Just one more relic

Hopi girls from the US Library of Congress

Hopi girls from the US Library of Congress

Just one more relic lost to collectors.

That’s what I thought when I read the Facebook posts by American Indian bloggers and activists about the sale of Hopi objects at an auction in Paris in December.

Just one more mask.

Just one more rattle.

Just one more drum.

The Hopi put up a fight but lost in a French court that gave the green light for the sale of sacred objects.

Reuters press ran a story on 9 December that says three dozen masks from the 19th and early 20th centuries were sold.

To the Hopi, who still live on the high desert of the Colorado Plateau in northeastern Arizona, the masks are sacred, representing messengers to the gods and the spirits of ancestors and natural forces, whether plants, animals or the sun, the report says.

Pleas by the tribe went unheeded by the French court and the Paris auction house, and the items sold for more than a half-million US dollars.

Just when you think justice is creepy—when you discover you can put a price on the sacred–the news announces the artifacts will be returned to the Hopi Nation and the San Carlos Apache tribe.

The Annenberg Foundation bought the relics for the purpose of returning them.

The Annenberg Foundation—created by the publishing empire that owns TV Guide and several broadcast outlets—gives generously to education, public health and the arts, and endowed the schools of communication at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Southern California.

Gregory Annenberg Weingarten, a Foundation official, made the decision to rescue the artifacts.

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, Weingarten says.

The Hopi don’t even want the relics photographed.

Good to hear someone is doing more than listening.

Photo from the US Library of Congress (copyright free)


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in american indian, framing, Hopi masks, Hopi masks at Paris auction, Indian, journalism, Native Science, science, science communication, writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Just one more relic

  1. I was as dismayed as you when I saw they would be auctioned; and as relieved when I saw they would be returned. Good news indeed!


  2. MaryJean says:

    It is heartening, these efforts at fairness toward Native American values. Good for the Annenburg Foundation and its leaders.


  3. Conrad S Ramirez says:

    Great news


  4. Thank you, Cynthia! This is indeed a good post!


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