indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+ indianz.com on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Fredericks Peebles & Morgan LLP
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines
Print   Subscribe
Federal authorities file warrant for shield stolen from Acoma Pueblo

Filed Under: Law | National | World
More on: 114th, appropriations, bia, crime, doi, doj, france, fws, h.con.res.122, h.r.5538, h.r.5854, house, kurt riley, martin heinrich, nagpra, new mexico, pueblo, s.3127, senate, stop act, us attorneys
     
   

Gov. Kurt Riley, the leader of Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico, left, and Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico) at a press conference to announce the Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony Act (STOP Act) on July 6, 2016. Photo by Indianz.Com

Federal authorities are seeking the return of a sacred item that was stolen from a reservation in New Mexico some 40 years ago.

But the effort faces a big hurdle. The shield is thousands of miles away in France, held by an auction house that has repeatedly sold tribal property over the objections of Indian Country, members of Congress and the Obama administration.

Leaders of Acoma Pueblo have issued emotional pleas for the immediate return of the shield, which was made in the 1800s and was used in ceremonies up until its theft in the early 1970s. Officials in France have not heeded those calls.

By taking legal action, the Department of Justice hopes the situation will change. Documents filed in court last week make clear that the shield was taken out of the United States in violation of federal as well as tribal law.

"The ceremonial shield was stolen, taken and removed from the Pueblo of Acoma in the 1970s and transported in interstate and foreign commerce," a July 20 complaint submitted by the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Mexico reads. "The shield was smuggled out of the United States and taken to its current location in Paris, France."


The Acoma Pueblo ceremonial shield is seen here adorned with feathers. Federal experts do not believe the feathers are real eagle or turkey and were added after the fact to increase the item's sale value. Image from EVE Auction House

After being informed of the theft by the tribe and the U.S., the EVE auction house pulled the shield from a sale that took place in May. That was a victory in itself -- in the past, authorities in France have defended similar sales as legal, ethical and moral.

But with no end in sight to the auctions, which have been taking place since at least 2009, members of Congress are trying to strengthen federal laws through the Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony Act (STOP Act). The bill would impose prison time and fines on people who sell, transport or export tribal items out of the U.S.

"The United States must do everything in its power to ensure that priceless Native American cultural artifacts are returned to their rightful homes instead of being sold off to the highest bidder," Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico), who introduced S.3127 on July 6, said in a press release last week after learning of the court action.

It's not clear how the Acoma Pueblo shield ended up in France. But the documents filed in court last week shed light into the theft, sale and transport of tribal items, which can collectively fetch millions of dollars on the auction block.


Indianz.Com SoundCloud: Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony Act (STOP Act) Press Conference July 6, 2016

According to a tribal member whose grandfather was tasked with taking care of sacred and ceremonial objects at Acoma, six of seven shields were taken from a family home on reservation in the early 1970s. When shown a photograph of the item that was put up for sale by EVE, she immediately recognized it, the complaint states.

But she did not remember the feathers that can be seen in the auction house's catalog. Although the tribe sometimes uses eagle and turkey feathers in ceremonies, experts believe the feathers were added after the fact in order to bolster the shield's "authenticity" and increase its potential "value," according the complaint.

The irony is that experts from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service do not believe the attachments are real eagle or turkey feathers. That assessment is based on images from the EVE catalog, the complaint reads.

According to the complaint, a nearly identical Acoma shield was put up for sale very recently. But the outcome in that case was much more successful because the Bureau of Indian Affairs was able to retrieve it from an art gallery in Montana last year under a warrant issued in federal court. The situation in France seems to be a different story.

"EVE Auction House has long been on notice that the Native American cultural and religious items the company offers for sale were unlawfully and improperly acquired and that the persons who possess such items and offer them for sale at auction lack legitimate title to them," the U.S. Attorney's Office wrote.


An aerial view of Sky City, a village at Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico. Photo by Marshall Henrie

The six shields were stolen from a home at Sky City, an Acoma community known around the world for distinct qualities. The village, which dates back more than 1,200 years, is located on top of a mesa west of Albuquerque, the largest city in New Mexico.

The tribal member who grew up with the shields has not seen any of them since the theft. Under Acoma law, the items belong to the tribe and cannot be transferred to anyone without approval.

"We're hopeful that we eventually will get it back," Acoma Pueblo Gov. Kurt Riley said at a press conference on Capitol Hill last month.

With Congress out of session until September, no hearings have been held in the Senate on S.3127 or H.R.5854, the counterpart in the House.

A different measure, H.Con.Res.122, the PROTECT Patrimony Resolution, calls on Congress to condemn the "theft, illegal possession or sale, transfer, and export of tribal cultural items." It also seeks a Government Accountability Office study to determine the extent of illegal trafficking in tribal cultural items, a provision that's included in the STOP Act as well.

Separately, H.R.5538, the fiscal year 2017 appropriations bill for the Interior Department, includes $1 million for a "Cultural Items Unit" at the BIA that would investigate violations of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act and thefts of tribal property.

"Although domestic laws such as NAGPRA can be enforced to address the theft of tribal cultural items with both criminal and civil penalties, without active federal support, tribes are left only to do what they each can independently afford to do to stop the theft and sale of their cultural items," lawmakers wrote in a report accompanying the bill, which cleared the House on July 14.

Related Stories:
Cronkite News: Sen. McCain signs onto bill to stop export of tribal property (07/11)
Tribes support bill in Senate to stop the export of cultural property (07/06)
Lawmakers set to take up funding bill for Indian Country programs (7/5)
Acoma Pueblo waits on France to return stolen ceremonial shield (06/22)
Lakota Country Times: Tribes fail to stop auction of warrior shirt (06/08)
Editorial: Acoma Pueblo needs justice for theft of sacred property (06/06)
Auction of tribal property goes ahead in France amid opposition (06/01)
Auction house in France won't stop sale of sacred tribal property (5/26)
Cronkite News: Tribes seek return of property up for sale in France (5/25)
Tribes meet to discuss sale of ancestors and property in France (5/24)
Secretary Jewell addresses auctions of tribal property in France (12/04)
Auction house in France sells sacred tribal property for $450K (06/10)
Hopi Tribe and Acoma Pueblo seek to block sale of sacred items (06/09)
Hopi Tribe trying to stop yet another auction of sacred property (06/02)
Hopi Tribe seeks to prevent auction of sacred property in France (05/27)
Leader of Hopi Tribe sues over sales of sacred items in France (04/10)
Navajo Nation buys sacred masks from auction house in France (12/15)
Annenberg Foundation acquires sacred items for Alaska Natives (09/03)
Opinion: Auction of tribal property in France sets bad precedent (07/25)
Auction house in France goes ahead with sale of tribal property (06/30)
Sacred property being returned to tribes in Arizona after auction (02/20)

Copyright © Indianz.Com
More headlines...

Latest Headlines:

Tribes in for long haul as oil continues to flow through Dakota Access
Mark Trahant: Don't plan on getting sick if you're from Indian Country
Tiffany Midge: I shall joke as long as the grass grows and the rivers flow
Director of Office of Indian Energy deletes offensive Twitter account
States cheer decision on grizzly bears amid tribal concerns about hunts
Washington asks high court to overturn Yakama Nation treaty victory
New York Times editorial board reconsiders stance on racist trademarks
Colville Tribes remove council member a week before citizens go to polls
Marijuana firm promises big investments with help of ex-Seminole chair
Lumbee Tribe ordered to release voter list to opponents of chairman
National Indian Gaming Association chooses David Bean as vice chair
Eastern Cherokee citizen promoted to vice president of casino marketing
Tribes in Connecticut waiting on governor to sign bill for new casino
Secretary Zinke removes protections for grizzlies over tribal objections
Court sets final deadline for remaining payments from Cobell settlement
Mary Annette Pember: Indian Child Welfare Act strengthens our families
Peter d'Errico: Navajo authors offer fresh perspective on sovereignty
Native woman was jailed and forced to ride with assailant during trial
Ute Mountain Ute Tribe challenges new permit for uranium operation
Montana tribes get new member of Congress who pleaded to assault
Connecticut tribes welcome court decision favoring new casino law
Pueblo tribes dispute state's demand for $40M in gaming revenues
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe remains confident of approval of casino
Nooksack Tribe accepting slot tickets while casino remains closed
Key House committee under fire for moving slowly on tribal agenda
Tribes go it alone on climate change as Trump team shifts priorities
Bryan Newland: President Trump's budget threatens tribal treaties
Steve Russell: The GI Bill changed the United States for the better
Harold Monteau: Democrats lack proactive agenda, proactive strategy
St. Regis Mohawk Tribe orders 20 non-citizens to leave reservation
Wilton Rancheria accused of working too closely with city on casino
Witness list for hearing on bill to reform the Indian Health Service
Arne Vainio: What does the princess want to be when she grows up?
Doug George-Kanentiio: 'Spirit Game' brings Iroquois lacrosse to life
Cronkite News: Navajo activist vows fight against racist NFL mascot
Eric Hannel: Addressing the health care crisis among Native Americans
Bill for tribal regalia at graduation ceremonies advances in California
Ramapough Lunaape Nation wins reversal of ruling on prayer camp
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe still waits on casino ruling from Trump team
Another former leader of Winnebago Tribe pleads in gaming theft case
Supreme Court ruling poses hurdle for opponents of racist NFL mascot
Change the Mascot campaign responds to negative Supreme Court ruling
Secretary Zinke set for another hearing on Interior Department budget
Mark Trahant: Republicans write health reform bill behind closed doors
Jeff Grubbe: Agua Caliente Band focuses on protecting our groundwater
Steven Newcomb: Asserting our traditions in the era of Donald Trump
Shasta Dazen: 'Family Spirit' program incorporates our tribal traditions
Secretary Zinke shuffles top Indian Affairs officials at Interior Department
Choctaw Nation travels to Ireland to dedicate 'Kindred Spirits' sculpture
Nooksack Tribe closes doors to casino after being hit with federal order
Muscogee Nation asserts authority at allotment where casino was proposed
Mark Trahant: Dakota Access decision offers a chance to return to respect
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe hails 'victory' in Dakota Access Pipeline case
Nooksack Tribe told to close casino amid leadership and citizenship feud
Kristi Noem: Enough is enough - It's time to fix the Indian Health Service
Second hearing scheduled on bill to reform the Indian Health Service
Trump nominee for appeals court seen as favorable to tribal interests
>>> more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.