The Robust International Antiquities Trade: the Law, Smugglers, thieves, Prestigious Auctions, ISIS, Animals. And some Renowned Museums too.

Elgin Marbles | Detail


[At the Kansas City, Missouri, ANTIQUES ROADSHOW in August 2013, a woman brought in what was probably a seed pot that was made by the Anasazi, a Native American pueblo people who lived near present-day Four Corners — the region where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona come together. The pot was most likely made between 1000 and 1300 A.D. — clearly making it an important piece historically — and according to expert Anthony Slayter-Ralph was worth between $3,000 and $4,000 in the retail market.

But this pot, like many other Native American objects, raised an important question often asked by owners and collectors of Native American objects: What should be done with prehistoric and other Indian objects that you may possess, and when is it okay to buy or sell them?] Indian Artifacts: Understanding the Law | PBS

Also, An Exclusive Look at the Greatest Haul of Native American Artifacts, Ever | The Smithsonian Magazine

Also, ICE Cultural Heritage Repatriations 

Europe |

[A few years ago, Christos Tsirogiannis was looking through the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s online collection when he had a flash of recognition. While studying an ancient Greek krater—a clay vase used for mixing wine—something “suddenly clicked,” he says. The vase was decorated with a painting of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine. “I knew that I had seen the subject on that krater before,” he says.

A forensic archaeologist affiliated with the University of Glasgow’s Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research, Tsirogiannis has access to restricted databases containing tens of thousands of photographs and documents seized during raids. Searching through the online archives, he found five photos of the Met’s Greek krater among items confiscated from Giacomo Medici, an Italian antiquities dealer convicted in 2005 of receiving stolen goods and conspiracy to traffic looted antiquities.

So why was an object that may have been dug up and sold by looters on display at a famous American museum, and how did it get there?] Museum Goers Beware: That Ancient Artifact May Be Stolen | National Geographic

Middle East and ISIS |

[What isis hates, it destroys, and ancient artifacts are no exception. To erase pre-Islamic history, it has employed sledgehammers and drills at a museum in Mosul, explosives at Palmyra, and all of these weapons, plus jackhammers, power saws, and bulldozers, at Nimrud. In one video, a fighter explains that isismust smash “these statues and idols, these artifacts,” because the Prophet Muhammad destroyed such things after conquering Mecca, nearly fourteen hundred years ago. “They became worthless to us even if they are worth billions of dollars,” he adds. So, at the Met, many were puzzled when Andrew Keller, a soft-spoken senior official at the State Department, unveiled newly declassified documents proving that isis maintains a marginally profitable “antiquities division.”] The Real Value of the ISIS Antiquities Trade | The New Yorker

Efforts |

[A Memorandum of Understanding was inked by the United States and the People’s Republic of China on January 14, 2009. The five-year agreement outlines a number of steps designed to stem the flow of illicitly excavated or exported artifacts from China to the U.S. (click here for legal background).] Archaeological Institute of America

U.S., Egypt Sign Agreement to Thwart Trade in Illegal Antiquities | National Geographic


Latin America |

[Mexico has had poor results in recuperating stolen cultural antiquities. There are deficiencies in both the registration of these thefts and a lack of coordination among the authorities to preserve the items.

The trafficking of items of cultural heritage is an activity that cuts across countries, and connects antique dealers and politicians in Buenos Aires to narcos in Guatemala, to collectors in Mexico, to diplomats in Peru and Costa Rica. This special, involving five journalistic teams, reveals the illicit international market for objects stolen from temples, public museums, and private collections. An initiative of OjoPúblico, this was produced by an alliance of news teams including La Nación (Costa Rica), Plaza Pública (Guatemala), Animal Político (México) and Chequeado (Argentina).] Only a Fraction of Mexico’s Stolen Cultural Antiquities Are Recovered | Insight Crime

Also… Illicit Cultural Property from Latin America: Looting, Trafficking, and Sale | SocArXivs

India |

[Indian Tourism and Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma’s recent admission in parliament that eight cases of antiquities theft were reported from State-protected monuments and museums across three states over the last year, has yet again brought to the fore the fraught issue of pilferage and smuggling of art treasures from Indian shores.

According to Global Financial Integrity, a Washington-based advocacy group, illegal trade in paintings, sculptures, and other artifacts is one of the world’s most lucrative criminal enterprises, estimated at $6 billion a year. And India, with its redoubtable cultural heritage, bureaucratic apathy, and tardy implementation of antiquities protection laws, offers pilferers fertile ground to plunder the past and spirit away booty worth billions for sale in the international bazaar.] Smuggling India’s Antiquities | The Diplomat



Respecting Certain Selves as Worthy of Defending

“Self-defense” throughout American history has never been an equal-opportunity recourse. Instead, pious abstractions about a supposedly universal right to employ violence in defense of one’s person have, from the start, reflected chauvinistic calculi of which persons are deemed valuable or disposable in the first place. From the colonial era to the Civil War, to the frontier to modern suburbia, some lives have mattered more than others. And for all the lofty rhetoric to the contrary, our courts and norms have only really respected certain selves as worthy of defending.”

White Defenders | The New Inquiry

Ain’t No Black Snake or Water… | Indian Country and Fossil Fuels

As it seems right now, the leadership -in distinction from the native populus- of a number of native American tribes fear that federal government under Donald Trump will seize chunks of their lands to exploit the lands’ rich fossil fuel resources. Instead of them doing it. It sounds a bit like it is not about the recent native narrative involving honoring and respecting the land. Or the natural balance of things.

Or the wish of, what it would seem, the majority of native Americans living in reservations.

“Alaska Indigenous” posted an article on January 21, 2016, where they talk about the federal government’s coordinated efforts, in 2016, to pave the road to a possible seizure of native lands for their fossil fuel deposits. It goes like this:

Saglutupiaġataq’s [“the compulsive liar” in Iñupiatun] administration apparently began mobilizing to pursue the privatization of Indian lands as early as October 2016 with the formation of his 27 member Native American Affairs Coalition. The Coalition is chaired by “Cherokee” pretendian Rep. Markwayne Mullin. Like the termination policy of more than 60 years ago, the Coalition contends that impoverished tribes are saddled by federal regulations that stymie self-reliance and prosperity. Tribal lands should be privatized, it argues, so that American Indians can pursue development projects that lift them out of poverty.

Saglutupiaġataq has tapped Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke for secretary of the Interior, the federal agency overseeing the Borough of Indian Affairs. Zinke is a known fraudster with little integrity. Scientific American characterizes Zinke as a “mixed bag” with an anti-environment, pro-industry voting record. It is unlikely that he will be a friend to Indian Country or to Alaska Natives.

A few months ago, as I was following news and policy in Indian Country in the southwest, I read about  Donald Trump’s three visits to Navajo nation during his election campaign in 2016. Navajo Times, among other native media outlets, mentioned Trump’s particular interest in energy talks with the Navajo Nation’s leadership. Then Trump won the election, and the Navajo sent a delegation to the inauguration for further talks and to celebrate the Republican victory.

Looking a bit more carefully into what could be seen as an oxymoron (first nations allying with what would -at first glance- seem like the opposite of their native interests), I found out that the Navajo were not the only ones to walk toward that direction. It was also the Mountain Utes, the Cherokee, some Alaskan native tribes, and more. 

The Energy Wealth of Indian Nations | LSU Journal of Energy Law and Resources

The AI article goes on:

Saglutupiaġataq released his “America first” energy plan hours after being sworn into office. It states the following:

Sound energy policy begins with the recognition that we have vast untapped domestic energy reserves right here in America. The Trump Administration will embrace the shale oil and gas revolution to bring jobs and prosperity to millions of Americans. We must take advantage of the estimated $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, especially those on federal lands that the American people own.

Saglutupiaġataq released his “America first” energy plan hours after being sworn into office. It states the following:

Sound energy policy begins with the recognition that we have vast untapped domestic energy reserves right here in America. The Trump Administration will embrace the shale oil and gas revolution to bring jobs and prosperity to millions of Americans. We must take advantage of the estimated $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, especially those on federal lands that the American people own.

Now, you may wonder about how federal government could possibly seize Indian land just like that. Well, let’s see…

The termination era of 1953 to 1968 involved Congress stripping tribes of their lands and criminal jurisdiction. The policy was thinly disguised as an attempt to lift American Indians and Alaska Natives out of poverty by assimilating them into mainstream society. However the real goal was to privatize and ransack American Indian and Alaska Native lands.

From the American Indian Relief Council:

From 1953-1964 109 tribes were terminated and federal responsibility and jurisdiction was turned over to state governments. Approximately 2,500,000 acres of trust land was removed from protected status and 12,000 Native Americans lost tribal affiliation. The lands were sold to non-Indians the tribes lost official recognition by the U.S. government….Public Law 280 which was passed in 1953 turned power over to state governments to enforce most of the regular criminal laws on reservations as they were doing in other parts of the state. (Federally Recognized Tribes Should Brace for Possible Termination Policy Under Trump

American Indian reservations are federally owned lands held “in trust” for tribes. The “vast untapped domestic energy reserves” referred to in Saglutupiaġataq’s energy plan are largely within American Indian reservations. These lands would need to be sold or leased to private sector corporations by the federal government in order for development to proceed. But first, tribal jurisdiction over those lands would need to be terminated by Congress and vested in states.

H. Rept. 113-263 | NATIVE AMERICAN ENERGY ACT | 113th Congress (2013-2014)

Going back to Trump and his continuous approaches to native American leadership figures before the election:

A group of advisers to President-elect Donald Trump on Native American issues wants to free those resources from what they call a suffocating federal bureaucracy that holds title to 56 million acres of tribal lands, two chairmen of the coalition told Reuters in exclusive interviews.

The group proposes to put those lands into private ownership – a politically explosive idea that could upend more than century of policy designed to preserve Indian tribes on U.S.-owned reservations, which are governed by tribal leaders as sovereign nations.

The tribes have rights to use the land, but they do not own it. They can drill it and reap the profits, but only under regulations that are far more burdensome than those applied to private property.

“We should take tribal land away from public treatment,” said Markwayne Mullin, a Republican U.S. Representative from Oklahoma and a Cherokee tribe member who is co-chairing Trump’s Native American Affairs Coalition. “As long as we can do it without unintended consequences, I think we will have broad support around Indian country.”

Trump’s transition team did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The proposed path to deregulated drilling – privatizing reservations – could prove even more divisive. Many Native Americans view such efforts as a violation of tribal self-determination and culture.

“Our spiritual leaders are opposed to the privatization of our lands, which means the commoditization of the nature, water, air we hold sacred,” said Tom Goldtooth, a member of both the Navajo and the Dakota tribes who runs the Indigenous Environmental Network. “Privatization has been the goal since colonization – to strip Native Nations of their sovereignty.”

Reservations governed by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs are intended in part to keep Native American lands off the private real estate market, preventing sales to non-Indians. An official at the Bureau of Indian Affairs did not respond to a request for comment.

The legal underpinnings for reservations date to treaties made between 1778 and 1871 to end wars between indigenous Indians and European settlers. Tribal governments decide how land and resources are allotted among tribe members.

Leaders of Trump’s coalition did not provide details of how they propose to allocate ownership of the land or mineral rights – or to ensure they remained under Indian control. (Trump Advisors Aim to Privatize Oil-Rich Indian Reservations | REUTERS)



North Dakota Latest Introduced Bills, and the Scalp Bounty

Sometimes a crucial distinction lies merely on the tactic, and not the sentiment.


[A bill that state GOP Rep. Keith Kempenich introduced would exempt drivers from liability if they accidentally hit a pedestrian, according to the Bismarck Tribune. House Bill 1203 was written up in direct response to groups of protesters blocking roadways, Kempenich told the paper. He claims protesters were seen jumping out in front of vehicles.

“It’s shifting the burden of proof from the motor vehicle driver to the pedestrian,” Kempenich said. “They’re intentionally putting themselves in danger.


Another measure would make it a crime for adults to wear masks nearly across the board, while another would allow the state to sue the federal government over millions in extra police costs, according to ABC News.”]  Read the full report | The Huffington Post

Now, let’s draw an analogy (with a practice poorly documented and sensationalized):

[Beginning in the 1830s, two Mexican states (Sonora and Chihuahua) authorized scalp bounties against Apache Indians, but these were as controversial in Mexico as they had been in the British colonies.

In New Mexico and Arizona, the state governments never approved scalp bounties, but some county officials revived and increased the old Apache scalp bounties that had been used by the former Mexican states. A report from the New York Times in 1885 (the most recent source I know of that documents scalp bounties) offers the following passage that shows the mentality of those who justified the practice:

From time immemorial all border countries have offered bounties for bear and wolf scalps and other animals that destroyed the pioneer’s stock or molested his family. Why, therefore, asks the Arizona settler, should not the authorities place a reward upon the head of the terrible Apache, who murders the white man’s family and steals his stock like the wolves?

Some colonial governments in the British North American colonies enacted  scalp bounties early in the 1700s, in the context of war between  Britain and France. They wanted to create an incentive for frontier  settlers to kill Indians who were allied with the French enemy. In  practice, though, colonial Indian killers were careless about the distinction  between “friendly” and “hostile” Indians. As the white population  expanded, so did demand for land, and this was the material motive  behind most killing of Indians, whether sanctioned by authority or not…. ]  Read the full article | Quora



The Art of Illegal Cattle Grazing, Defaced Petroglyphs and Ditch-digging

After Cliven Bundy’s armed standoff with the Bureau of Land Management in Nevada in 2014, the BLM stayed out of the area for two years. After returning in June, they found vandalized petroglyphs and 22 miles of illegal irrigation trenching built through the desert, bringing the issue of protecting Gold Butte as a national monument to the forefront.


butte-2 butte

Poor Women’s Moody Blues

The dark truth behind the Jeff Davis 8 case, still unsolved, of eight sex workers murdered in the Bayou

According to Brown’s book, what the evidence started pointing to was not a serial killer evading capture but a steady escalation of blatant misconduct by law enforcement. There were allegations that officers had sex with the women who later became Jeff Davis 8 victims, and the task force was, Brown writes, “a near case study in conflict of interest.” There was also evidence in the Jeff Davis 8 cases – including the truck where one of the victims had her throat slashed – that was seemingly tampered with or was removed from the parish entirely. A prison nurse and a sergeant who had tried to voice some of their concerns were subsequently fired from their jobs. And most compelling, Brown writes, “is that most if not all of the Jeff Davis 8…witnessed other murders. Indeed, women who provided information on the first few cases wound up victims themselves.”

Full story | Rolling Stone


Standing Rock | A Professor’s Plea to Keep this Pure, and Non-Violent | Still…

[Odysseas Elytis | Axion Esti -excerpt]

A lone swallow amidst the precious Spring,
it takes painful labor to turn the Sun,
the dead by the thousands to grind on the wheels,
and the living their blood to shed.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

God, my Master Builder, You too amidst the lilacs,
God, my Master Builder, You too inhaled the scent of Resurrection


[In the southern heart of North Dakota, we may be witnessing the beginning of a national and international pan-Indian renewal of First Peoples, Indigenous Peoples, Native Americans. Anything that helps rebuild Indian pride, cultural confidence and a firm and solid assertion of Native American rights is a good thing for all of us, for all Americans.It is past time to bring the Two Cultures into legal and cultural parity, and to end the long train of domination by the Recent Americans over the Original Americans.



CLAY JENKINSON: Standing Rock — A Plea To Keep This Pure — And Non-Violent