NPR consults Professor Gerstenblith on Hopi Artifact Auction

The Paris auction of seventy Hopi "visages and headdresses" — some more than 100 years old — took place Friday morning, supported by a French court ruling.

The auction of sacred Native American artifacts was a cultural heritage topic of discussion this week, stirring up controversy in the United States and in Paris. Ultimately, the Neret-Minet Tessier & Sarrou auction brought in around $1.2 million, higher than the house estimated in yesterday's New York Times feature.

NPR's "All Things Considered" spoke to Professor Patty Gerstenblith last week about the controversial sale:

"Members of the Hopi Tribe of Arizona believe the pieces should not be sold and instead should be returned to their Hopi villages. The tribe has successfully repatriated items from museums in the United States with the help of the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. While that law cannot help them outside the U.S., DePaul University law professor Patty Gerstenblith says property law might.
'If an object is community owned, owned by a group, then an individual from that group could not necessarily - would not have the authority to sell the object without the permission of the whole group.'"

The auction was repeatedly interrupted by protestors, denounced by French advocacy groups and received highly critical coverage in the Associated​ Press.