FROM THE ARCHIVE
Undercover sting nets sacred artifacts
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OCTOBER 2, 2000

An undercover stingled by the FBI, US Fish and Wildlife, and assisted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, has resulted in the recovery of several sacred Hopi, Navajo, and Pueblo artifacts.

Undercover agents, including a Norweigan law enforcement official who posed as a wealthy European, recovered items from a gallery and home in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Among other items, the Joshua Baer & Co. gallery sold an 1875 Cheyenne eagle feather headdress for $140,000, knowing it was illegal to sell it, 10 Navajo prayer sticks with eagle feathers for $50,000, and another set of prayer sticks for $10,000.

Trader Thomas Cavaliere told undercover agents of sacred items he allegedly purchased from Santo Domingo Pueblo, San Felipe Pueblo, Jemez Pueblo, and Hopi. He has not been charged with any criminal activity.

One art dealer said for the government to make an effort to enforce laws such as the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), the Golden Eagle Protection Act, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act is a waste of money.

Michael Kokin of Sherwood's of Santa Fe, New Mexico, said he imagines himself to be a Native American in deciding what to sell. "I just look at it and say, 'to me if I was a Native American, would it be sensitive and for what reason?'" Kokin told The Albuquerque Journal.

Get the Story:
Norwegian Helps Recover Artifacts (The Albuquerque Journal 10/2)

Related Stories:
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Culture for Sale: Sitting Bull Buffalo Skull (The Talking Circle 06/20)
Fighting forgeries in Indian Country (Arts and Entertainment 5/18)
Culture for Sale: Let the buyer beware (The Talking Circle 5/23)

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