The Appropriation of Native American Cultural Property: Comparing the U.S. and French Contexts

Author(s): Michelle I. Turner

Year: 2015


When Native American sacred objects were recently auctioned off as art in Paris, many Americans were shocked by the headlines. American institutions and archaeologists continue to face their own histories of appropriation of Native American culture and objects, but many in the U.S. still seem surprised by the extent to which European institutions resist calls for more sensitive handling of cultural property. Others see a disparity between a widespread acknowledgement of the need to repatriate Holocaust-looted objects, while similar issues are not always acknowledged when it comes to objects that originated from indigenous groups. But are there genuine differences between American and European responses to appropriations of cultural property? If so, is Europe just catching up, or are there significant legal and cultural factors that account for the differences? This paper will explore understandings of cultural property in the U.S. and in France and compare relevant aspects of the legal frameworks in each country. It will discuss how these frameworks protect, or fail to protect, Native American interests in what happens to cultural property and will also consider how we can move forward towards increased, and more just, protection for sacred objects and other cultural property.

SAA 2015 abstracts made available in tDAR courtesy of the Society for American Archaeology and Center for Digital Antiquity Collaborative Program to improve digital data in archaeology. If you are the author of this presentation you may upload your paper, poster, presentation, or associated data (up to 3 files/30MB) for free. Please visit for instructions and more information.

Cite this Record

The Appropriation of Native American Cultural Property: Comparing the U.S. and French Contexts. Michelle I. Turner. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 398220)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;