Pot deal­ing is le­gal (some­times)

Pasatiempo - - Dear Pasa -

Amid the fes­tiv­i­ties of In­dian Mar­ket, the pub­li­ca­tion of the Aug. 20 Pasatiempo strikes a somber tone with the story of the tri­als and tribu­la­tions of those en­gaged with Amer­i­can In­dian art. It is the story of ar­chae­ol­o­gists, his­to­ri­ans, Pue­blo el­ders, road builders, artists, pho­tog­ra­phers, col­lec­tors, law en­force­ment, mu­seum cu­ra­tors, and (sadly) loot­ers, all cop­ing with the chang­ing rules im­posed by fed­eral laws and dif­fer­ing val­ues re­gard­ing ar­ti­facts.

The multi-ar­ti­cle story presents a nar­ra­tive view of a com­plex topic un­cov­er­ing the se­crets of the le­gendary Santa Fe pue­blo and re-cre­at­ing the search for the Seven Cities of Gold. There are side “ex­cur­sions,” how­ever. One ar­ti­cle presents barely repentant, con­fessed pot dig­ger Craig Childs — “I’ve dug in the trenches and re­moved ob­jects … and if I hadn’t writ­ten this book [ Find­ers Keep­ers: A Tale of Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal Plun­der

and Ob­ses­sion] and done the re­search, I might still be in those trenches. … I never want to feel like that looter again.” There is no real men­tion of his vi­o­lat­ing the law.

Frank Clif­ford’s ar­ti­cle men­tions the large num­ber of ATADA (the An­tique Tribal Art Deal­ers As­so­ci­a­tion) mem­bers in Santa Fe. ATADA is a pro­fes­sional or­ga­ni­za­tion with strict eth­i­cal stan­dards re­quir­ing its mem­bers to abide by the law. Il­le­gal pot hunt­ing is for­bid­den by our by­laws; nor do mem­bers traf­fic in hu­man re­mains. (Re­mem­ber that the vast num­bers of hu­man re­mains now in fed­er­ally funded mu­se­ums are mostly the re­sult of 19th cen­tury work con­ducted by sci­en­tists — not deal­ers and col­lec­tors.) ATADA fully sup­ports repa­tri­a­tion, with the vol­un­tary repa­tri­a­tion of the Zuni War Gods by an ATADA mem­ber proof of where we stand on this is­sue. Putting our name into the mid­dle of a dis­cus­sion of the ne­far­i­ous prac­tices of il­le­gal pot hunters with­out ex­pla­na­tion smacks of guilt by as­so­ci­a­tion.

Ev­ery case is fact-spe­cific and all are dif­fer­ent. The ar­ti­cle’s ex­am­ple of the pur­chase of a bull roarer de­serves more com­ment. A bull roarer made by a White Moun­tain Apache for use in cer­e­mony is well known to be a cer­e­mo­nial ob­ject, il­le­gal to buy or sell. A sim­i­lar bull roarer made by a Navajo and sold at a flea mar­ket is not a cer­e­mo­nial ob­ject. It is the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the ob­ject, not the ob­ject it­self, that de­ter­mines whether it is cer­e­mo­nial and there­fore le­gal or il­le­gal to own un­der ARPA [the Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal Re­sources Pro­tec­tion Act] or NAGPRA [the Na­tive Amer­i­can Graves Pro­tec­tion and Repa­tri­a­tion Act]. Thus a pot col­lected by an il­le­gal pot hunter is il­le­gal to own, buy, or sell while a nearly iden­ti­cal pot col­lected on pri­vate land with the per­mis­sion of the landowner is fully le­gal un­der fed­eral law. Like­wise, ob­jects col­lected by per­mit­ted ex­pe­di­tions are fully le­gal to own. We fully sup­port the rights of pri­vate in­di­vid­u­als to own ob­jects pro­cured in these or sim­i­lar cir­cum­stances. Proper prove­nance and doc­u­men­ta­tion are help­ful in such cases, and ATADA is work­ing to im­prove the stan­dards of doc­u­men­ta­tion in the mar­ket­place.

Col­lec­tors and deal­ers are fac­ing the same con­cerns as other pro­fes­sion­als fea­tured in this is­sue of Pasatiempo. Our mem­bers and clients are all strug­gling with how to deal with old col­lec­tions un­der the new laws. We wish to as­sure your read­ers that no ATADA mem­ber is in­volved in il­le­gal pot hunt­ing and that all ar­ti­facts sold by ATADA mem­bers have been legally col­lected and are fully le­gal to buy, sell, hold, or do­nate un­der fed­eral law to­day.

Arch Thiessen Pres­i­dent, An­tique Tribal Art Deal­ers As­so­ci­a­tion Santa Fe

The New Mex­i­can’s Weekly Mag­a­zine of Arts, En­ter­tain­ment & Cul­ture

Au­gust 20 - 26, 2010

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