Friday, January 04, 2008

Tribal Protocols Regarding Research

There's been some conversation on YALSA regarding accuracy/authenticity in representation of American Indians.

In a reply to the conversation, I wrote about "freedom of expression" in the context of sovereign nation status and tribal protocols for research.

There was a time when researchers could go to a reservation and conduct research, do interviews, take photographs, etc. Due to appropriation, misrepresentation, and disrespect, tribes have become very careful, very guarded.

Increasingly, tribes are saying 'no' to use of Native culture by outsiders, and, to researchers.

Increasingly, institutions are recognizing and responding to tribes assertion of control over cultural and intellectual property. Museums are returning Native artifacts to tribes from which they were taken by archeologists, anthropologists, and, speaking bluntly, opportunists who dug up Native graves, removed artifacts, and sold them. Use of photographs is under tighter control, too.

In Arizona, one of the state institutions that has photographs of Hopi dances has stopped releasing them to the public. On their internet pages, you can learn that the photos exist, but there is no 'thumbnail' of the image. You can go to the institution and view them, but you cannot reproduce them.

In the past, Native people have been studied and, the study is used for the benefit of the scholar, with no benefit to the tribe itself. In recent years, tribes are writing protocols for researchers who wish to go out there and study this or that aspect of the tribe.

No longer is it acceptable to just go to a reservation and do research. Tribes are controlling access. Researchers know this, but, perhaps, writers do not, and so they do not seek permission to do research and write a children's book.

Click here to go to the Hopi Tribal Council's page on protocol. Do read it, and consider its application for writers of children's books.




UPDATE, 9:38, January 5, 2007:

On their page "Intellectual Property Rights" is this:

In this information age, we are concerned with protecting our own ideas. These ideas may be in speeches, music composition, computer programs, television, and other media. Our nation’s courtrooms are filled with cases in which someone allegedly breached that intellectual property right.
Through the decades the intellectual property rights of Hopi have been violated for the benefit of many other, non-Hopi people that has proven to be detrimental. Expropriation comes in many forms. For example, numerous stories told to strangers have been published in books without the storytellers' permission. After non-Hopis saw ceremonial dances, tape recorded copies of music were sold to outside sources. Clothing items of ceremonial dancers have been photographed without the dancers’ permission and sold. Choreography from ceremonial dances has been copied and performed in non-sacred settings. Even the pictures of the ceremonies have been included in books without written permission. Designs from skilled Hopi potters have been duplicated by non-Hopis. Katsinas dolls have also been duplicated from Hopi dancers seen at Hopi. Although the Hopi believe the ceremonies are intended for the benefit of all people, they also believe benefits only result when ceremonies are properly performed and protected.
All of these actions are breaches of Hopi intellectual property rights, used by non-Hopi for personal and commercial benefit without Hopi permission.
Through these thefts, sacred rituals have been exposed to others out of context and without Hopi permission. Some of this information has reached individuals for whom it was not intended (e.g., Hopi youth, members of other clans, or non-Hopi).
Please be mindful of the personal ethics involved in and laws surrounding this issue.

Update: Feb 3, 2013

I am still trying to retrace my steps to find the state institution with no thumbnails. I do want to add one more resource to the ones I provided above. This, too, is Hopi, and its an agreement between Hopi Nation and the Museum of Northern Arizona. 

1 comment:

calire said...

Debbie --
Congratulations on such a great and informative blog! I just got turned on to it thru a posting about it on Reformanet. I was pleased to see that colleagues like Naomi Caldwell are contributing to it. I thoroughly enjoyed the reviews. I remember when as a K-12 school librarian on the Jicarilla Apache Reservation in Dulce, New Mexico, there was hardly any materials for Native American children and teenagers. We have come a long way, but I am sure not where we would still like to be.
Good luck in your efforts! CAMILA ALIRE