February 18th, 2016
For Immediate Release
Contact: Jonathan Sims, Tribal Secretary Acoma Pueblo (505) 552-6604
Acoma Pueblo Praises Lawmakers for Protecting Sacred Objects
Today the New Mexico State legislature took a very important step in addressing a serious and pervasive problem – the illegal theft and sale of cultural objects, sacred to the tribes. The problem has its origins here in New Mexico, where items are taken off tribal lands and illegally sold to private collectors and other buyers. Some of these items have been offered for sale on the internet, especially Ebay and at international auction houses in Europe.
The Pueblo of Acoma took its concerns to the state legislature and helped craft a House Joint Memorial which was submitted to the 2016 legislature for its consideration. Late Wednesday the Senate voted 35 to 0 to pass the measure. Earlier this month the New Mexico House gave the Joint Memorial its approval on a 65 to 0 vote.
The Joint Memorial calls upon the New Mexico Attorney General and the Cultural Affairs Department to work with tribes and other communities to review existing state laws and enhance the penalties for the theft and illegal sale of sacred objects
“First, we want to express our sincere appreciation to the New Mexico legislature for passing this important measure. And secondly, our hope is that by enhancing the penalties, this will deter tribal members and looters from stealing sacred objects which are used for worship in our ceremonies. Profiting off these illegal sales is a serious problem and it needs to stop,” said Pueblo of Acoma Governor Kurt Riley.
On the floor of the Senate, lawmakers praised the intent of the Memorial saying this is a problem not just in tribal communities but for all traditional communities throughout the state. Acoma Tribal attorney Ann Rogers said “There are federal laws that address this problem, but now we want the State to take similar action, with possible legislative action in the future. We are also working with our congressional delegation to enhance the penalties at the federal level.”
The Pueblo of Acoma first detailed the extent of the problem to interim Indian Affairs Committee and with the help of Acoma’s leadership, the result was the introduction of HJM 1. The measure received widespread, bipartisan support in the session. It was co-sponsored by Sen. Carlos Cisneros (D) of Questa and Rep. Jim Smith (R) of Sandia Park. Both were members of the interim Indian Affairs Committee.