Kykotsmovi, Ariz. – The Hopi Tribe has announced that Survival International, a non-profit organization thathelps tribal peoples defend their lives, protect their lands and determine their own futures, is actively working on the tribe’s behalf to halt an auction in Paris of Hopi sacred objects.
Tribal leaders said the fact that Survival International has taken on this issue demonstrates to the world what a travesty the auction is and how culturally degrading it is to the Hopi Tribe.
Hopi Tribe Chairman LeRoy N. Shingoitewaasked the question: “Would there be outrage if Nazi artifacts, Papal heirlooms or Quranic manuscripts were up for sale to the highest bidder? I think so.”
Hopi sacred objects are expected to be sold at the April 12 Neret-Minet Tessier & Sarrou auction in France. The tribe is requesting that the sacred objects be returned to the Hopi Tribe immediately as the auction house has not presented any certificates of ownership that establish, or help establish, the chain of title for the Hopi religious objects.
“We would hope that the auction house and everyone involved would take a step back and look at what they are doing,” said Hopi Tribe Chairman LeRoy N. Shingoitewa. “Given the importance of these ceremonial objects to Hopi religion, you can understand why Hopis regard this – or any – sale as sacrilege, and why they regard an auction not as homage but as a desecration to our religion.”
Stephen Corry, director of Survival International, said, “It ought to be pretty clear to the auctioneers that the sale of these objects would cause profound hurt and distress to the Hopi people. To the Hopi, these are not museum objects but an intrinsic part of a thriving, living culture, which should be treated with respect. The auction house should think again and cancel the sale.”
The majority of the sacred objects that are being sold date back to the 1930s.
Leigh Kuwanwisiwma, director of the Hopi Tribe’s Cultural Preservation Office, said they were likely illegally obtained by a French citizen visiting the Hopi Reservation.
“These sacred objects belong to the entire Hopi Tribe, they have cultural patrimony meaning there is a tribal and cultural right, they have never belonged to a single person,” said Kuwanwisiwma. “Because these objects do not belong to a single person, they have no monetary value and cannot be sold.
“The mere fact that a price tag has been placed upon such culturally significant and religious items is beyond offensive,” Kuwanwisiwma stated. “They do not have a market value. Period.