The SfAA leadership learned on April 10, 2013 that an auction house in Paris had planned the sale of several sacred masks made and used by members of the Hopi Tribe. The masks were from a private, unnamed source.
Through exchange and correspondence among SfAA members, AAA and other interested and knowledgeable individuals, the leadership quickly established several facts:
1. The Tribe opposed strongly the sale on religious and cultural grounds.
2. The U.S. Embassy in France had urged a delay of the auction until authenticity could be clearly established.
3. Cultural Survival opposed the auction and had obtained the pro bono services of a prominent French lawyer.
4. The attorney had requested a French court to block the auction and a decision was scheduled for April 12.
President Roberto Alvarez alerted two SfAA committees (Public Policy And Human Rights) and asked for their review and comment. He coordinated the SfAA response with that of the leadership of the American Anthropological Association, updating information and sharing text for formal letters to the court in support of the motion to block the auction.
The attached letter (see link below) was submitted to the attorney in Paris prior to the Court hearing and decision. A similar letter was sent from the leadership of the AAA.
The French judge rejected the motion on April 12 and the auction was held. The news report of the auction was carried on a number of print and broadcast media, including Le Monde and National Public Radio.
President Alvarez has asked the Human Rights and Social Justice Committee to monitor the post-auction developments and to report to the Board any new and related actions.