LOS ANGELES, Dec. 10, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Annenberg 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
"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."
The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act gives
federally recognized Native American tribes a way to reclaim funerary
objects and ceremonial items from federal agencies and museums in
the United States. The law, however, does not apply to items held
In April of this year, the French firm Neret-Minet Tessier &
Sarrou auctioned 70 artifacts for €930,000, ignoring pleas
and protests around the world. Servan-Schreiber, who acted for Survival
International and the Hopi in that case as well, bought and returned
a sacred Hopi artifact to the tribe last summer. He also bought
on Monday one artifact for €13,000 and intends to return it
to the Hopi.
"Many individuals worked tirelessly on this issue for many,
many months only to come away feeling disappointed following the
ruling by the French court," said Servan-Schreiber. "Now we have
reason to celebrate."
"Hopefully this gesture is the beginning of a larger conversation
to discuss and inform various communities about what is sacred and
what is for sale," concluded Tenakhongva. "Although we were disappointed
in the decision of the court which allowed the sale to proceed,
we will continue to work to protect our cultural heritage on behalf
of our Hopi people and others. This issue extends far beyond us,
and it is our hope that others who have seen our campaign will step
forward and help to enlighten, educate and join us in protecting
cultural heritage and value across the world.
"Our thanks are once again extended to Survival International
and Mr. Pierre Servan-Schreiber for their efforts and to the Annenberg
Foundation for their goodwill and generous gesture. Kwakwah (Thank
the Annenberg Foundation
The Annenberg Foundation is a family foundation that provides funding
and support to nonprofit organizations in the United States and
globally. Since 1989, it has generously funded programs in education
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