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article imageNative masks bought at auction returned to tribe

By Justin King     Dec 12, 2013 in World
Paris - The Annenberg Foundation spent over half a million dollars at a controversial French auction to purchase Native American artifacts. The items, including 24 ceremonial masks, will be returned to the tribes to which they have great religious significance.
The tribes unsuccessfully tried to block the auction, and the United States Embassy attempted to intervene on their behalf. Judges in France found that the masks were acquired legally, and therefore could be sold to the highest bidder. Had the decision been in favor of the tribes, it is possible that it would have set a legal precedent to force many legally acquired artifacts to be returned.
The masks, referred to in the native tongue as “friends,” originated with the Hopi and Apache tribes. The Annenberg Foundation, originally purchasing the items anonymously, intends to return the masks to the appropriate tribe. Another mask was bought by the Hopi tribe’s lawyer in France, who also intends to return it.
Sam Tenakhongva, speaking on behalf of the Hopi tribe said
This is a great day for not only the Hopi people but for the international community as a whole.
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.
A rare antique tribal mask  Kachina Hapota  circa 1910-1920  revered as a sacred ritual artifact by ...
A rare antique tribal mask, Kachina Hapota, circa 1910-1920, revered as a sacred ritual artifact by the Native American Hopi tribe in Arizona is displayed at the Drouot auction house in Paris before auction, December 9, 2013
With permission by Reuters / Christian Hartmann
In April, a similar auction caused outrage among Natives. The tribe unsuccessfully attempted to stop that auction as well, but it went on as planned. Monroe Warshaw paid $34,000 for the masks at that time. Since then, Warshaw has visited a Hopi reservation where he witnessed a Hopi home dance. At the time he said
... they’re extraordinary things and when you realize, you don’t own these, but if you would’ve seen what I saw you almost couldn’t. You couldn’t own it because it’s like you’ve ripped the heart of an animal out. These are living things and they should be there.
He returned the masks to the tribe.
The director of the Annenberg Foundation, Gregory Annenberg Weingarten, spoke plainly about his organization’s reasoning behind the generous act.
These are not trophies to have on one's mantel.
The Annenberg foundation is no stranger to acts of generosity. In 1993, the organization donated $500 million to public education institutions in an attempt to stimulate reform.
More about Hopi, Apache, annenberg, Auction, Masks
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