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Discussion of the Cultural Property Rights of Indigenous People

The following is a guest post by Steve Clarke, Senior Foreign Law Specialist.

As Kelly Buchanan mentioned a couple of weeks ago, on December 10, 2010, Law Librarian Roberta Shaffer moderated a panel discussion in which each of the four participants addressed an aspect of the Cultural Property Rights of Indigenous People in recognition of Human Rights Day, 2010.

The first speaker was Dr. Helen Stacy from Stanford University.  Her topic was “Customary Indigenous Practices in Australia and South Africa” and traced the landmarks in the recognition of legal rights in those countries as well focusing on remaining issues the two governments have yet to adequately address.

I followed Dr. Stacy and talked about the “Authentication of Aboriginal Arts and Crafts in Canada,” concentrating on efforts being made in that country to help native artists guarantee the authenticity of their work through the use of certification trademarks.  This approach was placed in contrast to the efforts of the U.S. Congress to punish persons who deal in fake goods under the Indian Arts and Crafts Act.

Next up was Kelly who spoke about the recognition and protection of Maori culture in the intellectual property laws of New Zealand.  The audience was treated to a clip of the famous All Blacks rugby team performing a customary haka before a match in France.  Kelly explained that the sight of the team performing the haka is one that brings goose bumps to almost all Kiwis.  (Good luck in the next World Cup, Kelly!)

The last panelist was Betsy Kanalley from the USDA Forest Service who spoke about issues relating to geographical places that include Indian names or references.  Betsy explained that place names can be left off of maps and other documents if they are offensive to many native Americans.  The Geospatial Agency has been instrumental in establishing relevant standards.

Following the panel’s presentations was a reception held outside the Mumford Room in the Madison Building of the Library of Congress.  This gave members of the audience a chance to meet the moderator and speakers and to exchange ideas on the recognition of native rights at home and abroad.

Update: The event is now available to watch on our Law and the Library YouTube Playlist.

One Comment

  1. Terry Minido
    December 22, 2010 at 8:36 am

    Looking from the the window of Equity, Race and Space: I have to assume A global Indigenous effort needs to be in place before any government will recognize these Cultural Property Rights, if they are rights at all. This commentary speaks to the academic role, not to a legal body that takes these rights and acts on them.

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