Cowans auction house returns indigenous war god sculpture to a Zuni Pueblo

A group of Zuni war gods documented in the annual report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in 1904 Photo: John Wesley Powell

The Cincinnati-based auction house Cowans has returned a hand carved wooden statue of the Zuni War God Ahayu:da to the Zuni Pueblo of New Mexico. The sacred 15-inch figure was removed years ago from a holy shrine before turning up in an Ohio estate and eventually being consigned to Cowans. The firms director of Native American, prehistoric and tribal art, Danica Farnand, recognised the figure as the Zuni War God and promptly initiated the repatriation process, which was completed in late August.

"Auction houses have special responsibilities regarding the sale of culturally sensitive objects produced by Native American artisans,” Farnand says. “Cowans has long recognised this responsibility, and has consistently worked with tribal authorities to return special objects that should never have left their communities. We treat every request from a tribal authority seriously and with respect. The return of this Ahayu:da was not an exception. Were happy to have played a role, and delighted that this important object is back home, resting peacefully with his brothers.”

Every winter, Zuni tribal members carve two such figures, bringing each to a ceremonial shrine atop a mountain on tribal land, where they are left to the elements. These figures were first discovered by anthropologists in the 19th century, and many have been stolen and placed in museums and private collections throughout the US and Europe. In 1978, the Zuni Tribe officially announced that they would like to see the statues returned, and over 100 figures have been repatriated sinRead More – Source