as the All Pueblo Council of Governors, the National Congress of American Indians, and the United South and Eastern Tribes Sovereignty Protection Fund.
Senator Heinrich was joined by tribal leaders earlier this month at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, N.M. to discuss the details of the STOP Act and highlight the urgent need to stop the theft and sale of priceless Native religious and cultural items in international markets.