The Pechanga Indians of Temecula, who in May paused on the brink of a deal to borrow Native American artifacts from the cash-strapped Southwest Museum in Los Angeles in exchange for up to $1.3 million yearly, have backed away from the bargaining table.
The ruptured deal appears to put the Southwest Museum's leaders near square one in their efforts to find a financial angel. The talks began in 2001, when the Pechangas shouldered aside the Autry Museum of Western Heritage among the Southwest's suitors. But then the proposed pact was placed before the Pechangas' general membership in May, the tribe's members shied away, citing a shortage of details, along with the price and restrictions attached to the deal.
With the museum's offer effectively unchanged six months later, said Pechanga spokesman Butch Murphy, the tribe's leaders chose in early October to pull back from talks with the museum. Meanwhile, however, the Pechangas have pushed forward efforts to gather artifacts from other sources in preparation for building a new tribal cultural center.
A new proposal from Southwest might change things, said Murphy, but as an example of the tribe's alternative efforts, he noted the purchase of more than 1,100 items (including more than 200 baskets) from Fullerton collector Justin Farmer. The Pechanga cultural resources director, Gary DuBois, noted that though the purchase was made in early 2002, the tribe has been working on that acquisition for about three years, since well before its talks with the Southwest Museum began.