The Hopi Indians of Arizona have asked federal officials to help stop the sale
of 70 sacred masks in Paris next week, U.S. agencies said.
The State and Interior departments said they are assisting the tribe but their ability to help is limited.
"Right now there just aren't any prohibitions against this kind of large foreign sale," Jack F. Trope, executive director of the Association on American Indian Affairs, said. "The leverage for international repatriation just isn't there."
The 18,000 Hopis in northeast Arizona regard the masks as "friends" with divine spirits, The New York Times said.
A representative from the the Paris auction house said its sale is one of the largest auctions of Hopi artifacts and it complies with French law.
The auction is expected to bring in $1 million.
The collector bought the items in the United States at sales and auctions in the past 30 years, the Times said.
But Hopis say sales of the sacred items are not valid and many of the items were taken or confiscated.
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