Hopi Tribe Hopi Tribe

Hopi Tribe

GRoW founder Gregory Annenberg Weingarten intervened in a French auction by purchasing sacred Native American objects and repatriating them to their rightful owners.

Acting Quickly and Anonymously to Help the Native American Tribe

Hopi Tribe

In April 2013, more than 100 sacred Native American objects were auctioned at a French auction house in Paris, including 24 objects belonging to the Hopi tribe in Arizona and three objects belonging to the Apache tribe in New Mexico and Arizona. Both tribes, as well as the U.S. Embassy in France, argued that the sacred objects — which they regarded as living entities with divine spirits, rather than artifacts for display — had been illegally obtained and the auction house had no authority to sell them. However, their legal efforts were foiled when the French courts ultimately ruled against the tribes, deciding that the sellers had legally obtained the objects and therefore had the right to sell them at auction.

While living in Paris, Gregory Annenberg Weingarten followed the case and upon learning the outcome, he decided to work with the staff at the Annenberg Foundation in Los Angeles on a creative — and clandestine — intervention. At Gregory's request, staff anonymously entered the December 2013 auction, monitored the transactions online, and placed bids over the phone. When the auction ended, Gregory had  successfully purchased 24 out of the 27 items — for a sum of $530,000.

Following the auction, Gregory repatriated all 24 objects to the Hopi and Apache tribes, who had been unaware of the Annenberg Foundation's role in the auction. This act of stealth philanthropy encouraged other individuals to also repatriate objects that they purchased in auctions, which led to a broader awareness and discussion of Native American artifacts that are often wrongly acquired and sold.

In 2016, Gregory traveled to Arizona to meet with members of the Hopi tribe and to learn more about the spiritual and cultural significance of the repatriated items. Later that year, the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian awarded Gregory the Innovative Partnership in Repatriation Award in recognition of this work.

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Repatriation of Sacred Objects

Hopi Tribe

Repatriation by Gregory Annenberg Weingarten

The Rachel Maddow Show (12/19/13)