July 18, 2019: U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) reintroduced the bipartisan Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony (STOP) Act, a bill to prohibit the exporting of sacred Native American items and increase penalties for stealing and illegally trafficking tribal cultural patrimony. The House companion was introduced by Assistant House Speaker Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representatives Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), Don Young (R-Alaska), and Tom Cole (R-Okla.).
“Protecting Alaska Native cultural heritage and supporting repatriation of sacred objects has been a priority for Sealaska Heritage for decades. We appreciate that members of the public value these efforts, and that Congress has seen fit to introduce legislation that will provide the means for this important work to continue. These objects belong to clans and represent the spirits of our ancestors. We know that they want to come back home,” said Rosita Kaaháni Worl, President of Sealaska Heritage Institute.
“The STOP Act is a critical step – the legal protection of our cultural heritage will help ensure the history of misappropriation of Native objects will not repeat itself,” said Vivian Korthuis, CEO of the Association of Village Council Presidents. “These objects belong to us – they are a part of the legacy we will always share with future generations. I’m glad an awareness is finally beginning to form around this concept.”