August 2020

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Wounded Knee photographer files copyright claim against Smithsonian

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
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
Censored News

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
human remains.

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
Resources Protection."

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
in limbo."

"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
immoral acts.

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."

Tom Goldtooth to UN: Support Peoples Agreement from Bolivia

Contact: Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director
Indigenous Environmental Network Cell: (218)760-0442

Indigenous Peoples Support the Bolivia Cochabamba Peoples’ Agreement of the recent People’s Global Summit on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth

Demand a Study on Violations of Indigenous Peoples’ Rights by Carbon Market Regimes

By Tom Goldtooth

My name is Tom B.K. Goldtooth, Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network. Our Indigenous network represents indigenous communities throughout the world experiencing the affects of climate change. The Indigenous Environmental Network is based in Minnesota, USA.

I am here at United Nations headquarters as part of an international delegation of civil society and social movements invited by President Evo Morales Ayma of the Plurinational State of Bolivia to lift up the importance of the Peoples’ Agreement and the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, that are outcomes of the People’s Global Summit on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth.

Indigenous peoples from throughout the Americas and throughout the world participated in the Global Summit. Indigenous peoples stood together with the social movement of the world acknowledging that Mother Earth is the source of all life. World leaders and parties to the UN climate negotiations must reevaluate what their relationship is the sacredness of Mother Earth. The draft Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth developed in Cochabamba is an international framework to ensure mechanisms for the recognition of human rights, the rights of those that cannot speak for themselves and of our Mother Earth.

As representatives of social movements and civil society of the world – we are asking for meaningful and effective participation of civil society and social movements in Cancun and all UN climate change negotiations. The Copenhagen UN climate meeting did not allow this to happen. We are a movement of millions of people throughout the world demanding transparency, inclusion and to have a voice in UN climate negotiations that will create climate policy that directly affects the future of our communities and the world.

One of the key points of the Cochabamba Peoples’ Agreement was the rejection of carbon market mechanisms within climate agreements and negotiations such as the controversial REDD initiative (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) and REDD+ that want to use forests as a commodity to be traded in a carbon offset regime, as well as Clean Development Mechanism projects.

Indigenous people the world over are suffering from human rights abuses from carbon trading and carbon offsets. Indigenous peoples’ cosmovision and our worldview are concerned of a world that privatizes the air, water and commodifies the sacredness of Mother Earth. We must de-colonize the atmosphere.

The Copenhagen Accord was a high-stakes deal-maker and was really a Copenhagen Steal that did not recognize, nor had any language ensuring the rights of Indigenous Peoples. This will lead to further human rights violations, climate destruction, lost of land and disruption of the livelihood and well-being of indigenous communities from the arctic to the global south.

As Indigenous Peoples, we are the guardians of Mother Earth, and must make principled stands for the global well-being of all people and all life. The adoption of the Cochabamba Peoples’ Agreement and the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth is extremely necessary, if we are to survive this climate crisis that will be getting worst in decades to come.

Press Conference by Bolivia’s President on People’s Congress
By United Nations Information Center
Convinced that recent Government-led climate negotiations had ignored the perspective of the people most affected by global warming, Bolivian President Evo Morales told reporters today that the United Nations should adopt the outcomes of a “people’s summit” he had convened last month in the Andean city of Cochabamba as a more inclusive, people-centred framework for future talks to ensure equitable decision-making and respect for the rights of the planet.

“I’m talking about justice,” said President Morales, who was in New York accompanied by a group of social activists to present United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with the outcomes of the first World People’s Congress on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, held in Cochabamba 20-22 April.

Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International, Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director of Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, Meena Raman, of the Third World Network, and Maude Barlow, of the Blue Planet Project, joined the President at the press conference.

During the Headquarters press conference following his meeting with the Secretary-General, President Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous Head of State, said the People’s Congress had been something of an alternative to the fifteenth Conference of States Parties to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change held this past December in Copenhagen, Denmark. That meeting had produced the “Copenhagen Accord”, a product of closed-door diplomatic horse trading that Mr. Morales said ignored the causes of global warming and placed no obligations on those most responsible for putting our planet, Mother Earth, in peril.

He said that, unlike the Copenhagen Accord, which had been reticently approved by an elite group of negotiators, the People’s Agreement had been adopted by some 35,000 representatives of social movements, indigenous peoples and others. Some 9,254 of the participants in the Congress had come from outside South America, representing 140 countries, including 56 Government delegations. “Their outcome document vows to deal with the structural changes needed to really [tackle] global warming,” he said.

Responding to questions later in the press conference, he said that, among other things, the Agreement called on developed countries to cut their greenhouse gases by 50 per cent by 2020 (compared to 1990 levels). It also wanted the average global temperature rise to be limited to 1° C. The “People’s Agreement” also called for the establishment of an “international court of climate and environmental justice” to prosecute States, companies and people that damaged the climate.

“There are two ways forward: Either save capitalism, or save Mother Earth,” President Morales said. “If Cancun [the next round of United Nations-backed climate talks] is the same as Copenhagen, then unfortunately the United Nations will lose its authority among people in the world.”

Mr. Bassey agreed that the people’s summit had been held out of necessity, so that activists and other ordinary people could raise their voices, express their concerns and provide solutions to the climate change crisis. While such voices had been sidelined in Copenhagen, the negotiations in Cochabamba had been very different. Indeed, most of the critical issues discussed at Copenhagen had been debated in “green rooms” away from the plenary, whereas in Bolivia, ordinary people, as well as Government representatives, had sat together and debated frankly.

He said that one critical point of agreement that emerged in Cochabamba was that climate change was being caused by systemic issues. So, systemic changes must be implemented, so that real solutions could be identified. The Copenhagen Accord had been a product of an undemocratic process and had only called for voluntary emissions cuts. But, the Peoples Agreement had stated clearly that the future of mankind and the planet hinged on real obligations and concrete, verifiable actions.

Indeed, Mr. Bassey continued, if stakeholders followed the voluntary path laid out in the Copenhagen Accord, scientists had subsequently revealed that world temperatures would increase by 4° C over the next 20 years. “That would be a death sentence for Africa, the small island developing States, the Arctic States and other vulnerable nations,” he declared, underscoring that the People’s Agreement had demanded emissions cuts at the source, not through offsetting or market mechanisms that really did nothing to check climate change.

The agreement had called for emissions cuts of at least 50 per cent of 1990 levels during the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (2013-2017), and on mitigation and adaptation, it had called on rich nations to devote at least 6 per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP), rather than the meagre amounts suggested at Copenhagen, “which would be little more than a drop in an ocean of needs”.

Another critical issue that the Agreement underscored was that the climate debt must be recognized and paid; not just with money, but with decolonization of the atmospheric space, of which 80 per cent was already being exploited by rich nations. The participants at Cochabamba had also called for the adoption by developed nations of a declaration recognizing the universal rights of Mother Earth. “That would to provide a clear avenue through which actions would be taken to give Mother Earth the opportunity to have her cycles restored,” he said.

Mr. Bassey said he had reiterated to the Secretary-General that the United Nations must “robustly” take on the outcomes at Cochabamba and use the People’s Agreement as a tool to break the current deadlock in official climate negotiations and spur real action against climate change. “Climate change is not a thing of the future -- it had already claimed many victims,” he added.

Mr. Goldtooth told correspondents that the draft “universal declaration on the rights of Mother Earth” was an international framework to ensure recognition of human rights for all and the rights of Mother Earth. Indigenous peoples’ groups were urging the active participation of civil society and social movements in the upcoming Cancun meeting of States parties to the Convention, as well as in all future United Nations-backed talks towards creating climate polices that actually addressed the needs of real people.

He added that said indigenous people were suffering human rights abuses from schemes such as reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries, which pushed carbon-trading and carbon offsets as the answer to global warming. Because of their unique “cosmovision”, indigenous people were concerned about a world that privatized air and water, and commodified the sanctity of Mother Earth. He said the Copenhagen “deal” was really a “ Copenhagen steal” because it did not recognize, or include, any language ensuring the rights of indigenous peoples.

If implemented, the Copenhagen outcome would lead to more humiliation and marginalization, as well as loss of indigenous peoples’ lands. “Adoption of the Cochabamba Peoples Agreement and the universal declaration is extremely necessary if we are to survive this climate crisis, which will only get worse in the near future,” he said.

Ms. Raman said she had urged the Secretary-General to ensure that what had happened in Copenhagen was not repeated. The Cochabamba People’s Agreement had called for a “global referendum” if future negotiations did not deliver the aspirations of that agreement. She said it was time to acknowledge that the intent of the Copenhagen Accord was to kill the Kyoto Protocol, and it was the duty of the United Nations Secretariat to stress that Kyoto “has not and was not about to die”. Indeed, it was a legally binding instrument, contrary to what was being portrayed in the press. Heading into Cancun, she said civil society mobilization had already begun: “The world is watching. Civil society is watching and we are very encouraged by the leadership being shown by president Evo Morales,” she said.

Maude Barlow, of the Blue Planet Project, said she too believed that the people’s voice had not found a place in the Copenhagen Accord. That was why the Cochabamba people’s summit had been historic and she believed it would have historic outcomes. The hope was that the universal declaration on the rights of Mother Earth would one day be seen as a companion to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. She added that a key recommendation from Cochabamba was the right to water, “perhaps one of the greatest crises of the day”. Water was a fundamental right and public trust. It must not be privatized or commodified.

Answering a question about next steps, Mr. Bassey said Cochabamba had been a turning point. There had been very clear outcomes and they would be used as “organizing tools” to build a grassroots, groundswell movement aimed at forcing Government officials to start listening to the voices of the people that actually elected them. That movement would also aim to ensure that Cochabamba was a framework for future climate negotiations. People must be allowed to follow their own development models, but they must have an eye on what was best for the entire planet, he added.