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Controversial sacred mask auction goes ahead in Paris

Friday, April 12, 2013 - 01:26

April 12 - Dozens of ancient American Indian tribal masks go on sale in Paris, despite appeals for a delay by the Hopi tribe. Hayley Platt reports.

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A collection of masks once belonging to the Native American Hopi tribe. Now they're up for sale in a Paris auction house. Despite last-minute efforts to try and block the sale, a French judge ruled they can be sold. The lawyer representing the Hopi tribe said he was disappointed by the decision. (SOUNDBITE) (English) LAWYER REPRESENTING HOPI TRIBE, PIERRE SERVAN-SCHREIBER, SAYING: "The court decided to let the sale proceed because those masks as sacred as they may be for the Hopis are not bodies, human bodies, alive or dead, body parts, and the court found that's the only thing that could have been protected, with which I disagree." The masks are believed to have been used for religious rituals. They date back to the late 19th century and are thought to have been taken from a reservation in Arizona in the 1930s and 40s. Arizona's Hopi Indians want them returned. A spokesperson for the survival and protection of the Hopi tribe said it's an extremely sad day. (SOUNDBITE) (French) DIRECTOR OF NGO SURVIVAL INTERNATIONAL PROTECTING THE HOPI TRIBE INTERESTS JEAN-PATRICK RAZON, SAYING: "For them it is a true disaster that objects which are so sacred can be put up for sale today. This is a great shock to them. The auctioneers say that these objects have lost their sacred and ritual characteristics and have become works of art. For me this is disgraceful." The masks were priced between $2,000 and $32,000 apiece.

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Controversial sacred mask auction goes ahead in Paris

Friday, April 12, 2013 - 01:26