December 11, 2013

Annenberg Foundation returns Hopi artifacts

A couple of headlines tell the tale of another unfortunate event:

Sad But True: Another Hopi Katsinam Auction Planned in Paris

Paris Auction House Owner: Katsinam 'Not Entitled to Specific Rights'

Fortunately, this auction had a happier outcome:

Annenberg Foundation and Hopi Nation Announce Return of Sacred Artifacts to Native American Hopi TribeAnnenberg Foundation Vice President and Director Gregory Annenberg Weingarten today announced that the Annenberg Foundation has purchased 24 sacred Native American artifacts from an auction house in Paris–totaling $530 thousand–for the sole purpose of returning them to their rightful owners. Twenty-one of these items will be returned to the Hopi Nation in Arizona, and three artifacts belonging to the San Carlos Apache will be returned to the Apache tribe.

"This is a great day for not only the Hopi people but for the international community as a whole," said Sam Tenakhongva, a Hopi cultural leader. "The Annenberg Foundation set an example today of how to do the right thing. Our hope is that this act sets an example for others that items of significant cultural and religious value can only be properly cared for by those vested with the proper knowledge and responsibility. They simply cannot be put up for sale."

The positive development came after efforts, including those of the U.S. Embassy, were made to delay the auction of the Hopi and San Carlos Apache items. Acting on behalf of the advocacy group Survival International and the Hopi, attorney Pierre Servan-Schreiber went last week before a judge in Paris in an attempt to have the sale of the Hopi items blocked, but on December 6, the court ruled against him. That's when Weingarten made the unprecedented decision to intervene.

"As an artist, I was struck by the awesome power and beauty of these objects," said Weingarten. "But these are not trophies to have on one's mantel; they are truly sacred works for the Native Americans. They do not belong in auction houses or private collections. It gives me immense satisfaction to know that they will be returned home to their rightful owners, the Native Americans."
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Auctioned Mask Returned to Hopi and Auction House Sells Hopi Masks.

Below:  "Lawyer Pierre Servan-Schreiber met two katsina priests when a katsina was returned to the Hopi in July 2013."

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