Law protects export of sacred Native American items
December 29, 2022
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Federal penalties have increased under a newly signed law intended to protect the cultural patrimony of Native American tribes, immediately making some crimes a felony and doubling the prison time for anyone convicted of multiple offenses.
President Joe Biden signed the Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony Act on Dec. 21, a bill that had been introduced since 2016. Along with stiffer penalties, it prohibits the export of sacred Native American items from the U.S. and creates a certification process to distinguish art from sacred items.
The effort largely was inspired by pueblo tribes in New Mexico and Arizona who repeatedly saw sacred objects up for auction in France. Tribal leaders issued passionate pleas for the return of the items but were met with resistance and the reality that the U.S. had no mechanism to prevent the items from leaving the country.