PHOENIX — Hopi tribal leaders and Arizona’s members of Congress are asking U.S. law enforcement to stop the sale of about a dozen sacred Hopi artifacts at a Paris auction house in June.
The Hopi Tribe contends the auction house is illegally selling the spiritual objects, known as Katsina Friends, and is urging U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI to help recover them. The items resemble masks and are used during religious ceremonies and dances to invoke ancestral spirits. They are communally owned, rarely displayed and never supposed to leave the reservation.
This is the sixth time the French auction house, Estimations Ventes aux Encheres, has sold objects sacred to Native American tribes. It has argued that the items legally belong to collectors, and a Paris court has ruled that such sales are legal.
Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., joined Hopi Chairman Herman Honanie on Wednesday to speak about the difficulties the Hopi Tribe has had in repatriating the sacred objects.
“It is appalling that a French auction house believes it’s acceptable to profit off the sale of the sacred Katsina Friends,” Gosar said.
Arizona’s congressional delegation sent a letter last week asking the Justice Department and the FBI to take immediate action to prevent the items from going to auction June 1 and June 10. The U.S. government has no legal authority to stop the auctions, but Gosar said treaties with France could allow the U.S. to put pressure on the French government to act.
The Hopi Tribe has tried to prevent the sale of the objects since 2013. The tribe has sued three times in French court, but judges have dismissed the lawsuits because France lacks laws to protect indigenous people, unlike the U.S.
The Hopi Tribe views selling the items as sacrilegious and offensive, Honanie said.
“This is a big affront to the Hopi people,” he said. “We must do everything that we can to stop these auctions.”
In April 2013, a Paris court cleared the way for the sale of about 70 masks for some $1.2 million, despite protests and criticism from the U.S. government.
In December of that year, the Annenberg Foundation, a family-run charity, bought more than 20 Hopi and Apache items and returned them to their tribal homes.
The Hopi Tribe has filed two appeals with a French governmental agency regulating auctions, but the auctions of the items are set to take place before the appeals will be heard, said Pierre Ciric, an attorney representing the Hopi Tribe.
“So we are basically chaining up these cases to build a more favorable route on appeal,” Ciric said.
“People die of cancer in Native American populations higher than other groups,” said Jani Ingram, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry at NAU and member of the Navajo Nation.
According to the Intercultural Cancer Council, cancer is the third-leading cause of death among Native Americans, but there is no conclusive evidence to determine why.
Since 2002, NACP has worked to understand the reason cancer affects Native Americans, specifically tribes in the Southwest, at higher rates and seeks to engage Native American college students in entering science fields to help further research.
NAU’s program has 10 student researchers working under Ingram, some whom have been personally impacted by the deadly disease.
“It started with my grandfather, who worked in uranium mines and he died from lung cancer,” said NAU senior Erik Peaches, who is of Navajo descent.
In recent years, cancer spikes among older Navajos have been attributed to uranium exposure, a mining industry that boomed on the Navajo Reservation during the 1950s. The radioactive element still threatens communities surrounding abandoned mines and even contaminates drinking water.
NAU senior Ethan Paddock’s grandmother battled breast cancer that he says was caused by uranium exposure on the Navajo Nation.
“My family is from Cameron (Ariz.) and I know there is a huge uranium deposit over there,” Paddock said. “And it’s actually affected my grandmother and (she) got breast cancer.”
After a round of chemotherapy, Paddock’s grandmother has been declared cancer-free, but most with the disease don’t have the same outcome.
The grant money will continue the research being conducted in the Hopi, Navajo and Tohono O’odham communities, work that Ingram said more Native American students should consider.
“If it is a native student, a Navajo student, a Hopi student working on an issue that’s really important to their community, the passion is just right there,” Ingram said.
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Two dozen ceremonial items bought last year at auction in France are set to return to Arizona in a way that pays reverence to the beliefs of American Indian tribes.
The masks and hoods invoke the ancestral spirits of the Hopi and Apache Tribes — who consider them living beings in keeping with tradition — and the expectation is they will be treated as such. That means shipping the sacred items free of plastics, bubble wrap or other synthetic material that would be suffocating. The items also should face the direction of the rising sun, have space to breathe, and be spoken to during their journey.
The shipping reflects the deeply sensitive nature of the items that the Los Angeles-based Annenberg Foundation quietly bought for $530,000 at a contested Paris auction two months ago with the goal of sending them back to their tribal homes in eastern Arizona.
The Hopi and two Apache tribes believe the return of the objects, kept largely out of public view, will put tribal members on a healing path and help restore harmony not only in their communities but among humanity.
“The elders have told us the reason we have the ills of society, suicides, murders, domestic violence, all these things, is we’re suffering because these things are gone and the harmony is gone,” said Vincent Randall, cultural director for the Yavapai-Apache Nation.
The tribes say the items — 21 pieces are headed to the Hopi, two to the San Carlos Apache and one to the White Mountain Apache — were taken from their reservations in the late 19th and 20th centuries at a time when collectors and museums competed for sensitive items from Western tribes. Tribal archaeologists say the objects also could have been traded for food and water, or unrightfully sold.
In Hopi belief, the Kachina friends emerge from the earth and sky to connect people to the spiritual world and to their ancestors. Caretakers, who mostly are men, nurture the masks as if they are the living dead. Visitors to the Hopi reservation won’t see the masks displayed on shelves or in museums, and the ritual associated with them is a lifelong learning process.
The San Carlos Apache recount a story of ceremonial items being wrenched from the hands of tribal members who were imprisoned by the U.S. military at Fort Apache. Journal entries from the time showed that hoods, as well as medicine bundles and other prayer items akin to crosses and holy water were taken, said Vernelda Grant, director of the Historic Preservation and Archaeology Department for the San Carlos Apache Tribe.
“Of course you’re going to be emotional, and of course it’s going to have an effect on your health, the welfare of your people,” she said. “It kills them, it killed us emotionally. Those items were taken care of until those times came. We were forced to hand them over so we could get what? A box of rations, a blanket?”
For the San Carlos Apache, the hoods represent the mountain spirits reincarnated in men who make and wear them in ceremonial dances for healing or when girls reach puberty. Each is fashioned by a tribal member endowed with a gift of being a spiritual leader. Once the hoods have been used, they are put away in an undisclosed location in the mountains, known only to the spiritual leader through a revelation from the “ruler of life,” or God.
If they are disturbed or removed, a curse of sorts can be placed upon humanity, Randall said.
Although the Apaches are among the most successful tribes in getting items within the United States returned to the tribes, they could do little to stop the sale in France.
The auction house argued that the items rightfully were in private collectors’ hands. A judge hearing the Hopi’s plea to block the sale said that unlike the U.S., France has no laws to protect indigenous peoples.
In a similar dispute in April, a Paris court ruled that such sales are legal. Around 70 masks were sold for some $1.2 million, despite protests and criticism from the U.S. government.
The Annenberg Foundation took note of the Hopi Tribe’s heartbreaking loss and in December employed a well-orchestrated, secretive plan to successfully bid on most of the items at auction.
The plan involved foundation employees placing bids by phone and keeping its plan private to save the tribes from potential disappointment. A French lawyer working for the Hopis and Survival International, Pierre Servan-Schreiber, said he spoke with the foundation using a discreet earpiece to keep the objects’ prices from skyrocketing as he bid on behalf of a U.S. benefactor.
“This is how we achieved this brilliant result,” Servan-Schreiber said in an email.
The foundation said it has complied with the tribes’ shipping requests to ensure the items are treated with care and respect. Those requests include shipping the items in specially designed, individual crates, turning them in a clockwise direction and entrusting them to the hands of men.
Should the items be handled contrary to Hopi and Apache practices, the tribes asked the foundation to apologize to the spirits and explain that it’s not intentional.
Two of the Hopi items, which have golden eagle and cooper’s hawk feathers, will require import permits from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service because the birds are protected under federal law. The sacred “Crow Mother,” which sold for twice its expected value at $171,000, requires an export permit from the French government, the foundation said.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it also would comply to the extent possible as the items enter the United States.
“It gives me immense satisfaction to know that they will be returned home to their rightful owners, the Native Americans,” said the foundation’s director and vice president, Gregory Annenberg Weingarten.
When the items reach the tribes after traveling overseas from France and to Los Angeles, there will be no extravagant celebrations — just quiet exaltation in knowing that their ancestral spirits will return to the mountainous areas of the San Carlos Apache reservation and to the hands of caretakers in Hopi villages.
“We understand their purpose for us. It’s not to be put up in the old circus shows of the bearded lady or the two-headed man,” said Sam Tenakhongva, the Kachina Society leader from the Hopi village of Walpi. “What it’s here for is to bring life, both for humanity and all living things.”
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Hopi citizen Diane Humetewa smiled through a positive nomination hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on January 28 in her effort to be confirmed as a U.S. district judge in Arizona.
President Barack Obama nominated Humetewa to the position in 2013 after his administration previously forced her to step down from a U.S. attorney position in Arizona in 2009. At that time, the president chose Dennis Burke to take her position, but Burke resigned in August 2011 after admitting to leaking information about a federal agent. Humetewa went on to become a professor and lawyer at Arizona State University.
Many in Indian country were glad that Obama decided to give Humetewa a second look, this time to become the first female Native American to serve on the federal bench. She would be only the third Indian to do so in history if confirmed to the position by the full Senate.
Judging from support given to her by both Democratic and Republican senators at her nomination hearing, she will likely easily pass the committee, and then her nomination will proceed for consideration by the full Senate.
One of Humetewa’s main champions is Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) who recommended her for both her previous U.S. attorney position and for the federal judgeship. The senator, whom she previously worked for when he led the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, introduced her with supportive remarks at the confirmation hearing.
“It has been said that the Arizona bench ‘would be enriched by a member who reflects the community it serves.’ With that in mind, I am particularly excited about our third nominee, Diane J. Humetewa, also to the District of Arizona, in Phoenix,” McCain said. “Ms. Humetewa’s nomination is truly historic: Being a member of the Hopi Nation, if Ms. Humetewa is confirmed, she would be the first Native American woman to ever serve on the federal bench.
“Ms. Humetewa’s service to the Hopi Nation, which includes work as prosecutor and an appellate court judge to the tribe, runs deep and has remained a cornerstone of her career,” McCain added. “She is also a long-time advocate for victim’s rights, which can be traced back to her service as a victim advocate before she attended law school.”
McCain’s support for Humetewa serves as a stark contrast to his criticism of the president’s nomination of Cherokee citizen Keith Harper to become a U.S. representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. Harper’s nomination stalled in the Senate last December due partly to McCain’s concerns about Harper’s human rights record, but Harper was re-nominated earlier in January to the same position by the president.
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), who chaired the hearing, said that she was impressed that McCain and committee member Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) worked in a bipartisan fashion with the White House to help fill several Arizona judicial vacancies.
Humetewa said at the hearing that she was very pleased to be joined by family members, friends and colleagues. She added that her parents were watching the hearing via webcam from back home on the Hopi reservation.
In response to a question from Hirono regarding how her past judicial work with the Hopi Tribe would help her in this position, Humetewa said that she learned to be objective and timely in her decision making during her time with that tribal court.
In response to a question from Flake on the implementation of pro-tribal elements of the Violence Against Women Act and the Tribal Law and Order Act, Humetewa noted that both laws are in their infancy, but she said she looks forward to working with tribes that take on the increased jurisdictional opportunities offered under those laws.
Also in response to a question from Flake, Humetewa noted that she helped prepare a 2007 report by the Native American Subcommittee of the U.S. Sentencing Commission that found disparities in the application of sentencing guidelines to Native Americans. Penalties were harsher for Indians who committed assaults in Indian country versus non-Indian who were sentenced in state courts for similar assaults, she testified. If sentencing guidelines are to be modified in the future, she said tribal consultation would be important to achieve.
Flake, impressed with Humetewa’s responses, said he was delighted by her “trailblazing way.”
Responding to widespread requests from tribal leaders and Indian legal advocates, President Barack Obama has nominated a Native American to serve on the federal bench.
The president announced September 19 that Diane J. Humetewa is a nominee for the U.S. District Court for Arizona. She is a Hopi citizen, and from 2002 to 2007 she served as an appellate court judge for the Hopi Tribe Appellate Court.
Obama has previously nominated one tribal citizen to serve on the federal bench, Arvo Mikkanen, of the Kiowa Tribe, but Republican senators successfully blocked that nomination during the president’s first term. Oklahoma’s senators in particular expressed frustration that the administration did not consult with them on the nomination, but they would not say specifically what their problem with Mikkanen was at the time. The administration pushed back, with White House officials laying full blame with Senate Republicans, saying it was part of their overall plan to thwart the president.
If Mikkanen would have been confirmed, he would have been the only American Indian to serve on the federal bench, out of a total of 875 federal judgeships, and he would have been only the third Native American in history to secure a federal judgeship.
If Humetewa can pass muster with the Senate Judicial Committee and Arizona’s senators, then she will have the distinction of being the first Native American appointed and confirmed to the federal bench by Obama. It is already known that she has a strong ally in U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) who previously recommended her for a U.S. attorney position during George W. Bush’s second term.
Indian affairs experts had been pressuring the president to make another Native American federal judgeship appointment – several more, in fact – citing the large number of Indian law cases heard in federal courts and the U.S. Supreme Court’s tendency not to understand tribal law.
Jack Trope, executive director of the Association on American Indian Affairs, told Indian Country Today Media Network earlier this month that getting more Indians appointed to the federal bench during Obama’s second term was a top priority for a range of tribal advocates.
“We just have to hope the administration goes through the process of consulting the appropriate senators,” Trope said. “We don’t want another situation like what happened with [Mikkanen].”
Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn, a law dean at the University of New Mexico before joining the administration last year, expressed optimism on learning of the selection.
“Diane Humetewa will make an excellent judge,” said Washburn, a Chickasaw Nation citizen. “She was a very capable U.S. Attorney for Arizona and a capable career prosecutor before that. She is tough, but compassionate, and I know that she can gracefully handle the stress of being the first Native American woman to travel this path. This is a historic nomination.”
Matthew Fletcher, director of the Indigenous Law Center at Michigan State University, said Humetewa was “a wonderful selection,” and he expected that she should be easily confirmed.
Humetewa was previously nominated by President George W. Bush in his second term to serve as the first female Native American U.S. attorney in history. She resigned from that position in July 2009 as part of the political appointee process in Obama’s then-new administration. Some Native Americans asked the administration if Humetewa could stay on in that position at the time, but the White House declined.
In an interview with Indian Country Today Media Network in June 2008, Humetewa said she was “humbled” to be chosen for the U.S. attorney position, and she hoped her promotion would encourage more young Indians to consider careers in the legal field.
“The opportunity arose when one day I was sitting in my office, and the telephone rang—a gentleman said, ‘Please hold for John McCain,’” she shared. “Sen. McCain simply asked me whether I wanted to provide this service for Arizona. Frankly, I was pretty taken aback and surprised and flattered. I felt I certainly couldn’t say no.”
Humetewa’s biography, as provided by the White House, follows:
“Diane J. Humetewa currently serves as Special Advisor to the President and Special Counsel in the Office of General Counsel at Arizona State University. She is also a Professor of Practice at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. From 2009 to 2011, Humetewa was Of Counsel with Squire, Sanders & Dempsey LLP. She worked in the United States Attorney’s Office in the District of Arizona from 1996 to 2009, serving as Senior Litigation Counsel from 2001 to 2007 and as the United States Attorney from 2007 to 2009. During her tenure in the United States Attorney’s Office, Humetewa also served as Counsel to the Deputy Attorney General from 1996 to 1998. From 1993 to 1996, she was Deputy Counsel for the United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. Humetewa received her J.D. in 1993 from Arizona State University College of Law and her B.S. in 1987 from Arizona State University. She is a member of the Hopi Indian Tribe and, from 2002 to 2007, was an Appellate Court Judge for the Hopi Tribe Appellate Court.”
Representatives of tribal rights organization Survival International and lawyer Pierre Servan-Schreiber returned the katsina to Hopi.
The katsinam are of cultural and religious significance to the Hopi, who were vehemently opposed to the auction and asked the Paris auction house Neret-Minet Tessier & Sarrou to cancel the sale on the grounds that the objects are considered sacred to Hopi.
After the auction house ignored the Hopi’s request, attorney Pierre Servan-Schreiber of the firm Skadden Arps (Paris) filed legal papers on behalf of Survival International and the Hopi, asking for the sale of the katsinam to be halted until the lawfulness of the collection was established.
However the Paris Court rejected all attempts to stop the auction and the sale of dozens of sacred objects went ahead on April 12, 2013, in what Hopi tribal chairman LeRoy N. Shingoitewa called a ‘shameful saga’.
Mr. Shingoitewa added, ‘We are deeply saddened and disheartened by this ruling … 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. Would there be outrage if Holocaust artifacts, Papal heirlooms or Quranic manuscripts were going up for sale … to the highest bidder? I think so.’
After the katsina handover, Hopi and the delegation exchanged gifts.
M. Servan-Schreiber then bought one katsina at the auction to return it to the Hopi. He said, ‘It is my way of telling the Hopi that we only lost a battle and not the war. I am convinced that in the future, those who believe that not everything should be up for sale will prevail. In the meantime, the Hopi will not have lost everything since two of these sacred objects* have been saved from being sold.’
Hollywood actor Robert Redford had also pleaded for the auction to be halted. He said, ‘To auction these would be, in my opinion, a sacrilege – a criminal gesture that contains grave moral repercussions.’
Stephen Corry, Director of Survival International, said, ‘The sale of Hopi katsinam would never have happened in the USA – thankfully US law recognizes the importance of these ceremonial objects. It is a great shame that French law falls so far behind. We’re delighted that at least two of the katsinam have been saved, and can be returned to their rightful owners.’
A new exhibit featuring six types of Hopi katsina figures as depicted in 170 objects, from woodcarving, basketry and painting has just opened at the Fred Jones Jr Museum of Art on the campus of the University of Oklahoma in Norman. The extraordinary show, Hopituy: Hopi Art from the Permanent Collections, will be open to the public until September 15.
Rick James (U.S., Hopi; b. 1962) Crow Mother, 2001 Mixed media, 18 x 15 1⁄4 in. James T. Bialac Native American Art Collection, 2010 Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art; The University of Oklahoma, Norman
Katsinam are ancient deities who are represented through katsina dancers during ceremonies and multiple art forms, including wooden figures often mistakenly referred to as “kachina dolls” by Western audiences, according to the museum. Although as many as 300 distinct spirits have been identified by the Hopi, Hopituy closely explores the representations of six Hopi katsina figures in a range of materials: Angwusnasomtaqa (Crow Mother), Soyoko (Ogres), Koyemsi (Mudheads), Palhikmana (Dew Drinking Maiden), Angaktsina (Longhairs) and Nimankatsina (Home katsina).
Delbridge Honanie (U.S., Hopi, b. 1946) Palhik Mana, ca. 1970-80s Cottonwood root, paint, feathers, leather, shells, 24 in. James T. Bialac Native American Art Collection, 2010 Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art; The University of Oklahoma, Norman
“For the Hopi, the katsinam actively offer a way of living that strives for peace, balance and self-respect that, when practiced, benefits the entire world,” said Heather Ahtone, the James T. Bialac Assistant Curator of Native American and Non-Western Art and curator of Hopituy, in a press release. “They follow these cultural practices, not because other options are not available to them, but because it has proven through centuries to be a manner of being by which they serve not only their own community but also humanity’s continuing need to seek balance with the earth. They follow the katsinam in the 21st century because, it could be argued, it is needed now more than ever.”
Educational programs are scheduled this summer at the museum, including a gallery talk with Ahtone at 12:30 p.m. Thursday, July 11; a guest lecture with Hopi (Tewa)/Mojave artist James Lambertus at 6 p.m. Friday, July 19; and a gallery talk with Hopi (Tewa) artist Neil David Sr. at 4 p.m. Thursday, September 5. These programs are offered at no additional fee to the public.
For more information about the exhibit, click here.
PARIS (Reuters) – An auction of ancient masks revered as sacred by a Native American tribe fetched more than 750,000 euros on Friday, disappointing prominent opponents to the sale after a French court ruled it should go ahead.
The Hopi tribe of northeastern Arizona and supporters including the U.S. ambassador to France and actor Robert Redford had urged the Paris auction house to suspend the sale due to the masks’ cultural and religious significance.
But the court rejected a motion from the tribe and Survival International, a non-government group representing its interests, arguing that it could only intervene to protect human remains or living beings.
The auction went ahead in front of a standing-room only crowd, raising about 752,000 euros ($984,500) in pre-tax proceeds as collectors snapped up dozens of lots in a sale that lasted more than two hours.
A buyer who acquired four masks said he was delighted to be adding to his collection of Hopi artefacts.
“One day I might give some back,” said the collector, who declined to be identified. “But if it had not been for collectors in the 19th century who contributed to the field of ethnology, there would very little knowledge of the Hopi.”
Some disagreed. A man with Hopi origins studying in France was kicked out of the auction room for interrupting the sale with an angry speech. Several people trying to take photographs were also removed.
“We have lots of art that can be shared with other cultures, but not these,” said Bo Lomahquahu, 25. “Children aren’t even supposed to see them.”
The Neret-Minet, Tessier and Sarrou auctioneers said their collection of masks, priced between $2,000 and $32,000 apiece, was assembled by “an amateur with assured taste” who lived in the United States for three decades.
A spokeswoman for the auctioneers was not immediately available for comment.
“This decision is very disappointing,” said Pierre Servan-Schreiber, the lawyer for Survival International, a London-based advocacy group. “Not everything is necessarily up for sale or purchase, and we need to be careful.”
A chorus of opponents had weighed in on the dispute, arguing the Paris auction house should provide legal justification for selling the masks.
“To auction these would be in my opinion a sacrilege, a criminal gesture that contains grave moral repercussions,” Robert Redford wrote in an open letter.
The U.S. ambassador to France, Charles Rivkin, had urged the auctioneers to reconsider, saying in a statement late on Thursday: “A delay would allow the creators of these sacred objects the chance to determine their possible rights.”
Rivkin, who said that the auction house had yet to provide the Hopi Tribe with essential information about the objects, voiced his dismay in a Twitter message.
“I am saddened to learn that the sacred Hopi cultural objects are being put out to auction in Paris today,” he wrote.
The tribe’s legal advocates had sued the auctioneers at the Drouot-Richelieu auction house in central Paris on grounds that auctioning the masks would cause the Hopi “profound hurt and distress”.
Lawyer Quentin de Margerie bought mask 13, a design which mocks tourists, on behalf of Servan-Schreiber to give to the Hopi. He told Reuters few of the collectors understood the significance of the artefacts they were buying.
“It’s a symbolic choice,” de Margerie said. “What the Hopi have said about this auction is that people don’t understand their culture.”
($1 = 0.7618 euros)
(Reporting by Nick Vinocur, Chine Labbe, Lucien Libert; Writing by Nick Vinocur; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)
Mr. Servan-Schreiber said he told the judge that the items should not be sold until it can be determined whether they were stolen from Hopi lands, as the Arizona-based tribe believes, or were the objects of sales that violated American and international law.
Efforts to look into the history of the 70 items, he said, would be rendered “virtually impossible” once they were scattered among multiple buyers. He said a delay would “preserve evidence.”
Mr. Servan-Schreiber also argued that the sale is illegal under an old prohibition in French law that bars the sale of “non-commercial” things that are seen as “immoral to sell.” The Hopis say the artifacts, ceremonial masks and headdresses known as Katsinam, or “friends,” embody divine spirits and are purely religious. They say selling them is a sacrilege.
A spokeswoman for the auction house said it was aware of the ruling but she would not comment further. Gilles Néret-Minet, the director of the house, has said repeatedly that he will not delay the $1 million sale. He has said the collector who put the items up for sale obtained them all legally.
The United States Embassy in Paris has also asked the auctioneers to delay the sale “given the ancestry of these masks and the distance between Paris and the Hopi reservation.”
70 sacred Hopi masks that are set to be auctioned in France are estimated to be worth $1 million. The New York Times reports, the auction is set for April 12th at Néret-Minet auction house. Néret-Minet states that the items were legally obtained over 30 years ago and that this auction should be considered a homage to the Hopi Indians and they should be happy so many people want to understand and analyze their civilization.
“The Hopi Tribe is just disgusted with the continued offensive marketing of Hopi culture.” The Hopi Tribe has attempted to contact the auction house with no luck and has sought legal council on possible ways to bring the masks back to their rightful owners, The Hopi Tribe.