Wounded Knee photographer files copyright claim against Smithsonian
The Smithsonian, with a long history of harboring Indian remains and refusing to return those to Indian Nations, is now the subject of a photograph copyright case in federal court involving the occupation of Wounded Knee.
The case is significant in another way as well. With the proliferation of the web, photos are often reposted without permission and are often incorrectly assumed to be in the public domain. --Censored News
Wounded Knee Photog Files Copyright Claims
By RYAN ABBOTT
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CN) - A photographer claims Firelight Media's documentary, "We Shall Remain: Wounded Knee," used her photos of the violent 1973 standoff without her permission and without giving her credit. Anne Pearse-Hocker, who says she took the pictures "under direct automatic weapons and rifle fire at considerable risk to her own life and safety," accuses the independent film production company of copyright infringement.
Pearse-Hocker says she spent about two weeks in Wounded Knee, South Dakota during the 1973 siege. A group of Native Americans, including members of the American Indian Movement, took armed control of the town, and during the course of the 71-day siege one U.S. marshal was shot and partially paralyzed and two Sioux were shot and killed.
Pearse-Hocker claims she and one other photojournalist were the only press allowed to remain in Wounded Knee during the standoff, during which time she snapped several hundred pictures.
In 1996, she says, she gave the pictures to the National Museum of the American Indian, but retained ownership of the copyrights.
She claims Firelight gained permission to use the pictures from the Smithsonian Institutions to make a documentary, which Firelight released in February 2008.
Pearse-Hocker says Firelight used several pictures from the museum's archives, including images of one of the Sioux immediately after he was shot, being carried from a church for medical aid.
She claims the documentary was broadcast on PBS and is available for purchase through the PBS Web site and from Barnes & Noble, Amazon and Borders.
Pearse-Hocker says she also filed a copyright claim against the Smithsonian in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims for handing over her copyrighted pictures to Firelight.
She wants Firelight Media to stop broadcasting her photos, to return all hard copies and delete electronic copies. She also wants compensatory damages of up to $150,000.
She is represented by Eric Heyer of Thompson Hine.
Smithsonian Without Ethics of Morality
By Brenda Norrell
Since the creation of the National Museum of the American Indian, there has been an increased effort to conceal the true history of the Smithsonian Institution, especially in regards to harboring human remains and the racist cranium studies of American Indians. The National Museum of the American Indian is the sixteenth museum of the Smithsonian Institution.
The Smithsonian did not respond to my last request for information, regarding the number of American Indian remains, and American Indian skulls, that currently remain at the Smithsonian.
One of the most censored issues is the racist cranium studies carried about by the Smithsonian, in an unsuccessful attempt to prove white superiority based on the size of skulls. The studies included grave robbing of American Indians.
Here is one of the first articles I wrote in 2004 on the subject. Professor James Riding In, Pawnee, at Arizona State University, provided the information. Hopefully, Native Americans will write books on this subject and US school curriculums will one day change to reflect the truth of US institutions.
Without ethics or morality
American Indians robbed of equal right of burial
Pawnee professor exposes scientific racism
By Brenda Norrell (Written in 2004)
In the dark cavities of American history -- between the
pages of the creation of the Constitution and the proclamation of
America as a champion of human rights -- there is a haunting chapter
James Riding In, Pawnee historian and professor, can prove it.
The U.S. Army paid bounty for the crania of American Indians for
research designed to prove a white supremacist theory, that whites
were superior to other races based on their skull size.
Moreover, the vast majority of those crania are now housed in the
Smithsonian Institute, which has been less than forthcoming under a
new federal law -- the Native American Graves Protection and
Repatriation Act -- mandating it to notify tribes of the identity of
The recent admission that the skull of Ishi, the last of his people,
was housed in a Smithsonian warehouse is the latest proof of silence
and complicity in a crime against Native people.
Riding In said the Smithsonian Institution curators acquired 18,500
bodies and most of the skulls were collected by the Army Medical
Museum in the 1800s.
In most instances, the crania gather dust at the Smithsonian today.
But others have been destroyed by carbon 14 dating analysis.
While white society severely punishes those that rob and loot graves
of white people, American Indians have been denied equal protection
under the law.
Riding In joined tribal leaders, scholars and attorneys at Arizona
State University’s Indian Legal Program Feb. 25-26, for the "Symposium
on Land, Culture, and Community: Contemporary Issues in Cultural
Riding In’s research reveals a missing chapter in U.S. history books.
Samuel G. Morton, in the early 1830s, worked under the new disciplines
of craniology and phrenology, to devise tests on skulls, in relation
to intelligence and crania size.
Morton poured mustard seeds into human skulls to determine size and
volume in his research. In the process, he assembled a large
collection of American Indian skulls.
"He never questioned the morality of stealing Indian crania from
graves," Riding In says in an essay now included in the university’s
law course materials.
Morton paid soldiers, settlers, and others for Indian skulls. Economic
rewards provided incentive to grave looting. Field collectors took
advantage of the recurring diseases and political forces that
depopulated and displaced Indian people, he said.
"Because of the demand created by Morton and others, gathering Indian
skulls in frontier areas grew into a cottage industry," Riding In said.
In the meantime, it became obvious that American Indians would rather
submit to extermination than "wear the yoke" of slavery.
Riding In said this attitude, combined with the belief that American
Indians were savages, shaped public opinion and the development of
federal Indian policy.
Since the early 1800s, soldiers stationed in frontier posts frequently
opened Indian burial sites and shipped the contents to Morton.
The United States Army established a program during the 1860s for
studying Indian crania. Among those massacred, beheaded and their
crania taken, were a group of friendly Cheyenne, Kiowa and Arapaho
near Sand Creek.
The Surgeon General said in 1863 that the Army Medical Museum had 143
specimens of skulls. The reason for the collection was stated as
anthropological research on Native people.
Army personnel in Indian country were encouraged to contribute skulls.
But it was not only the military seizing Indian crania.
Riding In said during the Gold Rush in California, tribal burial sites
were ravaged by exploiters searching for Indian treasure. In one
instance, three hundred skulls were taken, exhibited in San Francisco,
then sold to Harvard University’s Peabody Museum.
Across the United States, university researchers carted off thousands
of human remains in the name of science.
Riding In said Franz Boas, considered the father of cultural
anthropology, is a case in duplicity.
"While professing friendship and gathering oral traditions in British
Columbia, Canada, in 1886, Boas stole Indian bodies," Riding In said.
While promoting his career, Boaz wrote in his diary, "Yesterday I
wrote to the Museum in Washington asking whether they would consider
buying skulls this winter for $600."
Riding In said, "Archaeology, a branch of anthropology that still
attempts to sanctify this tradition of exploiting dead Indians, arose
as an honorable profession from this sacrilege."
Calling it "virulent racism," Riding In said archaeologists must be
viewed as the grave looters their history proves them to be.
American Indians painstakingly prepare their dead for burial. A
California Indian pleaded at the time of his death that he be buried
in his homeland, so his spirit would not wander homeless and
friendless in a strange country.
Many Native people feel that "disinternment stops the spiritual
journey of the dead, causing the affected spirits to wander aimlessly
"These affected spirits can wreak havoc among the living, bringing
sickness, emotional distress, and even death," Riding In said.
Navajo, Apache, Pawnee and other tribes believe that anyone that
disrupts a grave is an "evil, profane, and demented individual who
plans to use the dead as a means of harming the living."
Reburial within Mother Earth enables those spirits to continue their
Thomas Jefferson, before becoming the third president, took a lead in
unearthing Indian graves in the name of science.
In his "Notes on the State of Virginia," Jefferson admits excavating
for the sake of curiosity an Indian burial site in Virginia where
about 1,000 human remains were interned.
Riding In said regardless of Jefferson’s attempt to understanding
Indian people, he remains a "racial imperialist," a person who
philosophized against slavery and owned slaves.
Further, Jefferson was architect of the Indian removal policy, a
disastrous program that uprooted and relocated tens of thousands of
eastern Indians to west of the Mississippi River between the 1810s and
With Indian people removed from their ancestral lands, grave looters
robbed tribal graves and carried away the contents.
"Jefferson’s diggings had lasting ramifications. Jefferson gave an
illusion of morality to the expropriation of contents from Indian
graves," Riding In said.
Further, generations looked upon Jefferson with admiration.
And while non-Indians are quick to bring to justice the perpetrators
of the Holocaust in Europe, they turn a blind eye to the Holocaust
carried out by their own ancestors.
The Catholic Church’s beatification of Father Junipero Serra disgusted
California Mission Indians, who knew him as an enslaver of Indians.
Serra’s missions were no more than concentration camps. Brutal slave
labor, starvation and disease killed all but a fraction of the Native
California Mission Indians denied archaeologists permission to study
the remains of individuals who died while in Serra’s missions.
From these tragedies, the Indian burial rights movement was born in
the 1970s. The Native American Rights Fund emerged as a fighter for
burial rights and repatriation.
But the movement carried a stronger message: Indians are part of
humankind and deserve to be treated as such.
Walter Echo-Hawk pointed out that while religious concerns are
important, the major issue is equality under the law.
"Indians, as members of the human race and the United States, should
receive the same burial protection taken for granted by every other
racial and ethnic group," Riding In said.
State laws are often racist in nature, often charging a person looting
an Indian grave with a misdemeanor while charging those who commit the
same crime against a marked cemetery with a felony.
The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, passed by
Congress in 1990, makes it a crime to disturb graves on federal and
tribal lands and makes it a crime to sell human remains.
But, the federal law requires the victims -- Indian people -- to bear
the cost of reburying their dead, rather than those who committed the
crimes – archaeologists, museum curators, physical anthropologists and
Riding In said legislation should address two issues: Should scholars
use information gained through the theft of human remains; should
universities and libraries pull from their shelves research based on
Those immoral acts were committed against individuals, families and
Harry Coons, a Skidi Pawnee from Oklahoma visited a site in Nebraska
in 1896 where he had lived as a boy. Coons discovered the gravesites
of his sisters had been pillaged.
Riding In said, "Grave looting has caused Indians a great deal of
suffering, mental anguish, and distress."
Riding In, who also authored a factual biography of Geronimo, is an
assistant professor of justice studies at Arizona State University.
ASU’s Law School course materials for the symposium includes Riding
In’s essay, "Without Ethics or Morality: A Historical Overview of
Imperial Archaeology and American Indians."