Monday, August 22, 2011

Another View of ATADA Meeting

Here is another view of what actually happened at a panel sponsored by the Antique Tribal Art Dealers Association. Kate Fitz Gibbon, a participant, believes that an archaeological blog and article mischaraterized the event, and provided this for publication on the CPO Blog:

Your email noted an article on a Santa Fe event during last week’s annual Indian Market – and the subsequent press, blog and Twitter response. I was a panelist at the August 15th public program sponsored by the Antique Tribal Art Dealers Association Foundation, New Mexico Lawyers for the Arts, and the Cultural Policy Research Institute. The panel included four ATADA board members and three representatives from the FBI, Dr. Bonnie Magness-Gardiner, Program Manager, FBI Art Theft Program, David Hall, Esq., a prosecutor with the Art Crime Program, and David Kice, F.B.I. Special Agent. The program was free, public, very well attended and civil throughout. The next day, ATADA members hosted the FBI guests at a tour of the Santa Fe Antique Indian Art Show. There was agreement to continue to work cooperatively, including, tentatively, by having ATADA members speak at a training program the FBI operates in Santa Fe.

The Santa Fe New Mexican article following the program said that the crowd had “jeered” the FBI, a complete mischaracterization of the event. An Associated Press reporter present gave an accurate description. See

Panelists asked at several points what art dealers could do to help the FBI stop looting. Mr. Hall said that they should just tip the FBI off to criminal activity. Mr. Kice said that art dealers always complained that the FBI had gone after the wrong guys but would not tell the FBI where to find the major looters. That remark elicited spontaneous laughter from virtually the entire public audience, and a number of people replied at the same time, “We don’t know any!”

Afterwards, audience members expressed disappointment that the FBI panelists would not respond to questions on the Blanding and Santa Fe cases or any Indian artifacts-related matters. The FBI panelists stated only that these were ongoing investigations and they could not comment on policy because the FBI didn’t make policy.

There are a few remaining defendants in the Blanding, Utah cases (the rest have reached plea agreements for probation) and a wrongful death suit was recently filed in a Bivens action by the widow of Dr. James Redd of Blanding, who committed suicide the day after agents held him shackled for four hours of questioning. The charge against him was that he had picked up a shell pendant, ¼ in by ½ inch long from the surface of the ground during a hike. The pendant was never offered for sale. One other defendant committed suicide after turning himself in, and the FBI informant in the cases committed suicide just a few weeks before the first trial was scheduled to begin.

Interestingly, Ms. Magness-Gardiner was asked if there were any completed cases she could speak about; her reply was that in her tenure at the FBI (six years, if I recall correctly) the Blanding cases were the only cases related to Indian artifacts that the FBI has pursued.

Earlier the same day, in another ATADA presentation, Dace Hyatt, who was the only appraiser qualified as an expert by the courts in the Blanding cases, showed examples of artifacts from completed cases. All material had been released in discovery. The values ascribed by the informant and utilized by the FBI averaged 752% of the appraised Fair Market valuation. This difference in valuation pushed the charge related to most artifacts from a misdemeanor to a felony.

A third ATADA program was led by US Fish and Game agent Dan Brooks, and a fourth featured a discussion on laws related to endangered species by attorneys Roger Fry, William Fry and Len Weakley. All the programs were videotaped and will be available through the ATADA Foundation. Contact for information on how to order them.

Kate Fitz Gibbon

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