House Natural Resources Committee Passes Leger Fernández Bill To Protect Sacred Tribal Cultural Patrimony

From the Office of U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández:

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández’s (NM-03) has announced that the House Natural Resources Committee passed her bipartisan Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony (STOP) Act (H.R. 2930).

The bill was introduced in April alongside Reps. Don Young (R-Alaska), Tom Cole (R-Okla.), and Sharice Davids (D-Kan.)

“Yesterday, the Natural Resources Committee passed out eight bills with bi-partisan support addressing health, land into trust, and tribal management of buffalo herds, and cultural preservation –  issues of importance for our Native American communities. We know that many sacred, tribal cultural items not meant for commercial use have been lost to international markets – stolen, exported, and sold to the highest bidder,” Leger Fernández said “I am glad that my colleagues voted today to unanimously pass my Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony (STOP) Act to address this issue. My bill will provide American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiian organizations and federal agencies with the tools necessary to protect these sacred items. We must continue to push legislation that uplifts the health, economic, and cultural sovereignty of Tribal communities. I look forward to seeing the STOP Act on the House floor and will continue to fight for our Indigenous communities.”

WATCH: Rep. Leger Fernández’s Video on the STOP Act 


The STOP Act:

  • Increases Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) penalties to aid in deterrence.
  • Explicitly prohibits the export of tribal cultural heritage trafficked in violation of NAGPRA and the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA). Creates an export certification system where an exporter seeking to export an item that  qualifies as a Native American cultural item or archaeological resource under NAGPRA or ARPA must apply for a certification, and only items legally obtained are eligible for a certification. Certain countries, such as France, restrict import of cultural heritage illegally exported from a country that issues export certificates. The export prohibition paired with the export certification system will help the United States and tribes use those countries’ domestic laws and law enforcement mechanisms to return illegally exported items.
  • Confirms the President’s authority to enter into agreements under a 1970 international treaty in order to request from other countries return of tribal cultural heritage. The United States has already entered into such agreements to protect other countries’ cultural heritage. 
  • Creates a federal framework to support voluntary return of sacred items, including a referral program to allow the Department of the Interior to assist individuals in finding a tribe with a cultural affiliation to tribal cultural heritage they want to return. 
  • Creates a federal working group to ensure coordination between federal agencies whose work involves protecting or facilitating repatriation of tribal cultural heritage.
  • Establishes a Native working group to aid federal efforts that involve protecting or facilitating repatriation of tribal cultural heritage.

The House bill is cosponsored by U.S. Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Brian Mast (R-Fla.), Aumua Amata Radewagen (R-American Samoa), Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), Ed Case (D-HI), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Melanie Stansbury (D-NM), David Joyce (R-OH), Mark Takano (D-CA), and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC). 

The Senate companion bill was introduced by Senators Heinrich and Murkowski and is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska).

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