Native Americans vs Drouot auction house

In April, an article titled “Tribal masks auction gets go-ahead” was published on the Express news website. The background of the article is that a lawsuit was made against the Drouot auction house, a private auction, for deciding to sell 70 tribal artifacts that mainly belonged to a Southwestern tribe, the Hopi. Of these artifacts, many objects were masks that embodied dead ancestors’ spirits which had a sacred value to the tribe.  Gilles Neret-Minet stated that, “When objects are in private collections, even in the United States, they are desacralised.” Later on, the court ruled the masks were in no imminent danger and upheld the auctioning of the various artifacts.

Through this ordeal of tribals artifacts, there definitely is activism and a distinct portrayal of Native American tribes. The type of activism could be reactive or collective, but its more of a mix between the two types. This wouldn’t be fundamental change because its not changing the image of how Native Americans are viewed in the UK or US. Its reactive change through a collective group. This definitely isn’t an isolated case, but the Hopi tribe is responding to the misuse of the masks. Through the article, theDrouot auction house seemed to give no apology as this happens with many other ethnicities for lost or stolen artifacts. Even though this isn’t completely sustained activism that leads to fundamental change, it is a step. Native Americans need to represented as an alive ethnicity functioning within the US. The image of a white man’s indian is dead or if it ever existed at all. Native Americans are really on the marginal as they aren’t in the mainstream media often. This is a step towards change that isn’t superficial. What is meant by superficial change would be asking for apologies from historical events many years before present time. What is meant by superficial change would be focusing the identity of a tribe or Native Americans as a whole on artifacts, stolen or not. This is not arguing the sacred nature of the artifacts. It is meant to mean Native Americans need to get away from an image of a Native American as a relic, and see an image of a voiced participant. Through this article, the Hopi tribe was mentioned many times which helps people to see that this tribe is alive and has a voice. Bringing to light the real image of a tribe in mainstream media would correct the representation of Native Americans and not a white man’s indian. Even though this article does focus on relics and hints at apologies for the tribe, the Hopi made it so that a unified voice came from the tribe. Native Americans have a voice and must use it even when there are no artifacts at auction houses.flag


One thought on “Native Americans vs Drouot auction house

  1. Excellent analysis, Kyle–you’re right that the specific auction triggered reactive activism, but the issue is part of a larger sustained activist movement. The work highlights questions of who owns images and cultural artifacts and questions about appropriation of culture.

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