WASHINGTON D.C. ― U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich praised the Senate’s recent passage of the Protection of the Right of Tribes to stop the Export of Cultural and Traditional (PROTECT) Patrimony Resolution.
The bipartisan resolution, which was introduced by Udall and Heinrich as well as Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), condemns the theft, illegal possession or sale, transfer, and export of Tribal cultural items and calls for several measures to be implemented to help identify and stop the illegal trafficking of Tribal cultural patrimony and secure repatriation of exported items to the rightful Native American owners. The PROTECT Patrimony Resolution was approved by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs earlier this month and unanimously passed the Senate this afternoon.
“Sacred Tribal cultural items are essential to the history, cultures and traditions of Native American communities, and they deserve respect at all levels of government,“ Udall said. “This resolution will help to support efforts to stop the illegal theft and sale of Tribal cultural items, which are essential to maintaining the Native American way of life. As a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, I will continue to do whatever I can to end this practice and ensure that stolen Native patrimony is returned to its rightful owners.”
“I was proud to work with Senator Udall on this resolution, which I hope will bring new attention to this urgent matter for our tribal communities. Sacred tribal artifacts connect tribes to their history and help keep their cultural heritage alive so that parents and grandparents can hand down their traditions to future generations. Native patrimony should be protected and preserved, not illegally trafficked and sold to the highest bidder,” said Heinrich, who introduced the Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony (STOP) Act in July to prohibit the exporting of sacred Native American items and increase penalties for stealing and illegally trafficking tribal cultural patrimony. “We need to take all possible action to condemn the theft of tribal cultural artifacts and repatriate stolen culturally significant items to their rightful owners.”
Tribal cultural items have immense historical, traditional and cultural importance to Native American culture—yet these items continue to be taken from Native Americans and sold in black or public markets in violation of federal and Tribal laws. When Tribal cultural items are exported internationally to avoid these laws, Native Americans encounter extraordinary difficulty in stopping their sale and securing their repatriation. This resolution emphasizes federal agencies’ responsibility to consult and work with Native Americans to stop the theft, illegal possession or sale, transfer, and export of Tribal cultural items, and has received support from Tribal leaders across New Mexico and America, including the National Congress of American Indians and the All Pueblos Council of Governors.
U.S. Representative Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) introduced a companion resolution (H. Con. Res. 122) which passed the House of Representatives on September 21. The resolution was also cosponsored by U.S. Representatives Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.) along with the co-chairs of the Congressional Native American Caucus, U.S. Representatives Tom Cole (R-Okla.) and Betty McCollum (D-Minn.). Because the Senate resolution text differs, the measure returns to the U.S. House of Representatives to be approved again before it can become final.