a special ceremony September 25 in Albuquerque, New Mexico,
eight Native American tribes reclaimed ceremonial and religious
artifacts that had been taken
illegally from their reservations and sold in the back room
of a well-known Santa Fe art gallery.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and
the FBI recovered the objects after a two-year investigation
that resulted in the conviction of the gallery owner and another
Santa Fe art dealer for illegal trafficking in Native American
was the single largest "repatriation" of Native
American religious objects, hundreds of items, worth more
than $400,000 on the black market -- and priceless to the
tribes -- were returned to the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation,
Pueblo of Acoma, Pueblo of Jemez, Pueblo of Laguna, Pueblo
of Santo Domingo, Pueblo of Zia, and the Zuni Tribe.
the artifacts were "prayer sticks" with protected
eagle feathers, which are used in a Holy Way ceremony practiced
by the Navajo Nation; a Golden eagle feather headdress; "bull-roarers,"
musical instruments that make the sounds of animals and spirits;
and stone axes or "chamajillas" (also known as "monster
slayer clubs") that are part of a medicine man's bundle.
were the dealers caught? Through the concerted efforts of
a Norwegian investigator posing as a wealthy European art
collector and an FBI agent posing as an American art dealer.
gallery owner and his supplier pled guilty in September 2002
to violating the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation
Act, the Migratory Bird Protection Treaty Act, and the Bald
and Golden Eagle Protection Act.It was a glorious homecoming.
When Second Lieutenant Governor George Shendo received the
sacred items belonging to the Jemez Pueblo, he said: "It
means my children are coming back home. We welcome them with
open arms. It's a great feeling."