December 3, 2021

Heinrich, Murkowski Applaud House Passage of Bipartisan Legislation to Safeguard Tribal Items

WASHINGTON (Dec. 3, 2021) – U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) are applauding the House-passage of companion legislation to their bipartisan Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony (STOP) Act to prohibit the exporting of sacred Native American items and increase penalties for stealing and illegal trafficking.

In the 116th Congress, Senators Heinrich and Murkowski successfully passed the STOP Act out of the Senate by unanimous consent. Senators Heinrich and Murkowski reintroduced the legislation in April of this year. It was favorably reported from the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs over the summer and now awaits Senate approval.

“For years, I’ve been proud to work with Pueblos in New Mexico, the Jicarilla and Mescalero Apache Nations, the Navajo Nation, and Tribes across Indian Country to halt the trade of culturally significant items and repatriate stolen pieces to their rightful owners,” said Heinrich. “I thank Representative Leger Fernández for successfully taking up this fight in the House. It’s clear that we have the support and the momentum to get the STOP Act across the finish line.”

“Alaska Natives and American Indians experience loss of culture and heritage through the illegal exportation and overseas auctions of sacred objects with no recourse to repatriate these items back to the United States. These tribal cultural heritage items are vital to protecting the identity of Native people. I reintroduced the STOP Act with Senator Heinrich to prevent individuals from exporting sacred objects without the consent of tribal communities. The action taken by the House of Representatives is another positive step forward in safeguarding native cultures,” said Murkowski.

The House companion is led by U.S. Representatives Teresa Leger Fernández (D-N.M.), Don Young (R-Alaska), Tom Cole (R-Okla.), and Sharice Davids (D-Kan.).

“For years, many sacred, tribal cultural items not meant for commercial use were stolen, exported, and sold to the highest bidder,” said Leger Fernández. “Today, we acted to put an end to this and passed the Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony (STOP) Act. This bill will provide American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and federal agencies the necessary tools to protect these sacred items. These cultural items should be with those who create them and know how to revere and protect them.”

The STOP Act will help prevent instances like the auction of a shield stolen from the Pueblo of Acoma. Senator Heinrich played a role in the effort to bring the shield home by working with Governors Kurt Riley and Brian Vallo to call for its return.

The STOP Act has been endorsed by organizations and Tribes across Indian Country. Find a full list of supporters by clicking here.

Read the full text of the bill by clicking here.