UPDATE: Medford Mayor halts auction of Native items - Auction violated NAGPRA

Medford Public Library will no longer be selling sacred items listed in an auction thanks to the city's mayor. Screen capture Google Maps street view

Vincent Schilling

Medford Public Library posted a public notice on Nov 13th alerting the public they would be auctioning 'surplus goods'

UPDATE: On November 20, Medford Wicked Local correspondent Miranda Willson posted the following article: Medford City Solicitor: Native American auction illegal under federal law.

The City of Medford's Law Department has determined the scheduled auction was not in compliance with NAGPRA, the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act.

Willson also posted a series of tweets following the process of her reporting:

From November 19, 2018

Medford city Mayor Stephanie M. Burke has stepped forward to remove a list of sacred Native American cultural items from a scheduled Medford Public Library auction after social media outrage and protests by Native Americans opposing the sale.

The auction was scheduled to take place on December 1st and was to be hosted by Skinner Auctioneers and Appraisers, an independent auction company based in Boston. Items on the roster included 'shaman masks' appraised at approximately $30,000, 'shaman bird rattles' appraised at $6-8,000, a shaman spirit-figure at $4-6,000 and a totem pole worth $8-12,000.

According to the Boston Herald, the Medford Public Library had posted a public notice on November 13th alerting the public they would be auctioning 'surplus goods' on December 1st.

Jean-Luc Pierite, president of the board of directors of the North American Indian Center of Boston, told the Boston Herald, “This auction is unconscionable in a country with laws and obligations such as the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.” Pierite also said that to sell such sacred items for a short-term profit without proper consultation with tribes regarding the proper consultation, was "part of the troubling disregard for government-to-government relationships."

Miranda Willson, a correspondent for the Medford Wicked Local, received word from the Medford Public Library's Board of Trustees. Board member Ann Frenning Kossuth told Willson, “I personally think we need to admit that we made a mistake ... I hope to encourage the board to take action and harness this as a learning opportunity.”

Willson was also able to obtain a statement from the Mayor's office who said they would not allow the items to be sold. The Mayor's office told the publication,*“*The City of Medford has and will continue to honor and respect the cultural richness and traditions of all Native American groups.”

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Comments (3)
No. 1-1

Outstanding question:

Will an attempt be made to identify and consult with the origin tribe(s) to determine whether they want the items returned, and if they do, will the items be returned?