PARIS-The US-based Annenberg Foundation has revealed that it bought 24 sacred Native American artefacts which were sold Monday in a controversial Paris auction. “Twenty-one of these items will be returned to the Hopi Nation in Arizona, and three artefacts belonging to the San Carlos Apache will be returned to the Apache tribe,” the foundation said in a statement, adding their purchase totalled $530,000 (390,000 euros).

The auction Monday of 24 Hopi masks - which are worn by dancers during religious ceremonies and considered living beings - and three San Carlos Apache objects took place under a cloud of controversy. The US embassy had asked for the suspension of the sale of the colourful masks and head-dresses after the failure last week of a legal challenge by advocacy group Survival International on behalf of the Hopi tribe. The lawyer who represented the Hopi in the legal attempt to block the sale bought one of the masks, but the fate of two items included in the sale remained unclear.