Using a stealth bidding process, the New York Times reports, the Annenberg Foundation has successfully out bid private collectors for 22 Hopi religious objects which they will repatriate to the tribe. They were unsuccessful in obtaining 3 undescribed San Carlos Apache items and two of the Hopi items.
The Hopi Tribe of Arizona and the U.S. Government had made legal efforts to stop the sale, but when they failed, the foundation came up with a plan to buy the entire lot by phone without revealing their identify. No one else was told about it, including the Hopis, to make sure the project was completely concealed.
A budget of up to one million dollars was established; the final price was $530,695. During the auction, Marshall and Veronique Parke also successfully bid on a Hopi headdress through a proxy, in a separate effort to return something to the tribe.
The Hopis will make their own plans, of course, for what happens to these things once they have been returned. They are not objects to be displayed and we cannot expect to see them in a museum.
While I was thrilled to read this story, part of me wishes it had not been revealed in case that hampers future efforts to do something similar.