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McCain Joins Fellow Southwestern Senators to Ban Sale of Artifacts

McCain Joins Fellow Southwestern Senators to Ban Sale of Artifacts
July 12
14:35 2016

Lawmakers from Arizona and New Mexico have joined together in an effort to stop the foreign sale of Native American artifacts.

Senator John McCain

Senator John McCain

The bipartisan bill would halt the auction of historic tribal items.

The Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony (STOP) legislation – was introduced by New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM).

Senators Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Tom Udall (D-NM) quickly joined the bill.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) announced Friday that he too was joining the bill.

“Many of the cultural artifacts that this bill would protect have a special, sacred connection to Native American people, as well as their history and heritage,” McCain said.

The legislation would tighten the penalties for exporting tribal artifacts for sale online or through foreign auction houses.

It is in response to the repeated sales of native items by French auction houses in recent years despite protests by numerous tribes and federal officials.

The issue even went to the French courts, which declined to stop the sales.

For their part, the auction houses insist that they obtained all items legally.

The bill comes after the attempted sale in June of a sacred Acoma Pueblo shield by the EVE auction house in Paris – which is legal under current law if the seller can show that the item was obtained lawfully.
The Acoma Pueblo claimed the shield had been stolen from a tribal family in the 1970s. The sale of that item was pulled, pending an investigation, but other items were sold.

Many southwestern tribes – including the Navajo and Hopi – oppose the auctions of items they consider sacred or historical.

“The Navajo Nation has consistently sought to repatriate sacred objects, as well as protect our sacred sites, land, culture, language and way of life,” Navajo Nation Council Speaker LoRenzo Bates said.

The issue has also gained attention in the House, where Rep. Steve Pearce, R-New Mexico, in March introduced a resolution on the Protection of the Right of Tribes to stop the Export of Cultural and Traditional – or PROTECT – Patrimony Resolution.

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