Heinrich pushes to end trafficking of Native American artifacts | KOB 4

Heinrich pushes to end trafficking of Native American artifacts

Heinrich pushes to end trafficking of Native American artifacts Photo: Sen. Martin Heinrich's YouTube channel

Meg Hilling
November 08, 2017 08:56 PM

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., continued his push on Capitol Hill for legislation that would prohibit the exporting of sacred Native American items.


Standing before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on Wednesday, Heinrich introduced the Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony Act of 2017, or STOP Act. The bill looks to increase penalties for illegally trafficking tribal, cultural patrimony, in addition to explicitly prohibiting the exporting of these objects.

It also looks to establish a federal policy that encourages the voluntary return of these items from private collections.

"We all recognize the incredible beauty of American Indian art, from the remnants of ancient wonders that we can explore and admire in places like Chaco Canyon and the Gila Cliff Dwellings to the traditional and modern art masterpieces created by Native artists to this day," Heinrich said.

"But we can also recognize a clear difference between supporting tribal artists or collecting artifacts ethically and legally as opposed to dealing or exporting items that tribes have identified as essential and sacred pieces of their cultural heritage," he continued.

Heinrich pointed to the near auction of a sacred ceremonial shield in Paris last year as the motivation for the legislation. The shield had belonged to the Pueblo of Acoma.

After Acoma Pueblo Gov. Kurt Riley brought the auction to Heinrich attention, Heinrich proceeded to call upon the U.S State Department to keep it from happening. The auction was halted, but the shield has yet to be returned to the pueblo.

"During my time as governor, the pueblo has fought to recover many sensitive cultural items that illegal left our lands," Riley said.

Heinrich proposed similar legislation last year but never managed to get it through a Senate committee. This time around, Heinrich appears hopeful and has expressed pride in the bipartisan support the legislation has gained since bringing it back to Congress in June.

According to Heinrich, eight out of the 15 members of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs have signed on in support. The committee has yet to vote on the legislation.

"These sensitive items play a significant role with our cultural, our traditional calendar, our societies, our families and our way of life," Riley said


Meg Hilling

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