Bill Safeguarding Tribal Patrimony Objects Signed Into Law

U.S. Congressional News:

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández (D-N.M.) welcomed President Joe Biden signing their bipartisan legislation, the Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony (STOP) Act, into law Wednesday.

“Now that the President has signed the STOP Act into law, I look forward to working with the Biden Administration to implement this bipartisan legislation to prohibit the exporting of sacred Native American items and increase penalties for stealing and illegally trafficking Tribal cultural patrimony,” Heinrich said. “For years, I have been working in close partnership with New Mexico’s Pueblos, the Jicarilla and Mescalero Apache Nations, the Navajo Nation, and Tribes across Indian Country to halt the trade of culturally significant items and repatriate stolen pieces that were trafficked illegally to their rightful owners. With this new law, we have taken an important step forward in halting the illegal and immoral theft of items that Tribes have identified as essential and sacred pieces of their cultural heritage.”

“Today is historic for Tribal Nations – from New Mexico to Alaska to Hawaii – as President Biden signs into law H.R. 2930, the Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony or the STOP Act,” Leger Fernández said. “While the United States has laws to protect the cultural property of other countries, until the STOP Act, we had no law to specifically stop the export of Native American patrimony. The perseverance of the Acoma people to recover a sacred shield that was stolen inspired this legislation. The STOP Act will explicitly prohibit the export of tribal cultural items obtained illegally and better enable their return if found overseas. This bill has long enjoyed bicameral, bipartisan support. I’m honored to have worked with Sen. Martin Heinrich, Sen. Ben Ray Luján, the late Representative Don Young, Tribal leaders, and so many others who worked for years to sign this bill into law.” 

The STOP Act prohibits the exporting of sacred Native American items and increase penalties for stealing and illegally trafficking Tribal cultural patrimony. It will help prevent instances like the auction of a shield, stolen from the Pueblo of Acoma. Heinrich played a role in the effort to bring the shield home by working with Governors Kurt Riley and Brian Vallo to call for its return. 

Heinrich first introduced the STOP Act in 2016. He championed the bill in the Senate alongside U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). The Senate passed STOP Act unanimously Nov. 29, 2022 following the House’s passage of the bill Dec. 3, 2021. Rep. Leger Fernández led on the bill in the House of Representatives alongside the late U.S. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), and U.S. Reps. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) and Sharice Davids (D-Kan.).

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