Congressman Steve Pearce requested a detailed report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in order to learn more about how stolen tribal cultural items are surfacing in European auctions in 2016. The intention of this report was to identify current problems in order to introduce legislation that will put an end to these illicit acts and ensure Native American items are returned to their rightful owners - to tribes across New Mexico and the nation.
"Native American cultural items, specifically from New Mexico, have continually been discovered at various auctions houses in Europe. This practice is unacceptable and must be stopped immediately. That is why I requested this report two years ago, to identify failures in our current system and how to better protect and defend these items. I also led a bipartisan effort in Congress that resulted in a resolution condemning these sales. Paralleled by few, our great state is teeming with a rich cultural heritage dating back centuries that must be protected. As a New Mexican, I understand the significance of our culture and the importance behind ensuring that all items related to our history are preserved and kept by the tribes from which they have come. These artifacts have become simply another commercialized item, seen as a souvenir from history. This report outlines a number of problems and I look forward to presenting a bill to fix them and ensure that these items are protected and returned to where they belong."
"The Pueblo of Acoma thanks Representative Pearce for his work securing this important GAO report. He has been a champion in efforts to stop the illegal trafficking of tribes' cultural heritage items. The GAO's recommendations about the need to strengthen federal laws and to clearly prohibit export of tribes' cultural heritage items should be followed so that more items come home to tribes. The report shows an understanding of the sacred importance of these items to tribes," said Governor Riley from the Pueblo of Acoma.