“We were elated, but our hearts were heavy.”
That was the feeling among members of the Hopi Tribe in the wake of an Oct. 2 press conference with President Donald Trump and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, according to Troy Honahnie Jr., chief of staff in the tribe’s Office of the Vice Chairman.
The Hopis were happy because it was announced during the media event that Finland had agreed to return Native American remains taken from the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings in the late 19th century. The move came in response to an initiative the Arizona tribe had been spearheading for several years on behalf of pueblos and tribes in New Mexico and Utah.
Even if agreement to return the collection of 500 or 600 items (accounts vary) taken by Swedish nobleman Gustaf Nordenskjold in the 1890s didn’t dominate the news cycle, the Hopi helped spread the word of their diplomatic victory. They got help from the State Dept. and Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, who issued a statement ahead of his trip to Santa Fe last week to address the New Mexico Oil & Gas Association.
“President Trump and President Niinisto acknowledged the sanctity of these items to American Indian and Pueblo communities of the Mesa Verde region,” said Bernhardt in a statement. “President Trump’s strong leadership resulted in bringing these Native Americans’ remains and cultural artifacts home to their proper resting place in the U.S.”
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