Native American mask auction held in Paris despite US protest

An auction of Native American masks by the Hopi tribe went ahead in Paris on Friday despite objections from the US embassy and members of the 18,000-strong Arizona community.

AFP| Updated: Jun 27, 2014, 20:30 PM IST

Paris: An auction of Native American masks by the Hopi tribe went ahead in Paris on Friday despite objections from the US embassy and members of the 18,000-strong Arizona community.

Auction house Eve defended the sale of the 27 masks, saying "No American law has been violated, there has been no illegal operation."

It said the sale had also been cleared on June 26 by a Paris court after a complaint filed by tribal peoples` advocacy group Survival International and members of the Hopi tribe.

The US embassy launched a last-minute appeal just before the sale of what it said were "priceless Native American objects, including sacred items".

"Native American tribal representatives deserve the opportunity to examine objects of possible concern before they are offered for sale so that they may investigate their provenance and determine whether the tribes may have a claim to recover the items," the embassy said.

"The sale of a sacred object cannot be dismissed with the wave of a hand as a mere commercial transaction," it said.

"Native American sacred objects should be better protected, rather than being turned over to the highest bidder."

Attempts to block a similar auction of Hopi masks last year failed despite a high-profile campaign that included the US ambassador to France and actor Robert Redford.

A French court turned down the request for the injunction saying there were no grounds to halt the sale because the items were acquired legally by a French collector during a 30-year residence in the United States.

The sale had outraged members of the Hopi tribe who said the items were blessed spirits.