Copyright © 2022 The Albuquerque Journal
The US Senate this week unanimously passed a bill that would make it illegal to export Native American cultural objects and other illegally obtained artifacts and increase related criminal penalties.
Sen. Martin Heinrich, DN.M. The bill cleared the chamber after he arrived at the meeting and said the bill would aid a years-long effort by the Pueblo of Acoma to prevent the auction of the sacred shield, which has been missing for decades. Off in Paris, France.
The tribe learned that the shield was up for auction in 2016. The shield was voluntarily returned in 2019.
“The need for this legislation is pretty simple,” Heinrich said. “Extreme public outcry and diplomatic pressure were enough to stop the illegal sale of tribal cultural property.”
Brian Vallo, the former governor of the Acoma Pueblo, said he was grateful the bill, titled the Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony, or Stop, Act, cleared the Senate.
Wallow said the law would make it easier for Pueblo to get the shield back from the auction house, which has been a years-long struggle. He said it was returned only after advocates and other tribes campaigned for its return along with the Acoma.
Wallow meets the dispatcher and convinces the man to return the shield.
“I think this sends a really strong message to collectors in the United States and elsewhere who engage in this type of illegal activity that this will no longer be tolerated,” he said.
The legislation, in part, increases the maximum prison sentence from five to 10 years for criminals who sell, buy, use for profit or transport illegally obtained human remains or certain cultural objects. It adds civil penalties for similar actions and makes it a crime to export illegally obtained tribal goods.
Last year the bill passed the House by a vote of 364-57. It will now head to President Biden’s desk at the White House Tribal Nations Summit this week.
All five members of the state’s congressional delegation supported the measure. Representative Teresa Leger Fernandez, DNM, sponsored the House bill.
“Although the United States has enacted domestic legislation to assist other countries in protecting their cultural property, until the STOP Act, we had no law to stop the export of Native American patrimony. Nowhere was this more evident than at the Pueblo of the Stolen Shield of Acoma,” he said in a statement. expressly prohibits export and better enables their return if found overseas.”