Puyallup tribal artifact auction under controversy

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by By KYLE MOORE / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 1:36 PM

Updated Friday, Sep 25 at 10:57 AM

Video: Dispute over Indian artifacts

TACOMA, Wash. - Some historical Puyallup Tribe mementos go on the auction block in Tacoma Monday, but the granddaughter of a former tribal leader wants it stopped.

She says the items were stolen from the attic of her home.

"I don't have much faith in getting them back, though," said Ramona Hawthorne.

Hawthorne says a family friend who helps maintain her property took the items and then sold them without her knowledge.

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"He was a good worker, but I didn't know he was probably stealing from me all the time 'cause I never went upstairs to see what he was doing," said Hawthorne.

"Basically, I just want the truth spoken for Mona and I feel that I need to help her and I want her things back," said friend Carol Tompkins.

"What I bought is free of all encumbrances," said Alan Gorsuch, owner of Sanford and Sons Auction House.

He said an individual came to him two months ago with the items for sale.

"He told me that the person that actually owned this stuff was 92-years-old and was dispersing the stuff as she lived and that his parents were the executors of her will and I asked also why the tribe didn't have any interest in this, and I was told that the tribe had already gotten a lot of the stuff," said Gorsuch.

The intricately weaved baskets and beaded items once belonged to Jerry Meeker. He was an instrumental leader at the turn of the century for the Puyallup Tribe and even created the Brown's Point Salmon Bake.

Hawthorne is Meeker's granddaughter.

Gorsuch says he spent 150 hours researching Meeker and says he contacted the tribe for their input.

A tribal spokesperson says a police report has been filed and the case is under investigation.

"The tribal council takes security and protection of the tribal elders very seriously. This is a very high priority for the council and they would like this to be solved," said John Weymer.

Hawthorne just wants the items back.

"They go to the tribe," said Hawthorne. "Because they're tribal things."

The family who sold the items did not return calls by KING 5 News.

One tribal member says he plans to use his own money to buy the items at the auction then donate them back to the tribe.

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