WASHINGTON, DC – This week, the Senate unanimously approved H.R.2930, the Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony Act of 2021 (STOP Act). The STOP Act now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law. U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) have led the Senate companion bill since 2016.
“Safeguarding and repatriating tribal items of cultural and sacred heritage remains at the forefront of protecting Native customs and history. I have worked for several Congresses to advance this legislation with Senator Heinrich so to see it finally come to fruition is significant,” said Senator Murkowski. “Passage of the STOP Act will provide the tools to put an end to illegal trafficking of tribal relics and artifacts and restore those items to their rightful owners.”
The STOP Act builds on the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, a 1990 law that made it illegal to traffic Native American cultural items, funerary objects and objects of patrimony by doubling existing penalties on those who steal or traffic in stolen items of Native American tribal heritage. It would also confirm the President’s authority to enter into agreements with foreign countries to return tribal items to their appropriate Tribes and create a federal framework to support voluntary return of sacred items, including a referral program whereby museums, Tribes and the federal government can identify tribal cultural items, and work to get them back to the appropriate Tribe. Oversight of the implementation of the law will be conducted by a seven-member commission that will also settle disputes between individuals and Tribes over repatriation of items.