Arizona Daily Sun: Auction Offends Hopi

Auction Offends Hopi

April 2, 2013 5:05am – CYNDY COLE – Sun Staff Reporter

More than 70 sacred artifacts from tribes in the Southwest, mostly from Hopi, are slated to head to auction in Paris next week over tribal objections.

The Hopi items are mostly worn on the head in religious ceremonies that continue today. They are widely held as living beings that connect people to ancestors and the spirits of other living things.

The artifacts at issue in this case date from the 1800s and 1900s and are typically handed down from one generation to the next.

“These are items that should be home with our people, and that’s where they rightfully belong,” said Hopi Chairman LeRoy Shingoitewa.

The Hopi tribal government is asking the Paris auction house, Neret-Minet, to return them.

It is slated to auction them April 12.

Items from the Jemez Tribe, of New Mexico, are also up for bidding.

Shingoitewa is also working with embassies, he said, and does not know how the artifacts wound up in Europe, other than to guess they long ago were acquired by an individual outside the tribe.

“All we’re doing is trying to find a way to stop that auction … we’re asking for them to honor Hopi by not doing any selling of any kind,” Shingoitewa said.

He has instructed members of his government not to comment on the issue.

The items are worn about the face or head, but use of the word “mask” is deeply offensive to some Hopis, Shingoitewa said.

The keepsakes are kept in kivas and most often worn by Hopi men, who sometimes fast for days before the ceremonies.

Museum of Northern Arizona Director Robert Breunig posted a letter online Friday calling on the auction house to return the items.

“… they belong to the communities from which they come or to specific ceremonial societies. Under tribal custom and law they cannot be sold or given away by an individual,” Breunig wrote.

His letter had received nearly 13,000 reads as of Monday.

“I guess to use a common term, it went viral,” he said.

Cyndy Cole can be reached at 913-8607 or at

Originally published at:


See also:

“French plan to auction Hopi masks stirs furor” by Dennis Wagner, The Republic, April 2, 2013

“Hopis seek return of artifacts at auction” by Felicia Fonseca, The Associated Press, April 3, 2013

“Museums join Hopi Tribe to oppose Paris artifact sale” by Agence France-Presse, April 3, 2013

“71 Hopi and Zuni Masks to be Auctioned in Paris” by ICTMN Staff, March 7, 2013

Hopi professor will bike for Hopi Cancer Assistance Fund

Angela Gonzales (Hopi), Associate Professor of Development Sociology and American Indian Studies at Cornell University, has started a new blog to chronicle her goal of raising $10,000 for the Hopi Cancer Assistance Fund (HCAF).

To promote interest in her quest, Angela will bike 1,539 miles from Bellingham, WA, to Ventura, CA, beginning September 25, 2012.

Learn more about Angela’s motivation to raise support for the HCAF by visiting her blog, Angela Bikes 4 Hopi. Also, please consider giving financially to this worthy cause.

Thanks for spreading the word!

Three Hopi villages now formally reject SB 2109

Rosanda Suetopka Thayer of the Navajo-Hopi Observer (NHO) recently reported that in addition to the leadership at Hotevilla, village leaders at Bacavi and now Shungopavi have officially notified Chairman LeRoy Shingoitewa and the Hopi Tribal Council of their disapproval of SB 2109. Momentum against SB 2109 is building back home, and I anticipate similar actions by other villages in the near future. See Thayer’s articles in the NHO:

Shungopavi religious leaders oppose Hopi Tribe’s claim to waive Hopi water rights (June 13, 2012)

Village of Bacavi formally rejects Senate Bill 2109 (June 12, 2012)

Village of Hotevilla formally rejects SB 2109 (May 29, 2012)