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Sacred Shield To Be Returned To Acoma Pueblo After Located At Paris Auction House

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

After many years, a sacred artifact will be returned Monday to the Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico, after it was returned by a Paris auction house last week.  Acoma Pueblo officials say the shield vanished from their centuries-old, mesa-top village in the 1970s.

Nearly four years ago, it resurfaced, but as an auction item in Paris, prompting the tribe’s leaders to begin making public appeals for it to be pulled from bidding and returned to them.

U.S. Attorney John Anderson says the shield will formally be returned to Acoma Pueblo after a judge dismisses a civil forfeiture case that prosecutors filed in an attempt to secure its return. “It will be a day of high emotion and thanksgiving,” Gov. Brian Vallo of Acoma Pueblo said ahead of the shield’s expected return to his tribe.

The shield — a colorful, circular piece featuring the face of a Kachina, or ancestral spirit — is among hundreds of Native American items, many of them considered sacred by tribes, to be sent to Paris auction houses by collectors over the years.

U.S. laws prohibit the trafficking of certain tribal items domestically, but it doesn’t explicitly ban dealers from exporting them.

A U.S. Government Accountability Office report last year found that sales of Native American cultural items began to decline in the year following the 2016 outcry over plans to sell the Acoma Pueblo shield and other items. About 1,400 Native American cultural items were listed for sale between 2012 and 2017, with about half selling for nearly $7 million total.

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