By TOM MASHBERGH
Published: April 3, 2013
In a rare case of a cultural heritage claim arising from the sale of American artifacts abroad, the Hopi Indians of Arizona have asked federal officials to help stop a high-price auction of 70 sacred masks in Paris next week.
The tribe is receiving advice from the State and Interior Departments, but each agency says its ability to intervene is limited.
In many ways, the Hopi case illustrates a paradox in the way artifacts are repatriated around the world.
While foreign nations routinely rely on international accords to secure American help in retrieving antiquities from the United States, Washington has no reciprocal agreements governing American artifacts abroad. And the United States laws that provide some protection against the illicit sale of Indian artifacts in this country have no weight in foreign lands. So tribes reaching overseas to recover objects that they view as culturally important are left to do battle on their own.
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