Located in Warren County, Missouri, the "Picture Cave" is a natural chamber with walls covered in hundreds of paintings created 1,000 years ago by indigenous people in the region. On Tuesday, the cave and its 43 acres of surrounding land sold at auction for $2.2 million to an anonymous buyer, according to auction house Selkirk Auctioneers & Appraisers which handled the sale. Understandably, this was not the desired outcome for the leaders of the Osage Nation who hoped to "protect and preserve our most sacred site" by acquiring the land from the family that's owned it since 1953. From CNN:
The Osage Nation, in a statement, called the sale "truly heartbreaking."
"Our ancestors lived in this area for 1300 years," the statement read. "This was our land. We have hundreds of thousands of our ancestors buried throughout Missouri and Illinois, including Picture Cave."…
[Selkirk Auctioneers & Appraisers director Brian] Laughlin said there are plenty of reasons to believe the cave will remain both protected and respected. For one, he said, Selkirk vetted potential buyers.
Then there's the law.
Missouri Revised Statute 194.410 states that any person or entity that "knowingly disturbs, destroys, vandalizes, or damages a marked or unmarked human burial site commits a class D felony." The statute also makes it a felony to profit from cultural items obtained from the site[…]
[Osage scholar Carol] Diaz-Granados is holding out hope that the new owner will donate it to the Osage Nation.
"That's their cave," she said. "That's their sacred shrine, and it should go back to them."