Friday, May 27, 2016

Rare Acoma war shield to be auctioned off in France, despite pueblo’s objections

A Paris auction house plans to sell a rare Acoma Pueblo war shield on Monday over the objections of the New Mexico tribe and U.S. political leaders. It is illegal to sell such ceremonial Native American items in the U.S., but it is allowed in France. The shield went up for auction in Paris last year but did not sell. Acoma had been unable to prevent that auction from going ahead, and it also was unable to stop a subsequent sale by a different auction house of other pieces of Indian cultural patrimony. “The Pueblo of Acoma and Hopi Tribe were rebuffed and forced to watch as dozens of their items of cultural patrimony were sold away,” wrote Acoma Pueblo Gov. Kurt Riley in a May 13 letter to the secretary of the Interior Department, the secretary of state and the attorney general of the United States. U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said Thursday she is troubled by the auction and called on the French government to find a way toward repatriating items that she said “are at the heart of Native American heritage and identity.” She directed the department to work with tribes and other agencies to review how tribal cultural patrimony is making its way into foreign markets. While the Southwestern tribes have tried to stop such sales, Riley said in a footnote that the tribes are often required to pay essentially a ransom to get their items back. The shield, made of leather, pigments, feathers and cotton, according to the auction house catalog, is 52 centimeters in diameter. It is painted with a round face, half yellow, half black, separated by a green nasal ridge. The mouth is depicted by a black ripple on white with red lips. The price at auction is estimated at between 5,000 and 7,000 euros (about $5,600 to more than $7,800)...more

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