Editorial: Hopi Tribe needs help recovering cultural palimony

Newspaper calls on federal government to help Hopi Tribe of Arizona reclaim its cultural property from an auction house in France:
Interest in Indian artifacts remains high. We understand that many of these pieces were acquired decades ago, often by well-meaning people. The auction is legal. But it is not right, just as it was wrong for Great Britain to obtain Greek or Egyptian artifacts against the original owners’ wishes. A culture’s patrimony should not be plunder for others’ enrichment or amusement.

The United States government helps foreign countries repatriate objects; it should do no less for its own people. The New York Times, in an article about the auction back in April, described how, “when a nation like Italy or Cambodia claims ownership of an object in the United States, it typically invokes international accords that require American officials to take up the cases. The Justice Department, for example, recently sent two lawyers to Cambodia as part of an effort to help that country seize an ancient statue that Sotheby’s planned to auction in New York.” Because we are a young country, the U.S. had not realized it needed those accords to be reciprocal. That needs to be remedied.

The auctions remind us again that the European settlement of the United States is just the tip of our nation’s history. The earliest inhabitants deserve the same help and assistance as the countries of Italy or Cambodia. The Hopis, like many Native tribes, are not rich in money. They are rich in culture and tradition, though. Their country should help them recover what belongs to them.

Get the Story:
Our view: Keeping sacred: Help the Hopis (The Santa Fe New Mexican 8/4)

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