Paris auction house turns deaf ear to Native American appeals


#1

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.”

pri.org/stories/2016-05-27/paris-auction-house-turns-deaf-ear-native-american-appeals

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?


#2

how did the auction house come into possession of these Native American items in the first place?


#3

The Europeans came and massacred the native American Indian mercilessly and at the same time stole all kinds of artifacts from them.


#4

Are you being serious or sarcastic? :wink:


#5

That has been a topic of contention. In previous years (these auctions seem to be an annual event in France) the tribes have demanded that proof that the artifacts were legally acquired. However, the French dismissed the idea, saying that the auctions is no different than selling similar items from indigenous Africans or from medieval Christians.

However, the provenance of Native American pieces does seem murky. For example:

It’s not clear when the Acoma lost the shield, but one possibility is in the 1920s, when Protestant missionaries proselytized to the Acoma to give up their old religions. The investigative team found the shield had, in fact, belonged to an Acoma family, Riley said. It was a special find, because in a small community as old as the Acoma, culture, religion, family history, are all imbued inside some artifacts. And though those items may have been looked after by a single family, they are seen as belonging to the entire community if they are of religious importance.

theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/05/native-american-auction/484316/


#6

Of course genocide and murder of men, women and children and theft and robbery of their land, their property and their artifacts is serious.


#7

Have you given back the land you have stolen from them ? Do you shop at stores on land that was stolen from them? Do you drive your car on highways on land that was stolen from them? Do you eat food that was raised on land that was stolen from them?

It would appear that the only solution to this problem is for the 400 million people who live in the United States to immigrate to Europe leaving the small handful of Native Americans to take care of “their land”


#8

How will you define Native American? Knowing their tribal language? Having 5% or more of Native DNA? Practicing their Native Religion? Living like their ancestors lived 500 years ago? Claiming to have Native ancestry?


#9

Beats me


#10

True, but does this mean the Paris auction house was directly responsible for such genocide? At best, they are very remote cooperators in such an evil.


#11

Sorry for any people the victim of having their loved ones memorials vandalized. Grave robbers have been despised for their evils. Its all wrong to deny respect and protection of human remains.


#12

I know I have heard of this happening before and the Native Americans pleading for these items to be returned. It seems like I remember a few years back a tribe was able to get some items returned to them. I wonder how the tribes are made aware of the items being up for auction.
I live in Arizona and I know back in the early 1900’s people might find items like pottery among ruins or could buy things at trading posts or markets.


#13

The offended tribes could rob the Louvre, and sack the Cathedral of Notre Dame, and then offer a trade…:smiley:


#14

Those are the questions one has to ask themselves. Americans pointing fingers end up pointing the accusing finger directly at themselves.

Europe is not an option either. That right was forfeited when people came over to the Americas to live.

That means that those who condemn, condemn themselves, and have forfeited the right to have ground under their feet.


#15

Art is a business too.
This is a business decision.


#16

There is a lot which can be done by way of restitution and justice, but
the least that can be done is to return these artifacts to the Native American Indians. It is not a lot to ask, considering the murderous genocide inflicted upon them by the white European colonialists.


#17

And business ethics then apply to this business, as well.


#18

That’s right. Ethics apply to businesses too.


#19

I notice that the “lot can be done” involves no personal sacrifice.


#20

And sacrifice will be involved, somehow. At this point in time, the private collectors who hold these items probably paid money for them, so to simply return the artifacts to the tribes would involve the current owners to forfeit their investment.

It has been done, however. One private collector, after anonymously attending a Hopi ceremony realized that although he had a legal right to own these items, he didn’t have a moral right to do so. And he so he returned them to the tribe, on his own volition.

In a different auction, the Annenberg Foundation spent over $500,000 to buy up the Native American artifacts simply so the items could be returned. The French auction house favors this approach, which has the virtue of simplicity. No one is forced to make a sacrifice.

However, the Hopis, and other tribes whose items are being auctioned off, can not afford to compete in such high priced bidding.


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