Tester, Daines Announce Support for Bill to Preserve Tribal Culture

(Montana) – Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines today announced they are sponsoring legislation to preserve the culture and history of Native American families and tribes.

The Senators’ Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony (STOP) Act would prohibit the exporting of sacred Native American items and increase penalties for stealing and illegally trafficking tribal cultural property.

“Sacred items connect Native Americans with their vibrant tribal heritages and cultures,” said Tester, Vice Chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee. “This bill will help put a stop to the illegal sale of cultural objects, and ensure that communities in Indian Country are able to protect and preserve sacred items for past, current and future generations.”

“It’s critical that we treat Native American artifacts with the respect and protection they deserve,” said Daines. “That’s why I’m supporting legislation that will help protect objects of tribal heritage and ensure they are preserved for generations to come.”

Specifically, the STOP Act would:

  • Increase penalties (from a maximum of five years to a maximum of 10 years) for Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) criminal violations to more closely match the National Stolen Property Act and other similar statutes.
  • Explicitly prohibit the export of items obtained in violation of NAGPRA, the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, or the Antiquities Act. 
  • Establish a two-year amnesty period for individuals who voluntarily return all of their illegally possessed cultural objects to the appropriate tribes.
  • Direct U.S. Government Accountability Office to complete a report on the number of cultural objects illegally trafficked, both domestically and internationally; the extent to which the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has prosecuted cases of trafficking in cultural objects or human remains; and recommendations for DOJ, U.S. Department of State, and U.S. Department of the Interior to eliminate illegal commerce in cultural objects and secure repatriation of such objects.
  • Direct the formation of a tribal working group to work with the agencies in preparing information for the report and advise on implementation of the report’s recommendations.