FaithWorld

U.S. foundation buys Hopi religious masks at auction to return them to the tribe

(A man looks at an antique tribal mask, Tumas Crow Mother, circa 1860-1870, revered as a sacred ritual artifact by the Native American Hopi tribe in Arizona, displayed at the Drouot auction house ahead of its sale in Paris December 9, 2013. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann)

An American foundation bought nearly two dozen Native American artefacts and will return them to the Hopi tribe in Arizona, which had mounted legal challenges to their planned sale by a French auction house.

The Annenberg Foundation said on Wednesday it had paid $530,000 for the 24 artefacts sold by Eve Auctioneers in Paris on Monday. Twenty-one will be returned to the Hopi Nation and three to the San Carlos Apache, the Los Angeles-based charitable foundation said in a statement.

“These are not trophies to have on one’s mantel; they are truly sacred works for the Native Americans,” said the foundation’s director, Gregory Annenberg Weingarten. “They do not belong in auction houses or private collections.”

The Hopi – who still live in the high desert of the Colorado Plateau in northeastern Arizona – consider both the masks and a series of dolls offered at the auction to be sacred. Made of animal skins, fabric and other natural materials, they represent messengers to the gods and the spirits of ancestors and natural forces. The Hopi do not display such masks in public.

Hopi Indian sacred objects sold in Paris auction despite protests

(A man looks at an antique tribal mask, Tumas Crow Mother, circa 1860-1870, revered as a sacred ritual artifact by the Native American Hopi tribe in Arizona, displayed at the Drouot auction house ahead of its sale in Paris December 9, 2013. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann)

French auctioneers sold a trove of Hopi Native American artifacts on Monday over the objections of the Arizona tribe, which considers them sacred, and a last-minute appeal from the United States.

The sale of about three dozen masks dating from the 19th and early 20th centuries followed a judge’s dismissal of a legal challenge last week brought on behalf of the tribe to cancel the sale by the Eve auction house in Paris.