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French auction house sued over sale of Hopi Indian masks

Nov. 30, 2013 at 2:08 PM

PARIS, Nov. 30 (UPI) -- An American Indian advocacy group is suing a French auction house that plans to sell off items the group said are held sacred by the Hopi tribe.

Survival International, a group that advocates on behalf of American Indians, has sued the auctioneer Alain Leroy of the EVE auction house.

The business plans a two-day auction beginning Dec. 9 of native katsinam, the Hopi word for religious artifacts including headdresses and masks tribal members believe are blessed by divine spirits, Radio France Internationale reported Saturday.

"It's a matter of enormous regret that another auction house seems prepared to defy public opinion and the feelings of the Hopi, who are these objects' rightful owners," Survival International director Stephen Corry said.

The sale of such artifacts is illegal in the United States but there is no such law in France.

Survival International sued to stop a previous Indian artifact auction but the French courts let the sale proceed.

One of the masks, adorned with raven feathers, is expected to fetch up to 80,000 euros ($108,000), RFI said.

The Hopi tribe claims about 18,000 members, who mostly live in northwestern Arizona.

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