Despite a request from the U.S. embassy to delay the auction, a French auction house went ahead with a contested sale of sacred Hopi masks on Monday.
Outside the Drouot auction house, protestors marched with signs reading "Sacred Masks, Sacrilegious Sale." About 25 Kachina masks, and other artifacts, were hammered down for a total $1.6 million.
A French judge had ruled last week that the sale was legal in France while the American Indian Hopi tribe has said the sale is not legitimate as the masks represent their ancestors' spirits. Besdies their significance to the tribe, the Hopi say the masks were likely taken illegally from a northern Arizona reservation in the early 20th century.
All the masks sold with "Crow Mother" fetching nearly twice its estimate at $171,000.
Pierre Servan-Schreiber, a lawyer who represents the Hopi, bought one of the masks to return to the tribe. He noted, "...these objects have a special significance for a people that still exists. When will someone realize that not everything can be sold and bought?"