A contested auction of dozens of Native American tribal masks went ahead today despite appeals by the Hopi tribe and the US government to a Paris court for a delay.
Within hours of the court announcing its decision, Drouot auction house began selling dozens of brilliantly coloured masks made of wood, leather, horse hair and feathers.
The auctioneer argued that blocking the sale could force French museums to empty their collections. The Hopi tribe wants the masks returned, insisting they have special status in representing their dead ancestors’ spirits.
Jean-Patrick Razon, France director for Survival International, an advocacy group that supports tribal peoples, said: “The Hopi people have been pillaged throughout their history. We despoiled their land, we killed them, we violated their souls. Now, their ritual objects are being put up for auction.”