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Know the West

The Acoma shield


The saga of the disappearance and return of one of the Pueblo of Acoma’s six stolen shields was as intriguing as it was inspirational, but it also leaves troubling questions (“The Return,” August 2020). The article’s lack of any picture of this recovered shield struck me as particularly odd. The article also revealed that the shield’s last “owner” had, at the request of an auction house in France, added a fake element to it, admitting that “he had turkey feathers dyed to look like eagles’ and wove them into the shield himself.” I’m puzzled why these feathers, added simply to make it look more like an “authentic Indian artifact,” are still shown in all of the current images of the shield. Shouldn’t the addition of these fake feathers be regarded as an act of defilement?

Jack Kirkley
Dillon, Montana

The process of repatriating the Acoma shield was also one of reestablishing its intended privacy within the tribe; in consultation with tribal leadership, we elected to not republish the publicly available photograph of the shield — taken by EVE auction house, when the feathers were still present — to maintain this privacy.

Elena Saavedra Buckley