Sale of masks pits property laws against native customs

21 Jan 2013 2:28 PM | Anonymous

Sale of masks pits property laws against native customs

The recent sale of two cedar masks considered culturally sacred to a Vancouver Island First Nations family has prompted a university instructor to ask the provincial government to change the law on cultural property.

Members of the Hamilton and Sayers families of Port Alberni say they plan to strip the family member who sold the "hinkeets" of her royal title and cultural responsibilities at an upcoming ceremony. Their action is shedding light on internal disciplinary proceedings practised by First Nations for generations.

The masks were more than 100 years old. They depicted male and female serpents and had been passed down along the maternal lines of the family for safe keeping. But they were auctioned off in November to an unknown buyer for $4,000 and $22,500.

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