April 12, 2013

"It is important not to create a precedent validating the prohibition of the sale of any object of a sacred nature..."

"... regardless of the culture concerned... Our goal has always been to showcase Hopi culture and make it accessible to the largest number of people and in strict compliance with the law."

52 comments:

edutcher said...

I can't believe the Gray Lady called them American Indians.

traditionalguy said...

Calling this sale a sacrilege of great moral concern is not a rational approach to some feathers and painted demon masks.



YoungHegelian said...

The modern French state is founded on the French Revolution, a movement that destroyed much of France's own religious history.

Expecting a French court to have any sympathy for the Hopi was a fool's game.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Robert Redford, the American actor and director who maintains close relations with the Hopi, called the planned sale a “sacrilege” that would have “grave moral consequences.”

“These ceremonial objects have a sacred value and belong to the Hopi and only the Hopi,” Mr. Redford said in a letter of support published on Thursday.


I bet Redford has $1 million sitting around. He could buy them all up and give them back to the Hopi.

Nonapod said...

Guess that means it'd be be cool to auction of the Shroud of Turin.

tiger said...

I highly doubt the US government would be involved if a Christian relic were up for sale.

And I post this as an agnostic.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

edutcher,

The headline writer did. The author of the article stuck strictly to "Native American."

From the article:

Historians say many Hopi artifacts were originally taken from tribal lands in the late 1800s and early 1900s — either by missionaries or by people who found them in shrines and on alters across the American Southwest.

"Alters"? Really, NYT?

YoungHegelian, by pure happenstance the online copyright course I'm taking just got to the subject of the "cultural theory" of intellectual property this week. It would appear that it's US law that's unusually hostile (relative to the rest of the world's legal systems) to the idea of aboriginal peoples having IP rights in things like sacred images and motifs.

Actual physical objects, of course, are another matter, and the question seems to be whether the present owner of these masks obtained them legitimately in the first place. Surely this was originally stolen property, but he might have bought his entire collection in good faith.

(And as for destroying religious history, I don't think the French Revolution has anything on the English Reformation. When I see what the 16th-c. iconoclasts "accomplished," I want to weep. Bloody vandals.)

pduggie said...

the Catholic church used to allow the sale of relics, before the reformation. Well, they would allow pardoners to give away relics, in exchange for money, which was a charitable donation, which got you an indulgence.

lots of technicalities

Calypso Facto said...

I highly doubt the US government would be involved if a Christian relic were up for sale.

It isn't. 200 years older than the Hopi stuff.

lemondog said...

I bet Redford has $1 million sitting around. He could buy them all up and give them back to the Hopi.

Relatively {{snort}} penniless

Broomhandle said...

By all means auction The Shroud of Turin. Or use it to clean your lawnmower. The idea that material things can be "sacred" is a contradiction that should be offensive to any believer but Cargo Cultists.

lemondog said...

Photos of masks

The one mask has an eerie resemblance to Redford.

Freder Frederson said...


It isn't. 200 years older than the Hopi stuff.

A hymnal is not a sacred relic, nor is it communally owned. Even if it was originally owned by the church, that means it belongs to the church, not the members communally.

William said...

A wise ruling. The sale of Elvis memorabilia can continue.

YoungHegelian said...

@Broomhandle,

The idea that material things can be "sacred" is a contradiction that should be offensive to any believer but Cargo Cultists.

You may think that's obvious, but it's not. Would you care to explain why you think that? Especially, your use of the word "contradiction".

Calypso Facto said...

A hymnal is not a sacred relic, nor is it communally owned.

And there's no proof offered that the Hopi masks were either, other than activists making claims that were apparently not credible enough for the court.

ken in sc said...

Someone mentioned the word vandals when referring to what the Roundheads did to Anglican Catholic Churches during the English Civil war. That is especially appropriate because the original Vandals gave their name to vandalism because the the first thing they did when they took over a territory was destroy the local Catholic church. They were Arian Christians and considered Catholics to be heretics and idolaters. They were considered heretics by Catholics as well. Their beliefs about the Trinity were somewhat like what modern Mormons believe.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Broomhandle,

The idea that material things can be "sacred" is a contradiction that should be offensive to any believer but Cargo Cultists.

Well, that, for starters, puts the entire billion-plus world Catholic population in Cargo Cult territory (along with the Lutherans, who also believe in the Real Presence), which naturally would please several commenters here, but is possibly not what you meant to do.

Seconding YoungHegelian: Where's the "contradiction," anyway? Why should a material object not be sacred? If you believe that everything there is is a work of God, there's a perfectly rational argument that everything material is sacred. There is certainly a Catholic argument (I've seen it made by Chesterton and by Newman) that one great central theme of Christianity is that God works through the material world, through material things. The Incarnation and transubstantiation are variants of the same idea. God descends to the level of matter.

If material things cannot be sacred, Broomhandle, than is nothing sacred? (Sorry; someone was going to go there.)

traditionalguy said...

The Shroud of Turin has not been needed since Good Friday. It's surplus...sell it.

Idols that contain supernatural spirits are not sacred. They are evil fire wood.

Broomhandle said...

YH,
How can the material be spiritual? Even if it was a piece of the True Cross it's still just a piece of wood. Some things may be historically interesting, but to say God resides in a particular piece of humanity's rag and bone collection is ridiculous. But that's just me. Heathens, savages, and infidels are, of course, free to disagree.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

ken in sc,

Someone mentioned the word vandals when referring to what the Roundheads did to Anglican Catholic Churches during the English Civil war.

Well, actually, what I meant was events nearly a century prior -- think Thomas Cromwell, not Oliver. But, yes, there was a large second wave of destruction during the war.

Though "Anglican Catholic churches" takes some serious parsing :-)

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Broomhandle,

How can the material be spiritual?

So, for you, nothing can be "sacred" unless "spiritual"? Or "spiritual" and "sacred" are synonyms? Or what?

ken in sc said...

I have heard modern day Anglicans refer to their high-church cathedrals as Anglican Catholic churches.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Broomhandle,

Some things may be historically interesting, but to say God resides in a particular piece of humanity's rag and bone collection is ridiculous. But that's just me. Heathens, savages, and infidels are, of course, free to disagree.

Again, would you care to apply this reasoning to communion? It would be nice to know whether you think it applies or doesn't.

Broomhandle said...

That's just it, Michelle. God is in everything. For Man to randomly assign spiritual significance to some object Man made is laughably vain. If something truly has special significance to God he'll let us know. I grew up Catholic and I'm not challenging your beliefs. But along the way in my life, it became clear (to me) that the statues, vestments, medals, relics, cathedrals, etc., probably don't mean jack to a limitless God.

YoungHegelian said...

@Broomhandle,

God resides in a particular piece of humanity's rag and bone collection is ridiculous.

So, I'm guessing you don't believe in the Incarnation or the resurrection of the body. Because, what are both of them except "rag & bone" becoming sacred?

You are still unclear as to what viewpoint you are coming from. Are you a very much iconoclastic (in the theological sense of that term) Christian, or are you simply an atheist/agnostic who seeks to pass simplistic judgements on the complex details on the theological beliefs of others?

Broomhandle said...

Michelle,
Communion's a tough one. I honestly don't know how to answer that.

ken in sc said...

In a Barbara Pym novel, she had an English visitor in Rome having trouble finding a 'real' Catholic church--meaning an Anglican church.

Michael McNeil said...

Historians say many Hopi artifacts were originally taken from tribal lands in the late 1800s and early 1900s — either by missionaries or by people who found them in shrines and on alters across the American Southwest.

The latter appears to be a claim that all Anasazi cultural remains across the Southwest are Hopi property — an expansive claim that archaeology does not appear to back up.

It's true that the modern Hopi (unlike say the Navajo or Apache) are descended from an archaic (Hopi) people who were Anasazi in culture (so too are the modern Pueblo peoples of New Mexico's Rio Grande valley). But the Anasazi overall appear to have been composed of a number of different peoples speaking different languages (sometimes of wholly different language families) who shared a common American Indian civilization (which flourished and then ran into hard times during the first half of the second millennium A.D.).

That being the case, in my view the Hopi are not automatically entitled to everything ever discovered which is Anasazi in origin.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Broomhandle,

I grew up Catholic and I'm not challenging your beliefs. But along the way in my life, it became clear (to me) that the statues, vestments, medals, relics, cathedrals, etc., probably don't mean jack to a limitless God.

I'm not actually a Catholic. For what it's worth.

But in your list, nowhere is there the wine and the bread. Why not? Is the consecrated Host a sacred material object, or isn't it?

Broomhandle said...

YH,
I'm a Christian and I've tried to make clear that these are just my beliefs (the heathens remark was meant to be ironic). I am absolutely not judging anyone.

YoungHegelian said...

@Broomhandle,

We cross posted, so now I see your response to MDT.

You missed a big point of your earlier Catholic world. The Incarnation & transubstantiation are a preview of what redeemed creation will be, and it is all of creation that Christ redeems, not just our souls. We here are both body & soul, and that is our inescapable nature. Just as some souls are further along in the process of their redemption, so is some matter. Matter bears the mark of the action of the spiritual on it.

It's called divinization, and here's a basic introduction to it.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Broomhandle,

Communion's a tough one. I honestly don't know how to answer that.

Sorry; we crossed paths commenting. But if you can't answer communion, you can't answer anything, because if you concede the possibility that there can be sacred material things, you've conceded your whole case.

Aridog said...

I have looked through the entire list of artifacts for sale today...none of which I could afford, over half of which are grossly over-estimated. The terminology is a mixed bag as well, from "mask" to "kachina" and so on.

Part of the problem in court may have been the fact that although many are listed as sourced from "Hopi, Arizona" (which exists only as a general area) thus presumed of "Hopi" origin, many in the auction list are no more "Hopi" than I am...ranging from Apache, to Comanche, to Acoma, and sundry other Navajo tribal groups, such as Zuni.

Maybe I am misreading the article, but a good number of the items contested are not of specific Hopi origin, even if some source tribal groups are now on the Hopi Reservation....others listed are not. The thread that connects the masks are their use in Kachina dance ceremonies performed in multiple pueblos and other tribal groups as well [the Hopi spread their concepts widely]....most common among them perhaps the "corn maiden" which appears in almost all southwestern Native American cultures, as kachina dolls, kachina masks, fetish carvings, and various ceremonial artifacts. Hell, I've even got a lovely Kachina doll of her.

Another "issue" might be the source dates of many of the items (majority?) being post 1910...which implies many of them were possibly made specifically for the "white man market."

Yep Redford could put his money where is mouth is and buy the lot and donate it all to the Hopi Cultural Center, ‎Arizona 264,
Second Mesa, AZ 86043. But you know he won't...his affection for tribal cultures just isn't really that strong...and he's busy selling his junk "Native American" gear through his stores and website. We used to call much of that stuff "Brooklyn Pueblo" gear. Now it is likely Ho Lee Cow Lo Buc sourced.

phx said...

"It is important not to create a precedent validating the prohibition of the sale of any object of a sacred nature regardless of the culture concerned."

Sure. Why is that important again?

phx said...

"It is important not to create a precedent validating the prohibition of the sale of any object of a sacred nature regardless of the culture concerned."

Sure. Why is that important again?

Broomhandle said...

YH & MDT,
You're absolutely right that I'm not equipped to argue dogma nor would I want to. I spent my parochial school years praying for a vacation rather than a vocation. Do I think the wine and the bread become the Body and Blood of Christ during the Mass? I'd have to say no. That doesn't mean the ritual doesn't have value as an expression of faith, though.

Broomhandle said...

But that doesn't mean the bits of flat bread or the wine are "sacred" either.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Broomhandle,

But that doesn't mean the bits of flat bread or the wine are "sacred" either.

So is the deliberate destruction of consecrated wafers "desecration," or isn't it? And are there such things as "consecrated" wafers in the first instance, given that the word itself does sort of suggest that there are such things as "sacred" material objects?

Peter said...

I don't see how one could declare some artifacts sacred without privileging some religions over other.

As far as I know, Christian church buildings can be and sometimes are de-santified.

I can recall a synagogue that was in a former church (the Christian congregation sold it). The Jewish congregation removed most of the Christian symbols from it, but apparently decided that removing all of them would be more trouble than it was worth.

And I'm sure I've seen church buildings that have been re-purposed as stores.

I'd think that if you're going to declare some artifacts forever sacred with no procedure for decomisioning them you're going to have a problem, as you'll have an ever-growing stash of sacred objects to maintain and protect.

And why limit such concerns to artifacts? If the principle is valid then why not extend it to natural things as well?

Of course, if the "natural thing" is land, you're going to get committed to some serious irredentism. And what's to stop someone from declaring the entire planet (universe?) sacred, and thus declaring violation if anyone does anything they don't like with it?

Broomhandle said...

MDT,
It's disrespectful to the members of that church and their beliefs. It may be criminal, depending on the circumstances. But is it an offence to God because the wafers that were destroyed were declared "consecrated" by Man? I don't think so.

Bob Ellison said...

It's disrespectful, but only if you're Hopi. Otherwise it's business.

Bender said...

The idea that material things can be "sacred" is a contradiction that should be offensive to any believer but Cargo Cultists.

Who created material things?

Can God, who is all-holy, create anything that is profane and unholy? Can God, who is Truth, do anything that is contrary to Himself?

All of Creation is, as made by God, sacred.

It is only man who comes along and makes it crap.

Bender said...

Even that deadwood that is a broomhandle is sacred to God. Even if he/she/it is not sacred to himself/herself/itself.

Bender said...

The Church would agree. If all they are are "bits of flat bread [and] wine," then to hell with them.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Peter,

I can recall a synagogue that was in a former church (the Christian congregation sold it). The Jewish congregation removed most of the Christian symbols from it, but apparently decided that removing all of them would be more trouble than it was worth.

Heck, I know of a former (de-consecrated) church in North London that is now a nightclub.

Aridog said...

Peter said ...

And what's to stop someone from declaring the entire planet (universe?) sacred, and thus declaring violation if anyone does anything they don't like with it?

Isn't just saying that Haraam?

Aridog said...

Bob Ellison said...

It's disrespectful, but only if you're Hopi. Otherwise it's business.

Bender's got it!

[Sometimes it's just business even if you're Hopi ... white men will buy anything.]

Jeff Teal said...

Quite true Aridog. My relatives in NC have sold a lot of really crappy tomahawks to a bunch of deluded white eyes ocer the years. But some of the materials were just stolen-and a few items actually had signifigance.

Broomhandle said...

Bender,
As I replied to MDT up thread, God is in everything. His presence makes it sacred, not Man's designation. If you'll excuse me I have to go burn a Koran.

Aridog said...

Jeff Teal .... yep, some of the artifacts are stolen, in the sense the Hopis argued in court that within most Native American cultures, property per se was not privately owned. It would depend heavily on the date of an artifact's origination, in my opinion, and by whom and where. The road runner in gym shoes carving that I linked would not be a community artifact, for example.

Jeff Teal said...

probably not but how about we call him the Anti-Coyote?