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A collection of Hopi Native American artifacts were sold by a French auction house Monday, even after objections from the Arizona tribe. The tribe considers them sacred representations of messengers to the gods and the spirits of ancestors and natural forces.
According to Reuters, the sale of the 19th and 20th century masks was allowed after the judge's dismissal of a legal challenge to cancel the sale. A lawyer for the Hopi, Pierre Servan-Schreiber, said, "At some point this has got to stop,” referring to the sale of the masks.
All the masks sold for a net total of $530,000 but one issue is the 1970 UNESCO convention, which forbids the illegal sale of cultural property. However, the Hopi will still get back their masks. The anonymous buyer of the artifacts turned out to be a U.S. charity foundation who will return them to the Hopi Nation in Arizona as well as to the San Carlos Apache tribe, according to the Associated Press.
Sam Tenakhongva, a Hopi cultural leader, said in a statement, "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."