There's no Santa Claus in Hopi tradition, but Hopi and San Carlos Apache tribal members are waking up today to some unexpected gifts that might as well have come from a fat guy in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer.
As ICTMN has followed over the past few days, international efforts failed to stop 25 sacred items from being auctioned in Paris, and in a saddening case of deja vu, the pieces, most of them katsinam treasured by the Hopi, were sold on Monday.
Late yesterday, a press release announced that 24 of the 25 pieces had been bought anonymously by the Annenberg Foundation, at a total cost of $530,000. Twenty-one of them will be returned to the Hopi, and three to the San Carlos Apache. Gregory Annenberg Weingarten, Director and Vice President of the organization, put into words what many Hopi have been saying all along: "these are not trophies to have on one's mantel; they are truly sacred works for the Native Americans. They do not belong in auction houses or private collections. It gives me immense satisfaction to know that they will be returned home to their rightful owners."
Hopi cultural leader Sam Tenakhongva was pleased at the development. "The Annenberg Foundation set an example today of how to do the right thing," he said. "Our hope is that this act sets an example for others that items of significant cultural and religious value can only be properly cared for by those vested with the proper knowledge and responsibility. They simply cannot be put up for sale."
Pierre Servan Schreiber, the lawyer who made the case in a French court on Friday, also bought a sacred item he plans to return to the Hopi. "Now we have reason to celebrate," he said.
The Annenberg Foundation's purchase represents about one-third of the total value of the auction, which was $1.6 million.