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Problem. Tribes have long faced illegal trafficking in their tribal cultural heritage items, which are essential to their religious and cultural practices and identities. Many dealers know that, once they export such items abroad, the federal government and tribes have little power to secure their repatriation. Congress through the
PROTECT Patrimony Resolution, H.Con.Res.122, and the Government Accountability Office in report GAO-18-537 acknowledged this problem.
Existing International Mechanism. There is an existing international treaty to which the United States is a signatory that can be used to request other countries restrict import and facilitate repatriation of cultural property. However, each country must enact certain domestic laws to utilize this treaty: an export prohibition and accompanying export certification system. Certain countries, such as France, have enacted their own domestic laws that implement the treaty and restrict import of cultural property illegally exported from a country that provides export certificates. Although the United States has enacted a domestic law to aid other countries in protecting their cultural property, it has not enacted a domestic law implementing the treaty to protect tribal cultural heritage items.
Goal. The STOP Act would fill this void. It sets out with the two main goals of: (1) stopping the export and facilitating the international repatriation of tribal cultural heritage items already protected under federal law; and (2) facilitating coordination among federal agencies and tribes in protecting and repatriating such items and in aiding the voluntary return of Native American tangible cultural heritage more broadly.