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.
(Reuters) – Oregon State Police have seized dozens of Native American artifacts, some more than 5,000 years old, that were collected illegally and likely bound for the black market, authorities said on Tuesday.
Among the items seized from a house in Klamath Falls were articles used during Indian funeral ceremonies and other items of cultural significance, Oregon State Police Sergeant Randall Hand said. No human remains were discovered.
A prolonged drought has dried up parts of a regional watershed in the Klamath Basin in southern Oregon and Northern California, exposing archaeological areas normally concealed by water, Hand said.
“These were tribal artifacts, and we believe that most of those that we’ve collected were from 200 years to 5,000 years old, or older,” he said.
Hand said members of Oregon’s Klamath Tribes had helped in a seven-month investigation into the archaeological disappearances from public lands.
Police said dozens of artifacts were reclaimed from the house, but did not provide an exact count.
Officials with the Klamath County District Attorney’s office said they could not comment on the case or any pending charges.
Oregon law requires that anyone removing archaeological objects from public or private lands obtain permits, state police said.
Some researchers have complied with those requirements during the recent drought to gain greater understanding of an area that has been reshaped by dams and artificial reservoirs.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, for example, last fall oversaw excavations at the former site of Klamath Junction, a tiny community intentionally submerged by an irrigation project in the 1960s. As water levels have fallen, building foundations and scattered debris have emerged on a muddy plain that is normally under water.
KNOXVILLE – Tennessee’s got a state bird, a state flower, a pair of state rocks and several state songs. So why not a state artifact?
That designation likely will soon go to an ancient figure at the University of Tennessee’s McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture.
The 700-year-old Native American sandstone statue is called “Sandy” by the museum and is often used as a symbol for the center. It’s an ancient sandstone figure of a kneeling, older man carved sometime between 1250 and 1350 AD. The 18-inch figure from prehistory’s Mississippian period likely represents a chief.
“Sandy” was found in a Wilson County farm field in 1939. It’s on exhibit as part of the McClung’s permanent exhibit, “Archaeology and the Native Peoples of Tennessee.”
A bill that would make Sandy the official state artifact passed the state Senate and House and awaits Gov. Bill Haslam’s signature. The bills were introduced by legislators at the request of the Tennessee Council for Professional Archaeology.
“Naming Sandy as an official Tennessee symbol acknowledges the state’s ancient past, and will encourage Tennesseans to learn more about and work to help preserve our shared history,” TCPA President Tanya Peres, a Middle Tennessee State University associate professor of anthropology, said in an announcement about the bill’s passing. “Listing Sandy as the state artifact also honors the legacy and accomplishments of Native Americans who lived in Tennessee for more than 10,000 years before the arrival of European settlers.”
“The McClung Museum is thrilled to receive this recognition of Sandy and our museum,” said McClung Director Jeff Chapman. “Sandy is such an important example of prehistoric Native American art, and we are proud to be the stewards of this piece of Tennessee history.”
The California Coastal Commission has postponed a decision on whether to allow new housing construction on land in Huntington Beach that opponents say is home to Native American artifacts and remains.
At the request of the city, commissioners voted unanimously this week to postpone deciding whether to allow Huntington Beach to amend its Local Coastal Program — local governments’ guide to development in the coastal zone — to allow for new homes on the northwest portion of Bolsa Chica.
Huntington Beach Planning Director Scott Hess told commissioners that city officials and housing developers want more time to analyze and respond to late changes made to a report by coastal commission staff which had recommended denying the proposed amendment because it would “eliminate a higher priority land use designation and does not assure that significant culture resources and sensitive habitats will be protected” under the California Coastal Act.
Property owner Signal Landmark and developer Hearthside Homes want to build 22 “green” homes on a five-acre parcel called the Ridge near Bolsa Chica Street and Los Patos Avenue, the Huntington Beach Independent reported.
Preservationists say the Ridge site, as with the rest of the mesa, contains Native American artifacts and remains.
The updated report recommends that before the commission considers rezoning the Ridge, the city and the property owners “irrevocably” offer an adjacent 6-acre parcel to be dedicated to a governmental or nonprofit organization to be used as open space.
Other new recommendations include requiring a cultural resources protection plan and requiring current biological assessments to be done for both sites.
Huntington Beach Councilwoman Connie Boardman, who was at the hearing Wednesday with 30 or more Bolsa Chica Land Trust members, said the coastal commission made the right move in postponing the hearing.
“It’s appropriate to postpone something when the developer brings in something the morning of the hearing so that the public and the commissioners have a chance to evaluate the changes that they’re proposing,” she said.
Wesleyan University opened the Orange Judd Hall of Natural Science in 1871 and the museum displayed sacred Native American objects alongside curiosities that included dinosaur tracks, a stuffed bison and an Egyptian mummy.
MIDDLETOWN — Graveyards are sacred, but for many Native Americans their journey into the spirit world was interrupted when their ancient burial grounds were dug up in the name of science. For example, in 1948, the University of California Berkeley boasted to Life magazine that the university held in storage “more than 10,000 Indian skeletons, many of them complete.”
Wesleyan University too collected Native American relics, but the university recently announced that it was returning the human remains of some 15 Native Americans held for more than 100 years.
Wesleyan has been discreet about returning the remains, revealing its intentions only on its website. The university also posted a formal apology “to all Native Nations and indigenous peoples” for keeping the relics so long.
Asked to elaborate, Wesleyan spokeswoman Kate Carlisle said, “The information on the website is really all I can offer you at this time.”
For Native Americans, the objects are considered so sacred that tribes insist they neither be photographed nor itemized publicly. Wesleyan is believed to possess associated funerary objects in addition to the human remains.
The return of Wesleyan’s Native American relics is mandated by federal law. In 1990, Congress passed the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, which requires federally funded museums and universities to repatriate human remains to recognized tribes.
“It’s certainly a positive thing,” Kevin McBride, a University of Connecticut archaeologist and the research director of the Mashantucket Pequot Museum, said of Wesleyan’s decision. “Repatriation is not all easy to address – it’s a time-consuming, but it’s necessary.”
Wesleyan’s interest in Native American artifacts began after the Civil War, with the building of the brownstone Orange Judd Hall of Natural Science in 1871. The museum housed Native American artifacts alongside dinosaur tracks, a stuffed bison and an Egyptian mummy.
The museum in its early years was managed by a Wesleyan graduate, George Brown Goode, who had worked in marine science at Harvard. Goode was later employed by the Smithsonian, where he became a pioneer museum administrator overseeing numerous exhibits, including one on the latest sports equipment.
At Wesleyan, Goode sent teams of fossil hunters out West to dig up dinosaur bones, and they also gathered Native American artifacts for the museum.
In 1957, when the museum closed, thousands of artifacts, including Native American relics, were boxed up and put into storage.
Wesleyan was nudged into federal compliance by several of its professors, principally J. Kehaulani Kauanui, associate professor of anthropology and American studies, and Donald Moon, professor of government and environmental studies. In 2010, Kauanui and Moon organized a panel discussion, “Reconsidering Repatriation: Colonial Legacies, Indigenous Politics and Institutional Developments,” in which the federal process was reviewed and strategies for compliance developed.
At the time, Wesleyan had been noncompliant for 15 years, according to a Nov. 16, 2010, article in The Wesleyan Argus, the college newspaper.
Complying with the federal artifacts law requires inventorying museum collections. Then lists have to be sent to the more 500 recognized tribes in the United States.
To assist with the process Wesleyan hired a repatriation coordinator, Honor Keeler, a lawyer who is part Cherokee. The university said it expects repatriation to take several years.
Wesleyan’s Native American relics have been traced to tribes in Connecticut, Illinois and Tennessee, according to Doug Charles, chair of Wesleyan’s anthropology department. Charles told the Argus in 2010 that Wesleyan had provided tribes with summaries of Wesleyan’s holdings, but until then there had been no requests for repatriation.
McBride said he wasn’t sure whether any Wesleyan artifacts had any connection to the Pequots, which once held sway over the lower Connecticut River Valley and Long Island Sound. He said he looks forward to reviewing Wesleyan’s inventory.
“I have attended reinterment ceremonies following repatriation and they are deeply moving,” McBride said. “There are tears of anguish and of joy. You have to understand, these are their ancestors – and they are finally coming home.”
Federal Emergency Management AgencyU.S. Department of Homeland Security500 C Street SW, Washington, DC 20472
February 20, 2013
NEW ORLEANS – Pottery sherds, animal bones and pieces of clay tobacco pipes are among the items recently discovered by a team of archaeologists under contract to the Federal Emergency Management Agency surveying land near Bayou St. John in New Orleans.
“It was a bit of a surprise to find this,” said FEMA Louisiana Recovery Office Deputy Director of Programs Andre Cadogan, referencing a small, broken pottery fragment. “We clearly discovered pottery from the late Marksville period, which dates to 300-400 A.D. The pottery was nice, easily dateable, and much earlier than we expected. This is exciting news for historians and Tribal communities as it represents some of the only intact prehistoric remains of its kind south of Lake Pontchartrain.”
The Bayou St. John spot holds a prominence in New Orleans’ history, throughout the years serving as the location of a Native American occupation, a French fort, a Spanish fort, an American fort, a resort hotel and then an amusement park. Through a series of shovel tests and methodological excavation, the archaeologists discovered evidence of the early Native Americans, the colonial period and the hotel.
“The historical record tells us that the shell midden (or mound) created by the Native American occupation was destroyed by the French when they built their fort here,” said Cadogan. “However, we’ve discovered, through archaeology, that rather than destroy the midden, the French cut off the top of it and used it as a foundation for their fort.”
FEMA’s work near Bayou St. John is part of an agreement with the State Historic Preservation Office, Indian Tribes and the state to perform archaeological surveys of parks and public land in the city of New Orleans. It falls under FEMA’s Environmental and Historic Preservation program, which evaluates historical and environmental concerns that may arise from projects funded by federal dollars.
FEMA hazard mitigation funding was used for thousands of home elevations and reconstructions throughout Louisiana. Rather than evaluate every property for archaeological remains—a nearly impossible task—FEMA, the State Historic Preservation Office and various consulting parties signed an agreement, which allowed FEMA to conduct alternate studies such as the archaeological surveys.
“The surveys not only offset potential destruction of archaeological resources on private property from the home mitigations but also give us a leg up on any future storms. We are helping the state of Louisiana learn about its history as well as provide information that leads to preparedness for the next event,” said Cadogan.
FEMA, in coordination with the State Historic Preservation Office and Indian Tribes, identified the areas to be surveyed. Once the field studies are completed and all of the artifacts are analyzed and recorded, the State Historic Preservation Office will become stewards of the information.