Twenty-four Native American masks that sold for $530,000 at a Paris auction were bought by the Los Angeles-based Annenberg Foundation, the charity announced. The foundation says it will return them to the Hopi Nation in Arizona and the San Carlos Apache tribe.
Amid protests, the Druout sold the masks on Monday, along with other artifacts, for a total $1.6 million. The Hopi tribe and its supporters argued that the masks represent their ancestral spirits and can not be sold. The U.S. government tried to halt the sale and the Hopis took legal action, but the sale went forward.
"These are not trophies to have on one's mantel; they are truly sacred works for the Native Americans," said the foundation's director, Gregory Annenberg Weingarten. "They do not belong in auction houses or private collections."
Now, twenty-one brightly colored masks made of leather, horsehair, wood and feathers will be returned to the Hopis and three hood masks will go back to the San Carlos Apaches, according to the foundation.
"Our hope is that this act sets an example for others that items of significant cultural and religious value can only be properly cared for by those vested with the proper knowledge and responsibility. They simply cannot be put up for sale," said Sam Tenakhongva, a Hopi cultural leader, in a statement on Wednesday