Message #83
From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG
To:   "'Matthias Giessler'" 

Date: Tue, 03 Mar 1998
Subject: Changing Cultural Content And The Theft Of Spirit

[ AzTeC / SWA SASIG ] :

[ The story of how Catholic liturgical items and
religious vestments became war trophy, Native American
sacred objects, then capitalist plunder, then, "items
filled with "living breath" granted them by the
creator -- SASIG Ed. ]
Maximum term urged for relic thief The theft of the spirit should be punished harshly, several Native American leaders said Monday, urging the maximum sentence for a man convicted of trafficking in sacred Indian artifacts. Maximum term urged for relic thief Tribe describes spiritual damage he has caused By Charles Kelly The Arizona Republic March 3, 1998 The theft of the spirit should be punished harshly, several NativeAmerican leaders said Monday, urging the maximum sentence for a man convicted of trafficking in sacred Indian artifacts. The leaders described the spiritual damage done by Rodney Tidwell, 54, of Star Valley, at a sentencing hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Earl Carroll. Tidwell was convicted Dec. 12 in federal court in Prescott of 20 felony counts relating to the theft of Native American cultural items. Evidence presented by prosecutors Diane Humetewa and Paul Charlton showed that Tidwell, starting in 1995, obtained and sold eleven Hopi ceremonial items. The jury also found that Tidwell unlawfully transported and sold robes, vestments and other liturgical items owned by an Acoma tribal society known as the Altar Society. He represented the robes as having belonged to Roman Catholic priests who died in a Pueblo revolt of 1680. Tidwell is scheduled to be sentenced by Carroll on March 16. He could receive as much as five years in prison and fined $250,000. Vincent Toya, governor of the Jemez pueblo in New Mexico, told the judge Monday that Tidwell should get the maximum sentence. Artifacts traffickers who dig up ritual objects and sell them are violating items filled with "living breath" granted them by the creator, Toya said. "Such desecration not only causes severe and devastating disruptment to our ritual practices and cycle, it also results in immeasurable emotional suffering," Toya testified. Hopi Tribal Chairman Wayne Taylor Jr. said such dealers have invaded the sacred life of the Hopis. Their crimes, he said, force tribal members to testify about sacred practices and artifacts, violating an oath that each Hopi takes to keep such things shrouded in secrecy. "Such breaking of the oath can undo the prayers and taint the practice itself," Taylor testified. "This compelling factor has not only caused a great emotional burden among these individuals who have testified against Mr. Tidwell, but has unraveled a lot more of the Hopi religious fabric." Taylor warned that such invasions of Native American religion raise the specter of treasure hunters scavenging for profit among the sacred items of other faiths. "Whose religion will be marketed next?" Taylor asked. Other leaders testifying Monday were Reginald Pasqual, governor of Acoma pueblo; Arlen Quetawki, a councilman of the Zuni pueblo; and Roland Johnson, governor of the Laguna pueblo. All the pueblos are in New Mexico. Arthur Lloyd, a lawyer for Tidwell, asked Carroll to direct a judgment of acquittal for his client on the guilty verdicts. Carroll didn't immediately rule on the motion. Lloyd argued that the some of the laws against trafficking in artifacts have been found to be constitutionally unsound. In one case, he said, the law was found to be too vague. In other instances, Lloyd said, the laws have the effect of placing one religion above another. But Charlton argued that the case cited by Lloyd was not applicable. The prosecutors also offered testimony from a Bureau of Indian Affairs investigator to undercut two affidavits filed by the defense alleging that the Hopi items sold by Tidwell weren't sacred. John Fryar testified that he interviewed the two men who signed the affidavits and they admitted that they were drunk at the time and were paid $50 each to sign. Republic reporters Eric Miller and Jerry Kammer contributed to this article.