Hopi Indian Tribes File Lawsuit Charging Art Dealers With Homicide

by Lorna Salzman

Hopi artifacts, recently sold at a Paris auction for millions of dollars, are now the subject of litigation filed by the Hopi tribe in the US.

Legal efforts to stop the auction failed but due to quiet intervention of the Annenberg foundation and other philanthropists, the artifacts were purchased by them for return to the Hopi tribe.

However, the Hopis have now hired legal counsel and filed suit against the shipping companies, auction houses and art dealers as well as the Annenberg foundation, who have been involved in this sale, charging them with homicide.

Said a Hopi representative: "These artifacts are not art objects. They contain living spirits of our ancestors and they have been defiled. Our religion prohibits wrapping these sacred objects in bubble wrap because of the risk of suffocation, but the recent shipments from the US to Paris and back used bubble wrap, and these spirits are now defunct. We know they cannot be revived and that nothing can compensate for their death, but our lawsuit will put others on notice for the future, especially Richard Dawkins".

The companies involved in wrapping and shipping of the artifacts were stunned and claimed ignorance of these beliefs. Said one worker: "When we were wrapping them in bubble wrap and placing them in protective cartons, we were not aware of the existence of living spirits. Hey, for sure, we would have heard some kind of noise or physical resistance when we handled then and we would definitely have stopped doing it. I mean, when spirits get pissed, they let you know it".

Said another: "No one ever told us that these things were alive. Maybe we missed some signal? What were we supposed to look for? It sure looks like the Hopis dropped the ball by not telling us ahead of time."

Said the defendants' attorney: "I think it's really going to be impossible to determine the actual time of death, since no coroner or medical expert was on the scene at any time and by now all the manifestations of death like rigor mortis are gone. Looks like they were rigor from the beginning. They could have died hundreds of years ago. For us, the case is closed".

Said the plaintiff's lawyer: " The dissing of religious beliefs is rampant today and we decided to put our foot down on these offenses. Remember PissChrist? Disgusting. Remember burning the Koran? Disrespectful. We need to be inclusive in protecting the sensibilities of all believers from disrespect, insult and blasphemy. Is there nothing sacred any more? We will send a message to Richard Dawkins and others who have chosen the wrong path of science and reason. This will set an example to the world that religious doctrines are not to be treated lightly or discarded. Hellfire and damnation are the result.......or at least hundreds of millions of dollars in legal penalties, which will sooth the anger of the Hopis".

(Note: The New York Times quoted a Hopi who claimed the spirits in the artifacts were suffocated by bubble wrap. I am not making this up.)

© 2002 Lorna Salzman. All rights reserved. Material may be quoted with permission.