The EVE auction house in Paris is getting ready to sell off a collection of historical and highly controversial objects.
The collection notably includes a ceremonial war shield, masks, a shrunken head, a warrior jacket adorned with human scalps, ancient jewelry, and ceremonial stones. Most of the collection can be traced back to Native American Indian tribes including the Acoma Pueblo and the Hopi.
US laws prohibit the sale of Native American ceremonial items, but those don’t apply in France.
Native American tribal leaders are trying to stop the auction and start a dialogue to reclaim the ceremonial objects that were taken from native peoples more than a century ago.
At the emergency meeting in Washington, Acoma Pueblo Nation Governor Kurt Riley made an emotional appeal for the auction to stop.
“I come today on the behalf of my people to talk about the illegal death sale of our sacred cultural items. Acoma has thrived for thousands of years because of cultural and traditional beliefs … our spiritual practices include the use of sacred objects, including the Acoma shield, which is due to be auctioned off to the highest bidder in Paris on Monday,” said Riley.
“The Acoma shield is a sacred item that no individual can own, it is not intended for commercial use or … created for artistic value. The item was created to be used in specific Acoma ceremonies for the benefit of our community.”
Is this situation similar to the sale of Christian relics or consecrated items?
The French auction house’s position is that the tribes can buy back their sacred items during the auction. But is another path possible which would meet the standards of justice?