Twenty-four vividly colored masks that were up for open auction are on their way home to the Hopi and San Carlos Apache tribes of Arizona.

The tribes can thank a California charitable foundation, which paid $530,000 for the masks, according to a report by Thomas Adamson of the Associated Press.

“These are not trophies to have on one’s mantel,” said Gregory Annenberg Weingarten, director of the Los Angeles-based Annenberg Foundation, which revealed itself to be the secret caller that triggered a bidding war in Monday’s highly publicized auction.

He added: “They do not belong in auction houses or private collections.”

Twenty-one vividly colored masks made of leather, horsehair, wood and feathers bought at Drouot auction house will be returned by the foundation to the Hopis and three hood masks to the San Carlos Apaches.

It was a happy ending, at least in one chapter in the Hopi tribe’s battle to regain its tribal patrimony, following a series of legal setbacks in efforts to delay the sale of the masks last week, arguing that they represent ancestral spirits and shouldn’t be sold.

The AP’s Adamson also reported that, after a Paris court ruled such sales legal, some 70 Hopi masks were sold for approximately $1.2 million in April, despite protests from the U.S. government.

- Vince Devlin

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