Native America

Southwest Indian mask

Q: Here’s one I stumbled upon at a thrift shop. It appears to be Pueblo-inspired. It also appears to be a recent creation, perhaps crafted for the tourist trade. Regardless, I think it’s special and wanted to share it with you. Any input you may have is welcomed. Eric, 1516

A: It certainly is special if you collect Native American masks. Though you knew it was a cheap replica, I don’t think you would mortgage your house for the authentic mask I posted at the end. Worse than the high price, you might also be sued by the Hopi people.

The following appeared in the press six years ago. “Dozens of sacred American Indian tribal masks went on sale at a Paris auction house after a French court rejected appeals blocking the auction. Arizona’s Hopi Indians have insisted that they represent their deceased ancestors’ spirits. Hopis feed and look after the masks as if they are the living dead. In its ruling, the court recognized the masks’ sacred value, but said that clearly they cannot be assimilated to human bodies or elements of bodies of humans who exist or existed.”


  • Eric

    It should be further noted that the French court determined that the Hopi had no standing to sue, thereby effectively establishing France as a safe haven for the sale of sacred tribal artifacts. In what turned out to be a happy ending, the Annenburg Foundation stepped in and purchased most of the auctioned masks, which they then returned to the Hopi.

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