ALBUQUERQUE — Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren gave his appreciation to U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich and U.S. Representatives Teresa Leger Fernández and Gabe Vasquez along with former Navajo Nation Speaker LoRenzo Bates, Pueblo of Acoma Governor Randall Vicente and the All Pueblo Council of Governors Chairman Mark Mitchell for their work in getting the congressional Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony, or STOP, Act signed into law.
The STOP Act, which was signed into law by President Biden on Dec. 21, 2022, prohibits for the first time the export of Tribal ceremonial items and raises the penalties for stealing and illegally trafficking cultural items.
“Not only is it for us, it’s for the generations ahead,” said President Nygren to the leaders gathered. He stressed the importance of working across tribal nations to stop the theft of Tribal cultural items and to bring stolen objects back home from abroad.
The celebration was held during a reception at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque on Wednesday.
Also in attendance was Congresswoman Melanie Stansbury, Jicarilla Apache Nation President Edward Velarde, Vice President Sonja Newton, and Council Members Francine Manwell, Adrian Notsinneh, Merldine Oka, Ronny Petago, Avery Tafoya and Lisa Vigil with other Tribal leaders.
Previously, traditional Navajo practitioners working with Navajo leadership successfully repatriated ceremonial masks from an auction in Europe. That undertaking contributed to the call for federal protections.
The STOP Act creates more effective tools for Tribes to protect their significant cultural items.