Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Re-inventing the Wheel in US

Put a funny 'folksy' shirt on to deflect critisism
After the fuss about several sales going back to 2013, at the Estimations Ventes aux Enchères (EVE) auction house in Paris of a number of Native American objects:
To better protect sacred indigenous objects from being sold in international markets, Senator Martin Heinrich has introduced the Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony (STOP) Act with support from politicians of both parties as well as tribal leaders.  [...] The bill would increase the penalties for criminal violations of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), with the maximum prison time becoming 10 years instead of five; give two years of amnesty for returning illegally acquired objects; ask the US Government Accountability Office for a report on illegally trafficked objects; and form a tribal working group for implementing the report’s recommendations. Perhaps most importantly, the STOP Act would prohibit the export of any object obtained in violation of NAGPRA, the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, or the Antiquities Act. As stated in Heinrich’s announcement, the French government “has cited the lack of an explicit export prohibition as an impediment to enforcement of NAGPRA and related laws overseas.”  

Another auction of Native American objects is listed on the EVE calendar for November 29.
Senator John McCain of Arizona announced  [...] [i]n a statement, Senator McCain said: “I have worked for many years to help protect these objects and keep them within the Native American community. Congress must impose stiffer penalties to stop these sacred items from being lost forever.”
What does that mean "lost forever" when we have US collectors and museum folk (like Dr Cuno) advocating spreading cultural property around the globe to avoid concentrating it all in one place? is that just US Doublespeak for "not in American hands"? According to the article:
EVE has been particularly brazen with its sales and dismissive of American challenges to them. When Alain Leroy, auctioneer at EVE, was asked for comment on the May auction, he responded that “all the items proposed are of legal trade in the US and in France,” 
which is exactly correct.  EVE has not been "brazen", they have stuck by their legal "rights".  They are using the same "they-can't-touch-[me]-for-it" argument 100% of US antiquities dealers use 100% of the time. It's a different matter, isn't it, when the boot is on the other foot.
The STOP Act has the potential to strengthen protections for these items, many of which fell out of tribal hands during displacement in the 19th and early 20th centuries. 
Rubbish. If the items were on the market before NAGPRA or ARPA (or in the latter case fall outside its purview because of the source) then this proposed act has no meaning (neither can be applied retrospectively). Far simpler would be to make their export subject to export licensing as per the 1970 UNESCO Convention which it may have escaped Senator Martin Heinrich's notice the US has been a somewhat ineffective state party of since 1984.

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