Podcast: Play in new window | Download | Embed
Tribal leaders and New Mexico’s U.S. Congressional delegation on Wednesday, celebrated the STOP Act becoming law.
The Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony Act was signed by President Joe Biden just before Christmas.
It prohibits the exporting of sacred Native American items – and increases penalties for stealing and illegally trafficking tribal cultural patrimony.
Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) first introduced the bill in 2016, and championed it in the Senate alongside Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).
Sen. Heinrich thanked tribal leaders during the celebration in Albuquerque saying legislation often takes a long time. He acknowledged the many people in the audience who played a role.
“So many leaders stepped up and made it possible for us as a Congressional delegation to move this legislation.”
Sen. Heinrich say the new law will help prevent instances like the auction of the Pueblo of Acoma’s shield, which led to the creation of the STOP Act.
In 2015, the Pueblo sought the return of the shield from an auction house in Paris.
The sacred item had been stolen from the Pueblo decades earlier.
Pueblo of Acoma Governor Randall Vicente says he’s honored Acoma Pueblo played a part in STOP Act.
“Today’s celebration, it means our cultural items of patrimony and our religious sacred items are going to be protected if they should ever leave our Pueblo lands. What it also does is not only focuses on the Pueblo of Acoma, not only the state of New Mexico, not only the United States, but worldwide we now recognize that our sacred items can be protected and brought back to our homelands.”
Theresa Pasqual, director of Acoma’s tribal historic preservation office, says the STOP Act is restorative for tribal communities.
“It restores not only the item to community, but it also heals the longstanding trauma that tribes have had in their villages in their collective memories of these items being stolen, items being missing, but allows for a new generation of community to come to know those items and what role that they have, and in this case with the Acoma shield – the role of protection.”
All 19 Pueblos in New Mexico urged for the bill’s passage, along with the state’s Apache Nations, the Navajo Nation, and other tribes across the country.
Zuni Pueblo Governor Arden Kucate says collaboration is essential.
“We’re all communicating and consulting and looking at the whole objective and the intended outcome of it. And I think as long as all the key players continue building capacity in all of these undertakings…a greater benefit for the tribes. That’s the way we need to continue going this open communication, everyone being at the table.”
New Mexico Democratic Representative Teresa Leger Fernandez championed the bill in the House. Many other U.S. lawmakers showed support over the years.
Tribal leaders say the work to protect sacred items has just begun, and they’ll examine how the STOP Act will work alongside other laws including the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.
The Seneca Nation in New York is denouncing the state governor’s veto of a bill to protect graves from unintentional excavation.
Native News Online reports the council approved a resolution during its first official meeting of 2023, which took place over the weekend, denouncing Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-NY)’s recent veto of the Unmarked Burial Site Protection Act.
Leaders say the legislation was intended to protect burial grounds, human remains and funerary objects.
They say the governor’s action disregards rights of Native Nations.
The tribe plans to seek support from national Native groups on the matter, including the National Congress of American Indians.
Get National Native News delivered to your inbox daily. Sign up for our newsletter today.