From Six Directions: Documenting and Protecting Zuni Knowledge in Multiple Environments
Belarde-Lewis, Miranda Hayes
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As a `cornerstone' of American anthropology (McFeely, 2001), the A:shiwi, the Pueblo people of Zuni, New Mexico, have long experienced unsolicited and unwanted documentation of our everyday and ceremonial activities by outsiders. This research explores legal and theoretical applications of intellectual property rights to protect Indigenous knowledge and examines three projects initiated by the Pueblo aimed at protecting and documenting Zuni history. The cases are tribal resolutions passed by the elected body of the Pueblo, the Map Art Project, and the "Morning Prayer" mural in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Each case represents actions decided upon by groups within the community and are juxtaposed with YouTube videos of Hopi social dances posted by individuals without community discussions prior to the postings. The cases were analyzed using the Peoplehood Model (Holmes, Pearson and Chavez, 2005) consisting of interconnected elements (land, language, ceremonial cycle and sacred history) as analytic tools to answer the research questions of "how is Zuni Pueblo documenting its knowledge?" and "how is Zuni Pueblo protecting its knowledge?" The findings of this research include a set of tribal protections employed by several different Indigenous communities not dependent on outside or mainstream legal mechanisms, instead the protections are based on the customary laws (RaoRane, 2006) and traditions of that particular community. The findings of this research also include observations of the methods Indigenous communities employ to address breeches of protocol, whether the breech occurs in a traditional, ceremonial space or in an online environment such as in the comment pages of a YouTube video. Three general principles have emerged from the analysis of the cases and from observations of Indigenous methods of protecting ceremonial activities. These principles are infrastructure, discussion and awareness. Infrastructure refers to community based cultural advisors who can help determine culturally appropriate actions when questions arise related to potentially culturally sensitive works or actions. Community-wide discussions help communities to build upon previous and current work already done by fellow community members. Community-wide discussions help build awareness within Indigenous communities that equip and prepare community members as ambassadors for documentation and protection efforts being pursued by the community.
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