Native American artifacts "hot" collectibles for Antique Roadshow appraisers

When Antiques Roadshow visits Seattle today it will remind those with Native American artifacts that many of these vintage tribal treasures are banned for sale.

Rare Native American artifacts – such as relics, arrowheads, pottery and Stone Age tools related to the Indians’ way of life – are banned for sale by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. Thus, when Antiques Roadshow visits Seattle Aug. 18 – to film an episode for the new fall season - it will remind those with Native American artifacts that many of these vintage tribal treasures are banned for sale. In turn, Roadshow appraisers also informed collectors - when Roadshow visited Tucson, Arizona, earlier this year – that the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), Pub. L. 101-601, 25 U.S.C. 3001 et seq., 104 Stat. 3048, is a United States federal law "passed on November 16 1990 requiring federal agencies and institutions that receive federal funding to return Native American "cultural items" to their respective peoples. Cultural items include human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony." Still, Roadshow experts note that "many illegal Native items" seem to show up when they visit towns around the U.S.

Also, today’s visit to Seattle marks the end of the Antiques Roadshow tour of the U.S.; when it visits the Washington State Convention Center – in downtown Seattle off near Pike Street and 8th and 9th Avenues – to tape a new fall season episode where leading specialists will offer free appraisals of antiques and collectibles.

To view examples of interesting Native American antiques – that are widely collected out West and worldwide – tune to the next episode of “Antiques Roadshow” when this encore airing of Tucson, Arizona, is featured at 8/7c. In turn, the concept for this episode and others is to feature the country’s leading specialists who offer both government warnings about collecting Native American artifacts; and free appraisals of other antiques and collectibles.

U.S. government finally protecting Native artifacts

Here in Florence, Oregon, at the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum, there’s the famous “stone bears” that were treasured by members of the Siuslaw, Lower Umpqua and Coos Tribes for centuries along the central Oregon coast.

However, the late director of this “Pioneer Museum,” Louis Campbell, told Huliq last year that the museum still has “a few stone bears” that were donated by locals descended from white settlers who acquired them from their kin who, in turn, “acquired them from the local Native people.”

Campbell also explained that “back in the day there was no government protection” for these sacred “cultural items.”

In turn, Roadshow experts are now required to brief people - who present rare Native American artifacts – about the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

In addition, the NAGPRA establishing a program of federal grants to assist in the repatriation process and authorizes the Secretary of the Interior “to assess civil penalties on museums that fail to comply. It is now the strongest federal legislation pertaining to aboriginal remains and artifacts.”

Moreover, an elementary American History text book states that “Native Americans were basically the first group of people to inhabit this country. This includes different tribes, such as the Sioux, Cherokee, Navajo and Apache. The Cherokee people generally inhabited the southeastern portion of the US. The Apache were a group known for their ferocity. The culture of Native Americans varies from that of most modern American people. This is why there are some separate laws found on Indian reservations. While the Blackfeet Native Americans are known as people of the northwestern plains, the Navajo tribes are from southwestern states.”

There are also other groups like the Cattaraugus, Hualapai and Mohicans, and the list goes on with both the NAGPRA and the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) to protect both the Native peoples and other Americans who may acquire these rare relics, arrowheads, pottery and stone age tools that often appear on Antiques Roadshow TV episodes.

Protecting cultural property and heritage

While it’s a buyer’s market in this uncertain times, when some dealers and buyers may be breaking the NAGPRA or ARPA laws to make a buck; Antiques Roadshow has been bullish on why the buying and selling of these rare items from Native antiquity is a real no-no.

For instance, in the U.S., the ARPA “protects archeological sites on federally owned lands. Privately owned sites are controlled by the owners. In some areas, archeological foundations or similar organizations buy archeological sites to conserve associated the cultural property.”

Also, other countries may use three basic types of laws to protect cultural remains:

-- Selective export control laws control the trade of the most important artifacts while still allowing some free trade. Countries that use these laws include Canada, Japan, and the United Kingdom.

-- Total export restriction laws are used by some countries to enact an embargo and completely shut off export of cultural property. Many Latin American and Mediterranean countries use these laws.

-- Other countries, such as Mexico, use national ownership laws to declare national ownership for all cultural artifacts. These laws cover control of artifacts that have not been discovered, to try to prevent looting of potential sites before exploration.

Moreover, Roadshow experts often explain to collectors that the intent of the NAGPRA legislation is “to address long-standing claims by federally recognized tribes for the return of human remains and cultural objects unlawfully obtained from prehistoric, historic, former, and current Native American homelands. Interpretation of human and indigenous rights, prehistoric presence, cultural affiliation with antiquities, and the return of remains and objects can be controversial and contested. Outcomes of NAGPRA repatriation efforts are slow and cumbersome, leading many tribes to spend considerable effort documenting their requests; collections' holders are obliged to inform and engage with tribes whose materials they may possess. NAGPRA was enacted primarily at the insistence and by the direction of members of Native American nations.”

Overall, Antiques Roadshow – that airs on Mondays at 8/7c – is focused on educating the public about antiques and collectibles as well as making “the treasure hunt” fun for the millions of Americans who search garage sales, flea markets and antique malls for - hopefully - valuable items.

Image source of Susquehannock Tribal artifacts on display at the State Museum of Pennsylvania. Today, the buying and selling of Native American artifacts is illegal for a large group of select items that are now protected under U.S. laws; with fines and jail time the result for those who break these laws. Photo courtesy Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Native_American_Graves_Protection_and_Repatriation_Act

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