Judge refuses to stop auction of tribal cultural items in France

A judge in France refused to halt a controversial auction where tribal cultural items are due to be sold today.

The Hopi Tribe of Arizona filed suit to prevent the Néret-Minet auction house from selling over 70 items pending resolution of their provenance. But the judge said the sale, which could draw more than $1 million, can go forward because it is not considered immoral under French law.

“These masks, despite their sacred character for the Hopi, cannot be likened to dead or alive beings,” Municipal Court Judge Magali Bouvier said today, The New York Times reported.

The U.S. Ambassador to France and museums in Arizona supported the tribe's efforts. The tribe has said it won't bid on the items, which were taken from the reservation by a French citizen sometime in the early 1900s.

“We are deeply saddened and disheartened by this ruling in the French courts that allowed the auction to be held on Friday. It is sad to think that the French will allow the Hopi Tribe to suffer through the same cultural and religious thefts, denigrations and exploitations they experienced in the 1940s," Chairman LeRoy N. Shingoitewa said today.

"Would there be outrage if Holocaust artifacts, Papal heirlooms or Quranic manuscripts were going up for sale on Friday to the highest bidder? I think so. Given the importance of these ceremonial objects to Hopi religion, you can understand why Hopis regard this – or any sale -- as sacrilege, and why we regard an auction not as homage but as a desecration to our religion," Shingoitewa added.

"Our tribal council will now convene to determine the Hopi Tribe’s next steps in this shameful saga," Shingoitewa concluded.

Get the Story:
French Judge Rules That Auction of Hopi Masks Can Proceed (The New York Times 4/12)
Paris court OKs sale of North American artifacts (AP 4/12)
French court rules Hopi mask sale to proceed (Reuters 4/12)
French court allows auction of sacred Hopi masks (AFP 4/12)
French court: Can Hopi masks be sold or are they too sacred? (AP 4/12)

Related Stories:
Judge promises decision over auction of tribal items in France (4/11)
Editorial: Hopi Tribe deserves explanation on cultural property (4/11)
Steve Russell: Auction of Hopi Tribe property akin to genocide (4/10)
Judge schedules hearing over auction of tribal items in France (4/10)
Embassy official calls for halt to auction of tribal cultural items (4/9)
Timothy McKeown: Auction house ignores Hopi Tribe's concerns (4/9)
Auction house in France claims tribal items acquired legally (4/4)
Hopi Tribe won't bid on cultural objects on auction in France (4/3)
Hopi Tribe seeks to block auction of cultural items in France (4/2)
Jim Enote: Buyer beware as auction house offers 'Zuni' masks (3/14)

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