The Eve Auction house in Paris reportedly pulled a Sacred Acoma Pueblo shield after reports that the item may have been stolen back in the 1970’s. The auction of hundreds of Native American sacred items and human remains, which took place on Monday, was relatively quiet, with many bids failing to meet the predicted catalog prices.
U.S. Embassy spokesman Phil Frayne told the Associated Press that the pulling of the shield was a "small victory in a larger battle" to repatriate tribal artifacts. Frayne says the U.S. government believes the 19th-century shield might have been taken illegally in the 1970s, and so it was withdrawn just before the auction Monday.
Though the showing was small, a total of 313 Native items were sold, including 12 sacred Kachina masks for $129,000, including the Crow Mother mask, which went for $42,300, which was approximately a third less than expected.
Outside of the auction house were protesters holding “Stop Cultural Genocide and Eve Doit Arreter (Eve auction house must stop)” including Crystal Worl a member of the Tlingit community.
Worl told the Associated Press the pulling of the shield was one step in the right direction, "Today, one item being able to be repatriated is a small step but a necessary step to the bigger picture," Worl said.
Worl said the shield "has cultural values that need to be passed on to the next generations. And it excites me to know that there is hope for the future."
The Department of the Interior Acting Assistant Secretary Lawrence S. Roberts also commented on the pulling of the shield from sale.
"We appreciate France's action on Monday to remove the Acoma shield from the auction held by the Eve Auction House. We are continuing to work with Acoma leadership for the return of the shield. We are committed to working with all Tribes to develop protocols for working with France and other governments to ensure that sacred objects are not sold through auctions, but returned to Tribes."
This latest Eve Auction in Paris has received exposure on a worldwide scale as #StopTheParisAuction trended on social media within hours after NMAI, Tribal and U.S. Government officials denounced the auction last week.
Department of the Interior Sally Jewell later denounced the sale as well as others.
In a surprising alliance, even Catholic Church officials sided with Native tribes. Bishop James S. Wall of Gallup, N.M. told the Angelus Tidings News “My first reaction to this story was one of great sadness. It's tragic that this desire for personal profit from the sale of sacred objects is the ultimate goal. These objects are sacred to the pueblo people and they belong to the whole community,” said Bishop Wall, commenting on the range of items from the Hopi, Pueblo and Zuni as well as the prehistoric Hohokam tribe.
“I understand their pain at the potential loss of these items, and I would like to add my voice and support to theirs in urging the sellers and buyers to withdraw these items from auction and return them to the Pueblo people.”
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