Feds Try To Stop Sale Of Southwest Tribal Sacred Items In Paris

By Laurel Morales
December 04, 2015
Photo by Laurel Morales
The tribe says Katsina dolls can be sold. A doll is typically given to a young girl at a public ceremony as a blessing and part of her education.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell met with French officials this week to discuss the sale of tribal sacred objects at Paris auction houses. 

Over the last few years dozens of sacred Hopi items have been sold in French auction houses. The Hopi call these headdresses “spirit beings” and say they belong on the northern Arizona reservation. 

Secretary Jewell met with the French Minister of Justice Christiane Taubira. In a statement Jewell said Taubira shared a commitment to help Southwestern tribes repatriate their sacred cultural items, that under tribal customary law are owned by the tribe as a whole and cannot be legally sold by individuals.

Jewell also asked France’s auction regulator for greater transparency from auction houses about the origin of the objects for sale. The tribes are working to better protect the items and keep them from leaving the reservation.

Another auction of Zuni, Pueblo and Hopi sacred items is scheduled for next week.