Acoma Pueblo officials are celebrating the repatriation of dozens of cultural items retrieved from various outlets around the country. Acoma Governor Kurt Riley called it a joyous day for the pueblo, located in western New Mexico.
“We had what we call a general meeting of as many community members as we could where we announced it and the reaction was very joyful and positive,” Riley said. “So it’s a great occasion to have some of the items we’ve been trying very hard to repatriate come home.”
The return of the items comes after years of effort by the pueblo, the U.S. Attorneys office and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to locate and recover them from galleries, antique shops and museums. Gov. Riley said the continued outreach is helping curb the sale of important and cultural items that have been taken illegally. But he said it is a slow process to educate all those who profit from such sales.
“We hope we’ve made our point that the traders and the dealers as well as the pueblos, tribes and nations need to work together to educate and define to the outside world just what are cultural items.”
Riley singled out BIA Special Agent Franklin Chavez for his work in helping find and recover the items. He expressed hope that U.S. government officials continue to place a high priority on the work going into repatriating cultural patrimony.
Riley said one of the items is a sacred shield that a gallery owner in Montana voluntarily gave up after they were contacted. It is similar to the item that was part of an auction in Paris France last year that Acoma Pueblo and U.S. officials successfully halted. That item has not yet been returned.