Pearce Introduces Bill to Protect New Mexico Cultural Heritage

Date: Oct. 19, 2018
Location: Washington, DC

Congressman Steve Pearce Introduced H.R.7075 in the House of Representatives today to protect tribal cultural items that are subject to international trafficking.

"New Mexico's rich heritage is preserved and cherished through cultural items that date back to before New Mexico was a state. Stories are told through these items and that is why I have dedicated my time in Congress to protect them and protect our history. After leading a bipartisan effort to condemn the illegal theft and sale of tribal cultural items which have surfaced in various auctions across Europe, I am confident that this bill will help bring these items back to their respective homes where they belong, while preventing future items from being illegally exported. This bill is especially historic, as it is the first of its kind to be the result of a collaborative process between tribes and dealers. It also addresses the concerns and advice given to my office through the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that I requested two years ago. I am especially thankful to the Pueblo of Acoma for their dedication in continuing to pursue this very serious issue," said Pearce.

"The Pueblo of Acoma thanks Representative Pearce and his staff for working diligently to help put into place tools tribes will need to stop the international trafficking of federally protected tribal cultural heritage items. To see a sacred item in a foreign auction and to be told there is nothing that can be done to stop the sale is a terrible experience. We hope Representative Pearce's bill will help to prevent that situation in the future," said Governor Riley from the Pueblo of Acoma.

"Congressman Pearce demonstrated exceptional leadership and judgement in listening to the concerns of all and crafting legislation that is balanced and properly addresses the tribes' valid claims while recognizing the importance of a vibrant art market to New Mexico's economy," said Antique Tribal Art Dealers Association (ATADA).

Background: In 2016, Congressman Pearce passed a resolution, H. Con. Res. 122, condemning the sale of stolen tribal artifact. Additionally, this resolution required the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a study on how the Departments of the Interior, State, Commerce, and Homeland Security can better take affirmative action to stop this illegal practice, as well as create a repatriation mechanism for tribes to once again obtain these important cultural items.

Read the letter to the GAO, here.

Read the report from the GAO, here.